Christmas guide to choosing a children’s playhouse
A children’s playhouse is an excellent addition to a garden – it’s a great way of encouraging them to come outside and be active instead of sitting in front of a screen. They can be used all year round as well, so can be ideal as a special Christmas gift.
What sort of playhouse is best?
There are four main types of playhouses available, with a variety of features that will appeal to children in different ways.
- Wooden playhouses are the traditional and most popular type of playhouse.
- Plastic playhouses are easier to build and maintain, and they are often cheaper than wood, but may not last as long.
- Tower playhouses are supported on stilts, giving the children a view over the whole garden
- Slide playhouses are also raised off the ground and come with a short slide – perfect for toddlers and young children.
Key factors to consider when buying a playhouse
1. Material – wood or plastic?
The pros and cons of wood
- Wooden playhouses usually look more authentic and blend in well with most gardens.
- They are simple to customise. You can add a new coat of paint, or attach hooks or decorations to the wood very easily.
- They do need regular maintenance to prevent wood rot. It’s easy to use stain or varnish to extend their life though, and it’s possible to buy playhouses made from pressure treated wood which will delay rot for 15 years.
The pros and cons of plastic
- They can be dismantled, so you can store them or move them around – an important consideration if you might be moving house in the next few years.
- Plastic is usually cheaper than wood, and easier to wipe clean.
- Prolonged exposure to sunshine and rain can cause the plastic to fade.
- Plastic is generally viewed as less visually appealing and can seem out of place in some gardens.
The space available in your garden is an important consideration when choosing a playhouse. The most compact playhouses are 4ft by 4ft, although you need to allow for at least a foot of extra space around the outside to enable them to be maintained – and for the children to have some playing area as well.
If you have a larger garden, playhouses can reach 8ft by 8ft, or if you want to include other play equipment like a swing, you can find playhouses that are 13ft by 12ft.
Playhouses require a solid base, ideally paving slabs or concrete, so that the walls can be lined up properly during construction. The structure can come under strain and eventually break if it lies on uneven ground.
Outdoor toys sold in Britain need to conform to safety standard BS EN71, which means that any windows are made of styrene not glass. You may also consider the quality of the timber – planed wood will smooth out any splinters.
The size and features of a playhouse usually govern its cost, but there’s also no doubt that a more expensive playhouse tends to have higher quality workmanship as the materials used are sturdier, or have been treated to prevent rot.
You’ll find some very inventive playhouse designs available, from the basic square playhouse with a door and window to large towers which can double as a fort. If you fancy something a little different, you can find a conical wigwam, or a command post with a roof to climb on and spy holes.
Some of the larger playhouses have two storeys and could double as a Swiss mountain chalet, while the biggest have slides, stairs and a swing.
A perfect Christmas present
Giving your children their own space in the garden is a great way of giving them a little bit of independence while having the security of seeing where they are and what they are up to. Their imaginations can turn a simple garden playhouse into all manner of wonderful things, and produce hours of fun for them and you.