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Backyard playhouses


Encourage their imagination with outdoor playhouses

There are few things that bring about more enjoyable childhood memories than that of an outdoor playhouse. If you had one as a child, no doubt you look back on it fondly and recall endless summer days of having friends over and playing games in a place that you could call all your own.

And it comes as no surprise that many parents want their own children to have this experience, to fuel their young imaginations in the fresh outdoors and foster memories of youthful play that will undoubtedly last a lifetime. However, before you go out and purchase the first playhouse you find on sale, it is important to think about what sort of design will best suit your children. It might even be beneficial to speak with them to determine how they would use the playhouse; after all if you're spending time and money to construct a playhouse you want it to be one that they will use.

Here are a few other tips to keep in mind:

Pick a location

Before purchasing anything, pick a location in your yard where the playhouse will go. Selecting this first will allow you to determine how much room you have for the playhouse structure, which come in various dimensions. When picking the location, make sure it is visible from the house so that you can keep an eye on your children. If possible try to select a location that has some shade, which will help the playhouse stay cool and protect your children from excessive sun exposure.

Plastic versus wood

If you have limited time available to dedicate to constructing a playhouse and want to keep costs to a minimum, then purchasing a ready-made plastic structure might best serve your needs particularly if your children are quite young. These structures come in endless designs from some of the premier toy manufacturers, meaning there is sure to be one that will appeal to the imagination of your young ones. If you have a little girl who is anxious to host tea parties in her playhouse, then check out Step2® Sweetheart Playhouse™ ( For something a bit more gender neutral there is the Little Tikes® Deluxe Home and Garden Playhouse™ (

One drawback of plastic playhouses is that your children may soon outgrow them and come to view the design as juvenile. If you have a decent amount of time available for putting together a playhouse and a larger budget then consider a wooden structure, which will cater to your children's interests (and height) for a greater amount of time. Available in ready-to-assemble kits, wooden playhouses require the additional laborious task of constructing some form of foundation (just like your backyard shed), but the pay-off is that they are much more durable than a plastic model. And for some, there is just no substituting plastic for the nostalgia of a traditional wooden playhouse. Regardless of what the structure is made of, however, make sure that it will have ample ventilation since playhouses can get quite hot during the summer months.

Wooden playhouse kits are available at stores across Canada and also come in various designs, such as the simplistic Little Squirt Cedar Playhouse™ by Outdoor Living Today® ( to the larger Cozy Cabin Cedar Playhouse™ by Outdoor Living Today® (

If you want to take the extra step and build a playhouse on your own, there are several free tutorials and design plans available online. Just be prepared to invest a significant amount of time to the project (at least a week) and you'll want to call in some favours from friends to get extra hands for help.

Keep them safe

Once you've got the playhouse up, it's important to make sure that the structure stays safe for your children:

- routinely inspect for wasps and bees that could form nests in corners;

- round off the edges of any boards;

- make sure there are no screws or nails poking through boards;

- if the playhouse is made of wood, check it periodically for splitting or rotting sections;

- regularly inspect the nuts and bolts holding the playhouse together.

 By Erin Kelly

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