Kids’ dollhouses provide a wonderful backdrop for pretend play, as children re-enact their common experiences of eating, dressing, cleaning up, going out to play, taking naps and bathing. Dollhouses come in all sizes and levels of complexity. I have used Fisher Price’s “My First Dollhouse” with children as young as 2, moving up to “The Loving Family Dollhouse,” for realistic homes and figures to act out imaginative play.

Moving  from people to animals, Calico Critters just introduced its Country Treehouse for the characters’ indoor and outdoor play, building on a child’s interest in acting out scenes from their lives.

Gather your furry friends for an afternoon in the treehouse. Don’t worry, there is plenty of room for everyone, big and small. With multiple play vignettes–a deck, hot tub, lake, pagoda, water slide or rooms with a view–several kids can play at once. Hop aboard the canoe to cruise the lake, drop the trap door to slip down the slide, munch on a picnic under the pagoda, or relax in the hot tub.

Add your own critter sets and furniture suites to the two monkeys and boat provided with the treehouse. Plenty of stickers are included to personalize your new woodland home. Hang your pictures, stack your books, display your best dishes, and throw down the “Welcome” mat and it’s time to invite friends over for imaginary play. Once the props are assembled, kids just rotate around the circular, three dimensional play land, lost in their world of pretend.

Check out the newest family of Hedgehogs who look quite at home in the forest. Kids love their stand-out hairdos and combs to tame their locks.

Mothers told me that the treehouse is best played with on a short, small table so several kids can play alongside each other, absorbed in one of the mini-scenarios. One side lended itself to outdoor play with the water slide, lake and alfresco eating areas, while the other side brought little hands indoors as they arranged and re-arranged furniture and accessories in the rooms.

Parents should be the producers of play, setting out the critters and their props, letting their child direct the action at the treehouse.  Language and play skills are built and reinforced as kids are in charge of their play.

The opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the author. “Calico Critters Country Treehouse” was provided for review by International Playthings.