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Childhood is a magical time, and a playhouse is a wonderful toy that lets your kids step into their very own fantasy world from the comfort of your home.
We researched the best indoor and outdoor playhouses, considering if each is age-appropriateness, fits your space, and includes add-on features. The Step2 Neat and Tidy Cottage Brown Playhouse checks all of our boxes, being easy to assemble, suitable for indoors and outdoors, and including innovative features like a working doorbell.
Here are 10 of our favorite indoor and outdoor playhouses for children, for every budget and home.
Best Overall: Step2 Neat and Tidy Cottage II Brown Playhouse
Can be used indoors or outdoors
Easy to assemble
Some users reported missing a few screws when assembling
What do buyers say? 700+ Wayfair reviewers rated this product 5 stars.
If you’re looking for an affordable, durable, and fun playhouse that works inside and out, you’ll love the Step2 Charming Cottage as much as we do. It features plenty of fun details, like a working electric doorbell, a removable flower box that can be used to plant real or fake fake flowers, and indoor storage shelves for their toys. It also has an outdoor table and bench, so your child can sit down and enjoy a snack after a long day in the kitchen, although some reviewers wished it had a bit more room. The large, open design allows for social play and is perfect for houses with multiple children. Even older children enjoy the interactive features!
Reviewers say the Step 2 Charming Cottage is easy to assemble and a delight for children of all ages. It only took about an hour or less for more consumers, but they recommend using your own tools rather than the ones provided. We
The waterproof design helps it stand up to the elements (if placed outside), and it's not too big for indoor playrooms if there's no room outdoors. However, there are not many draining points, so this option is best to store inside when it rains or snows. Still, the plastic is extremely easy to store and clean, which is just another reason why this is our top pick and worth the price.
Best Budget: IKEA CIRKUSTÄLT Children's tent
Easy to clean
IKEA’s CIRKUSTÄLT playhouse is perfect for pop-up play no matter where you go. This circus-themed polyester tent is incredibly lightweight and easy to move from room to room. It's the perfect hideaway to read a book, take a nap, or pretend to be the star of a circus. Owners say it’s perfect for children 18 months and older—just add a few circus animal friends or toys and you’ll have a party your child will never want to leave. It can be hand-washed and requires minimal assembly.
Best Outdoor : KidKraft Modern Outdoor Playhouse
Picnic table and benches attached
This wooden playhouse is the perfect option for playing outside during warm months. The Modern Outdoor Playhouse from KidKraft comes complete with a full-sized door, attached picnic table and benches, and a working mailbox for hours of endless fun and imaginative play.
The kitchen playset includes a mini outdoor grill and grill cover for little chefs to pretend to whip up a meal and serve it out of the serving window. The inside comes with a sink and faucet and chalkboard for writing down daily specials. The water-resistant roof panels and reinforced wooden panels protect this choice against weather so kids can play outside no matter the forecast. The big size ensures little ones can enjoy this playhouse with siblings or invite friends over for even more enjoyment.
Best Indoor : AirFort Inflatable Fort
Quick and easy assembly
Packs up small for taking on the go
Fan blows cold air when assembled
Build a fort in just 30 seconds without gathering all of the pillows and blankets in your home and trashing your living room. The original Air Fort is a perfect choice for an indoor playhouse because it inflates and deflates in just 30 seconds with no additional assembly required.
The durable construction can accommodate kids, adults, and their friends with room to spare. Kids can bring books or toys into their fort for hours of imaginative, screen-free play. This option packs into a small drawstring for taking on vacation or to grandparents' houses. Also, you can choose from fun designs including houses, barns, and tiki huts, for adorable designs kids will love.
Best Princess: FoxPrint Princess Castle Play Tent
Easy to assemble and disassemble
Not very sturdy
Let your child channel their inner princess with this FoxPrint Princess Castle Play Tent. This lightweight pink tent folds down flat into a portable carrying case for fun on-the-go. This FoxPrint tent can be used inside or out and provides the perfect space for kids to use their imagination and create magical adventures! It even works as a creative reading spot for kids. Youngsters are sure to love hearts and glow-in-the-dark stars that adorn the walls of the tent, but more critical reviewers point out that the stars are somewhat dim and underwhelming.
