The Healing Power of Dollhouses

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

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!!

Miniaturist of the Month – Donald Jenny

Monday, February 16th, 2015
Donald Jenny of Bothell, Washington

Donald Jenny of Bothell, Washington

Real Good Toys is happy to welcome our February Miniaturist of the Month – Donald Jenny. Donald hails from Bothell, Washington, where he is an accomplished freelance artist, designing book covers and illustrating children’s books. When he is not doing that, he builds custom dollhouses. Donald grew up in a family of artists. His father worked for an architectural firm, building scale models as a side job. Donald’s father also built model ships as his hobby. Donald’s mother was once an opera singer. She dabbled in painting while raising her family. His older brother loved to draw race cars. That love ultimately led to building race cars as an occupation. Donald’s younger brother, who once fancied himself a folk singer, is now the proprietor of a business that builds and sells custom electric guitars internationally. It is quite obvious Donald acquired his love of the arts from his family, being creative in drawing, painting and sculpture.  He holds degrees in fine art and computer animation.  Although Donald holds down a daytime office job, he continues his freelance business and custom dollhouse building.

One of Donald's gift houses

One of Donald’s gift houses

In the 1970’s, Donald began building gift houses out of cardboard and other materials.  His intention was to use these houses as a substitute for gift wrapping.  These whimsical creations were quite popular with their recipients.  He didn’t begin building wooden dollhouses until 2000. Donald attended a miniature trade show and was hooked! Beginning with kits, he quickly started customizing dollhouses adding his own special touches. He created, from photos and memory, a miniature version of a Painted Lady dollhouse. He donated his masterpiece to a little girl in foster care.  He tells us the only thing she wanted for Christmas was a dollhouse and it was perfect for her.  If time permits, Donald builds 2-3 dollhouses a year, donating them to various local charities.

Alice before Wonderland Dollhouse

Alice before Wonderland Dollhouse

Donald’s most expensive build so far is his Alice before Wonderland dollhouse, filled with custom made figures and miniatures from the Alice in Wonderland fairy tale. This dollhouse originally was the Real Good Toys #2007 Woodland, with the addition of the 602 Montclair porch.  He tells us, “I have spent nearly 6 years on this project and it still isn’t complete and I doubt it will ever be. This is my baby”!!

Donald's 2014 RGT Facebook Build Along

Donald’s 2014 RGT Facebook Build Along

Donald is one of Real Good Toys most active Facebook fans, always jumping right into our annual Real Good Toys Dollhouses Facebook Build-Along.  He never ceases to amaze us with his creativity and vision. He can take a basic kit and transform it, making it into something truly astonishing. Our Facebook Build-Along projects allow participants to individualize and design their own dream project while sharing creativity and enthusiasm with a whole group of like-minded people.  And that’s just what Donald loves about it.  His Build-Along last year started out to be library and ended up as a brothel. He has already ordered our 2015 Build-Along project, The Crafter’s Cottage, and is anxiously awaiting delivery. Donald says, “I have bought many kits from Real Good Toys because the quality out shines other competitors”.

Donald is looking forward to retirement in a couple of years.  Then he will devote his time to building dollhouses and working on his other love, gardening. Thanks to Donald for sharing his love of dollhouses and miniatures with us.  His enjoyment of the hobby and his creativity inspires all of us.  You can see more of Donald’s work, and much more, at

Would you like to be my next Miniaturist of the Month?  It’s really easy.  Just email your information with a few pictures attached to [email protected].

I want to let your talents SHINE!!sunshine

Dollhouses for a Cause Does it Again

Monday, June 9th, 2014
Real Good Toys Victoria's Farmhouse

Real Good Toys Victoria’s Farmhouse

Since 2009, The Dollhouses for a Cause Program  at Real Good Toys has flourished and still continues to spark interest in crafty folks to use dollhouses to raise funds for their favorite charities. As I look back on 5 years of applications, I am amazed at the variety of charities and organizations that this program has benefited. As you would expect, we have sent kits to benefit hospitals, schools, libraries, churches, shelters and nursing homes. It is always nice to hear from those involved how their event turned out.

