The Insider’s Guide To The Best Outdoor Playsets For Kids

Best Outdoor Playsets For Kids

The best outdoor playsets for kids don’t have to cost a fortune!  But they do entice kids to get out of the house and playing outside is a crucial part of a child’s development.

So not to overwhelm you, this list will only have 5 playsets on it.

There are hundreds of different kinds of outdoor play equipment you can choose from and I have tried several of them either personally in my own backyard, or know friends who have them.

So to make your decision even easier I have narrowed it down to 2 brands to choose from!

I have chosen Step 2 and KidKraft because I have personally used both of these brands.  Neither Step 2 nor Kidcraft have sponsored this post.

However, there are some affiliate links, so if you do decide to purchase one of my recommendations I will make a small commission at no cost to you – other than the purchase price of the product that is.

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The Best Outdoor Play Equipment For Kids

Step2 Playhouses – Perfect For Pretend Play

If you are leaning towards a plastic playhouse (maintenance is easier than with wood), Step2 is a great brand.  Their playhouses are sturdy and offer great value for the cost.

Step2 Neat and Tidy II Playhouse

Step2 Neat and Tidy II PlayhouseHere is how this playhouse will help your child’s language development:

  • It has a door (open, close)
  • It has shutters (open, close, peek a boo)
  • It has a mailbox (in, out, mail, letter)
  • It has a sink (water, on, off, wet, wash)
  • It has a fireplace – It is actually a picture of a fireplace (hot, fire, ouch, be careful)
  • It has a doorbell (ding dong, bell, doorbell)
  • It has a window box so you can plant real flowers (flowers, dirt, water, grow, seeds)
  • Help your child think of fun and creative things to do with this playhouse

Additional Features

  • This playhouse has a built in floor with drain holes (the playhouse we had did not have this and we had to rig up our own floor).
  • The colors are neutral and will look great in any backyard!  I love that there is no genderfication (Is that even a word???), so this house is great for both boys and girls.
  • House is large enough to fit 2-3 small children
  • This playhouse is open so you can always see what your children are doing
  • As per manufacturer – 35x51x46.5 inches (18 months to 8 years old)

Since I have pretty much only talked about the Pros of this playhouse, here are some cons:

Drawbacks

  • Assembly can be time consuming – make it easier by having 2 adults work on it
  • There are many screws, so if you have an electric screwdriver it will help a lot.
  • I would not recommend this house for 8 year olds, unless you also have younger children.  In my opinion the age range should be 12-18 months to 6 years old.

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Step2 Neighborhood Fun Center

Step2 Neighborhood Fun Center review
The Neighborhood Fun Center is more than just a playhouse.  It is also an outdoor play center!  Some features of this play center include:

  • 4 ft slide –  Target vocabulary: up, down, fast, slow, wee, slide
  • Activity wall (hook and loop ball target and ring toss) – Target vocabulary: throw, great job, my turn, your turn, try again
  • Door and crawl through portal – Target vocabulary: open, close, in, out, crawl, bend down
  • Snack table and 2 seats – Target vocabulary: eat, drink, restaurant, sit down, stand up, etc
  • Comes with 2 balls, 2 red rings and 2 blue rings
  • This play center is great for imagination.   Your child can set up a store or restaurant or turn the whole thing into a pirate ship and the slide is the only way into the water!
  • The manufacture does not provide an age range, but I would go with 18 months to 5 years.

Drawbacks

  • These are similar to the Neat and Tidy Playhouse above
  • This play center does not have a floor

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KidKraft Playhouses – Good Value For Cost

If you would like to go with a playhouse made of wood, KidKraft is the way to go.

They use weather resistant wood, however if it is outside during cold weather/snow it will start to look faded so I would recommend covering it with a tarp.

KidKraft Outdoor Playhouse

KidKraft Outdoor Playhouse
This is very similar to the playhouse we had for our daughter although hers had a small bbq on one side and a phone inside.  I have not been able to find that one anywhere.  We purchased hers over 7 years ago and used it for 4 years.

We choose a wooden playhouse because we liked how it looked in our backyard.

