The Healing Power of Dollhouses

Do you ever wonder how people defy the odds when it comes to their health? How do they overcome and bounce back? Building dollhouses can be therapy, and often we hear that dollhouses can erase real life problems by creating a make believe, or fantasy life. People tend to lose themselves in their miniatures. And using your imagination, being creative and having a purpose can be powerful drugs.

Alison Jr.

Thomas Kneeshaw and his most recent dollhouse, The Alison Jr.

Real Good Toys

The Real Good Toys Alison Jr.

Shareen Kneeshaw and her father Thomas recently built the Real Good Toys Alison Jr. dollhouse kit for a fundraiser for the Mental Health Association of Westchester(NY). They took advantage of the Real Good Toys Dollhouses for a Cause program. Nearing 96 years old, Thomas has built several dollhouses. He has made two dollhouses from scratch, using Real Good Toys components.  He has built (7) 1 inch scale and (3) 1/2 inch scale dollhouses from kits. All of these dollhouses were for his granddaughters, great granddaughters, friends, and fundraisers.

In 2014, Thomas became very ill, with the result being an above the knee amputation of one of his legs. He recovered quickly, but then fell ill again in the spring of this year. At this point, his doctors felt he would not recover and sent him home with hospice care.  According to Shareen, as time passed and her father held on, he realized he better get busy and do something with his time. Shareen came across a Real Good Toys catalog and they both decided it might be a good idea to try some smaller dollhouse kits, more manageable and in line with his limitations. Shareen and her sister thought for sure it would take him at least a month to finish the first dollhouse, but he had it done in 8 days!


dollhouse painting

Interior of the Alison Jr.

Alison Jr.

Beautiful painting on the Alison Jr.

“It was an amazing thing to watch. When he started building the dollhouses, he was still pretty weak, but the more he did the better he got. He said he feels like he has a purpose and is being productive, and this is doing wonders for his health. After he finished the first one and we didn’t have a second one ready yet, he seemed to start to feel poorly again, feeling pain, etc… The afternoon the second one arrived, he said he was feeling poorly, but once he saw it he perked right up and got started on it right away.  He works on them every day as soon as he finishes breakfast and works on them until he goes to bed.  He has a live-in aid who gives him a hand when he needs things maneuvered.  We sometimes work on them together, either my sister or I, as a way to spend time with him. He is teaching us a lot. He can’t get to his workshop anymore, so we have set up a work area in the kitchen with various levels of work surfaces, so he can reach what he needs to from his wheelchair. We may run out of friends or family who could use dollhouses, so we are looking to find places to donate them. Needless to say we are thankful for your kits and hope you stay in business for a long, long time.”

With no real medical theory, Thomas’ doctors don’t know quite what to make of his rebound. Shareen says her father is a cat with 9 lives. Thomas thinks it’s a miracle.

We hope that Real Good Toys dollhouses continue to offer Thomas enjoyment and that his health continues to remain stable. No matter the reason, or explanation, we are in awe of the level of determination, and the fortitude that Thomas displays. Thanks to Shareen and Thomas for sharing this heartwarming story. 

Do you have a favorite charity or a worthwhile non-profit organization that needs a contribution for a fundraiser? Since 2009 we have been offering our Dollhouses for a Cause program which allows a 30% discount towards the purchase of any dollhouse kit for the purpose of fundraising. Just fill out the application and send it in…and get building!!

6 Responses to “The Healing Power of Dollhouses”

  1. Lori Says:

    Wonderful story! I’m so happy to hear Thomas is doing so well & still pursuing his passions. He reminds me a bit of my grandfather. We used to love to go look at dollhouses when I was little & am lucky enough to have one he built. Thomas’ dollhouse is beautiful & anyone would be happy to have one I’m sure. Thank you for sharing & keep up the great work Thomas!

  2. Kat Says:

    what a wonderful way to share a project and have family time. I’m sure all of the dollhouse recipients are thankful of Thomas’ skill!

  3. Suzette Says:

    I have severe RA with crippled hands etc and I find building a dollhouse such a challenge for me and once completed, I donate them to a charity and again, my spirit soars. Never underestimate the power of accomplishment.
    Keep building Thomas ! The joy you bring to others is an inspiration to us all.

  4. Nancy Says:

    Thomas, you are an inspiration! Thank you for sharing your story! Your work is fabulous!

  5. Jean Fedison Says:

    Tom … are amazing……been wondering how you are??????so happy to hear you are working on doll houses !!!!!!they are BEAUTIFUL !!!!!

  6. Sally Glynn Says:

    I can see how Toms creative spark is helping him. I’ve been building dollhouses for over 35 years, and I’ve always credited them with keeping me sane! It has calmed my nerves after days keeping up with 4 sons, honed my creative ability, soothed me after difficult days at work in the medical field…the list goes on! The kids are grown now, and eagerly check Facebook to see the latest progress on The Newport I am working on now! Dollhouses give you another little world to step into, and forget your worries in the large one! My passion for them is as great as it was when I did my first one back in 1980! I hope I can be like Tom and continue into my elderly years!