10 Best Outdoor Playhouses in 2017

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best outdoor playhouses

This Christmas, parents all over the globe will again be crowding department stores, novelty shops, specialty retailers, and even toy stores for the perfect gift they can give to their most precious loved ones – their kids. One of the perennially popular Christmas presents is a playhouse for kids. Available in different shapes, sizes, styles, and designs, playhouse kits are a sure hit every time the season of giving draws near. This year, you can surprise your kid with one of our top 10 outdoor playhouses and watch their eyes glow with amazement and their hearts jump for joy.

Here are our 10 best and most amazing garden playhouse sets for your child.

Top 10 Outdoor Playhouses for Kids

1Neat and Tidy II Playhouse by Step2 

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Age Range: 18 months to 8 years old

If you require a really great-looking, ultra-durable, and superb playhouse for kids you can also use as a landscaping piece in your garden or even your front lawn, we strongly recommend the Neat and Tidy II. This kiddie home has an open design to allow you to keep an eye on your child as well as his or her playmates as they play pretend with their own house. It comes with some of the more furniture and fixtures of a modern home such as a fireplace, a kitchen table, and even a kitchen faucet. This is excellent for expanding your kid’s imaginative play. There’s even a realistic doorbell with a pass-through mailbox so children can pretend to be Mr. Postman delivering mail to Ms. Potts.

Of course, what’s a house, even if it’s only for kids, if it doesn’t have windows and doors? Just don’t expect a multitude of doors, though. The Neat and Tidy II playhouse for kids feature a Dutch door as well as window shutters to really enhance pretend play. There’s even a wall clock, built-in shelves, a kitchen seat, and even a make-believe play telephone. And even if children will be really spilling water inside the kiddie house or you simply need to wash it down, cleanup is a breeze because of a built-in floor surface complete with drain holes.

What We Like about It – The Neat and Tidy is one simple kiddie playhouse that has all the right features necessary for make-believe play. The easy drain holes is a welcome bonus especially in keeping it clean.

2Cape Cottage by Little Tikes

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Age Range: 2 to 5 years old

If you’re looking for a toddler playhouse, then the Cape Cottage is the one to get. It’s small enough for small and young kids but never fails to stimulate the little one’s imagination. It is designed like a real house with a floor area of 42.8 inches by 35 inches. The height of the Cape Cottage is 49 inches tall from ground level to the top of its red roof complete with a dormer style window. It has two windows complete with brown shutters and two fully operational doors that swing outwards or inwards.

The wall is designed to brick layers while the roof is patterned after the slate shingles that are characteristic of Cape cottages. It doesn’t have house fixtures like kitchen sets and other items, though. The only added bonuses your kid will get are a mail slot and a flag holder. You’ll just have to buy your kid his or her American flag or any other flag that he or she would like to post.

What We Like about It – The minimal features on the Cape Cottage should never be taken as a serious lapse of judgment on the part of Little Tikes. At least, kids will really have to work their imagination to take full advantage of what the Cape Cottage has to offer. This also means that they can customize their toddler playhouse the way they see fit.

3Buccaneer Boat with Pirate Flag by ECR4Kids

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Age Range: 2 to 6 years old

The Buccaneer Boat with Pirate Flag is not your ordinary garden playhouse. However, it does make for a very interesting material upon which you can build the water feature in your backyard landscaping project. And if you think the Buccaneer can be great for your garden, just wait ‘til your kids play in it.

The Buccaneer is one of those playhouse kits that children will definitely have hours of fun making believe they are either commanding a pirate ship or following the orders of the master of the seas. The Buccaneer has a brightly-colored helm on the bridge just behind the ships center mast. There are railings on the bridge to help keep kid pirates safe and secure while they are navigating the world’s greatest oceans. It has some fantastic molded designs like the captain’s parrot and the ship’s anchor. There’s also a plastic pirate flag to warn enemy ships of its presence. The stern of the Buccaneer doubles as a ladder to help kids climb up the bridge and take command of the ship.

What We Like about It – The Buccaneer is no ordinary playhouse for kids. It’s an excellent instrument in encouraging children’s development through the use of their imagination. Despite its size, the Buccaneer only weighs 36 pounds so transporting and setting it up is not a problem.

