Spring is upon us, and that means outdoor play is an option once again. There’s nothing better than watching your little ones enjoy themselves outdoors, exercising, inventing, and simply being kids. A wonderful way to keep kids engaged is by getting them an outdoor playhouse.

Outdoor playhouses come in a range of styles and sizes. There are themed houses, houses with some truly impressive acrobatic equipment, and the choices these days are wide and vast. Kids enjoy exploring and role-playing, and for toddlers, this is critical for both their physical and social development. We’ll be reviewing eleven exceptional playhouse choices, but before that, let’s touch on why outdoor play is important for toddlers.

Why Is Outdoor Play Important for Toddlers?

Why is outdoor play important for toddlers?

Intuitively, most of us understand why outdoor play is beneficial for toddlers. Exploration, interaction with our surroundings, sharing, and discovering are just a few of the most frequently cited benefits. Yet, there is also a risk-taking component, understanding healthy boundaries, identifying limitations, and how far you can push them. This can only come through actual outdoor play, and combined with gross motor development, provides toddlers and young kids a solid base to grow upon into their teen years.

Another critical element is, of course, physical exercise. We’ve all seen that kid that puts in 4 hours in a playhouse or jungle gym, comes home, scarfs down some macaroni and cheese, and then hits the bed ravaged. Our bodies are meant to be moved, and exercise is beneficial from a physical standpoint and critical for a healthy mind.

And lastly, outdoor play allows children to be children. The world of a child is largely inventive. They role-play based on what they observe and create new worlds and characters. The creative element is certainly at play, but so is fine-tuning their social skills and their ability to interact with others positively. This can be achieved indoors, but doing it outdoors is infinitely more fun!

What Age Is A Playhouse For?

What age is a playhouse for?

Playhouses have evolved by leaps and bounds. While forty years ago your typical playhouse was little more than four walls and a rustic-looking sink, the attention to detail in playhouses today is truly extraordinary. One of the most common playhouse questions surrounds age. A playhouse for a 1-year-old looks quite different than one for a 9-year-old.

In general, kids 1 to 4 are grouped into the first playhouse age bracket. These playhouses feature child-friendly materials characterized by their soft edges and light, round pieces. There are frequently large holes that encourage discovery via crawling and entering safe spaces, and the house itself is not overly tall, three to four feet typically.

In the 5 to 8-year range, kids are beginning to understand specific roles and activities in life. For example, many playhouses will feature kitchenettes where kids can pretend to prepare meals or be chefs for a day. Doors and windows are also common as these playhouses become the child’s “actual house” they own, decorate, etc. In this range, the playhouses are heavier and more stationary due to their weight.

Finally, in the 9 to 12-year range, playhouses look more like small jungle gyms than our typical notion of a playhouse. Slides are common, as are swing sets and bars. Because they are made for kids 9 to 12, the heights are pronounced and the risk of falling is understandably greater. For playhouses this size, having a soft ground (grass or cushion turf) is recommended.

Do You Need A Lot Of Accessories For Your Kid’s Playhouse?

Do you need a lot of accessories for your kids playhouse?

Accessories with anything are meant to add some additional flavor to the original product. Typically, the 1 to 4-year age range are the most basic playhouses, and accessories don’t really come into play until the 5 to 8 year age range. But with that said, purchasing additional accessories for any age range is a good idea if you notice a particular interest in your child.

For example, additional accessories to round out a playhouse’s kitchenette is a popular purchase. Some kids absolutely love playing chef, cooking, and serving their friends. This can go on for hours, and accessories (additional pans, play food, utensils, etc.) can really heat up an afternoon backyard party. Another popular accessory pick is garage tools. Some playhouses come with a mini-garage built in, and purchasing plastic wrenches, screwdrivers, drills, and similar play tools is loads of fun for kids who are into tinkering on their play rides.

The Best Outdoor Playhouses for Toddlers

Simplay Young Explorers Adventure Climber

Simplay Young Adventure Climbers outdoor playhouse.

We’ve all had our fun on playhouses like this one. This is a classic design for toddlers – enough room to jump, slide, and crawl, but strategically constructed to minimize nasty falls and scrapes, and bruises. Every now and again you might catch a 7-year old stuck in the bottom, but that’s the joy of parenting!

Extremely durable with double-wall construction, the UV-resistant material means you can keep this playhouse outside in the elements without a care in the world. Although, with that said, do consider a piece of tarp or something similar if you live in extreme elements. Not everything was made to withstand a Michigan winter.

To learn more, click here.

Step2 Happy Home Cottage & Grill Kids Playhouse

Step2 Happy Home Cottage playhouse for toddlers.

This playhouse looks strikingly similar to the first house from Step2. Yet, the roofing on this model is more extensive, and there’s another key feature that deserves a mention – a doorbell! You read that right and be prepared to hear door chimes until the cows come home with this model. But fear not, the noise is completely tolerable and won’t have your neighbors arming a petition to have you banned to the countryside.

