Thursday, December 4th, 2008
Review: Mrs. Goodbee Talking Dollhouse
Learning Curve made me an irresistible offer. Send me two doll houses, keep one to review and give one to charity. Oh, but my daughter already has a dollhouse. So, both are being donated to a local domestic violence shelter, one to be kept for communal play in a safe house and one to go under a Christmas tree later this month for some very deserving girl.
It’s the Caring Corners Mrs. Goodbee Talking Dollhouse. Regular Thinga-readers know electronic toys usually aren’t my thing, but it’s been very interesting and revealing to watch my 4-year-old daughter enjoy this innovative dollhouse over the past month.
This is an accordion dollhouse. It folds out with two hinged edges for play and folds together for compact storage. There are rooms on both sides of the house. A storage compartment holds the three included figures — a girl, a baby and a puppy, with room for perhaps one or two additional dolls.
It is rated for ages 3-and-up.
The floors fold down to provide a larger playspace for optional furniture and there are other folding features, such as a bunk bed and a changing table.
The dollhouse’s compactness is also aided by objects molded to the walls, such as an oven or computer desk. Additional room features, primarily decor, are provided by factory-applied stickers. A sheet of garden-themed stickers is included for your child to apply to the garden depicted on the outside of the dollhouse.
The child and adult dolls are jointed at the waist, shoulder and neck, and adults have a knee joint as well. The included dolls have blue eyes and blondish hair and their skin is a sort of tan color, ala Dora the Explorer, passable as white or dark skinned if you don’t think about it.
There is a website component, the Good Deeds Garden, you access with a code provided with the dollhouse (you can browse it now by clicking the “Just Visiting” button).
The dollhouse talks with the voice of Mrs. Goodbee, a Mary Poppins-like British lady who sings and praises.
Praises? Oh, yes. Press a button to flush the toilet, then stand a doll in front of the bathroom sink, triggering a floor plate, to hear her say, “Flush, wash, wonderful. Good job!” or “You washed your hands, good job!”
But if you use the sink without using the toilet, Mrs. Goodbee says things such as, “Early in the morning or late at night, it just takes 2 minutes to brush your teeth right,” “You look marvelous, darling!,” or “Sparkling clean.” Sometimes you simply hear teeth brushing.
Rock the baby in his crib and you hear a baby cooing, or crying or Mrs. Goodbee humming a lullaby.
Flip a window from night to daytime, and birds will chirp. Open the oven door and a cylinder inside rotates to display one of several dishes — cookies, muffins, a pie, turkey, etc.
Open the refrigerator and your head “If you’re looking for something to eat, fruits and vegetables are a tasty treat.” Or, there are munching sounds or an arctic breeze blowing from the freezer.
Mrs. Goodbee is personified with a large face that graces the front of the house. Her eyes start in a closed position, and pop open when you press the doorbell, spurring her into a brief ditty. Her lips light up when she talks and her eyes can be moved via a lever on the backside. That backside is a living room with a fireplace. When her lips light up, flames in the fireplace and a heart hanging above the hearth sparkle.
Virtually every room has sounds, or objects you can move — a toy box lid, a swing set, kitchen cabinets and so forth.
Even the expansion sets have nice touches. The A Book at Bedtime set includes a bed with a removable comforter, a mother, a book she can hold, an ottoman, kittens, and a nightstand that has a lamp that really lights up. (The bed and adult figure shown in the photo below are from this set.)
As a father, I appreciated that the house is bathed in pastels instead of pink tones (like Barbie dollhouses). Sure, Mrs. Goodbee is targeting girls, but a little brother or male friend could join in play without feeling overwhelming hit by marketing messages telling him this is a girl’s toy.
Would I buy this one for my son? No, but I could see him playing along at a friend’s house.
- Additional dolls are sold with furniture or gear, not individually. One of the dad dolls comes with a TV set. *cough*
- It is difficult to store additional furniture inside when the dollhouse is closed. You’d probably use your own bin to store extras if it’s an issue.
- The dollhouse is bulky (in terms of picking up by a young child), 15″L x 25.5″T x 8″W when closed and lacks a strong latch. I recommend an older child or parent pick up the dollhouse, although sliding it along a carpet is reasonable.
Hold on One Darn Minute
Do we need a dollhouse to encourage kids to wash their hands or eat healthy? I’d say that’s a parent’s job. On the other hand… Mrs. Goodbee is an influence that is a gazillion times better than most messages that mainstream toys and media convey to our kids.
It’s easy to not see this when you’re a parent of a toddler because the most you usually contend with is whether you want an Elmo who giggles or one who doesn’t, or no Elmo at all. But in a very short time you’ll be surrounded by slutty Bratz and stick-with-boobs Barbie and rockstar band sets and “pink” labeled shorts and video games and a whole load of other crap that works against you as a parent.
Why can’t we have a dollhouse whose main theme is “a caring, sharing home”?
Mrs. Goodbee is a positive influence that is especially useful for modern kids who spend time in daycare or with babysitters, or whom play with friends that do so. Remember, friends are a big influence, so this toy helps guide friends as much as your own kids, while they play together.
And in my case, I’m especially excited to see two Mrs. Goodbees going to kids who are victims of domestic violence, where one’s sense of right and wrong is so beat up that Mrs. Goodbee will be a real benefit to them. Thanks to Whitney Moss and the Caring Corners crew for sending two dollhouses and several additional room sets and dolls.
A Personal Note
I briefly owned an accordion Barbie dollhouse purchased by my mother from a garage sale, which I’ll forgive her for because she also gave our daughter a wooden Plan Toys playhouse last Christmas.
The Barbie house was cheap, making a handful of sound effects and overall not being remotely interesting, unless you love a pink house and fantasize about naked bathing with Barbie in a walk-in shower. Seriously, the house was just bland, and now totally in contrast to the very pretty Mrs. Goodbee.
Meanwhile, I’ve never reviewed the Plan Toys house because its wood is warped, as was the wood in two potential replacements inspected at the toy store where it was purchased. I couldn’t recommend such quality control. It’s also not as sturdy as I expected a wood house to be.
I’m proud of my 4-year-old daughter. I explained before Mrs. Goodbee arrived that we would be donating the dollhouses to girls who don’t have one, and she would be temporarily playing with one to let parents know whether it’s worth buying.
In keeping with her usual spirit, she hasn’t gotten upset even though she really, really likes Mrs. Goodbee. The electronic sounds are particularly powerful at encouraging solo play. She doesn’t play with her wood dollhouse unless someone is playing with her.
I asked her to describe why she liked the dollhouse. I’ll spare you her meticulous description of every component. Here are her more salient comments:
- “I like it because it has a chimney and most houses don’t have chimney.”
- “It can fold up so it doesn’t take too much space.”
- “There is a dog, a baby and a big sister and if you want, you can get a Mama.”
- “There’s a swing set up high, and I liked it and there’s a little place for the dog in the swing.”
- “There’s a bedroom for each person and for the baby there is a bed and a changing table and under the rocker there is a music maker that makes baby noises and baby songs. Two more pushes then there will be some more baby noises.”
- “I like the sounds because they are the real noises for what they are supposed to be. And the toilet flushes, and the sink makes noise.”
Why do you think parents will want to buy this dollhouse?
- “Because it has lots of stuff that other dollhouses don’t and they would be surprised to see it and like it more than if they had a different dollhouse.”
- Mrs. Goodbee at Amazon (also sold at Target, Toys R Us, etc.)
- Demo with sample sounds
- Official Mrs. Goodbee website
- Additional doll packs