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How to Build a Children’s Playhouse

Did you have a playhouse when you were little? Maybe you had a Wendy House, or another kind of den-like structure that your parents made or assembled for you in the garden. If so you probably have some really great memories from those days!

Whatever its style, shape and size, a playhouse is an oasis, a wonderful thing for children. It's a space of their very own, somewhere they can store precious things, play with friends and safely learn the art of independence. Time spent in a playhouse is special time, magical time, and if you can possibly treat your children to their own playhouse, no matter how simple, it'll enhance their lives, inspiring creative play and make-believe for years to come.

The history of the playhouse or ‘Wendy House’

Did you know that a playhouse and a Wendy House are the same thing? The term Wendy House comes from J. M Barrie’s play Peter Pan, and the first Wendy House was built for Wendy Darling in the play. Winston Churchill built a remarkable playhouse at Chartwell for his youngest child. And the world’s most expensive playhouse was built for the children of a Swiss millionaire. It cost $230,000 and took more than 2000 hours to build. They’re something children all over the world enjoy.

The benefits of a playhouse

A playhouse comes with all sorts of intellectual, physical and emotional benefits for children. Playing outdoors and getting exercise in the fresh air is good for people of every age. It also helps children sleep well when they’ve played outside, getting rid of lots of spare energy. When your children play together or with other kids, they develop good social skills, essential for a happy life. They learn to be responsible for their own space, about essentials like tidying up, shutting doors and closing windows. And playing real-life games in a mini-house lets them learn more about their world, feeling more confident about their place in it.

What else can a playhouse be used for?

When you use good quality acrylic or polycarbonate for the windows of a playhouse, the building takes on another lease of life. You can use it for storage during the colder winter months, storing tools and toys when they’re not being used. You can safely keep bikes in there over the winter. And a playhouse makes a wonderful place to ‘sleep out’ if you have guests who bring their own children.

Wooden playhouse paint ideas

You don’t have to stick to a plain colour. You could paint the outside or inside walls with colourful spots, flowers, shapes, stripes, you name it. You can paint hearts all over it, or animals, or birds. You could buy a few stencils and do a professional job, or paint half a bright colour and varnish the other half. You can buy all sorts of wonderful wood stain products and wood dyes in a range of stunning colours. Trendy chalk paints and matt eggshell paint are popular, and subtle heritage colours are a cool, attractive alternative to bright primary colours.

More ideas for the inside of your playhouse

Whether you’ve bought a kit or are going DIY, you can personalise the inside and outside of the structure to make it unique. You could let your children choose their own paint finish, and even let them help with the painting if they’re old enough. You can also have fun making, buying, recycling and re-purposing cool things like curtains, cushion, beds, miniature furniture, toy boxes, cosy rugs, cutlery and crockery.

DIY or buy a playhouse kit?

You can buy beautiful ready-made playhouses, of course, from places like ShedsWorld, but they can be expensive. You could buy a basic 6 x 8 foot garden shed instead, and decorate it to create the perfect playhouse. You could craft a pallet playhouse from sturdy wooden pallets, which are remarkably strong and rugged. Or you could DIY and make something yourself from scratch.

We've provided lots of useful links for inspiration, below. But whatever route you decide to take, make sure you glaze the windows using either acrylic sheet or polycarbonate sheet for safety and optimum performance. It's so much better and safer than glass.

We sell acrylic and polycarbonate sheet to use as windows in playhouses. They're both ideal because they weigh less than glass, let in loads of brightness, are hard to damage and very difficult to break. All of which means they're a lot safer and more practical than glass, especially bearing children in mind.