From a language perspective, the KidKraft Outdoor Playhouse has similar opportunities for language development as the Step 2 playhouses, it includes:

  • a door that opens and closes
  • a mailbox
  • shutters that open and close
  • a sink with hot/cold faucets
  • 49.1 x 43.6 x 59.2 inches ; 96 pounds

Drawbacks

  • The assembly time is even longer than with the plastic ones.  I think it took us about 4 hours (2 adults) to set this one up. Make sure that you have an electric screwdriver.  If you have one that fits an allan key even better!
  • It does not have a floor but you can make your own with pavers or old floor tiles.  Use your imagination!
  • If left uncovered over the winter months (cold/snow/rain) the wood can start splitting despite being weather treated.

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Updated June 1, 2017

Originally I had featured the KidKraft Woodland Playhouse in this list, however that product seems to have been discontinued.  So I will tell you about this awesome pirate ship instead!  Friends of ours had this one for many years and the kids never got bored of it.

ECR4Kids Indoor/Outdoor Buccaneer Play Boat with Pirate Flag

ECR4Kids Indoor/Outdoor Buccaneer Play Boat with Pirate Flag

This isn’t an ordinary playhouse.  It’s a pirate ship that is waiting for little ones to explore and learn.  It is also wonderful for a child’s learning and development.

Here are just a few examples of the skills that can be gained:

New Vocabulary Words – pirate, ship, flag, plank, mast, sail, steer, crouch down, etc.

Prepositions – on, off, under, top, bottom, in, out

Social Skills –  taking turns with other children, coming up with a story line (for older kids)

Pretend Play – kids can pretend to be pirates looking for treasures.  Or maybe it’s an extravagant cruise ship.  But, it could also turn into a car or a rocket ship.  The possibilities are endless!

Gross Motor Development – your child can practice climbing, jumping and running.  If you have a daredevil on your hands she may even try balancing on the edge of the boat.

Some features include:

  • GREENGUARD [GOLD] Certified for reducing chemical pollutants and improving air quality
  • Perfect for kids ages 2-6
  • 56.7″ H x 54.3″ W x 30.7″ D, 36 lbs
  • Steering wheel turns
  • Easy assembly – no tools required!
  • Plastic is resistant to sun fading and temperature changes.

See just how easy it is to set up and how fun it is for kids!

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read customer reviews button Water and Sand Tables – Perfect For Outdoor Learning

Just like with outdoor playsets, there are many different varieties to choose from.  I have picked my favorite one based on personal experience and value.

Step2 Naturally Playful Sand & Water Center

I love this sand and water center.  Be sure to read my article about outdoor play equipment for toddlers for water/sand table language development tips.
Step2 Naturally Playful Sand & Water CenterHere are some important features:

  • umbrella to provide sun protection – height adjustable
  • lid to keep bugs and rain out – flip the lid over and create a racetrack for cars
  • 2 sides for playing
  • neutral colors look great in any backyard setting
  • includes built in ramps, 2 bridges, 2 boats, 2 pots and 1 shovel – so much vocabulary can be focused on with these items (e.g. up, down, boat, over, under, across, dig, dirt, dirty, wet, cold, etc)
  • great for children 18 months and up (manufacturer recommends 2 years and up)
  • plug on water side for easy draining
  • 26 x 46.5 x 20.8 inches

Drawbacks

  • if you are using this table as intended, the sand and water will get mixed (because kids love mud).
  • the umbrella needs to be stored somewhere if you are closing it up with the lid
  • if you fill both sides with water, you will need to lean the table over to dump the water out of the “sand” side as their is no drain plug.

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benefits of outdoor play for preschoolers

What Do You Think About These Outdoor Playsets?

I hope that this review has helped narrow your down your search for the best outdoor playsets for kids.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the choices of outdoor toys for children is so vast that it can be daunting to try and choose the perfect one.

My experiences with the products mentioned have all been positive and I hope yours will be as well.

Let me know what your child’s favorite playhouse or water/sand table is!

Happy Playing!

Kids will love being outside with these fun outdoor playsets for kids! Speech & Language Development, gross motor development, social skills, pretend play.

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The Insider's Guide To The Best Outdoor Playsets For Kids
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The Insider's Guide To The Best Outdoor Playsets For Kids
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As a former Speech-Language Pathologist, I can assure you that outdoor playsets for kids are an amazing toy for pretend play and language development. Read more for...
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Seeme and Liz
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24 Comments

  1. Kelvin

    Watching children learn and grow is an amazing thing. Being connected enough as a parent to help stimulate the intellectual and emotional growth of children is one of the most important truths of life as an adult. Children learn through play primarily, so the products you’ve selected are very good in that nature. Giving the target age as well as some vocabulary examples for these items helps give parents like myself an idea of what their children will learn while playing. 

