9 best kids’ indoor and outdoor playhouses for tons of fun whatever the weather – The Independent

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The cabins and wavy slides we’ve found will keep them amused for hours

The most important thing to us was finding a design that was durable, high-quality, and let our children get creative

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<p>The most important thing to us was finding a design that was durable, high-quality, and let our children get creative </p>
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The most important thing to us was finding a design that was durable, high-quality, and let our children get creative

(iStock/The Independent)

When it comes to a playhouse, you’ll get years of play out of it – if you opt for the right one. That’s why it’s best to see the playhouse as an investment piece for your little ones.

While you may have visions of the traditional pretty wendy house style, playhouses come in all shapes and sizes these days and in a variety of materials too, depending on whether you want them to live inside or outside.

The decision of which playhouse to buy may also be impacted by the space you have available to you and how many children will be playing with it.

If you’re opting for an outdoor playhouse for your garden, the first thing you should check is that it has been EN71 certified, meaning it’s safe for play. It’s also worth remembering that wooden ones will require some DIY skills, but the outcome pays off. They can also require maintenance, as some need to be treated to keep the wood looking good over time.

To get an overview of the options available, we’ve tested everything from purse-friendly playhouses to deluxe showstoppers.

Read more:

How we tested

We had two enthusiastic testers to help us put these playhouses to the test during the summer holidays, aged three and five years old. The most important aspect of our testing process was finding playhouses that were durable and high-quality – but we paid particular attention to any fun features that could extend playtime. Bearing in mind a parent’s sanity, we also took ease of assembly into consideration.

The best playhouses for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – TP Toys skye wooden playhouse-FSC: £899.99, Tptoys.com
  • Best for fun design – Kiddiewinkles outer space and rocket large playhouse: £225, Roomtogrow.co.uk
  • Best long-lasting playhouse – Little Tikes pink country cottage playhouse: £299.99, Smythstoys.com
  • Best traditional style – TP Toys hideaway wooden playhouse-FSC: £189.99, Tptoys.com
  • Best for toddlers – Plum garden hut wooden playhouse in teal: £279.99, Plumplay.co.uk
  • Best for cosy play – Wigiwama minty green teepee set: £152, Wigiwama.co.uk
  • Best looking – Plum boat house wooden playhouse: £649.99, Plumplay.co.uk
  • Best for imaginative play – Kids Concept playhouse tent: £118, Kidly.co.uk
  • Best for creative thinkers – Hobbycraft colour-in cardboard beach hut 88cm: £10, Hobbycraft.co.uk

TP Toys skye wooden playhouse-FSC

Best: Overall

Rating: 9/10

This is the creme de la creme of playhouses. Solid wood? Check. Double-storey? Check. Fun 8ft green slide? Yes, and it’s wavy. OK, we can’t deny it’s expensive – £899.99 to be precise, but for the years of play you’ll get out of the skye wooden playhouse, it’s a sound investment. DIY- wise it’s also not for the faint-hearted, taking us the best part of a day to assemble despite the clear instructions, labelling and pre-drilled holes.

The squeals of delight when we revealed this showstopper to our mini testers were heartwarming, and they didn’t hold back when it came to trying it out. Standing at 3.27 metres high, this certainly isn’t one for a bijoux garden, but if you have the space it’s a playtime phenomenon. Made from certified timber, this beautiful two-storey playhouse has two verandas: an internal ladder to gain access to the top floor; a panelled door and three perspex windows, and a fun wavy 8ft slide for a speedy exit from the top floor, which was the highlight for our testers.

It’s big enough for our little ones to play in it together – in fact, it can take a combined weight of up to 150kg. And while it’s not waterproof, TP Toys’s wood is pressure treated using an environmentally-friendly preservative that lasts so you don’t have to apply stain each year. Top job TP Toys.

Kiddiewinkles outer space and rocket large playhouse

Best: For fun design

Rating: 9/10

Take playtime to outer space with this large playhouse from Kiddiewinkles. Made using 100 per cent cotton, this hand-embroidered applique design features galaxy galore with something different to fascinate your kids on every outer wall. You’ll see peculiar aliens, colourful planets and a cool station at the front, not to forget the playful portholes dotted about – a highlight for our tiny testers. Plus, it comes with its own storage bag and the option to personalise.

The size of this playhouse is pretty impressive. At the tallest point, it’s over 160cm and is more than a metre wide, making it ideal for siblings or group play. Something this sizeable was, to our gratitude, also a doddle to put up. It took around five minutes, and we simply pulled the fabric over the metal frame and stuck the fabric to the bottom with Velcro. The front door also features Velcro ties to allow easy access. While it’s rather cumbersome, it’s pretty lightweight, so if your house allows you could take it out into the garden. You may want to invest in a floor covering to make the most out of this psychedelic playhouse.

Little Tikes pink country cottage playhouse

Best: Long-lasting playhouse

Rating: 9/10

Our testers recognised this design instantly, as we have a Little Tikes country cottage that is over 20 years old – if that can’t testify to this product’s durability, we’re not sure what can. It’s safe to say that the pink country cottage playhouse was a bit of an upgrade for them to test out though. They loved the hot pink colour and purple roof, but the star of the show was the pretend yellow mobile phone which has buttons and its own phone cradle to spark their imaginations. We have to say structurally not much has changed since our old one, but that’s a credit to the product for its classic design.

If you’ve ever put one of these together you’ll be aware that brute force is required as you connect the parts – you’ll need to use your body weight to get this assembled, but the labour is worth it. Inside you’ll find a purple kitchen unit with a sink that even has a swivel tap. The hob is equipped with clicking knobs, and you’ll need to stick on the hob stickers.