Recently we sold a dollhouse, Victoria’s Farmhouse, to the Dolphin Foundation of South Burlington, Vermont. The SB Dolphin Foundation is dedicated to the sport of youth football in South Burlington, and the Foundation decided to decorate, furnish and offer this dollhouse for auction. The event benefited the Mercy Connection of Burlington, Vermont. They are a non-profit organization whose mission is to focus on educating, mentoring and empowering individuals that have fallen on hard times. Mercy Connection enables people to make significant life changes so they can re-enter society in a responsible way. The Victoria’s Farmhouse was lovingly finished and beautifully furnished with miniatures by René and Linda LaBerge. René is the President of the SB Dolphin Foundation and he tells us that they made a slide show of the finishing and furnishing process. They also distributed Real Good Toys brochures to everyone who bid on the dollhouse. This Real Good Toys dollhouse was considered the talk of the event ,which was attended by over 300 people. René and Linda said, ” We are proud to have participated in the fundraiser for such a worthy organization and really appreciate your help in making this all possible. Thank you very, very much.”


Victoria's Farmhouse 1Victoria's Farmhouse 2Victoria's Farmhouse 6If you have had a fundraiser or charity event using your Dollhouses for a Cause masterpiece, and would like to share the results, I would LOVE to hear from you. We want to know how Real Good Toys dollhouses made your event a success!!

Send your information to [email protected]. I can’t wait to hear from you!

Real Good Toys helps Vermont Foodbank

Monday, November 4th, 2013
Facebook Build Along Projects for sale in the Real Good Toys Factory Outlet Store

Facebook Build Along Projects for sale in the Real Good Toys Factory Outlet Store

Is it any wonder that dollhouses can play an important part in helping those less fortunate?  For three years Real Good Toys Facebook fans have participated with us in our annual Build Along.  Each year, as the Build Along winds down, Jennifer and I put our Build Along projects up for sale in our Factory Outlet Store.  We decided that the proceeds of the sale of these Build Along projects would be donated to the Vermont Foodbank.  Just recently a very excited customer bought one of these special, one-of-a-kind projects, and she was equally excited to know that she was helping the Vermont Foodbank at the same time. 

Real Good Toys donates to the Vermont Foodbank.

Real Good Toys donates to the Vermont Foodbank.

Today I met with Stephani Kononan of the Vermont Foodbank to present these proceeds to that very worthy organization.  Stephani said our donation would help them provide 525 meals to our neighbors in need.  The Vermont FoodBank helps to feed as many as 86,000 Vermonters who need food assistance.  They provide assistance to 270 food shelves, meal sites, senior centers, shelters and after school programs throughout the state. The Vermont Foodbank is Vermont’s largest hunger relief organization. As we approach the holiday season when many Vermonters may find it difficult to provide meals for their families, Real Good Toys is happy to help through this donation to the Vermont Foodbank.

Circus Circus Dollhouse Store Is No Match For Hurricane Irene

Monday, November 21st, 2011

Marilyn Loprete, Owner of Circus Circus Dollhouse, has been through so much this year.  Not only did her store get severely flooded from the wrath of Hurricane Irene, her home did as well.  Many people wouldn’t even know where to begin to start re-building your entire life!  However, Marilyn is a fighter and a survivor and she has done just that!

On August 27th, 2011, Hurricane Irene tried to dampen the spirits of Circus Circus Dollhouse with 4 feet of water in the store.  After 32 years in business, Marilyn had to decide to let it all “float” or put on her boots and start cleaning up.  She chose the latter and the work began.  For 8 weeks, friends and customers were happy to help her out.  After all, that’s what friends do, right?  Walls were torn down, carpeting ripped up, new air conditioning and heating were installed.

After all that hard work, the store has a new, fresh look!  You’d never know that Hurricane Irene tried to turn Circus Circus Dollhouse Store into a mini-disaster.  Marilyn is happy to have the store open and available for business as usual.  She happily says, “Here we are…All Departments are Open…and we have a bright, fresh, new look!” 

