Feed the little ones’ imagination with a hideaway in the back garden
The arrival of sunny days heralds the return of outside play – and an annual headache for parents. Creating a place that is both enjoyable and safe to play in is a seasonal must. “Spaces that belong to kids help them feel secure,” says David Lamolla Kristiansen of SmartPlayhouse.
Richard Frost, of The Playhouse Company, agrees: “Children love to have their own space where they can hide away,” he says. “Having somewhere to call their own builds confidence in the safety of your own garden.”
There is plenty of choice between ready-made or bespoke options, with benefits to both. “If your garden is open, a readymade playhouse if fine,” says Frost. “If it is to fit into an awkward or otherwise unused space in the garden, bespoke might be better. It will certainly allow you to include all the elements you may want, though it’s likely to be more expensive.”
“Both are good options,” says Kristiansen, “especially if the kids can take part in the process.”
With that question out of the way, it’s time to think about practical considerations, the most important of which is safety. Frost outlines certain necessary precautions such as adding rounded corners on a timber frame and having doors and windows that won’t trap little hands. Kristiansen agrees: “The hinge of the door is a serious problem, which we have solved with finger protection.” There is also the age-old problem of splinters, which can be fixed by using the right material. “That’s why I use plywood,” he says. “It doesn’t create sharp splinters.”
And if you have a treehouse or any kind of raised platform, consider the impact surface underneath.
The Scottish summer may feel too brief for the significant outlay of a garden structure, but bear in mind that many can be adapted for all-weather fun. They can be insulated, and the building material can be pressure-treated or painted to make it weather-proof, says Frost. Kristiansen advises elevating the playhouse so air can pass underneath, keeping it damp- and mould-free.
The best thing about a playhouse, perhaps, is that it can be adapted for all ages. Make the design versatile and flexible so it can grow with the kids and parents can play too, or even claim it for themselves when all the fun gets a bit too much.
Make it a dream destination – a playhouse, treehouse or castle.
Utilise forgotten space in the garden. A raised playhouse or treehouse is a good spot for that patch where nothing grows.
Create exciting routes to get to it. Think walkways, climbing walls or rope ladders.
Design it to fit in with the rest of the garden, if that’s what you want. Get a traditional look with soft natural colours and added extras such as window boxes.
Keep it interesting. Add extra levels and make it a two-storey playhouse for double the fun.
Richard Frost, The Playhouse Company
Words Caitlin Clements