Growing up I always dreamed of having a playhouse. Back in the day, not many children had one. One summer my dream came true. I built one myself along with some friends. Although it was far from perfect architecturally, it was perfect for play. A playhouse does not need to be big, nor picture perfect. The idea is having a place for your little ones to call home where they can act out what they see and learn in their everyday life.
A common misconception is that a playhouse is just another toy. In many ways it is, but truly it is a childhood journey of beautiful memories, development and achievements. A playhouse is the ultimate idea of what imaginative play should be. Imaginative play is essential for every child’s enjoyment of childhood and the development of social, emotional, intellectual and physical skills.
When I design a playhouse, the goal is to create a world that encourages open-ended play and that fosters a well-rounded development by putting active engagement in front of the passive entertainment we see too much in today’s children. The way of doing this is to create different zones of activities, just like your own house. If you can achieve three zones in your playhouse, play can go on for hours and hours.
An entry where the children learn about the activities and gestures that comes along with an arrival and departure. Install some hooks where they can hang their little jackets, knits or bags, a little shelf for hats, sun glasses, play phones and keys, maybe a shoe rack for their boots or sandals, and a little mirror (depending on the age of kids using the space) where they can make sure their face is clean after a meal!
The kitchen is in my eyes the most important zone. A stove and a sink is a great investment as a lot of focus in their everyday life is around making food, eating and cleaning up. The kitchen teaches the kids so many practical skills like cooperation, communication and organisation. Arrange food toys in different containers, cabinets, drawers, and on shelves to promote discovery, sorting and organization. Try to keep them at arm’s reach, to avoid climbing accidents.
The dining room/living room is where the idea of activities comes to play. Invest in a dining/play table where they can comfortably sit an eat the meals and treats they have cooked and baked, have a real lunch or simply enjoy a game or draw something beautiful. Storage is key in here. Make sure you plan for a little cabinet, toy chest or a built-in bench where activity toys not part of the kitchen setup can be stored. If you like to use your playhouse year long, installing a light fixture above the table is worth the extra money.
Photo credit: Emily Wilson Photography