Kids love to pretend, and they make a pretty serious business out of make-believe. But besides keeping them happy and occupied, pretending helps to build a child's imagination, creativity and problem-solving skills. Playhouses are great places for kids to make-believe---their own little getaway to play grown-up. Kids can fashion a playhouse out of lots of things: a large cardboard box, a tent made of sheets---you name it. But if you're looking for a modern playhouse, there are lots of options, from do-it-yourself projects to custom-made luxury models.
If you have a little experience with carpentry (or are feeling ambitious), you can build your child's playhouse yourself. There are several how-to books on playhouses available, or you can download plans from websites like the one featured in Resources. You can find materials at any lumber or hardware store and can customize details like paint color and decorations to fit your child's preferences. You can make a themed house featuring your little one's favorite cartoon characters, animals or theme, such as princesses or trains. Building your own house also allows you to add aspects like slides, rope ladders, swings and flower boxes. But be prepared. Building a playhouse is a rather large project for an amateur. It will take at least a full weekend to complete, and you'll probably need a few helpers. The good news is that homemade playhouses allow your children to help out (to a degree) with the design and construction, so they will enjoy their house even more.
If you're short on time but prepared to pay more, you can order a playhouse that will be delivered to you in a kit that you can assemble yourself in a few hours. Most of these playhouses are wooden, therefore very durable and weather-resistant. Some feature working windows made of safety glass, hardwood floors and covered porches. There are a plethora of options, from simple cabins to Victorian mansions (see Resources). Most run from $400 to $2,500, with luxury models between $4,500 and $7,000 (plus shipping). Luxury playhouses are usually custom-built and might feature things like fireplaces, porch swings, electricity and two stories. You can even create a tiny version of your own house.
If you're looking for a playhouse that is less expensive and easier to assemble, several toy companies manufacture durable plastic houses that can be used indoors or outdoors. They usually feature bright colors and lots of features inside and out, such as slides, kitchen cabinets and sinks and furniture. Plastic playhouses range from $250 to $1,000. You can order one online or purchase it at a toy store.
To make your child's playhouse creative and fun, don't forget to decorate it inside and out. Make the interior of your little one's getaway inviting by painting or wallpapering the walls, adding furniture (maybe beds for sleepovers), window treatments, artwork and a rug. Outside, you can add window boxes with real or toy plants, shutters and a chalkboard for messages from friends.