    The Neighborhood Fun Center by Step2 is one of my favorites because it will be a hit with both boys and girls!  Kids can use their imaginations in so many ways with a playset like this.

    Thanks for putting in the time with every pro and con to describe interactive ways for not only communal growth but bonding with parents and peers.  I genuinely appreciate that children are the future, a dream we may never know, so at very least we as parents or guardians should help them to gain the tools to be successful and or happy.

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Thanks for your comment Kelvin.  I’m glad you appreciated the speech & language development tips that I shared along with each product.  Sometimes parents buy these toys for their children without realizing the full potential of each one.

      Reply
  2. Zenith

    Hi, This is another nice article read. How you have outlined it clearly will help parents to navigate easily to inquire about the products. Relevant to raising babies especially to help their speech development.I’m glad I found your article so I can apply it my little one who seems not interested much in talking at 22 months now. It was just this past month that her interest of speaking spiked exponentially from 8 words at 20 months ( as I can remember), got more at 21 months and now as she starts 22 months I can’t count her words anymore. She follows most of the words I spoke to her as well as her Daddy, and 3 brothers though not perfectly clear but she is responding to the sound she heard spoken. Her interest in the picture reading spiked as well so we have a book reading before nap and bedtime That excites her very much. She also loved to play outside with big brothers, glad it’s summer so she can explore more outside. I will be looking for these toys around. Thank you for writing.

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Hi again Zenith,

      I’m happy to hear that your daughter is now speaking at 22 months.   The first 3 years a crucial part of development in a child’s life. All of the outdoor playsets for kids that I mentioned will provide plenty opportunities for natural learning as well as fine and gross motor development.

      I love that you are reading to your daughter before nap and bedtime!  You can also take time out during a busy day to just sit and look through books.  Hand her the book and see what she does with it.  She may point and try to “read” herself.  There are many skills that can be attained through joint reading and many are precursors to independent reading.   Take a look at these articles, I think you might find them of value.

      Why I Didn’t Teach My Toddler To Read – And Why You Shouldn’t Either!

      The Best Books To Read To Babies To Enhance Language Development!

      Reply
  3. Fairweather Green

    Monsoon season is just about up here and our 4 year old is desperate for an outdoor play house.

    These examples look like he may out grow them soon. Do you have any idea for our boy, he likes to climb, swing, and slide?

    Number 2 – the Neighbourhood Fun Center would have been great a year ago, but as you know they grow so quickly.

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Most of the playhouses in this article are for children up to the age of 8 so you should still get a few good years out of one. However, if you have a big yard and want something your child have play with for many years, check out the Backyard Discovery Cedar Wood Playset! It has swings, a slide and an upper and lower clubhouse!

      My intent with this article was to keep the cost of the playsets to under $500. Once you get into the bigger ones that include swings and a slide the price is usually between $600 and $2000.

      Reply
  4. Heather

    My girls are 6 and 9 and begging for a play house for our new backyard. Any recommendations for play houses that would fit older kids?

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Hi Heather,

      Sorry for the delayed response, we were away for a week on vacation. There are many larger playhouses that would work for your daughters. I find that many of the wooden playhouses don’t seem as toddler like as the plastic ones. Check out amazon as they have a great selection.

      Another idea is to find a small storage shed that could be used as a playhouse and then when the kids have outgrown it you can use it as a shed. Take a look at this one and this one for an idea.

      Keep in mind that if you go with the shed option, it will be empty inside. So you would need to fill it with items to make it a complete playhouse. You could add a small table and chairs, a play kitchen, etc.

      If you want to stick with a plastic play house (they are the easiest from a maintenance perspective – although they tend to get discolored from sun exposure), I really like the Step2 Welcome Home Playhouse for older children.

      Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Reply
  5. Andres Santos

    I wish I would of found this page a few months ago lol. We purchased a plastic playhouse from little tykes. It’s pretty good, the girls love it, but it’s really not sturdy. I love the ones you’ve described here. Our next one will definitely be a wooden one. Even though it takes longer to put together, it’ll be worth it.

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Hi Andres,

      Sorry to hear that you find the Little Tikes Playhouse not sturdy. Little Tikes is a brand that I typically would recommend as their products are consistently quite good for the amount of money spent. Which playhouse did you purchase?

      I am sure that your daughters will still get a lot of use out of it and when the time comes, you can always upgrade to a wooden outdoor playset for your kids, as you mentioned.