Links to hundreds of brilliant playhouse plans

Morning Chores provides 31 free DIY playhouse plans

The Balance Everyday provides 12 free plans for DIY playhouses

Pinterest has loads of amazing playhouse images to inspire you

There are plenty of great videos on the subject here on YouTube

Make your own playhouse for the kids – The simplest DIY solution

Plenty of playhouse plans are fairly complex, requiring quite a bit of DIY expertise. If you’re a DIY genius, one of the plans from the links above will be ideal for you. If not, we've found a lovely, simple one for you. All you need is one big sheet of plywood, and it only demands intermediate DIY skills. Here's what you'll need:

  • 1 sheet of 1/4 inch exterior plywood
  • 6 2×2 furring strips, 8' long, 3 – 1×2 furring strips, 8' long and 3 – 1×3 furring strips, 8' long
  • Hinges for the doors
  • 2 inch screws
  • 1 1/4 inch finish nails, 1-1/4 inch pocket hole screws and 2-1/2 inch pocket hole screws
  • Wood glue and wood filler
  • 120 grit sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Wood conditioner
  • Paint and a paintbrush
  • Tape measure
  • Speed square
  • Pencil
  • Hammer
  • Safety glasses and ear protection
  • A jig
  • A drill
  • Circular saw
  • Nail Gun
  • Power sander

You start with the front wall. Just like the back wall, the front one sits inside the side walls, sitting perfectly on the deck. To assemble the playhouse, start from the insides of the front and back walls, and use lag screws to attach the front walls to the end walls. It’s ridiculously easy, and the job can easily be done by one person.

Cutting the pieces to size

This is what you'll need to cut from your one big sheet of plywood:

  • 2 top plates - 2×2 @ 90 inches
  • 6 studs - 2×2 @ 45 inches
  • 2 windows top and bottom – 2×2 @ 29 inches
  • 1 bottom plate - 2×2 @ 57 1/4 inches
  • 1 bottom plate - 2×2 @ 14 3/4 inches
  • 1 door header – 2×2 @ 18 inches
  • 1 window header stud - 2×2 @ 7 1/2 inches
  • One piece with doors and windows cut out of it, to fit the stud wall - 90 inches x 48 1/4 inches

Cutting the trims

  • 1 top trim – 1×3 @ 90 inches
  • 1 bottom trim – 1×3 @ 14 3/4 inches
  • 1 bottom trim - 1×3 @ 57 1/4 inches
  • 2 side trims – 1×2 @ 43 inches
  • 2 door trims - 1×2 @ 36 1/2 inches
  • 1 top of door trim – 1×2 @ 21 inches
  • 2 window side trims – 1×2 @ 16 1/2 inches
  • 2 window side and bottom trims – 1×2 @ 32 inches

Cutting the door

For the door, use the scrap piece you have left over from step 1.

  • 2 door sides – 1×3 @ 33 inches
  • 1 middle trim - 1×3 @ 13 inches
  • 1 door bottom – 1×3 @ 18 inches
  • 1 scrap measuring 1×4 @ 18 inches

Step 1 – Frame the wall

Frame your wall using 2 inch screws and glue. Check it's properly square, not wonky. Trace the windows and doors and cut them out, bearing in mind you'll use the cut-outs to make the door. Fix the plywood to the stud wall using 1 1/4 inch nails and glue.

Step 2 – The trim

Measure and cut your trim as you go, or it might not fit. Attach it with 1 1/4 inch nails and glue, making sure the outside edges are flush.

Step 3 – The top door header

Cut your top door header into an arch and use a jog to join them up to make the door frame. Use 1 inch nails and glue to attach the back plywood panel to the door frame, then glue them for extra strength.

Step 4 – Add the door

Add the door, using simple hinges.

Step 5 – Decorate…using your imagination!

Now this incredibly simple structure is up, it's time to paint, decorate and embellish. Have fun, and let your kids join in if they fancy getting involved.

Playhouse personalisation – The final touch

We can create beautiful, rugged signage for your playhouse, too. It’s a great way to personalise things and delight your child or children even more! And because we can also laser cut and laser engrave acrylic and polycarbonate (links to internal pages), the creative possibilities are endless.

Need help and advice with acrylic or polycarbonate playhouse windows?

If you'd like to talk the window side of things through with our friendly team of sheet plastic experts you're more than welcome. Just give us a call or send an email and we'll help you make the right choice.

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