Parents who choose to DIY their children’s things — from toy chests, Halloween costumes, playpens, and toy kitchens — always amaze us. Motivated by love, these projects take a huge amount of time and effort, and the grand scale of the projects can’t help but leave us in awe thinking, “How the heck did she manage to do that?”
Working on a large project is hard enough, but imagine the extra energy it would take to create tiny rooms for your kids’ dolls, complete with furniture and fixtures, all made from recycled materials! It’s the challenge Andrei Salvador-Belardo, 35, took upon herself when she decided to make dollhouses for her 5-year-old daughter, Alexa.
How did it start? Alexa received a couple of L.O.L. Surprise! dolls for Christmas. “My daughter and I were watching this YouTube video about mini rooms and houses that you can buy and use for the dolls. From the looks of it, the mini houses were very expensive. I told my daughter that I could just make one for her,” Andrei told SmartParenting.com.ph via Facebook Messenger.
Andrei was confident because she is quite the DIY mama. She once made a wooden kitchen for her daughter and loves to make school costumes and birthday decorations from scratch. For the dollhouse, she drew inspiration from the empty boxes of essential oils that were piling up inside their house. She had a feeling she would eventually find some use for them.
Along with other recycled and available materials found at home (you'll find the whole list below), Andrei worked on making a mini bedroom and bathroom. “The bedroom was the easiest since most furniture used were from my daughter’s other toys. I just added a bed sheet for the bed (made out of scrap cloth), wallpaper and flooring (using sticker paper),” she shares.
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Andrei worked on the project after her two kids (yes, apart from Alexa, she has a 16-month-old, Althea, and works as a full-time government employee) slept. She usually spent four to five hours at a time on the project. She also wanted to take it slow because she wanted the rooms to “look and feel real.”
After four days, she managed to make a complete dollhouse for her daughter, including a kitchen and living room, complete with stairs and a roof!
Materials used: Essential oils box Sticker paper, Php88 each, for wallpaper and flooring Old toy bed and table Scrap cloth for bed sheet Paper cup and straw for lamp and trash can
Materials used: Essential oils box for walls and shelves Wrapping paper for walls and floors Hard plastic (from an old toy box) for the shower enclosure Tealight holder for shower and faucets Old air freshener container for the sink, toilet, and bathtub Aluminum foil and a piece of round metal for the mirror Sandpaper for rug Tissue and tealight holder for the tissue holder Magazine cut-out for painting
Materials used: Essential oils box for cabinets and walls Sticker paper and gift wrapper for walls and floors Aluminum trays for the ref, sink, and gas range Ballpen tip and tealight holder for faucet
Materials used: Box covered with cloth from old canvass bag for sofa Scrap cloth from old pillowcase for carpet Sponge, Play-Doh cup and scrap cloth for ottoman Barbecue sticks and cardboards for ladder shelf Antique metal display for TV rack iPhone used as TV Cardboard and hard plastic for center table
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Wooden plate rack, box, and cardboard for the stairs Corrugated plastic sheets from National Book Store, Php64 each, for roof
The dollhouses are labor-intensive, but Andrei gets a sense of fulfillment. “Usually the things that I DIY are those that are not available in the market or are more expensive if I buy them,” she shares.
It’s also a great way to let her creative juices flow and relieve stress at the same time. “It’s fun doing mini houses because it feels like you’re doing interior design, and you get to play around as well,” she says. “Since I have a full-time job and have a 1-year-old who is very clingy when I’m at home and whom I still breastfeed, I can only work on my DIY project when my baby is already sleeping. Or when they’re busy playing, I sneak out to my workstation,” she says.
Doing it DIY style also allows her to customize her children’s toys according to their needs and desires. It becomes a learning experience for the kids as well.
For this project, Andrei worked with her 5-year-old daughter and listened to her input. “I allowed her to express her ideas and suggestions. It’s an opportunity to teach them that there is a cost-efficient way to make things. We just need to be resourceful and creative,” she says. “I think that the kids will also appreciate and value the things you make more than the toys you bought because they know and see how much you worked hard for it.”