      Reply
  6. Kams

    Wow, you’ve inspired me to get a sand-water station for my little ones. I didn’t know these things existed. When I opened the link I saw much more options on amazon, there is so much choice! I will definitely get something like this for my kids, now that we’re gonna have a bigger garden. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Your kids will love a sand/water table. My kids played at theirs for hours at a time. We just got rid of it last summer and my daughter (who was almost 8 at the time) was pretty upset because she still liked it so much. We were redoing our yard and I was trying to get rid of some old things. These types of outdoor playsets are well worth the money. And you don’t even need a big space. We kept ours on the deck. But I only filled it with water because the sand would have been dragged into the house.

      Reply
  7. rina

    If I were going to choose one of these, I opt for the second one. Simply, because my kids love slide, so it is a great feature to be attached to the little house.

    Unfortunately, we live in an apartment (no yard), so this play house would be too big to put inside.

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      I agree Rina, the Step 2 Neighborhood Fun Center would be a great outdoor playsets for kids because it is a playhouse and activity center all in one. But you would need a decent sized yard to put it in.

      If you don’t have a pretend play kitchen for your kids, that would be a great alternative and there are small options that would work well in an apartment. Check out this article for some ideas! The 5 Best Kids Play Kitchens: They will all encourage language and learning!

      Reply
  8. roamy

    Hi was looking for a simple cheap toy when your page came up and I’m glad it did.

    I like all the play sets. They remind me of my dollhouse and I will for sure get one for my daughter. I love the out door play houses and the size is just right as I don’t have too much space.

    Just hope I will be able to assemble the whole thing as I sometimes fear I have two left hands.

    I was wondering, can i assemble and re-assemble it several times (to put it indoors during winter) without damaging the wood? Or what wouldbe the best way to deal with this?

    Thanks so much

    Reply
    1. Tanya

      Hi Roamy,

      There are definitely many options for outdoor playsets even if you don’t have a large space. I would recommend having someone help you to assemble it, especially if you go for a wooden one. My husband needed my help to assemble our playhouse.

      I would not recommend disassembling and reassembling a wooden playhouse. It is a lot of work. It will be much easier to cover it with a tarp. Or get a plastic one. If it’s not too big you might be able to carry it inside. Bit the plastic ones wear well outside. There might be some fading of the colours but that is about it. You can also put a tarp over a plastic playhouse as well.

      Make sure to check out my article Little Known Facts About Outdoor Play Equipment For Toddlers – And Why They Matter, it should give you some great tips about why outdoor play equipment is great to foster a child’s language development!

      Reply
  9. Anewcreature

    Very good website. it is obvious that you have a great deal of interest in children and I must say that you are to be commended for this niche. I say that because my bachelor degree is in Human Development and the greatest impression instill in a person is during these years. keep up the good work and I will visit you often.

    Reply
    1. Tanya

      Hi,

      Thank you for your kind words. I am happy to hear that you have found this site useful. What did you think about the outdoor playsets I reviwed

      Reply
  10. Sarah

    How sturdy are these play houses? I live in an area where there can be sudden gusts of wind upwards of 60 mph for short periods of time and we’re often chasing down our yard belongings because they can’t take the wind.

    How heavy are these and can you anchor them to the ground? I guess the little sandbox would be out of the question for that though. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Hi Sarah,

      The wood ones are quite sturdy. We get a lot of strong winds going through our backyard and we never had an issue with our wooden one. The plastic ones are probably more prone to moving around in the wind.

      A water/sand table is very easy to put away. They are pretty small and light. We have a garage, so we kept ours in there.

      Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Reply
  11. BigDaddyFred

    Great site!

    I think my kids had most of these 🙂 Very good selection. I will share this on my Facebook. Playhouses are the stuff dreams are made of for small children. Well done.

    BigDaddyFred

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Thanks for your comment and for sharing this review on Facebook. My kids had so much fun in their playhouses. We got rid of ours when we had our backyard professionally landscaped. We figured that the kids would be outgrowing the playhouse soon. However they do from time to time ask if we can get another one (they are almost 6 and 7.5 years old).

      Reply
  12. Dennis

    Long review indeed – but very informative. Thanks for the effort!

    Reply
    1. Tanya (Post author)

      Thank you Dennis. I am glad that you found the review informative. I tried to keep it as short as I could, but I also wanted to make sure I was being thorough enough to provide my readers with a good idea as to which playhouse would meet the needs of their family.

      Reply

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