The best outdoor playhouse for kids can be viewed as a compromise between keeping the kids safe indoors and encouraging them to play outdoors.
These playhouses are usually placed in the front or back yard, perhaps on the patio or the deck, where your kids can enjoy playing pretend house, hide and seek, and any other games that pique their interests.
Picking the best outdoor playhouse for your children can be a challenging task. There are hundreds of choices from dozens of well-known manufacturers. Even veteran parents who have fond memories of their own outdoor playhouses can be overwhelmed by these choices.
Selecting the Best Outdoor Playhouse – My Picks
You can rely on my top ten picks because I used methods that every responsible parent will also use, saving you time and energy.
Table of Contents
- Selecting the Best Outdoor Playhouse – My Picks
- 1. Step2 Neat and Tidy II Playhouse
- 2. Little Tikes Cape Cottage
- 3. ECR4Kids Buccaneer Boat with Pirate Flag
- 4. Little Tikes Endless Adventures Tikes Town Playhouse
- 5. Truedays Kids Outdoor Indoor Fun Play Big Tent Playhouse
- 6. Step2 2-Story Playhouse and Slide
- 7. Step2 Welcome Home Playhouse
- 8. Little Tikes Princess Cottage Playhouse
- 9. Little Tikes Deluxe Home and Garden Playhouse
- 10. Step2 Sweetheart Playhouse
- The Way We Picked the Outdoor Playhouses on Our List
- Playhouses in Your Kids’ Development
1. Step2 Neat and Tidy II Playhouse
Suitable for: 18 months to 8 years old
Many playhouses are just simple boxes made of thick plastic in various colors, usually with a single door and window. But not the Neat and Tidy II, because it comes pre-loaded with many of the amenities of a modern house, as well as an open design for keeping an eye on your kids.
The notable features in the playhouse include a play fireplace, a kitchen faucet, a kitchen table and seat, and a pass-through mailbox. The built-in shelves, wall clock, and play telephone are icing on the cake, especially for kids with very active imaginations.
You, as the parent, will like the Neat and Tidy II because it’s so easy to clean. Just use a garden hose to clean the interiors including the floor which has drain holes. You can also use a water-mild detergent mixture to scrub off stubborn dirt.
What’s Great About It: We like that the playhouse has a Dutch door and window to complete the illusion of a real house. Your kids will absolutely love the interiors with its cute and cool features.
2. Little Tikes Cape Cottage
Suitable for: 2 to 5 years old
Even toddlers appreciate the beauty of outdoor playhouses. This Cape Cottage playhouse will be right up their alley, thanks to its compact size suitable for them. The 42.8 × 35 inch floor area can accommodate a few toddlers, encouraging them to play together.
The playhouse has the look and feel of a miniature house from the built-in floor to the red roof, dormer-style window with brown shutters, and the two inward/outward-swinging doors.
Your toddler and their playmates will have a grand time playing inside and outside, perhaps in a game of hide-and-seek. Your inner architect may even like the design of the outer wall and the roof with its slate shingles, all in the style of a charming cottage.
There are fewer features in the Cape Cottage in comparison with the Neat and Tidy II. The only added feature is a flag holder, but the interior is empty. You can place a few kid-sized furniture items inside, but try to limit how many pieces you place inside, because it can easily become cramped.
What’s Great About It: It only has a few features, but therein also lies its beauty – you can customize the interiors according to your child’s preferences. Your toddler and their playmates will also have more opportunities to exercise their imaginations, and move around more inside the playhouse.
3. ECR4Kids Buccaneer Boat with Pirate Flag
Suitable for: 2 to 6 years old
Why settle for a box-style playhouse when your child can have a boat-shaped outdoor playhouse? This is the major selling point of the Buccaneer Boat, an outdoor playhouse inspired by the pirate ships of old.
Even toddlers who have no idea about pirates and sailors, but who are fans of “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” show will love it.
There’s no mistaking the ship shape of this outdoor playground. From the bridge on the helm to the stern with its ladder, young kids will have hours of fun playing pirates and sailors.
There are also built-in details that enhance the pirate experience – railings on the bridge, an anchor, and a parrot, among others. There’s even a plastic pirate flag.
What’s Great About It: I like that it isn’t your typical house-inspired outdoor playhouse. Kids are more likely to imagine themselves in sea-related situations, thus expanding their creativity. Adults will like the relatively light weight of 36 pounds, which still gives sufficient room for your children to play. Plus, it’s easy to clean with water and a mild detergent.
4. Little Tikes Endless Adventures Tikes Town Playhouse
Suitable for: 3 to 6 years old
Most playhouses have relatively bare walls that kids can personalize with their drawings and photos. But the Endless Adventures playhouse stands out because all four of its walls have unique themes. Your toddler and their older siblings or friends will enjoy many hours of various role-playing and make-believe games in this cute little house.
First, the Firehouse/Schoolhouse wall has a built-in bell and alphabet, a chalkboard, and a teacher’s table – truly, a perfect corner for a few kids to play teacher and student. Second, the Gas Station wall has several built-in details including a gas pump, a play phone, and a tunnel where your kids can actually crawl through.
