If you have an outdoor playhouse, it was probably one of your favorite spots when you were a child. It was a place where you could dream, act, imagine, and cut loose.
There is a delicate balance between overly structuring your child’s play and providing play opportunities with some structure.
The best outdoor playhouses provide children with a safe play opportunity where they can create their own games and play experiences.
- Rebuildable design
- Easy assembly
- Taller structure
- Includes accessories
- Wood can be painted
- Secure screws
- Pole and sleeve design
- Optional floor
- Affordable playhouse
- Comes in prefabricated panels
- Leakproof roof
- Finished wood
- Comes with “flipper station”
- Built-in storage area
- Includes pass-through mailbox
- Two-story rocket home
- Bright & vivid primary colors
- Comes with slide
- Has a small porch
- Includes accessories and features
- Accommodates six children at a time
- Comes with light-up disco ball
- Can be used indoors or out
- Fun-enhancing features
- Two working doors
- Brickwork detail
- Lightweight and simple
- Integrated, covered bench seats
- Comes with a birdhouse
- Includes built-in table
Why Kids Need Outdoor Playhouses
Like any other skill, we learn to be adults by observing others and practicing. This is where playhouses come in. In a playhouse, children can practice being “grown-up” without any of the associated dangers or consequences of adult situations.
In addition to that learning opportunity, a playhouse provides a place for your child to:
- Enjoy some privacy, which conveys that you trust them to play alone.
- Experience independent decision-making which helps to build self-confidence.
- Work through their emotions without worrying about how you will react.
- Learn how to amuse themselves and become more self-sufficient (1).
How to Choose the Best Outdoor Playhouses
There are numerous factors that go into choosing the top outdoor playhouses, including the age of your child, the climate where you live, and your budget. Let’s take a look at them in detail.
The majority of the best outdoor playhouses are made from wood or plastic, but even within those options you have a wide variety of quality. Some wooden playhouses for kids are made of high quality, treated hardwood that will last for many years, while others may be made of flimsier materials.
Neither wood nor plastic is inherently better than the other. It is more of a question of making sure the playhouse is well made out of high-quality materials.
The age recommendation on a playhouse will not only indicate whether it is appropriate from a developmental point of view, but it will also take into consideration the size of your child. So, consider your child’s size and not just their age.
Also, ask yourself, “Do I want a playhouse that will be appropriate for a year or two, or do I want something in which my kids can play for many years to come?”
Does how the playhouse will look in your yard matter to you? Will a brightly colored plastic playhouse clash with your garden? Or perhaps a gingerbread wooden playhouse will look out of place in your chic modern yard?
So, when deciding which of the best outdoor playhouses made our list, we have tried to include something for every style and taste.
One of the features many parents forget when choosing an outdoor playhouse is whether it has a floor. It can come as a surprise that a large number of outdoor playhouses do not.
A floor is more important if you do not have a safe surface on which to place your playhouse. If you have a child-safe area of lawn or sand, it is less important.
A floor can also make it easier to keep the inside of the playhouse and anything inside it, clean and dry. This can be especially important if you live in a damp or humid location.
Some outdoor playhouses are basic boxes with a couple of openings as doorways and windows. These playhouses are open to the elements as well as any critters in your area. If you choose an open style outdoor playhouse, check for potentially dangerous debris, animal damage, or animal excrement each day, before your child plays.
Windows will provide more light for your child and a closable door gives little ones the opportunity to shut out the outside world and indulge in important imaginative play.
Speaking of imaginative play, some playhouses are styled to look like specific buildings or have additional features such as stove tops, chairs, and tables. These can provide important play ideas. Or, you may prefer a blank canvas that allows your child to mix it up a little more and create their own games (2).
You should also thoroughly read any online listing for an outdoor playhouse. While reading through hundreds of products and reviews, it became clear that some images show playhouses with features such as decks and railings, but these were add-on items that had to be bought separately.
Choose an outdoor playhouse that will stand up to your child’s play and the climate in which you live.
A polyester tent playhouse can be a great option for summer or a warm, dry climate, but it will not stand up to a cold winter outside. Likewise, some plastic playhouses will fade and even become brittle relatively quickly in a hot, dry location.
Ease of Cleaning
Plastic outdoor playhouses are easily cleaned with a quick hose down. So if your little one is a particularly mucky kid, this might be the best choice for you. Wooden playhouses are not as easy to wash down.
If you choose a playhouse with a floor, it is worth checking to see if the floor has a drain hole. This is useful for avoiding standing water during the winter as well as for cleaning the playhouse.
The Best Outdoor Playhouses of 2021
Taking these factors into account, we did a thorough review of websites, reviews, and personal experiences. The result is this list of what we consider to be the best outdoor playhouses.
1. Little Tikes Build-a-House
This novel plastic playhouse from Little Tikes has 25 customizable panels, and a kids’ toy drill set.
An adult builds the frame and then either the adult or the kids can affix the plastic panels, windows, and door, in a configuration of their choosing.
The panels can be removed and reconfigured as many times as your child wishes.