Bright, Fresh New Look at Circus Circus Dollhouse in Pompton Plains, NJ

Stop in and visit Marilyn and her crew soon.  She is located at 445 Route 23 South, Pompton Plains, NJ 07444.  Her store hours are Monday thru Saturday 10AM-4PM.   Take advantage of 20% off your purchase (not including sale merchandise or labor) and let her know Real Good Toys sent you!  She’ll be happy to see you and you’ll be glad you stopped in!

Good luck Marilyn – may your holidays be bright, happy and prosperous!  Oh, and mini wishes from the entire Real Good Toys gang!

The Firehouse Raffle Drawing

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Barre City Fire Cadets draw the winning ticket

Barre City Fire Cadets

Once again, we were visited by the Barre City Fire Cadets…but this time they came to draw the winning ticket for the Assembled QuickBuild™ Firehouse. The drawing was held on December 16th at the Real Good Toys Factory Outlet Store. The lucky winner was Geoff Sather from Montpelier. Captain Russell Ashe said they plan to use the $520 raised towards gear and training for the Fire Cadet Program. He said the Cadets usually use hand-me-down fire gear that sometimes gets commandeered by on call firemen, depending on the situation. Also, Captain Ashe said that one complete fire suit can cost anywhere between $2000-$3000. Any funds the program receives is through fundraising such as this raffle drawing. Real Good Toys is very happy to help them raise $520 to benefit their program.When the cadets found out how much they raised, they just said…WOW! Way to go Barre City Fire Cadets!

Feeling Proud of Veterans and Dollhouses

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Today is Veteran’s Day. Many, many communities throughout our country are remembering and celebrating all service men and women who have fought and are now fighting for our freedom. I also believe it’s a day for personal reflection. I think about how lucky I am to live in this country. I think of my deceased father who fought valiantly in the Korean War. I think of my husband who served in the Air Force. I think of my nephew, cousin and co-workers’ husband who were, and still are, strong and proud Marines.  And I think of the son of one of my good friends.  He is now serving with the Air Force stationed in Italy. No, he is not fighting on the front lines, but if you think he may have it easy, this boy, and yes he is just a boy, has the dangerous, but important job of testing munitions. I also am reminded that one of our own Real Good Toys employees serves in the Vermont National Guard and has spent time overseas and in combat. With all of those people I know and am close to, I truly feel proud.   

Locally, I think about the dedicated people that protect us by serving on our police force and in our fire department in Barre.  Since Real Good Toys has recently donated one of our QuickBuild™Firehouses to our local fire department to raise funds for the Cadet Program, I especially have thought about our firefighters. 

Think about it.  If you’ve never been close to a firefighter, you may have had the misconception that they sit around the station all day eating and playing cards and only get going when they have a call. In Barre, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have had the pleasure of meeting and talking with some of the most involved and dedicated firefighters through Real Good Toys donation efforts to benefit their programs. Members of Barre City Fire Department maintain websites, facebook pages and blogs dedicated to educating our community about fire safety. They make occasional television appearances demonstrating fire prevention and safety. 

 The Barre City Fire Department also facilitates a great program where kids 15-18 have the opportunity to see what it is like to be a firefighter. The cadets work and train hard, learning about fire fighting, team work and brotherhood. This is a fairly new program, but since its inception, 3 cadets in this program have gone on to complete fire school and become full fledged firefighters.

The Barre City Fire Department travels to area schools to educate children about fire prevention and safety. Vermont supplies fire departments’ throughout the state with a Hazard House. One of these dedicated firefighters recently brought a Hazard House for us to see. It’s a slice of a house that is full of graphics, sound effects and visual aids in each room that enable the viewer to identify and correct any safety hazards, whether they be fire or chemical. It is an amazing tool. It was unbelievable to learn that there is only one company that makes a house like this and it costs several thousand dollars. Equally unbelievable is that Vermont has only one of these for the whole state to share. 

