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Teddy Bears Cottage

Top Tips for Designing your Playhouse

1. The Garden needs to be a shared space

  • The playhouse needs to fit in your garden creating a fun area for the children to play BUT also needs to share the garden with its other users i.e. Mum and Dad so keep the project in scale to where you are.

2.  The children will be excited and love it, they need to be involved in the design but beware of promising everything

  • Ask the children what they want in terms of benefits rather than features, the children will generally say yes to everything you suggest, no child is going to say no to a swing, but this will take up a huge amount of space  
  • Do you want something to swing on, rather than say do you want a swing like at the park (could be a tyre swing under a platform, swing seat or rope rather than a full swing gantry)?
  • Do you want to play dungeons and dragons (a castle theme) or would you rather have a teddys tea party (cottage playhouse)?
  • Do you want different places to go (multi platforms) or would you like a larger inside area where you could have a sleep over (larger playhouse)?

3. Your garden play treehouse should be designed differently to the park or the school

  • Your project will need to grow with your children, unlike the park or school which both have a constant supply of children at the same age.  So, consider what they will be doing now but also what they will be doing in 5 years’ time i.e. a 6-year-old will be running about imagining a different world now, but in 5 years will be just wanting a den to hang out with friends  
  • You should not try and recreate the park play area in your garden.  It is very unlikely you will have the budget or space for this, so why just provide a watered-down version of the park, which you can still go to.  But instead create a more bespoke focus to suite more imaginative longer play days

4. Clearly define the area

  • Routes around the project are not limited to walkways or platforms.  Your children will make routes around the ground area, maybe prune a tunnel through a shrub or put a rope ladder down to the ground from a platform to create the “dungeon below”.  Children’s imagination will create far more than we can build, and its free
  • A decking area or lollipop low level fencing around an area has the effect of a boundary between the play area

5. Don’t start the project with a list of activities required

  • If planning a treehouse project with several destinations (platforms) with multiple routes up and down, it is this structure that will give the most active type of play as the children investigate the numerous different routes up down and over
  • Once a structure has been designed then prescribed activities (i.e. rope ladder, climbing wall, slide, swing seat etc) naturally fit in certain parts providing more up and down options. This is a better way to look at the design than start with a list of prescribed activities and design around including them.

6. You may have the perfect spot without realising it

  • Slopes, uneven land existing trees/shrubs, overgrown area should all be seen as advantages not problems.  All are excellent starting points for a project that will look like “it’s always been there”.  And incorporating established planting always has the effect of creating a magical feel, when you can’t see all of the project at on time and you have to go and explore.

7. Consider all family members as well as the children

  • Include a route onto the project that is possible for Granny, the children will love the fact that adults are able to access their world, and they need to have a reasonably dignified way to do so, i.e. A staircase rather than a rope adder

8. Have Fun

  • If it fun deciding what to have and designing it, then it’s going to be fun to play with