Third, the Sports wall features a soccer and hockey net, a basketball hoop, and targets for pitching, thus making it a great corner for pretending to be sports star. Fourth, the Grocery and Bank wall can be the backdrop for kids to pretend play as people in a bank or supermarket. This corner has shelves, an ATM, and a drive-through window.
What’s Great About It: We recommend the Endless Adventures playhouse because it delivers on its promise – seemingly endless adventures for your imaginative toddlers and their playmates. Such innovation is rare in the industry, not to mention that kids will significantly benefit from playing with it regularly.
5. Truedays Kids Outdoor Indoor Fun Play Big Tent Playhouse
Suitable for: 1 year old and up
Many outdoor playhouses are just too large and too bulky to be suitable for modest homes and yards. This Truedays’ playhouse luckily solves this problem in many ways due to its movable nature.
You can choose to make it as small or as large as you want, thanks to its scalable design. The play tent has ports into which additional tubes can be attached, thus expanding its size. As a single basic unit, it already measures a relatively spacious 47.2 × 55.1 inches.
It is also easy to transport and set up because of its foldable design. Just roll out the tent after unboxing it, remove its secure fasteners, and shake it a bit and voila. The playhouse tent unfurls by itself and becomes a ready-to-play-in place for your kids. You will also like the Velcro straps on the front door closure and the roll-down flaps on the ports.
What’s Great About It: We like several things about the playhouse tent and we’re confident that you will also agree. These include its ease of set up and folding for storage or transportation, its ease of scalability, and its versatility. Your kids can also use it as a ball pit, guaranteeing hours of fun.
6. Step2 2-Story Playhouse and Slide
Suitable for: 3 to 8 years old
Another excellent outdoor playhouse from Step2, this one features two levels accessible by a ladder and a slide. Think of it as two playthings in one – a playhouse complete with a floor and roof, as well as a mini-slide.
On the ground floor level, your toddler and their friends can play in the kitchen featuring a kitchenette, a counter top, and a play oven. You can even ring the electronic doorbell located on the Dutch door’s beam.
Climbing to the second level means climbing a 5-step ladder. Your kid’s imagination can make the slats on the second floor window either a watch tower on a castle, a deck on a ship, or a window in a house. Let your child’s imagination go into overdrive while they climb up and down the ladder or the slide.
What’s Great About It: We like the two-level design, which has stone-like molded-in exteriors, and provides kids with plenty of opportunities for physical exercise. Keep in mind that climbing and sliding up and down hones their balance and coordination skills, which are important physical skills.
7. Step2 Welcome Home Playhouse
Suitable for: 18 months to 8 years old
Parents in the market for large outdoor playhouses will find the Welcome Home playhouse a great choice. Be sure to measure the allotted space including the surrounding area before buying it. You will need at least 32 square feet of free space to install this large and tall playhouse, which measures 66″ (L) x 66″ (D) x 73″ (H).
Once installed, you and your kids will definitely appreciate its form and function. The design evokes the classical homes in stylish neighborhoods, thanks to the large bay windows and peaked roof. The features, however, appeal to the contemporary tastes of children today.
Your toddler will be delighted with the details that make it a standout including the swinging shutters on the windows, the Dutch door, and the skylight.
On the inside, the playhouse also has a full play kitchen with a gas range, a table, and a storage cabinet, plus an electronic cordless phone. You can even call their attention by pressing on the electronic doorbell, which plays chiming sounds too.
What’s Great About It: While not everybody has the space for such a large playhouse, we recommend it if you do, because it can accommodate older children up to 8 years old, as well as fit more children inside. This can be an instrument in encouraging kids to play together which will enhance their social interaction and communication skills.
8. Little Tikes Princess Cottage Playhouse
Suitable for: 2 to 8 years old
Many little girls like to imagine themselves as princesses, especially Disney princesses. This white-and-pink playhouse can be their stomping ground, so to speak, since it’s as girly as you can get. Even the blue roof accentuates the pink walls with their white accents.
Your child will like the flag holder and mail slot, which adds to the illusion of a princess in her charming cottage. You will appreciate the attention to detail too, such as the two windows with white shutters, the two Dutch doors swinging inwards and outwards, and the shingled roof.
What’s Great About It: The Princess Cottage may be simpler in terms of its features – there are no standalone tables and chairs or molded-in details, but it’s made by Little Tikes, so parents have the assurance of durability in materials and construction. Plus, the simplicity of the design will encourage your kids to put their imagination to the test.
9. Little Tikes Deluxe Home and Garden Playhouse
Suitable for: 18 months to 5 years old
Most parents look for playhouses with an open design that allows them to keep an eye on their kids. This is exactly what the Little Tikes’ Deluxe playhouse provides both kids and parents with, although this not all that this playhouse offers.
The front door can be easily opened by kids although care must be taken not to pinch little fingers and toes. Inside the playhouse, your children will love the kitchenette with several make-believe appliances, such as a gas stove with a working clicker knob, and a kitchen sink for washing small dishes.