4Endless Adventures Tikes Town Playhouse by Little Tikes

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Age Range: 3 to 6 years old

With 4 uniquely themed walls that can help inspire imagination and creativity among children, the Endless Adventure Tikes Town Playhouse is indeed one of the best kiddie homes we have in our list. There’s plenty of roleplaying and make-believe play activities that children can have with the Endless Adventures.

Children can pretend to be firefighters or even school teachers and students with the Firehouse/Schoolhouse wall of the Endless Adventure garden playhouse. It comes complete with a teacher’s table, a molded-in alphabet and bell, and a chalkboard as well as a mail slot located on the fully functioning door. Kids can also pretend to be a gas attendant with the Gas Station wall complete with a gas pump, a crawl-through tunnel, a play phone, and other molded-in details. There’s also a Sports wall where kids can pretend to be their favorite athletes or sports superstars from the NBA, the NHL, or even FIFA. It comes with a basketball hoop, a hockey and soccer net, and several targets for practicing how to pitch a perfect curved ball. The Endless Adventures playhouse for kids also has a Bank or Grocery Store wall which should allow children to make-believe in the operation of either a bank or a convenience store. There are shelves, a drive-through window complete with shutters, and, of course, an ATM. Inside the Endless Adventures are molded-in details of a bank, a workshop, and a kitchenette – truly, an endless adventure for kids.

What We Like about It – Little Tikes took the name very literally. But with so many possibilities for make-believe play, the Endless Adventures is really one innovative and truly kid-beneficial playhouse.

5Kids Outdoor Indoor Fun Play Big Tent Playhouse by Truedays

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Age Range: At least 1 year old

There are parents who are not really willing to buy solid and bulky playhouse kits not because they don’t want to but because they just don’t the luxury of space in their home for a semi-permanent fixture. If a kiddie house can be folded and stored in one convenient bag so that the space it occupies can be used for other purposes, say a birthday party, then this playhouse solves their problems.

Thankfully, the Kids Outdoor Indoor Fun Play Big Tent Playhouse is aims to provide just that. It’s also one of the cheap playhouses we’ve seen but with excellent quality workmanship. When fully assembled, the Kids Outdoor Indoor is one of the largest at 47.2 inches on all sides and 55.1 inches tall. Its pop-up design means all you have to do is to roll it out, remove the secure fasteners, shake it a bit, and the Kids Outdoor Indoor conveniently unfurls and stands up on its own. This is accomplished by its polyurethane-coated structural pole system that has been shock-corded. The floor of the play tent has been designed to be fully waterproof. The good thing about this play tent is that it has ports which can be attached with tubes to expand the whole play system. The ports have roll-down flaps. The front door closure has Velcro straps to make it a lot easier to close.

What We Like about It – Even if kids won’t use these for pretend house play, they can turn these cheap playhouses into a great ball pit for extra added fun. But what is really amazing with this play tent is the fact that it can connect to other similar cheap playhouses just by buying and attaching the correct tubes.

62-Story Playhouse and Slide by Step2

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Age Range: 3 to 8 years old

One of the loveliest kiddie play homes we have seen which reminds you of the traditional barnyard homes of the countryside is the 2-Story Playhouse and Slide. As the name implies, there are 2 separate levels for superb imaginative play. If getting down from the second floor using the ladder is tedious, your kids can use the 70-inch long slide instead.

This Step2 playhouse has a ground level floor that comes complete with a kitchenette, a make-believe oven, countertop, and molded-in kitchen details. There’s even an electronic doorbell on the beam of a fully operational Dutch door. The only way to get to the second level or floor is through a 5-rung ladder that goes straight through the roof and to the floor of the topmost level. The second floor has fort-like slats that can help provide the necessary stimulus for your kid’s imagination that he or she is on the watchtower of his or her own castle. Or, he or she can simply be watching the horizon as the ship sets sail to the ends of the world. The exterior is detailed with stone-like patterns.

What We Like about It – This Step2 playhouse for kids can provide children with all the encouragement and motivation they need to be as creative and imaginative as they possibly can. It’s also remarkable for helping children strengthen their muscles and enhance their coordination and balance.

