There are few better ways to spark imaginative play than a playhouse.

There’s no end to the pretend scenarios and games kids can dream up when they have their own space that feels just like a mini version of an adult's house.

You won’t be surprised to learn that playhouses don’t tend to come cheap.

However, you can now get them for under £20 for a cardboard one and £70 for a plastic one.

Even wooden ones – once unaffordable for most – have come down in price in recent years.

When you measure up for your playhouse, allow some extra room around the edges, especially as you might decide to add to it in the future, for example with a mud kitchen accessory.

Check how hard it is to assemble, how long it will take, and if you’ll need a helper.

With the really comprehensive ones, there’s probably an option to have it installed for an extra cost. But also consider what maintenance will it need; how long will your child use it, in terms of age suitability – and don’t forget to check out safety features and how robust it is.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Plum deckhouse wooden playhouse: £299.99, John Lewis & Partners

How long to put together: 1-2 hours with 2 adults
Dimensions: H138cm x D136cm x W136cm
Suitable from: 3+

Part of a new range for 2019, this stunning wooden playhouse comes pre-painted in a teal or pink wood wash with a whitewash trim finish and looks an absolute picture, especially if you hang bunting across the front. There’s a wooden decked mini veranda, Perspex windows, swinging front door, air holes for ventilation, wooden floor and apex style roof – everything you need for safe and dry play. A smaller version, called the Plum garden hut, is available for £199, which doesn’t have a working door, floor or roofed veranda.

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Chad Valley foldable wendy playhouse: £70, Argos

How long to put together: under 1 hour
Dimensions: H111cm x D102cm x W90cm
Suitable from: 3+

You’ll have this one assembled in record time and what’s more, you can disassemble it and rebuild it anytime you want in under five minutes, making it a very versatile option for smaller gardens and for transporting to other gardens. It can be used indoors and out and comes with window and opening doors. Aimed at three-year-olds and over, it offers hours of fun with an affordable price tag, although we wouldn’t recommend it for windier days outside.

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Plum wooden children’s teepee hideaway: From £399.99, Robert Dyas

How long to put together: 6-8 hours with two adults
Dimensions: H230cm x D150cm x W150cm
Suitable from: 3+

This sturdy tepee is as good as it gets for little adventurers. Available in two sizes (2.3m tall or 3.3m tall) and made from wood, you can leave it looking natural or go as wild and wacky as you like by customising with paint or stencilling. With the larger size, the whole family can fit in. It includes a floor, which means you can camp out in it, too. But be warned, it will take two adults at least six hours to build.

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Hobbycraft colour in cardboard playhouse: £8.50, Hobbycraft

How long to put together: under 1 hour
Dimensions: H81cm x D91cm x W91cm
Suitable from: 3+

This is a great idea for younger kids who are prone to pouncing on any large boxes they can get their hands on to turn them into dens. Not only does this white cardboard turn into a great castle themed playhouse in practically no time at all, but children can then colour it in with paints, pens or crayons to give it a really personalised finish. Double bubble in terms of play value then – result. And there are alternative versions available too, including rocket and shop. But it’s only good for outside on sunnier days.

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Step 2 neat and tidy cottage: £245.98, Amazon

How long to put together: 2 hours
Dimensions: H118cm x W130.2cm x D89cm
Suitable from: 18 months

This design is at least 10 years old, but it is testament to its popularity that it’s still in production. Unusually for a plastic playhouse in this price range, there’s a floor – great for keeping things clean – and the working Dutch door and windows mean children can see out from all sides and (perhaps more importantly) you can see them. Fun features include pay phone, mailbox, kitchenette detail, kitchen seat and working doorbell. Not the easiest to put together, though, with some tricky corners to reach, but the kids’ faces will make it all worth it.

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Backyard Discovery Victorian inn playhouse: £534.99, Amazon

How long to put together: 5 hours with two adults
Dimensions: H173 x W188 x D167 cm
Suitable from: 2+

Play shop, house or restaurant with this versatile wooden playhouse. Made from top quality cedar wood, the pre-painted Victorian-style is attractive and the open design with big windows and bench maximises both inside and outside space. Highlights include the front porch, built-in kitchenette (with accessories including toy food), hatch and quaint flower box. The wood comes pre-cut, pre-drilled and pre-stained.