The four window shutters are great for group play, and they’re easy for little hands to open and close – likewise with the cottage door, which is at full height for easy access. There’s plenty of space inside for both our testers, but we’d say ages 18 months to four years is the perfect age range. Made from durable, weatherproof plastic, this playhouse is designed to live outdoors and it’ll certainly bring a pop of colour (and plenty of giggles) to your garden.

TP Toys hideaway wooden playhouse-FSC

Best: For traditional style

Rating: 8/10

When you conjure up images in your head of a traditional wooden playhouse it can’t be far off this hideaway wooden playhouse from TP Toys. Made from certified timber, it features an all-wood roof and floor, and four sides.

Once built – it took us about 45 minutes – the dimensions are 118cm x 90cm x 146cm, which is the perfect size for our three-year-old tester. Her favourite bit was the full-height door which comes with its own doorknob, as she pottered in and out of the house. She loved peering out of the window too. The build was a smooth two-man operation as it comes with prefabricated panels and easy-to-follow instructions, but we think it’s worth bearing in mind that it must be treated with a child-friendly stain or wood treatment on all sides of the panels before outside play.

The playhouse looks and feels sturdy, and is recommended for 18 months plus. Both our three- and five-year-old testers got quite into their mummy and daughter roleplay with this fun playhouse, but we’d say size-wise it’s most suited to toddlers.

Plum garden hut wooden playhouse in teal

Best: For toddlers

Rating: 8/10

Founded in 1988 by a husband and wife, Plum is a family-run business known for its fantastic outdoor toys – so naturally, when it came to testing out playhouses they were bound to be in the mix.

In a gorgeous teal colour with white accents, the Plum garden hut wooden playhouse is a fantastic space for little ones to play and get creative. It took us about 45 minutes to put together, and assembly was pretty straightforward. Perfectly portioned for toddlers, it’s 140cm tall, and 90cm wide. Our five-year-old tester had a blast “cleaning” the Perspex windows, while our youngest tester enjoyed running in and out of the playhouse – which was undisturbed as there’s no door to contend with.

Our favourite design feature has to be the pretty apex roof, giving that traditional wendy house shape. There’s also no floor with this wooden playhouse, which does make it less cosy but much easier to move around the garden. And let’s face it, this looks so lovely in every corner of your outdoor quarters.

Wigiwama minty green teepee set

Best: For cosy play

Rating: 8/10

Latvian-based playful interiors brand Wigiwama has been lovingly making teepees since 2016 and we’re rather smitten with ours. Coming in gorgeous minty green with a delicate floral pattern (there are five colourways to choose from), the canvas is made from woven cotton known for its long-lasting nature. The material is also super-safe for children as it’s one of the best-known labels for textiles tested for harmful substances.

The wooden poles are soft to the touch and look stylish against the green canvas. We did find the poles a little stiff when assembling but it didn’t take us long to put this teepee together. It was an instant hit with our mini testers, who loved snuggling and playing under the canvas. This tepee set is so well-thought-out, with the padded floor cushion making chilling out extra comfy, and the storage bag is fab for taking it to different locations – after all, this is certainly a product you’ll want to show off. A matching smaller cushion cover is included too to make play extra plush, and we love the porthole window and tie-back opening.

Plum boat house wooden playhouse

Best: Looking

Rating: 8/10

If you want to take your playhouse game to a new height, quite literally, let us introduce you to Plum’s boat house wooden playhouse. Much like the garden hut wooden playhouse we reviewed, this gives your playhouse a raised platform, complete with a ladder and slide. To create such a masterpiece you’ll have to put aside some time – it took two of us around two hours to assemble but was worth it for the smile on our kids’ faces.

Everything is very coordinated, from the nautical blue and white theme to the contrasting three-step ladder and 1.2 metre teal slide. The slide is of course a standout feature that got a big thumbs up from our mini reviewers. Size-wise this is more suited to our three-year-old tester just because of the door height. We love the style of this pretty playhouse which offers hours of fun for all children.

Kids Concept playhouse tent

Best: For imaginative play

Rating: 7/10

If you’re into that cool stripped-back Scandi style, this is the playhouse for you. Fear not, the style has been met with substance from the Swedish kids’ interior brand Kids Concept. Much like erecting a gazebo, the wooden structure is easy to assemble, with a cotton cover that simply pulls over and ties firmly in place.

Made from 100 per cent cotton, with a pine tent frame, choose to roll the sides up using the ties to transform this space into a cafe or shop (or whatever their imagination allows), or keep things cosy with the sides down. Our only slight criticism would be that there’s no mechanism for tying the sides down, as they do tend to blow about a bit when outside in the breeze. Having said that, our mini testers enjoyed running through the sides and straight through the middle. If budget allows, pair up with the matching foldable playmat (£44, Kidly.co.uk), or kit it out with Kids Concept’s fantastic range of imaginative roleplay toys.

Hobbycraft colour-in cardboard beach hut 88cm

Best: For creative thinkers

Rating: 7/10

We all know that kids are suckers for a good old cardboard box. Well, this takes the humble box to a new level. For just a tenner, the colour-in cardboard beach hut gives little artists a big blank canvas that they can cover with their own creativity. Paint the seaside characters, or colour them in with crayons or markers – expect sun loungers, seagulls, palm trees and more.

It’s safe to say this was the easiest and quickest to assemble of all those we reviewed. We simply slotted the cardboard pieces together and added the roof. Our three-year-old enjoyed hiding inside and poking her head out of the door and flaps, while our five-year-old tester put her creative stamp on it.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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