- The rebuildable design of the playhouse provides additional opportunities for imaginative and active play.
- The frame can also be quickly assembled and unassembled making it easy to store or move the playhouse indoors if you wish.
- It’s one of the taller outdoor playhouses at 51 inches.
- Some reviewers say the playhouse is not as sturdy as they expected it to be.
- Some also said they would have preferred it to have felt heavier.
|Footprint||47 x 47 inches|
|Material||Metal frame and plastic panels|
|Age Range||3 to 10 years|
|Accessories||Children’s drill, screwdriver, and toy plastic “hardware” for affixing panels|
2. Backyard Discovery Columbus Cedar Playhouse
This is a well-constructed cedar wood playhouse with a wooden roof, large window openings, and lots of play-enhancing accessories.
Inside, there is a cute, two-burner toy stove-top, sink with knobs that twist, and a toy telephone.
Outside there are two cute plastic plant pot shelves in which you can place real flowers or plants in flower pots.
- Lots of accessories that provide added play value.
- The wood can be painted, but it does come already treated with a child and pet-friendly stain.
- The screws are designed to resist loosening and have rounded heads so they will not catch on clothes or cause scratches.
- Some people have said they feel they are competent DIY-ers and this playhouse still took them up to two hours to assemble.
|Footprint||45 x 46 inches|
|Material||Wood – cedar|
|Age Range||2 to 10 years|
|Accessories||Sink, stove-top, telephone, plant pot holders|
3. Kiddie Play Tent, Candy Playhouse
This is a fabulous playhouse tent that is printed to resemble a brightly colored candy store.
The door is a two-flap style entryway so smaller children do not have to work out how to unlatch or unzip a door.
A “server’s hatch” enhances the store feel, allowing children inside the playhouse to serve people outside.
- The pole and sleeve design make this playhouse exceptionally easy to assemble either indoors or outside, move it between the two, or store when not in use.
- This playhouse has an optional floor, which is included. This gives the flexibility to use it outside with the floor and then move it inside with the floor removed, saving your home from mud, grass, and other debris.
- It’s an affordable playhouse option.
- Smaller than most of the other playhouses, so there is a limit to how long this will be a viable place for your kids to play.
|Footprint||28 x 36.5 inches|
|Material||100 percent polyester fabric shell and plastic poles|
|Age Range||Up to 4 years|
|Accessories||Removable floor insert|
4. Outdoor Kids’ Evermeadow House Playhouse
The Evermeadow playhouse provides a basic wooden structure with glazed windows and a full-height door which allows you to keep the critters out when the playhouse is not in use.
The playhouse can be left unfinished or it can be painted or wood stained to your personal taste.
- It comes as a package of prefabricated panels which slot together. Each panel, and all of the hardware, are clearly labeled.
- Perspex strips for the roof’s ridgeline prevent water from entering the playhouse without the need for roofing materials.
- The wood is carefully finished and safety certified for children of 18 months plus.
- The floor panel must be purchased separately from the main playhouse.
|Footprint||37.4 x 41.34 inches|
|Material||Wood – fir|
|Age Range||18 months to 8 years|
|Accessories||Perspex strip for roof, windows|
5. Step2 Wonderball Fun Playhouse
This playhouse incorporates a range of tubes, shutes, and ball flippers, providing a wealth of additional play opportunities.
Throw the balls onto the roof and watch them make their way down the plastic tubes to the waist-high play counters. The balls head to the inside of the house, requiring kids to run in and out, providing plenty of physical activity.
- A “flipper station” on the outside of the house shoots balls onto the roof for active, endless fun for kids.
- A built-in storage area provides a spot to keep all of the accessories together in the house.
- A pass-through mailbox, house number decals, and a molded-in fence make this a particularly home-like playhouse.
- Since it is designed for toddlers, this playhouse will not be big enough for older children to play inside.
- Putting more than one toddler in here at a time is a snug fit.
|Footprint||33 x 36 inches|
|Age Range||18 months to 5 years|
|Accessories||20 play balls and 2 plastic pots|
6. Starplay Apollo Rocket Climb & Slide Playhouse
Not all playhouses have to look like houses. This alternative style playhouse that looks like a rocket is more of an outer-space play home for children who want to explore beyond the stars.
Part climbing frame, part playhouse, and part imagination stimulator, your kids’ friends will be inviting themselves over to play with this unique option.
- This two-story rocket home with a slide is fun and might be a big hit with space-obsessed or imaginative children.
- Bright, vivid primary colors make this an appealing option, especially if you are not a fan of wooden playhouses.
- The slide gives this playhouse an additional layer of play value.
- Although this is a two-story playhouse, neither of those floors are particularly tall. That means there’s not a lot of scope for stand-up play, and kids might be too physically big for this playhouse quickly.
|Footprint||47.8 x 47.8 inches|
|Age Range||24 months to 6 years|
7. Backyard Discovery Victorian Inn
The Backyard Discovery Victorian inn stands out because it is taller than most. This makes it an excellent option for families with children in multiple age groups. The additional height gives older children room to play comfortably with their younger siblings.
