Outdoor playhouses can be structured in a wide range of styles and sizes. They can range from the easy to set up temporary plastic façade to a full-size small house where youngsters can retreat and have a space away from the grown-ups in their family.
Alternatively, the playhouse can be part of a larger playset that incorporates swings, slides, and opportunities to climb.
What Are the Types of Outdoor Playhouses?
The age of the child, the location, and the child’s preferences and temperament should be taken into consideration. Sometimes it is a good idea to have a playhouse that is versatile and can meet the needs of several children, just as might a family home.
- The Molded Plastic Playhouse
These are usually best suited for children between the ages of two through five years of age. They provide a place for imaginative play, and can easily be set up on a patio, in a protected play yard, or in an area where the child can be supervised by adults.
Molded plastic playhouses are available in a variety of styles. They usually include a door, a window, and at least a portion of a roof. They are often completely open on the back, giving slightly older children the opportunity to use the house for their dolls or stuffed animals or to participate in play with younger children.
Styles might include a home, a store, a frontier cabin, a castle, a pirate ship cabin, or an office that might be familiar to the child. By adding a plastic tub of accessories such as dishes, play food, costumes and similar items, you have set the stage for hours of imaginative play.
Although this might be enjoyed by children both older and younger, this is a good pick for children ages four through ten years.
They are old enough to enjoy the physical challenge of swinging, climbing, balancing and having an environmental area that is rugged enough they can run around it, swing, bounce and do other large motor activities. Parental or caregiver supervision is advised, especially if there are several climbing areas. When it includes a fortress or ship’s cabin, your youngsters are set for hours of healthy, muscle-building imaginative play.
Absorbent mulch beneath the structure is a good idea to help cut down on mud and standing water. There are several schools of thought for these materials. Round pea gravel allows for good drainage, and it has more give than asphalt or concrete. Grassy earth or turf is good, although it can be hard to maintain where youngsters play constantly. Shredded bark isn’t bad, but can sometimes have splinters.
Shredded, non-tire rubber mulch is a lovely material for playgrounds. Ideally made from latex-free, sterile rubber, this type of surface is rated as the best for preventing injuries. It needs to have an outer perimeter to keep it localized, and should probably be installed by a landscaper. Avoid shredded tires, however, because they can have metal bits in the mix and will certainly stain children’s clothing.
- Elaborate, Permanent Playhouses
These are suitable for any age group. To get the most use out of this sort of playhouse, make the doors, windows, and ceiling height large enough for at least a medium-sized adult. Change out the interior furnishings, such as tables and chairs as the child or children grow.
Properly planned, this can be a place for imaginative play or it can eventually become a retreat where an older child can do artwork, write, play music or just get away from the family for a little while. If you are not particularly handy, one of the many small storage sheds available on the market can make a very good external shell for a child’s playhouse or a writer or an artist retreat.
While perhaps not truly a playhouse, a one-room tent can make a wonderful summer play space for young and old alike. Set it up in a shady part of your yard where you are not worried about killing the lawn, provide some inflatable furniture, toys and perhaps a plastic tub of books and art supplies to keep youngsters occupied and encourage outdoor play.
Indoor/outdoor playhouse tents are also available. You can easily obtain a pink princess house, a teepee, a frontier fortress, or even a space dome. Never discount the allure of a temporary space away from home, even if it is only the back corner of a privacy-fenced play area.
Teepees and tents make good retreats for little ones when the family goes to the beach, too. If you have a fair-skinned child (or adult) who turns lobster red after five minutes in the sun, a screen tent is an ideal retreat. Infant play tents for sun and sand help take the worry out of baby’s first outing.
Playhouse Safety Considerations
While playhouses can be a lot of fun, safety is always paramount with children.
Start by checking if the playhouse conforms to national product safety standards.
Matching age to play space is one of the most important considerations, especially if climbing equipment or slides are involved. Read manufacturer recommendations for age and safe use on all equipment.
Make sure the structure doesn't have any sharp corners or protruding elements, especially at head level.
Check for any gaps that a child might fall through or stick his or her head through.
Inspect swings or climbing walls regularly for safety hazards.
Absorbent or resilient material or mats under swings or slides can help prevent injury.
In today’s world, it’s a good idea to supervise outdoor play, even if your child is very responsible. As attractive as the idea of a backyard campout might be, the out-of-doors is not as protected as your home with its solid walls and lockable doors.