Children can build castles, pirate ships, and gingerbread homes in their imagination. But there’s something about having a physical one in which you can walk around and play an interact with friends: it’s a fantasy realized. That’s why outdoor playhouses are so common — and fantastic. They provide kids a physical space that seems straight out of a storybook, one in which, according to child development experts, allows them to make decisions, solve problems, and learn valuable social skills.
Today’s top playhouses are safer and more realistic than ever, made from materials that can weather storms and survive until your child tires of playing make-believe. And honestly? They’re pretty cool to look at. That said, they can be quite expensive, too — you can easily hit five figures depending on how big and how customizable you want to get. We, however, prefer the classics. To that end, here are seven great outdoor playhouses, from castles and cedarwood homes to pirate ships and slide-equipped hideaways, ready to entertain and inspire.
Little Tikes Classic Castle
C’mon, what kid does not want a castle in his backyard? Especially when said castle has towers, ramparts, gates, hidden passages, and a slide. Designed by Little Tikes for kids aged 2-6 it will keep them busy for hours playing lords and ladies inside the walls. Plus, it breaks down easily for storage when the weather gets nasty.
Step2 Sweetheart Playhouse
Designed for kids between the ages of 2-6, this pink and white “gingerbread” playhouse from Step 2 has an indoor stove top that also doubles as an outdoor grill, as well as an electronic phone, skylight, and working shutters. When guests arrive they can ring the working doorbell and admire the heart-shaped flowerpot as they wait to be greeted.
Backyard Discovery Timberlake All Cedar Playhouse
With its peaked roof, flowerpot shelves, and real wooden front door, this cedar wood playhouse from Backyard Discovery seems like a lakeside property you’d find on Airbnb. Large windows, a play kitchen, and a snack window from which they can lean out makes it an exciting clubhouse. It assembles in less than an hour and is meant for toddler-aged children and up.
Little Tikes Build-A-House
This playhouse is a Frankenstein creation, ideal for chronic rearrangers, compulsive to break down and rebuilders, or those who’ve watched too much HGTV. You assemble the roof and frame when it arrives and then the kids use the included battery powered drill and manual screwdriver to attach the 25 different panels, windows and doors in any way they see fit. Best of all the screws stay attached to the components so they don’t fall out and get lost.
This funky, all wood playhouse looks like something straight out of a Doctor Seuss book. And we mean that in the best way possible. The off-angle windows, rounded door, and uneven walls evoke a comical feel; once a child enters, they’ll find access to the attached slide and a space big enough to host a (modest) sleepover.
ECR4Kids Feber Pirate Ship
Indulge you’re your little sailors with this plastic pirate ship from Feber. The bottom deck is accessed by a small door built into the prow and super low step over on the side, which means kids as young as one can waddle in and hang out. The upper deck, meant for older children, has a steering wheel, rails, and a flagpole flying a plastic version of the Jolly Rodger flag. The two-step ladder to get up high is simple enough for even the smallest of kids.
Little Tikes Town Playhouse
You get a whole town rolled up into one playhouse with this plastic village from Little Tykes. The four different themed walls touch on many of the things you see in all towns—firehouse, grocery, bank, gas station (with pump!), sports field, and Applebee’s (kidding about that last one). All your kid has to do is decide what job they want — or not! they’re the boss in here.