This playhouse has drain holes built into the floor, which sounds minor, but is a lifesaver in terms of cleaning the inside and keeping the mud out. Your little one also has access to a fireplace, kitchenette, and a wall clock, so they know when to come inside (wouldn’t that be lovely). 

Love it? Click here to buy now.

Little Tikes Cape Cottage House

Little Tikes Cape Cottage outdoor playhouse for toddlers.

If pink is in your kid’s wheelhouse, look no further. Fun and stylish, the arched doorway and brick details are extremely realistic, and with two working windows (and doors), there is plenty to explore and role-play with here.

While the picture online might make it appear that the assembly will be a chore, reviewers rave on how easy this cottage is to put together. The materials are lightweight and very easy to move. This is also a great cottage for indoor and outdoor play; you can easily place this into a playroom or bedroom and completely transform the space.

Ready to buy? Click here.

Step2 Best Chefs Kitchen Playset

Step2 Chef's Kitchen playhouse set for kids.

Nearly every kid goes through a “I want to be a chef” phase. Some continue and become world-class chefs. Nearly every world-class chef started somewhere, and even if your little one ends up being just a good cook, a play kitchen set-up teaches measuring skills, patience, attention to details, and a host of other positive lessons.

The electronic stovetop burner juices up with lights and sounds, and with a couple of “AA” batteries, you’re good to go. The accessory set numbers a generous 25 pieces, and Step2 toys are known for their durability. This set is low maintenance and guaranteed to last.

To see pricing, click here.

Little Tikes Picnic on the Patio Playhouse

Little Tikes Picnic on the Patio outdoor playhouse for toddlers.

Imagine a playhouse with a picnic option, and you’ve arrived at the Little Tikes Picnic on the Patio Playhouse. No playhouse is complete without the actual house, but a picnic option is certainly welcome. Little Tikes took this to heart and built a picnic nook off the side of this house, complete with two chairs and a generous table setting.

Recommended for toddlers from 18 months to 4 years, this is a playhouse that will last for years and accompany your little one in those formative years. Weighing a manageable 65 pounds, Little Tikes is a respected manufacturer in the playhouse circuit, and your kids will appreciate this gift, regardless of the occasion.

To read reviews, click here.

L.O.L. Suprise! Indoor & Outdoor Cottage Playhouse

LOL Surprise! indoor and outdoor playhouse for girls.

LOL stands for laughing out loud, and this explosion of pink will have you roaring with laughter. L.O.L. Suprise! is a leader in the playhouse world, and what kids like most with their houses are the decal stickers with all the L.O.L. characters that you can plaster across the house. Stickers always add some much needed flavor.

This indoor & outdoor cottage features arched doorways, modern windows, and a brick facade all adorned in a bright pink hue. Some of the add-ons that folks really enjoy are the flag holder (appropriate for any type of flag), a real mail slot to receive your very own mail, and the shutters on the windows. This is a real gem of a playhouse.

Love it? Click here to buy now.

KidKraft Disney’s Frozen 2 Arendelle Playhouse

KidKraft Disney's Frozen 2 Arendelle playhouse.

If your child is a Frozen fan, look no further. Arendelle castle is a favorite in the Frozen world, and what Frozen fan doesn’t dream of actually living in one. Make this dream come true with this super life-like Arendelle castle from KidKraft. The details on this castle are otherworldly. KidKraft could have thrown together something that looks like Arendelle, but you can tell they really took the time to zero in on all the details, and the final product reflects that.

The double front door design coupled with two window planters invites young kids into this play-world, and the front door graphics are inspired by none other than Elsa’s room door.

To see pricing, click here.

YoYa Toys Dinosaur Play Tent for Toddler Boys & Girls

Dinosaur playhouse tent for toddlers.

This play tent is not technically a playhouse, but the size and incredible artwork make it more than worthy of mention. Perfect for kids three and up, the design on the outside of the tent are friendly dinosaurs (as opposed to menacing ones), and the opening leads to a snug cave on the inside where there’s room for a couple of kids, some Legos, and an afternoon of relaxing play.

One online reviewer mentioned that the inside was so spacious that her 14-year-old son would also climb in and play with his little sister. They bring in their blankets and iPads and call it a day!

To read parent reviews, click here.

Toys And My House DIY Playhouse

DIY cardboard playhouse, build and color playhouse for kids.

DIY playhouses are catching on, and this cardboard set-up gives your kid the ability to decorate and build this house according to his or her individual taste. The structure is highly durable and made of recycled cardboard that is non-toxic and eco-friendly.

Once unpacked, there are no scissors or glue needed. The house can be constructed simply by folding the cardboard pieces and following the assembly manual. You can then use colored pencils, pens or even watercolors to paint the walls and add some unique, individual flavor.

Ready to buy? Click here.

To Sum it Up

Playhouses will turn into some of the most special memories your child will have. We covered eleven great choices, the different age ranges, and the types of accessories that are normally bundled in.

Outdoor play is critical for toddler and child development. A playhouse stimulates creativity, encourages safe play, and gets the kids running around and that heart rate pumping. There’s no downside to an outdoor playhouse, the hardest part is the ultimate choice.  

Check out Backyard Water Toys for Kids next!