While it's not the most elaborate tent on our list, users like that it's affordable, large enough for multiple children, and has a peep-through window for checking in during playtime.
Best Teepee: Turtleplay Indoor Kid’s Play Teepee
Window and entrance flap
Roomy for toys and kids
Indoor use only
Looking for the perfect accessory for a playroom or kids' bedroom? We love this modern-looking teepee from Turtleplay Products. Made from canvas and Canadian Hemlock wood, this teepee can accommodate two children. The inside is quite spacious, despite the two-child limit, so there's plenty of room for books, stuffed animals, and more. The size also makes it great for sleepovers and playdates. Other notable features include a roll-down window on the side of the teepee and an entrance flap. Certain variations even have glow-in-the-dark stars on the outside.
Reviewers say the Turtleplay Teepee is incredibly charming (some owners even suggest adding string lights for extra coziness) and can be assembled in one hour or less. While it's meant for indoor use only, children can pretend they're in the great outdoors with a little help from their imagination!
Best Wooden: Backyard Discovery Sweetwater Outdoor Wooden Playhouse
Comes with flower box and play phone
Long assembly time
The Backyard Discovery Sweetwater Outdoor Wooden Playhouse is the perfect addition to your backyard. With large windows and realistic-looking appliances, this playhouse is a great way to entice children to spend more time outside.
While most wooden structures have the tendency to warp and rot, cedar is naturally more resistant to these conditions. This is why this type of wood is great for outdoor structures. Even though this cedar house is naturally resistant, a chemical-free wood stain gives this playhouse an added layer of durability. Other notable features include doors and windows that open and close, flower pot holders for gardening, and a plastic sink and stove (the plastic is UV-resistant).
This playhouse takes a little extra time to put together (most customers estimate about five hours), but it’s definitely worth the effort. Not only does it look great in any backyard, but it provides shade and shelter for endless hours of outdoor play.
Best Bed Tent: Pottery Barn Camden House Bed
Can choose between three colors and four sizes
If you want to create a dream bedroom for your child, check out the Tent Fantasy Bed from Pottery Barn Kids. This bed takes forts to the next level and creates a cozy sleep space for kids to read, learn, dream, and play. Made from solid poplar wood and engineered wood, the bed frame fits a full-size mattress and is designed to be used without a box spring. The canopy is 100 percent cotton and has two windows and a tent-style opening that little ones will enjoy using. For an extra special touch, add string lights around the canopy for a magical glow that kids are sure to love.
Customers report that while the bed does have to be assembled, it's simple enough to do on your own. Place the mattress on the bed frame (the wood slats are durable and strong), and then attach the canopy to the frame using the ties.
Best Design: Crate & Barrel Snack Shack Playhouse
Delight the aspiring chef in your life with this adorable playhouse from Crate & Barrel. With an authentic black and white awning, the Snack Shack Playhouse transforms from a French coffee shop to a bustling BBQ shack right in your own living room! The cotton canvas structure comes with two banner sets, so there are eight signs total that affix to the structure with velcro. The restaurant sign attaches to the roof, so kids might need a little help getting that up. But the other signs can be changed out with little to no help from adults. As an added bonus, the Daily Special sign is made from a special black chalkboard cloth so it can be changed as much as your child’s heart desires.
Reviewers praise the Snack Shack Playhouse for being easy to assemble, lightweight, and loads of fun. It is a bit deeper than other playhouses, though, so be sure that your playroom can accommodate it.
