Now that you have a playhouse set up for your kids, it can look a little bare if there’s nothing in it.
I found that when I decorated my kids’ playhouse and put the right furniture, activities and toys in it, I encouraged them to play constructively and well in there.
Playhouses play many roles for kids. They can be little mini-me houses, sources of inspiration and adventure or sanctuaries and retreats. Let’s make your playhouse the best it can be for your kids, with enough scope to change over time.
Age Groups for Playhouse Decorations
Here’s a few of my favorite suggestions for things to put inside a playhouse for kids. I’ve divided it up into three broad age groups. These are broad brush strokes. Kids can act older or younger than their numerical age, and having siblings that span age brackets means you’ll need to use your sense of your own kids to know what’s right.
- Younger kids under seven years old will like knowing that you are nearby. They will be more likely to use the material you give them and shape a world around it.
- Older kids between seven and thirteen years will be more independent, and create their own games and rules, using the materials as inspiration.
- Teenagers might ignore all of the materials entirely or play with a few things obsessively for a while. It will be the décor and ‘vibe of the place’ that brings the magnetic quality to life.
Watch out that the playhouse doesn’t get damp. The soft furnishings will mildew if it gets damp. If you’re worried about keeping the damp out of a playhouse, check out this article I wrote.
What To Put In A Playhouse For Younger Kids (Under Seven Years)
At this age, playhouses can be instrumental in helping kids have a sense of confidence. Kids of this age generally enjoy being busy. This is their own space, where they are in charge of their own domain. They’ll enjoy being active in the fresh air out of the house, and just being outside will help them to build their immune system. If they have friends over, they’ll learn to work co-operatively to get things done.
1. Play kitchens
My personal belief is that preparing food is innate to human connection. Every time we prepare food and then break bread with another is a moment of bonding. Kids just seem to get this. They want to make food. Fill the playhouse with mixing spoons, other utensils, unbreakable mixing bowls, plastic plates and cups. You can even include pots and pans. They can dress up in chef’s aprons, and all of a sudden, you’ll find yourself at the café, ordering their finest meal from a scribbled menu written down on a clipboard.
At this age, kids produce art. There is little self-doubt, and a great desire to produce. You can fill the playhouse with butcher’s paper clipped to an easel, crayons thick enough for young fingers. You might also be able to make a chalk board wall, and have a little shelf with pavement chalk. I’d recommend having a wall dedicated to the art gallery, so that they can see their masterpieces.
3. A small table and chairs
This activity table is just the right size for art, and mixing cakes. It should be easy to wipe down. The chairs should be stackable so that you can move them out of the way for a good game of twister.
If there is room, I’d definitely include a small set of cupboards with doors in the playhouse. You don’t need to be very elaborate, simple is fine. You’ll find that when kids have their own private space where they can put secret treasures, they have a true sense of ownership of a place.
5. Shelves for special things
If cupboards are for private storage, then shelves are for public display. You can start off the display with cute names, books, animals or motifs, but the kids themselves will add to the display with their own public triumphs.
6. Box of big chunky Duplo Lego
Inside the cupboards, as well as the kitchen fitout and art supplies, it will be ever so useful to have a big box of Duplo or similar. I love Duplo. It comes in pre-ordained sets, but can also be made into so many other creative configurations.
7. Solar fairy lights
Solar fairy lights are perfect for adding a sense of wonder and awe. With solar lights, you can set them up so that the lights frame the door or windows. Or set them up so that they look like the night sky inside the playhouse.
Who doesn’t like mail? And when you are on the younger side, mail exists to communicate expressions of love from one person to another. Letterboxes can contain secret messages, spy codes, or even instructions on how to prepare the kitchen ahead of the arrival of the queen. The letterbox will definitely be useful for our Mission: Backyard Adventure.
9. Vinyl floor covering or very low pile rug
You’ll want it as smooth as possible to make it easier to keep clean. Sand will end up inside, even if you don’t have sand. And leaves and bark. And of course, all of the mud pieces with garden flowers that accidentally get dropped between the playhouse kitchen and you the paying café guests. You’ll want to be able to sweep it out, vacuum or just pick up the rug and beat it out. My recommendation is to keep it simple for yourself.
10. Welcome mat and bunting
No playhouse would be complete without a welcome mat. This has the practical purpose of keeping a small amount of dirt out of the playhouse. It also marks the transition between the inside and outside. Bunting, of course, is almost de rigeur. It adds a festivity that punches well above its weight. You do need to be cautious that you don’t keep the bunting beyond its use-by date. If you see it start to fade and tear in the wind, then you’ve kept it too long.
What To Put In A Playhouse For Older Kids (7-13 years)
At this age, a playhouse is even more important for having a sense of their own space. They’ll start taking on more responsibility. And you’ll appreciate having an all-weather play area, where they are safe in the yard, but still at arm’s length. A good imaginative play with a friend can help social skills and co-ordination.