It comes with a two-burner stovetop, faucet, mounted sink, telephone, plastic knife, cutting board, and fruit and vegetable basket. It also has Velcro food including an apple, corn, orange, carrot, watermelon, and a strawberry. To make it more realistic, it has plastic plant-pot holders, a working doorknob, and a bay window.
- This playhouse has a small porch, a pass-through service window, and an integral bench as well as Victorian-style design details.
- It has a huge number of accessories and features.
- It can accommodate up to six children at a time, and the additional height makes it great if you have a taller child or for play with older siblings.
- The service pass-through is excellent for play, but does mean the inside of the house is open to the elements and to animals.
|Footprint||65 x 67 inches|
|Material||Wood – cedar|
|Age Range||24 months to 12 years|
|Accessories||Stove, sink, telephone, plastic knife and cutting board, six items of Velcro play food for cutting.|
8. L.O.L. Surprise! Winter Disco Cottage Playhouse
The L.O.L. Surprise! cottage is an award-winning playhouse for kids. Girls might like the decor, lights, and lack of kitchen stuff. Not all girls strive to be a domestic goddess.
Likely to be the headquarters for kids who enjoy lights, music, and dance, this cottage doesn’t have a sink or stovetop in sight.
Unique to this playhouse is the accompanying inflatable chair where your little one can collapse after a hard day’s play!
- A light-up disco ball on the inside of the house will provide your dancing divas with a fun and funky accompaniment to their music.
- It can be used indoors or out and is designed to be easily assembled, disassembled, and stored, making this an extremely versatile playhouse.
- It has plenty of fun-enhancing features such as a mail slot, house number decals, a flag holder, and shutters.
- A lack of floor, a half door, and windows with frames, but no glass or plastic to fill them, leaves the interior of this playhouse open to the elements.
|Footprint||35 x 42.75 inches|
|Age Range||2 to 10 years|
|Accessories||Disco light, inflatable chair|
9. Little Tikes Cape Cottage - Blue
A fun and funky pad for the child with discerning taste, this Little Tikes cottage evokes lake country style that will look good in any garden or home.
There are number decals for you to personalize your house, a crucial detail if you want to receive your play mail through the mail slot. To further personalize your cottage, you can use any standard flag pole and hoist a flag of your choosing by your door.
- Two working doors.
- The house is molded to resemble brickwork — a cute detail to differentiate this from other playhouses.
- Lightweight and simple enough to be assembled and moved by one person.
- It does not have any play accessories, or a floor.
|Footprint||39 x 42.75 inches|
|Age Range||2 to 10 years|
10. Sportspower Wooden Outdoor Playhouse with Bench
If you are looking for a playhouse with some unusual additional features, then the Sportspower wooden playhouse may be what you’re after.
It would be more accurate to describe it as a playhouse with a sturdy, covered, wooden bench seat attached. This bench comes with cushions to fit the seat and the back, so not only will your child be dry and out of the sun, they’ll be comfortable too.
There is also a wide window opening at the back of the house so you can play shop, catering van, or any other game that requires a pass-through.
- Integrated, covered bench seating, so the kids, or small adults have somewhere to sit during playtime.
- There’s a birdhouse on the roof ridgeline.
- Wood shingle roof, built-in table, and decorative window trim.
- Not easy to move once it is built and positioned.
- It’s much pricier than other playhouses.
|Footprint||43 x 83.6 inches|
|Material||Wooden – cedar|
|Age Range||36 months to 10 years|
|Little Tikes Build-a-House||Plastic||51″||47 x 47″||Metal frame & plastic panels||3 to 10 years|
|Backyard Discovery Columbus||Wooden||56″||45 x 46″||Wood – cedar||2 to 10 years|
|Kiddie Play Tent, Candy||Tent||40.3″||28 x 36.5″||100% polyester fabric shell & plastic poles||Up to 4 years|
|Outdoor Kids’ Evermeadow||Floored||49.61″||37.4 x 41.34″||Wood – fir||18 months to 8 years|
|Step2 Wonderball Fun||Toddlers||42″||33 x 36″||Plastic||18 months to 5 years|
|Starplay Apollo Rocket Climb & Slide||Slide||81″||47.8 x 47.8″||Plastic||24 months to 6 years|
|Backyard Discovery Victorian Inn||Older Kids||74″||65 x 67″||Wood – cedar||24 months to 12 years|
|L.O.L. Surprise! Winter Disco Cottage||Girls||49″||35 x 42.75″||Plastic||2 to 10 years|
|Little Tikes Cape Cottage||Boys||49″||39 x 42.75″||Plastic||2 to 10 years|
|Sportspower Wooden Playhouse||Unique||62.5″||43 x 83.6″||Wooden – cedar||36 months to 10 years|
The Gift Of Play
When you give your child a playhouse, you’re not just giving them somewhere to play. You are also providing the framework for pretend play that will allow them to pretend to be adults.
Thinking of them as adults may give you a slight panic attack. But don’t worry, after their long day of play, they’ll still be ready for your snuggles and will enjoy being a kid for years to come.