Best Ball Pit: Step2 Wonderball Fun Playhouse
Interactive and multifunctional
Suitable for playing together
Built-in ball basin
Long assembly time
Balls are a bit flimsy
Want to instantly become the favorite parent (or grandparent) of the house? This Step2 Wonderball Fun Playhouse is sure to do the trick. Children will love this interactive playhouse, which features a ball flipper and maze that help your child develop motor skills and social play while still having a blast. It's big enough for multiple toddlers to play at the same time. When it's time to clean up, there's a built-in ball basin to help keep track of the toys so everything is in order for the next play session.
Overall, customers praise this product and give it high marks. Reviewers say it’s not too difficult to put together and provides hours of fun. Even toddlers with a short attention span are entertained by the Wonderball Fun Playhouse! Some customers do note, however, that the balls are fairly flimsy and might need to be replaced.
Our top pick for the best playhouse is Step2 Charming Cottage (view at Walmart) because it offers a lot of fun extras like a working doorbell and a door that opens and closes. It's easy to put together and lasts for years to come. If you want a cheaper option, IKEA’s CIRKUSTÄLT (view at IKEA) is our choice for a fun, aesthetically pleasing play tent that is easy on the wallet.
What to Look for When Buying Playhouses
When considering what playhouse is perfect for your kids, first determine how large it should be. Most playhouses can hold two to three kids at a time (remember to factor in playdates with friends), but others are only large enough for a single child. Opt for a larger outdoor playhouse if you need space for multiple kids.
Some playhouses are perfect for backyard settings while others are only suitable for the indoors. If you have enough space for an indoor playhouse, you may not need to think about weather-proof materials. If your playhouse is going to live outside, look for mold and bacteria-resistant materials so your playhouse looks new for years to come.
When it comes to picking the perfect playhouse for your kid, you may want to think about how long they will use it. A playhouse that will grow with your kid may be worth a splurge more than one where your kid will only get a year or two out of it.
Playhouses and play tents come in many sizes and shapes. Pay close attention to the "extras" if that's important to you or your kid. For example, a real, working doorbell can help your imaginative child play house for hours. A built-in "kitchen," lights, or additional features can take your playhouse to the next level.
No matter how simple or fancy, "any playhouse is a great form of structured play for children," says preschool teacher Gina Puccinelli, adding that it fosters imaginative play in a new and exciting environment.
"When searching for a playhouse, less is often more. When there are fewer stimuli, the children have the space to think creatively and use that to the fullest as opposed to constantly switching tasks," says Puccinelli. "Of course, this will look different based on the child's age, developmental level, and interest; remember that the playhouse is a just a tool—it's the actual play that makes the house special."
Why are playhouses good for kids?
"Through play, children can explore more deeply the world around them by observing what they see the grown-ups around them do," says Puccinelli. "This helps foster self-regulation and independence."
Additionally, a playhouse is a great designated space for play to happen naturally and without screens. It gives them the freedom to play how they choose in a space designed for them.
What do you put under a child's playhouse?
What you put under a playhouse will first be determined on whether you are using an indoor or outdoor playhouse. For an outdoor playhouse, you can use mulch, rubber mats, sand, or simply grass (real or artificial) under your playhouse. This is a personal preference that would make the most sense for the family and the child using it. For an indoor playhouse, your structure can go right on top of carpet, blankets, or hardwood. For young children and toddlers, a softer surface would be best to avoid injury.
How do you weatherproof a playhouse?
Most outdoor wooden playhouses are made with weather-resistant material so the wood will not rot in the rain or snow. If not, you can add a water sealant to your playhouse yearly to help maintain the wood. This will ensure your playhouse lasts many years against the elements.
Why Trust the Spruce?
This article was written by Ashley Knierim, a freelance writer with over 10 years of experience. From interior design trends to decor and more, she's covered a variety of home topics and knows what makes a product great. Additional research was done by Julia Fields a lifestyle writer for The Spruce covering all things surrounding toys, gifts, and the holidays since October 2021. Before that, she covered similar topics including toy reviews, product round-ups, expert-focused articles, and more.
Expert advice was provided by preschool teacher Gina Puccinelli.