Cardboard playhouses are getting to be pretty easy to find these days. I’ve seen a few different styles at different stores. I like that they aren’t plastic and that they encourage creativity by being a surface that kids can color on, but are they overall a good gift for your preschooler?
This depends on what you’re looking for. If you want something that will last as long as your kids care to use it, one of those plastic playhouses will do better in that sense. Ecologically speaking, see if you can find one at a thrift store, garage sale or that has otherwise been used by kids before. Makes more sense than spending a ton of money on a brand new one. Then make sure you make it available to other children when your kids are done, whether at your own garage sale or by sending it on to a thrift store. No point to putting it in the trash unless it’s really breaking. That said, we’re still talking plastic here, which is problematic.
The great part about cardboard is that it’s recyclable or compostable. When your kids are done with a cardboard playhouse, you can tear it into your compost pile or fold it into your recycle bin.
My own favorite cardboard playhouse is still the one we made years ago for my kids. It was a box my husband brought home when he worked for Home Depot. Double thick, strong enough the kids could climb on top without the box collapsing. Cut a door and a few windows and let the kids color it. It was perfect and lasted a couple years.
Make Do kits look like an interesting addition to this sort of playhouse. They allow you to create all kinds of things from found materials. They aren’t limited to playhouses, the limit is your imagination and the supplies you can find.
The cardboard playhouses you can buy at the store or online are awfully cute, though. You can buy some that are made of 100% recycled materials, although it’s not always clear if that’s post consumer waste or what. The shapes available are great, not just houses. There’s a shuttle design, for example. Skip the part about recycled cardboard, and you get many more design options.
The disadvantage is that they aren’t as sturdy as the ones you can cut out of a good quality box. Depending on how your kids play and the particular model, it may last for only a few weeks. That’s not my ideal for any toy, recyclable or not. I like my stuff to last.
Either way, a cardboard playhouse is a lot of fun for children and really encourages imaginative and creative play. For once you don’t have to worry about the kids coloring on the walls – that’s what they’re there for. You never know what they’ll pretend with the playhouse no matter the shape – a plain rectangular house can become a rocketship, a castle, a bedroom or any other place. It’s a wonderful sort of play away from the television.