I've always thought to myself that there is a difference between the words "house" and "home." I understand that both locations have bedrooms, bathrooms, and a kitchen. I understand that people live in both locations as well. But there is a difference. A house has those things, but no heart. There's no warmth. There's no feeling of belonging. There's no sense of family with a house. It's only a place to eat and sleep. But a home has a heart. It's warm and welcoming. It's a refuge of peace and happiness. I grew up in a home. I had friends that grew up in houses (by their own admission).
The Foster family lives in a house. It's a cold and unwelcoming place. In fact, when the reader is first introduced to the Foster house, it has a name. It is called the "touch-me not cottage."
And anyway, for the people, there was another reason to leave the wood to itself: it belonged to the Fosters, the owners of the touch-me-not cottage, and was therefore private property in spite of the fact that it lay outside the fence and was perfectly accessible.
The Foster house is functional enough. We are told it's sturdy and well kept.
On the left stood the first house, a square and solid cottage with a touch-me-not appearance, surrounded by grass cut painfully to the quick and enclosed by a capable iron fence some four feet high which clearly said, "Move on—we don't want you here."
Despite being a solid structure that is clean and neat, it is not a welcoming home. I would liken the Foster house to a museum. Everything is clean and pretty to look at, but a person isn't allowed to touch anything. Everything has its place, and that's because the Fosters are rule givers, rule followers, and watch everything like hawks in order to make sure it stays that way.
It's because of that personality that Winnie is contemplating running away in the early parts of the book.
And another, firmer voice—her mother's—added, "Come in now, Winnie. Right away. You'll get heat stroke out there on a day like this. And your lunch is ready."
"See?" said Winnie to the toad. "That's just what I mean. It's like that every minute. If I had a sister or a brother, there'd be someone else for them to watch. But, as it is, there's only me. I'm tired of being looked at all the time. I want to be by myself for a change."
Winnie feels micromanaged every step of the way by her family and by the house. She simply isn't allowed to do anything remotely resembling a rambunctious little girl.