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Last updated: July 21, 2021
Outdoor playhouses are a great way to get your kids away from the screens and out into the fresh air. But, with an overwhelming number of options out there, it can be hard to choose which playhouse to buy.
Choose right, and you’ll have a magical space that your child will love for years and years. Choose wrong, and you’ll end up with a useless hunk of plastic taking up valuable real estate in your yard.
To help tilt the odds in your favor, we’ve created this list of the best backyard playhouses for toddlers and kids.
Top 5 Backyard Playhouses
Whether you have a princess, a chef, or an industrious creativity machine, we’ve got you covered with these five great choices.
1. Backyard Discovery Sweetwater Wooden Playhouse
Have an industrious toddler or a kindergartener with an endless imagination? The Backyard Discovery Sweetwater Wooden Playhouse was made just for them.
This beautiful house was designed to encourage hours of imaginative fun. Inside, your kiddo will find a working doorbell, cordless phone, sink, and oven with a full pan and utensils set.
When they finish cooking up their favorite meals, they can serve their friends through the oversized, open windows that surround the house on three sides.
There’s a lot for your kid to love about this house, and just as much for you to appreciate. Unlike most playhouses out there these days, this one is made of wood, not plastic. The pre-stained cedar panels have beautiful details and fun features. You can even hang real flower pots on each side of the door.
But don’t worry, you won’t have to break out the saw and hammer to put this together. Each panel comes pre-assembled with pre-drilled holes and all the hardware you’ll need. There are a lot of parts, so it will take some time to put together, but the assembly itself is not difficult.
Most impressive of all? This well-made playhouse is surprisingly affordable. In fact, it costs less than most of the plastic houses we’ve featured here.
The open-concept design and smart details of this house are exactly what kids need to get their imagination cooking. And to get you a little free time to relax.
2. Little Tikes Cape Cottage Playhouse
The Little Tikes Cape Cottage Playhouse is a great choice for those wanting something functional but also aesthetically pleasing.
This is a plastic playhouse but with a lot of details and a pleasing color scheme. It looks more like a home-built unit than a plastic store-bought one.
The inside of the house is sparse, but there are a lot of great features on the exterior to keep kids engaged. The window shutters open and close, there is a working mail slot, and the half door is easy for little hands to manipulate.
The plastic walls on this house are not as thick as the others we’ve featured. While it is still durable enough to hold up to weather and be used outside, the walls are more prone to bending than other options. This makes the house a better fit for older toddlers who don’t need the walls to steady themselves.
On the plus side, it is incredibly easy to assemble. Most users are able to get it put together in under 30 minutes.
This isn’t the strongest plastic house on the market, but it is very affordable. For those looking for a playhouse to last through the summer before the kids move on to other things, this is a great option.
3. Lifetime Heavy Duty Plastic Outdoor Playhouse
The Lifetime Heavy Duty Plastic Outdoor Playhouse is an excellent choice for kiddos with active imaginations and parents looking for something very low maintenance.
This plastic house was built to last. The thick panels and smart design mean it will look as good as new for years, even if left outdoors.
For the kiddos, this house has a ton going on as well. On the outside, they’ll find cloth awnings, a working doorbell, and a mail slot. On the inside, there’s shelving, a sink, and an oven that comes with pans and utensils.
The kit also includes a ton of fun, colorful stickers for decorating the inside of the house. These stickers are meant to be moved around so your kid can redecorate their space over and over for lasting fun.
While the final product is awesome, it can take a bit to get there with this house. Assembly requires hole drilling and a lot of work. And once the house is up, it weighs a decent amount, such that you’ll need multiple adults to move it around.
This isn’t a cheap house by any means, but if you are looking for a durable playhouse that will survive for years, you won’t find anything better.
4. Step2 Neat & Tidy Cottage Playhouse
If you are looking for a smaller playhouse for younger kids, the Step2 Neat & Tidy Cottage is worth considering.
This playhouse has a smaller footprint and weighs less than most you’ll find. The large, open windows make it easy to keep an eye on your child whether they are playing in the living room or out in the yard.
This house is light on features but still has plenty to entertain the kids. Inside, there is a molded sink and seat and decals for a fireplace and clock. The outside features a working doorbell, mailbox, and barbeque grill.
Unlike many other plastic playhouses, this one has an attached floor. This is great for protecting little feet from rough terrain but not so great for drainage if the area sees a lot of moisture.
In terms of assembly, it doesn’t get much easier than this house. Once it is all put together it weighs about 50 pounds, making it easier than most to move around.
The walls are sturdy enough to handle anything tiny tots and older children can throw at it. The clearance level is fairly short, however, making it better suited for children under 6.
