There were the big ones made by places like KidKraft that were about four feet tall, each of which would accommodate a Barbie standing up. (We do not currently have any Barbies, mind you, but this was a potential concern.) We looked at the Fisher Price Loving Family dollhouses. We looked at bookcases that could double as dollhouses, little tiny toy animal dollhouses, etc., etc.
There were things I liked and disliked about each of them. We lived in a tiny townhouse, so the KidKraft ones seemed a little impractically large. And do you have to, like, secure them to the wall if they're 4 feet tall? That seems odd for a dollhouse. The Loving Family ones were nice, but A didn't know anything about them or care much about the families - so, while the price was okay, the expansion packs all ran around $20 on up, which made it add up pretty quickly.
A and I were at Target walking through the toy aisle, and we found this Dora dollhouse (LINK):
This add-on is for Dora's friends - Boots, Tico, the Iguana thing, and Swiper (because a Dora dollhouse is sort of useless without Boots or Swiper): LINK. We were going to get it before Christmas when it was listed at $12, but decided to wait because we'd already gotten all of the other crap. This must have been the Holy Grail of Dora expansion packs, however - we watched it go two weeks later to $15, another week later to $18, and by the time we were ready to buy it, it was at $25. We decided to wait until they came down. I think we instead got a pack that had Diego, the twin babies, and Dora's grandma. Swiper and the gang came later, once the laws of supply and demand were on our side.
Anyway. So, even though A roughly knew ahead of time what she was getting, she had mostly forgotten by Christmas. So, this is how we spent the entirety of Christmas morning:
(She was obsessed with fairy tales at the time, so her grandma made her a red cape.)
This toy has been a staple in our house. First she was a huge fan of the fact that the doorbell rings. She just wanted to lie out there and have Dora's daddy or someone from inside of the house open the door. She'd be waiting outside with a cake or something, depending on the day, and want to be invited in. Then we had to trade places. Also, the toilet can make noise, so that was a lot of fun, too.
Later she liked to take the little puppy that comes with the set and play hide-and-seek with him. He fits inside of a footstool that comes with the living room set, under the beds, under the stove and sink, inside of the bathtub but not the potty, etc., etc. The puppy is also really good at staying hidden if you accidentally leave him under a toy or book you left out somewhere, too, which results in a pretty hideous meltdown.
We've had this toy for 8 months, and it's a staple in our house. She goes through phases where she's not as attached to it, but overall it's been a great toy. It folds up nicely so we can take it both upstairs and downstairs easily, and it's small enough that it fits in a corner. I feel like it was a good purchase for us, and we can always upgrade to a big dollhouse later.
Value: $50 (we got it for $35), expansion packs are between $8 and $20. Pretty good in comparison to other dollhouses out there.
Child entertainment level: 10/10. Constantly playing with this.
Practicality: 9/10. Very portable, the pieces are just sort of little.