7Welcome Home Playhouse by Step2

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Age Range: 18 months to 8 years old

Designed to mimic many of today’s modern homes, the Welcome Home Playhouse is one of the largest we have in our list. It measures 66 inches on all 4 sides and stands 73 inches high. It is for this reason that we strongly recommend looking at your space requirements because you will need a minimum of 30.25 square feet of space. And that is just for the Welcome Home alone. You will also have to consider the surrounding area. So, while we do highly recommend this playhouse for kids, it should only be considered if you have ample space in your backyard or even right inside your home.

Nevertheless, the Welcome Home is one of the most functional we’ve seen so far. It features large bay windows to provide excellent viewing both for you and your kids. There are also traditional windows with swinging shutters plus a Dutch door that opens from a mini porch complete with a welcome mat. It also comes with a peaked roof adorned with a skylight to help introduce the concept of energy-efficient roofs to your kids. There’s also a table, a full kitchen, a gas range, an electronic cordless phone, and a storage cabinet. At the front of the Welcome Home is an electronic doorbell that really plays chime sounds once pressed.

What We Like about It – If you’ve got a large backyard, then we strongly recommend the Welcome Home. It has many of the features that modern homes today have. This can be instrumental in the development of kids’ awareness and understanding of effective home management as they attempt to role-play the things they see in everyday life.

8Princess Cottage Playhouse by Little Tikes

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Age Range: 2 to 8 years old

Looking for really pink playhouse kits? Then, look no further as the Princess Cottage Playhouse was designed specifically for today’s young princesses. Painted in pink walls with white accents and a blue roof, the Princess Cottage is something that your little girl will be proud to show off to her friends. It’s actually a lot similar to the Cape Cottage toddler playhouse we have in our list except that the Princess Cottage is designed primarily for young girls.

Nevertheless, it features the same flag holder located at the door post as well as a make-believe mail slot. The exterior is designed like a brick house although colored pink. There are 2 fully functional doors that can swing either inwards or outwards. There are 2 windows, too that comes furnished with beautifully detailed white shutters. The shingled roof provide a realistic representation of what modern houses look like.

What We Like about It – The design of the Princess Cottage is a lot similar to the Cape Cottage. As such, the minimalist features provide kids with the much-needed leeway to make full use of their creative potential vis-à-vis their imagination. Unlike some cheap playhouses that come with a lot of features that there is nothing left to the imagination, Little Tikes’ understanding of childhood development is clearly reflected in the overall design of the Princess Cottage.

9Deluxe Home and Garden Playhouse by Little Tikes

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Age Range: 18 months to 5 years old

Consider a shed with open sides but with a splendidly-built supporting structure and a thoughtful roof and you now have the Deluxe Home and Garden Playhouse. The open design of this garden playhouse should address the concerns of some parents about the need to keep a watchful eye on their children whenever there little ones are playing.

The Deluxe Home and Garden features a stone-layered half-wall and a wood-themed opening and closing door. Inside the Deluxe Home and Garden is a kitchenette where your kids can whip up some truly delectable treats to feed the rest of the gang. The kitchenette comes with a gas stove complete with functional clicker knobs to help provide a more realistic make-believe play cooking. There’s also a kitchen sink to wash the dishes. While your little girl is busy preparing the meal, your little boy can pretend to do some carpentry work at the workbench station where he can hammer away at the plastic nails with a realistic hammer made of high grade plastic. Outside the Deluxe Home and garden playhouse is a picket fence with a terminal post adorned by a mailbox, just like what we typically see in small suburban or rural homes.

What We Like about It – The Deluxe Home and Garden Playhouse is unique in that it integrates the idea of gardening or backyard maintenance in home management. Kids will learn that housekeeping is not only about doing the chores inside the home. It also includes the maintenance of the lawn as well as doing some repair and maintenance work.

10Sweetheart Playhouse by Step2 

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Age Range: 2 to 6 years old

If your little princess is asking you to buy her a doll house, why not buy for her the Sweetheart Playhouse instead? It’s bigger and she and her friends can become the dolls that live and play inside the kiddie home.