Real Good Toys is donating our Finished Vermont Farmhouse so our fire department can create their own Hazard House of sorts. It won’t have all the bells and whistles the original has, but the firefighters are going to work on creating some graphics and visual aids of their own. They plan to make miniature smoke detectors and rope ladders. Maybe we’ll turn some of these guys into miniaturists! Maybe Real Good Toys will corner the market and create a Hazard House competitor! I’ll keep you posted on that idea. As an employee of Real Good Toys, I am proud of their willingness to become involved in our community and their generosity when donating dollhouses. 

Because of all of these dedicated people, whether they are soldiers, firefighters, or a dollhouse company, I’m feeling especially proud today!



How one Dollhouse Merchant gives back to her Community

Monday, October 11th, 2010

There is a great full service dollhouse and miniature shop located in O’Fallon,Missouri, just outside of St. Louis. Why is it so great? Well, mostly because of the efforts of one of the most generous, energetic and community minded shop owners I have ever met. I am referring to Suzanne Schwab of Suzanne’s Dollhouses & Miniatures. While she runs a wonderful shop full of amazing dollhouses and miniatures, catering to miniaturists of all ages and abilities, Suzanne works very hard to give back to her community. She donates finished dollhouses to many organizations throughout her community for their fundraising projects. (more…)

Dollhouse Donation brings good things to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Larry Fleming from Arizona needed a little help from his friends at Real Good Toys in early April.  He was building the Painted Lady dollhouse for a very special auction.  He realized, at some point, that he painted the interior window frames the wrong color and it just wouldn’t do.  He needed to order some more frames so he could correct his color scheme.  Time was of the utmost importance because there was a deadline for the auction donations to be submitted.

We got Larry the parts he needed in plenty of time for him to correct and finish the Painted Lady dollhouse.  This beauty was donated to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital for their Spring Auction, which is one of their biggest fundraisers.

The Painted Lady dollhouse by Larry FlemingThe Painted Lady dollhouse by Larry Fleming

Larry wished he had enough time to electrify the house but didn’t want to risk missing the deadline for submission.  They were able to purchase the wallpaper, textured ceiling paper and miscellaneous dollhouse building supplies from a couple of stores in the Phoenix area that have a very nice selection of miniatures and supplies.

Larry used Dutch Boy paint: Willy Willow for the housebody, Duncan’s Delight for the dark trim, Nectar Fizzle on the orange accents, Satin Brilliant White on the white accents and Kilz paint Golden Corn for the yellow accents.

Larry you did an amazing job and I’m sure the Phoenix Children’s Hospital was very grateful for your kind generosity!  Thank you so much for sharing with all of us!

Mini wishes – Jennifer

Vermont dollhouse donation brings many rewards.

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Our local senior crafters have once again brought joy to a special group of children. The resident girls age 7-9 at the Kurn Hattin Home* in Westminster, VT, previously made a dollhouse out of a cardboard box. They had fun, but wished for the “real” thing.

Mr. & Mrs. McIntyre, of Westview Meadows, heard about the girls’ dream and contacted Real Good Toys to ask if we could help. A dollhouse kit was chosen and delivered to the Westview Meadows Senior Crafters who have built and finished more then 100 dollhouses for charities throughout the state. Having plenty of experience, they got right to work. In just a few weeks they arranged to surprise the girls with the beautiful finished dollhouse.

Finished dollhouse delivery.

Finished dollhouse delivery.

When their stunning Victorian “Painted Lady” was brought through the door, the girls literally jumped for joy and filled the room with shrieks of laughter, as well as some happy tears. Everyone’s heart was full.


We wish the children at Kurn Hattin many happy hours of play and once again thank the seniors at Westview Meadows for generously giving their time to a worthy cause.

Doll house dreams come true!

Doll house dreams come true!

If you or your organization would like to do a good deed and donate a Real Good Toys dollhouse to one of your favorite charities please visit your local dollhouse retailer and discuss their donation policy or go to “Dollhouses for a Cause” on our web site.


*Since 1894, Kurn Hattin has helped thousands of at-risk children by providing a safe home and a quality education in a caring nurturing environment.