1. Art Materials
For this older group, I would include empty A3 scrapbooks for creating comics, notepads for stories, lists and plans. A good collection of writing and drawing materials such as pens, textas, watercolor pencils and smaller crayons.
2. Art wall with a shelf
This art wall can be a corkboard, or some other wall where you can pin or Blu-Tack artworks. You want to be able to display their creative masterpieces.
3. Solar fairy lights and solar garden path lights
Ideally, the kids will join you in the garden for an evening barbeque or picnic. They’ll love seeing a lit path to their playhouse. Fairy lights can highlight the outside of the playhouse, and also create a magical space inside.
4. Table and chairs
If you have room for a table and chairs, get the big kid size. You might want to try a gate-leg table that they can push against the wall or extend out for true mission planning sessions. Try to get stackable chairs so they can push them to the side when needed.
5. Open shelves with tubs
Whilst cupboards are still useful for a general sense of tidiness, I’d suggest having some open shelves with tubs on them for different activities. You can have a curtain on a string that you can pull across to make it appear tidy. But this way, the kids be able to pull the curtain to the side so they can see their treasures and activities ready to go.
6. Floor colorful rug
The décor and floor coverings become more important as they kids start to sprawl on the floor more readily. Choose a colorful rug that suits the color scheme on the walls.
7. Climbing wall
You can add a climbing wall inside if you have the room. I’ve put one on the outside of our playhouse, but I found that the kids ended up on the roof more frequently that I would have like.
8. A bench for sitting outside
This can be like a gorgeous little wooden bench, perfect for curling up and reading in the late afternoon.
9. Window planters or pot plants with herbs and flowers
My eldest daughter went through a stage where she just wanted little tomatoes. They were in planters, and staked as tall as could be. She watered them almost religiously, and loved bringing them inside in a little wicker basket. I must admit, I snuck some basil in the side so she could water that as well in the summer! It made for some fine salads.
10. Welcome Mat
This is a great way of breaking up the inside from the outside, and ideally, catching some of the dirt and mud.
What To Put In A Playhouse For Teenagers (13 years plus)
It’s not an understatement to say that most teens like to have their own space. If it’s cool enough to hang out with their friends, it takes it up a notch. I’d recommend getting them involved in decorating and deciding what goes in the playhouse so that it can be truly theirs.
If it’s a new playhouse, I’d try to call it “the den” or “the retreat” rather than “the playhouse”.
If the playhouse has been around for a while, for a teenager, think of this like a re-branding exercise. Empty it out entirely, sand it back, stain it or paint it, and make it feel like a renovation.
1. Daybed or nook covered in cushions and blankets for reading.
I really prefer to use outdoor cushions where possible to minimize mildew. On the other hand, if you know it’s going to rain for a month, bring everything inside or at least rotate it well.
2. Bean bag(s)
The bigger the better. The tension with beanbags is to make sure that there are enough beans (expanded polystyrene balls) to provide some support, but not too much that they are so full that they are inflexible.
3. Pile or sheepskin rug
Hopefully, these teens won’t be spilling paint or traipsing sand through the floor, so you might be able to go a bit textured here. The texture will be relaxing here. You’ll find that they’ll lie on it and just play casually with it.
4. Solar light strips
Your kids will tell you what type they want. But I’ve found that strips of LEDs that can provide a bit of light, without too much light. They come with switches that you can change the color. Somedays, it will have a Cottagecore vibe, and others, it will look more like a post-neon gamers’ studio.
If you have power in the playhouse, you can set up lamps for reading or ambience, ideally next to the day bed or bean bags. If you don’t have power, get one of the camping lanterns that can be recharged overnight in the house.
6. Small heater
A small room heater can extend the life of the room across the months. If you wanted to include a small room heater, be sure that it has auto-off if it gets knocked over, and perhaps even a cut-off so that it can’t be left on for a week.
The cupboards and shelves should now be filled with more teen-oriented games. These might include a range of retro games that are cool in their own retro way. This includes Jenga, a Rubik’s Cube and even Connect4. As well as these games, there are also some new card games such as Cards Against Humanity, or The Resistance or Bemused. They don’t always match my sensibilities, but as I keep telling myself, that’s OK.
8. Table Mini-Sports
If you have teens that prefer to be a bit more physically competitive, then have a look at some mini-sporting games that can be super-entertaining in a retreat. For example, some of these can sit on a table, including a mini ping pong table or mini snooker table.
9. Floor mini-sports
Others need a bit more space, including a mini golf putting set or a foosball table. Another larger game is air hockey. This is the clear winner in our house, but we have to keep in the house rumpus room. Our playhouse, sorry retreat, isn’t quite that big.
What you put in a playhouse is entirely age-dependent. Younger kids will love to be in an imagination-rich world. Slightly older kids will enjoy a clubhouse feel. And teens want a retreat where they can hang. For all of these groups of kids, having them close to home will be reassuring, and give everyone hours of fun.