Some firms produce model houses made of solid wood which can be used with various layouts. They are expensive to buy because of the work involved and are rather limited. A home-made set is easy to make and, depending on the wood used, can be very versatile. A carefully designed set can be used for spontaneousbut will also allow for a lot of grouping activities and conversation in the nursery when an adult has five minutes to spare with a small group of children.
Basically they consist of a triangular roof piece – this could be cut from moulding, or the corner pieces taken from a wooden tomato tray serve this purpose if they are well sanded. The base of the house is a solid piece of wood cut from a long length of batten. The base and roof are cut to size using the centre slot in a mitre board to ensure straight sides. After rubbing with sandpaper the two pieces are stuck together with PVA glue and any faults filled with plastic wood (made by binding sawdust with more PVA glue). Once firmly stuck, which takes about fifteen minutes, the house can be painted with paint made up as described for the traffic board. Two coats will probably look better than one. Windows and doors can be drawn on with ‘permanent’ felt pens or can be indicated by using self-adhesive labels cut to size and shape. The finished house may then be varnished or ‘sealed’ by brushing on neat PVA glue which dries to a clear semi-gloss finish.
My own collection consists of several sets. One has five houses of the same height each slightly longer than the other. Another has houses of the same length but graded heights. Another has graded heights with roofs to show gables across the front of the house rather than across the sides, unlike the others, and these are all square bases. Within each set pairs of colours have been used so that colour matching can include houses from each shape, height and length set. Some are decorated to show one house, others are ‘semis’, some have three little bungalows shown in a block, and others are shown as blocks of flats. The various possibilities are by no means exhausted yet and whenever another collection of suitable wood is found a further set can be made. A church was added recently but is largely ignored by the children.
The conversation possibilities are endless – Which house do you like best? How many families do you think live in that one? How do the people at the top reach their flat? Which one is the biggest/smallest? Can you find one nearly as big, a bit smaller, a little larger, the one that comes next in size, the same shape, a different shape? And so on. They are not all attractive to look at. One very large, tall, dark grey building gives rise to many ideas. Children in London say it is a school, others in the suburbs think of it as a factory, children in the country say that it is a prison.