Imaginations rules in children’s doll houses

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 22, 2009

If you’re looking for 3-year-old Callie Lipscomb don’t bother stopping in front of the television.

And don’t expect to find her glued to a computer or video game.

When the preschooler is visiting her family in Natchez, the only place she can be found is playing in the back yard in her personal dream house.

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Callie’s great-grandfather built the one-room playhouse behind his home so Callie could have a place to call her own. The house, equipped with electricity for lights and a ceiling fan, child-sized kitchen appliances and doll-sized furniture, is a wonderland of fun for a little girl.

And even though the house took only a few weeks to complete, Callie’s response has been more than enthusiastic.

“I just wanted to give her a place she could enjoy when she is here with us,” great-grandfather Charles Lipscomb said. “And that’s the first place she goes when she gets here and the first thing she talks about when we talk to her on the phone.”

And once she gets to Natchez, Lipscomb said it is nearly impossible to get her attention away from the playhouse.

“She would stay out there all day if we would let her,” Lipscomb said. “I put a cot in it for her and there have been times that she has gone to sleep on it.”

For Lipscomb it was important to give his great-granddaughter a place where she “could be a little girl” and use her imagination.

And Callie has let her imagination run wild while she is keeping house.

“She always wants someone to come out there and eat her plastic eggs and plastic pancakes with her,” he said. “It is just plastic food but it is real to her.”

She even periodically hosts family dinners in the house and hopes to one day have a sleepover at her house.

“There is enough room for two cots in there,” Lipscomb said. “She’s been asking me if we can sleep out there one night, and I’ve told her that I will. As long as the weather is OK.”

But soon those two cots won’t be enough for a Lipscomb slumber party since Callie has a little brother that will take up residence in the playhouse once Callie has outgrown it.

He will likely turn it into a fort or clubhouse, but the outdoor fun will continue nonetheless.

“I built it for Callie originally, but I’m sure he will be playing in it soon,” Lipscomb said.

Callie’s playhouse is under two years old but Marsha Colson has some idea of just how much fun a private playhouse can be for a little girl.

Colson grew up at historic Landsdowne in Natchez and spent many days playing in the playhouse behind the main house. The house was built by Colson’s grandfather for Colson’s mother, Devereux Slatter.

“It is just a little one-room house with a porch rail and three windows, and what I think are probably antique pieces of furniture,” Colson said.

Among the antiques in the playhouse are a doll-sized four-poster bed, dolls made by Colson’s mom from the 1970s and 80s and a working old-fashioned cooking stove.

“It is identical to a real working stove, and in fact, (my mother) would really cook on it,” Colson said. “Her grandmother, who lived here, let her have a little patch in the garden and she cooked the tomatoes.”

Colson said she never did any real cooking on the stove but did use it as tool for her imagination.

“All we ever did was make mud pies on the front porch,” she said. We had a lot of imaginary tea parties as well.”

But despite its small stature, the little house provided much more entertainment for Colson and her cousins and friends than the large rooms in Landsdowne.

“We had a place that I knew was safe, it was just 20 feet from the house, but it was private,” she said. “It was kind of our little place.

“I think all children have a great imagination, and I know we really used our imaginations out there.”

Regular maintenance such as painting, small repairs and decorating have kept the little house ready for the next children to enjoy

And although there aren’t any young children living in Natchez to enjoy the playhouse, Colson said family children do enjoy spending time in it when they visit.

“My uncle has grandchildren that live in Portland who have been down for Pilgrimage several times,” Colson said. “One granddaughter will get dressed up and invite people to come in and tour the house.

“She is a very precocious little girl, so at 6 or so she gave a very nice little tour.

Although children have grown up and toys have gotten more and more hi-tech, Colson doesn’t believe there is any substitute for her beloved playhouse.

“Having that little dollhouse was the best,” Colson said. “Children in all (generations) enjoy the simplest kinds of play because it allows the most room for imagination and creativity which children have a lot of.”