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Little Tikes go green playhouse: £249.99, Little Tikes

How long to put together: 2 adults, 1 hour
Dimensions: H130cm x D94 x W150cm
Suitable from: 2+

If you’re looking for a way to encourage your offspring to start thinking about saving the planet from as young as possible, then this playhouse (despite, ironically, being made from plastic) is an excellent choice. It has a roof section where you can grow grass, a planting box to grow real flowers and vegetables, a solar-powered light, recycling centre with bins and a sink using water from a rain barrel, while accessories include watering can, shovel and rake. It’s a shame the panels aren’t a bit thicker, though.

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GBC fort sandpiper playhouse: £1,903, GBC Group

How long to put together: 4 hours with two people
Dimensions: H281cm x D255cm x W300cm (small)
Suitable from: 4+

This is by far the most expensive in our roundup, but it’s the equivalent of a stately home in the world of playhouses and looks and feels like prime real estate once painted. Our favourite features include the four Georgian-style acrylic windows, solid timber roof with red or green felt, roomy porch and proper staircase with handrail to upper level. And there’s plenty of attention to detail too, with all doors fitted with anti-trap strips to save little fingers. If you can’t face building it yourself, they have an installation service available, but it will set you back an extra £100 or thereabouts. Available in two sizes.

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Waltons rocket playhouse: £599.99, Waltons

How long to put together: 4-6 hours with 2 adults
Dimensions: H2.72m x D1.88m x W2.51m
Suitable from: 3+

Watch your kids blast off in this fun rocket playhouse, which includes a 10-year guarantee against rot and free delivery to most areas. The timber sides and sand felt roof means it can withstand most weather and the doors have safety features. Aimed at age three upwards, it should see them through many years of play as the headroom is more generous than most. But it doesn’t come painted – you’ll need to do that bit yourself, and it will need treating on an annual basis. There’s an installation service available for an extra cost, along with a recycling option if you need to get rid of an old one.

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Little Tikes cape cottage: £104, Little Tikes

How long to put together: around 1 hour
Dimensions: H120cm x D93cm x W122cm
Suitable from: 2+

If the Chad Valley foldable playhouse that we review here doesn’t feel quite sturdy enough for your needs, but you don’t want to get into paying out megabucks for your plastic playhouse, this may appeal. For not much more than a hundred quid, you get a robust, easy-to-assemble playhouse for three-year-olds and over with arched door, windows, brick detailing and mail slot. It’s quite compact, which might put some people off, but for some gardens it may go in your favour.

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TP Forest cabin wooden playhouse: £199.99, TP Toys

How long to put together: 2 hours with 2 adults
Dimensions: H146cm x D131cm x W118cm
Suitable from: 18 months +

This is a great price for such a well-made wooden playhouse. Aimed at kids aged 18 months to six years, it’s made from FSC certified timber – either European pine or spruce – and has a wooden floor and roof, Perspex window and door and small veranda. Do check out TP’s mud kitchen playhouse accessory – it will set you back an extra £50, but can be attached on the back, complete with hob area, pans, whisk and sink. Be warned you’ll need to treat this house with wood stain or treatment inside and out before use.

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GBC Malvern lodge: £1,048, GBC Group

How long to put together: 6-8 hours with 2 adults
Dimensions: H227cm x D183cm x W183cm
Suitable from: 3+

This wooden cottage gets the thumbs up for featuring an upstairs (more mezzanine really) section, with ladder and balustrade, which makes it feel a lot more roomy and exciting inside than many other wooden playhouses. We also like the spacious veranda and stable door, as well as the coloured detailing (you choose which colour). It comes with acrylic windows and all the safety features you’d expect, including protection against trapped fingers, and the wood has been treated throughout. There’s an installation service available, but it costs extra.

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The Verdict: Children’s playhouses

The plum wooden teepee hideaway is well-made, looks fabulous and great for littluns with a great sense of adventure. We also like the fact that it’s available in two sizes. For something cheaper, the Chad Valley funtivity playhouse has a huge amount of play value.

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