Overall, this is a well-priced playhouse that is perfect for younger kids with smaller play spaces.
5. KidKraft Disney Frozen Themed Wooden Playhouse
For all the little princes and princesses out there, we’ve got the perfect playhouse. The KidKraft Disney Frozen Themed Wooden Playhouse provides a whimsical backdrop for hours of imaginative play.
This isn’t just a playhouse, it’s a castle! The roof features well-detailed pillars and graphics to emulate the icy castle in Frozen. The walls each have full-sized graphics inside and outside to complete the Arrendelle recreation.
The graphic panels are a touch flimsy but the structure of the house itself is fairly solid. It is made of wood and fiberboard that comes pre-painted. This castle was made for outdoor and indoor play, but if you want it to last, it would be wise to store it inside whenever it is not in use.
Aside from a lot of fun decals and structural details, this house is fairly sparse on the inside. But the large windows with flat sills provide plenty of space for the imagination to run wild.
Assembly isn’t terrible but there are a lot of different panels to put together so it will take some time. Having two people, especially for the roof, is a good idea.
You’ll pay a little extra for this castle thanks to the wood finish and Disney licensing, but it is well worth it if you have a Frozen fan in your family.
Outdoor Playhouse Buying Guide
Outdoor playhouses come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes with many different features. To help you sort through all the options available, we’ve put together this handy buyer’s guide.
1. Why Buy an Outdoor Playhouse?
There are so many reasons to add an outdoor playhouse to your child’s life. Here are just a few of those reasons:
- Encourage imaginative play:
Using imagination helps encourage healthy cognitive development. Playhouses provide a loose structure to encourage play without restricting imagination.
- Get your kiddo outside:
We could all use a little more fresh air and sunshine in our lives. An outdoor playhouse is one of the easiest ways to encourage your kid to get away from the TV and burn off some energy outdoors.
- Get the family involved:
Playing house is a natural way to get the whole family to play together. What better way to bond with your kids than by taking a moment to step into their world?
2. Suitable Age
Any kid that enjoys playing imaginative games can benefit from an outdoor playhouse. But the size of the house, specifically how tall it is, will determine if it is suitable for your child or not.
The majority of playhouses top out at about 4 feet high with doors that are even shorter. These are the perfect size for toddlers and kids up to 6 years of age.
For older children, look for larger playhouses or those without roofs. Yes, these do exist!
3. Materials and Durability
Outdoor playhouses generally come in two classes: wood and plastic.
Plastic houses are great because they tend to be very durable in the face of water and weather. Depending on how thick the plastic is, they may or may not stand up to the abuse of children just as well.
Wood houses are more aesthetically pleasing. If they are well-maintained, they can last just as long as durable plastic types.
Just as with plastic houses, the thickness and quality of the materials used will determine how much abuse the structure can take.
All playhouses require some degree of assembly.
Plastic types tend to be easier to assemble because they consist of preformed panels that snap or screw together. Complex wood houses can take hours to fit and screw together. But many wood playhouses feature pre-assembled panels that look better than plastic and come together just as easily.
If you don’t have a lot of tools or help at your disposal, you’ll want to pay special attention to assembly requirements before committing to a product.
The age of the child using the playhouse is one factor that will determine what size you should get. But you’ll also want to consider the amount of space you have available.
For outside use, size constraints are less likely to be a factor. But if you want a playhouse for use indoors or that you can move between the yard and the living room, size will certainly come into play.
In addition to length and height, you will also need to consider the weight of the product. Some are relatively easy to move around, like the 50 pound Step2 Neat & Tidy Cottage, while others are made to be set in place and never moved again.
Playhouses are made for kids, but the adults are the ones that have to look at them all the time. It is worth considering this fact before you commit to a playhouse made of cheap plastic and bright colors.
There are plenty of playhouses out there that are made with details that will keep the kids engaged while looking realistic enough to be pleasing to the adult eye. This feature is more common in wooden playhouses but it is possible to find plastic houses that fit with adults’ aesthetics as well.
When it comes to finding a quality outdoor playhouse that you and your children will appreciate, there are a lot of great choices out there.
For those looking for a wooden playhouse that will spark the imagination, the Backyard Discovery Sweetwater Wooden Playhouse is a great choice. This adorable playhouse is surprisingly affordable, easy to assemble, and packed with fun features the kids will love.
If you are looking for something that requires less maintenance but will last just as long, the Lifetime Heavy Duty Plastic Outdoor Playhouse is your answer. This adorable house is super durable, requires no maintenance, and will last for years even if left outdoors.