The best thing about the playhouse is that it allows boys and girls to play together. While the girl is in the kitchen, the boy can play at the workbench with plastic tools, such as hammer and nails, or vice versa.
What’s Great About It: We recommend this playhouse because it allows boys and girls to play together. They learn the value of independent and interrelated play, as well as develop their social skills including their ability to communicate. They will even learn the basics of kitchen and carpentry work without endangering themselves.
10. Step2 Sweetheart Playhouse
Suitable for: 2 to 6 years old
Girls are made with sugar and spice and everything nice. You will likely consider the Sweetheart Playhouse as everything nice in a girl-oriented toy. Your child and her playmates will just love that it has sufficient space for pretend play with their dolls and other toys.
The design is as sweet as can be too. The pink roof has the appearance of shingles while its skylight brings in natural light. The white walls have molded-in designs mimicking wood strips, bricks and shingles, which break the monotony.
Inside the playhouse, your child will find plenty of features to enhance her make-believe play. These include a pretend electronic telephone, a mirror, and a wall clock. Kids love the convertible table too – it can be flipped over to become a stove top barbecue grill.
What’s Great About It: We recommend it because it’s such a sweetheart playhouse with many features that your little one will simply love.
The Way We Picked the Outdoor Playhouses on Our List
Form, features and function. These were the main criteria that we used in determining which outdoor playhouses made it to our top 10 list.
Since we cannot visually inspect all of the units that made it to our short list, we also relied on consumer reviews of the products from the online stores, message boards, and forums.
Let’s first talk about the form since it’s the first thing that parents, the buyers of these toys, will see. We chose the playhouses because of their vivid colors, stylish designs, and evocative exterior features.
We looked at playhouse that actually looked like classic and contemporary homes, castles and pirate ships.
Of course, our first choices were the playhouses that really caught our eye for these reasons. You will find that every single one of them have a striking form that your toddlers will love.
But looks aren’t all there is to the best outdoor playhouses for kids. We also considered the features in each playhouse, including:
- Doors and windows that open and close, perhaps with working electronic doorbells and shutters, respectively
- Roof with or without skylight
- Floors with drain holes for easy cleaning
- Standalone kid-friendly furniture items, such as a table and chair set
- Built-in furniture and fixtures, such as kitchenettes, tables and chairs, and appliances (non-working for safety reasons)
- Small details that enhance the pretend play experience, such as a small flag, mail slots, and a white picket fence
Playhouses are mainly designed as places where kids can engage in imaginative play in a mini-home of their own. But many of them can also be used for other purposes, such as a slide or a ball pit for smaller children.
We considered versatility in use, however, as a secondary benefit, as kids will like a playhouse because it allows them to have imaginative play in any form it may come.
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Aside from form, features and function, we also considered other important factors including the following:
- The durability of the materials and the overall construction quality of each playhouse must be assured. These are crucial factors since kids will be playing in, out and around it. Plus, these are toys that are exposed to the natural elements, so the materials must be as durable as possible.
- The ease of cleaning the entire playhouse is also a must. Parents must regularly clean the interior and exterior of the playhouse to ensure their child’s safety and hygiene.
We believe that by using these factors in considering each playhouse, we included the best of the best on our list.
Playhouses in Your Kids’ Development
We have to admit that playhouses can be expensive in comparison with other toys. But when you consider the benefits that children get when playing with them, you will agree that these are worthwhile investments.
Several studies have attested to the following benefits for children when playing in playhouses, regardless of their size and style.
Encourage the children to play outdoors
Outdoor play isn’t exactly a popular activity among toddlers and elementary school-age children for many reasons, so there is more emphasis placed on indoor play, studying, and video gaming activities.
With an outdoor playhouse, kids will be encouraged to play outdoors with their friends, and, in the process, develop their physical, mental and social skills. We know that kids who play outdoors are more likely to be happier, calmer and more able to deal with a wider range of situations.
Develop the children’s creative imagination through pretend-play
Outdoor playhouses can be considered as your children’s haven where they can engage in a wide variety of activities without too much parental supervision. Indeed, they can engage in independent and cooperative play inside their ready-made or DIY playhouses.
Children can make their playhouses whatever they want them to be and engage in a wide variety of activities. They can eat and drink, read and be read to, take a nap, and pretend to be princes and princesses in their playhouse. In doing so, they harness their creative imagination, as well as learn about taking on roles, following rules, and interacting with others.
Many older children will also learn their basic negotiating skills while playing in these playhouses. Kids have to negotiate and compromise about who gets to play what and for how long.
Suffice it to say that outdoor playhouses may be big in size but these deliver big benefits too. Kids love them too, because these can be anything they want to be at different points in their lives.
The benefits of playing outdoors can be your child’s to enjoy while you have the peace of mind that your children are still “indoors”, and protected from the elements.
We like to believe that our choices in the top 10 playhouses will contribute to your better choice in these toys. You should also keep in mind, depending on the age of your child, different levels of parental supervision will be necessary for safety purposes. You may want to keep an eye on your toddlers, but let older kids play on their own with little supervision.