One thing we noticed about the Sweetheart playhouse for kids is that it really has fantastic molded designs. From the beautiful pink roof with different shapes of shingles to the white walls, also with varying designs of brick, wood strips, and shingles, the Sweetheart is one lovely kiddie abode. The arched doors and windows provide a contrast to the lines of the wall. Some windows come with shutters while others don’t. The windowed door also features some fantastic artwork. There’s a door bell that really elicits a beautiful chime. There’s even a skylight on the roof plus a heart-shaped lower pot located by the front window. Inside the Sweetheart, it doesn’t disappoint, too. It comes with an electronic pretend phone, a table that converts into a stovetop barbecue grill complete with realistically-clicking knobs. There’s even a wall clock and a mirror inside the Sweetheart. 

What We Like about It –There’s a reason why Step2 called this the Sweetheart. With all the lovable features both inside and outside this wonderful playhouse, it’s not surprising to see young girls falling in love with it.

How We Chose the Top Outdoor Playhouse Kits in Our List

How difficult can it be to pick the top 10 outdoor playhouses, right? It’s as simple as getting the best-looking product at the most affordable price. Unfortunately, there can be literally hundreds of “best-looking” and truly “affordable” children’s playhouses. This means that you have to scrutinize each one of them. And this is exactly what we did.

First, we made sure to list down all the best-looking and realistically affordable kiddie house kits. Yes, we also included cheap playhouses just for those of us who are not really into buying very expensive stuffs that will only be used for a few years by our kids. We ended with less than a hundred items that match our preliminary criteria.

Next, we determined the developmental appropriateness of the product. Many of these products have features not found in other playhouse kits. In such cases, we knew we had to scrutinize the product feature and determine its implications in the overall development of today’s young kids.

We then evaluated each one for the soundness of its overall design. This included the safety and quality of the materials that were used in its design and manufacture. As much as possible we tried to look for indicators of superb quality control measures such as certifications from recognized federal testing and evaluation agencies and third party quality testing organizations. If the product also received a particular award for its design or even its intended use, then we had to consider this, too. This also addressed our inherent need to make sure the company can be trusted to provide us with products that are of the highest possible quality and safety.

We then had to read volumes of customer feedback as well as comments regarding the product. We had to feel confident that we are also making the right choice in including a particular product in our list of 10 most amazing outdoor or garden playhouses. So, our evaluation of the products must be somewhat similar to what parents and other consumers think about these kiddie house sets.

The process was not really easy but somehow, we’d like to believe that we did a really excellent job.

Playhouses and Your Kid’s Imaginative Play

Imaginative play among kids has always been equated to the development of their cognitive skills as well as emotional and social competence. One of the most useful toys or play sets when it comes to encouraging the full use of imagination by kids is a play house. It doesn’t really need to be as real as what we adults call home but it should provide just enough structure to allow kids to use their imagination to fill in the gaps.

For example, a kiddie home that has only 4 walls, a roof, 3 windows, and a door is often enough to help encourage children to use their thinking abilities. They will have to think about how they would like their “home” to look like, where to place the kitchen, and how to improve the overall appearance of their home. Children will still look to what they have in their real house and then try to modify these a bit to fit in the small space of the kiddie home. This requires problem solving and a good sense of proprioception and spatial relations. For instance, they may require a kiddie refrigerator to complete their kitchenette. With their spatial understanding, they will know just how big, or small, their play ref should be to fit inside the already cramped space.

While playhouses can help children hone their cognitive prowess, it is the enhancement of their social and emotional skills that is worth noting. Children prefer to play kiddie houses with their respective friends. Each one will typically play a different role so that the home will be managed effectively. For example, one will serve as the Mom, the other as the Dad, and the rest as children in the family. The important thing to remember is that imaginative play using playhouse kits help develop social and emotional skills by giving children the opportunity to interact, cooperate, and collaborate with other children regarding the different roles each one has to play. We can look at the playhouse as a venue for these kiddie social interactions.

The Bottom Line

Getting a playhouse for kids this Christmas to give to your precious child could be the most amazing thing we can do for them this year. Not only are we giving them the instrument to have lots of fun, we are also providing them the tool to grow and develop better. With the 10 best outdoor playhouses we have listed herein, we are confident your kids will have a merrier Christmas this 2016.

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Selina Marie
Selina Marie is our head of content for MyKidNeedsThat.com, mum of two and a self proclaimed toy geek. When she isn't juggling the madness at home, on a school run or baking her world famous blueberry muffins, you will find her product researching and keeping the site freshly updated with the latest toys and fun for our readers!
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