DIY Playhouse for Toddlers

children peeking on a circular window
Photo by Ron Lach on

Toddlers are extremely imaginative and will get a lot of joy playing in and around a playhouse designed just for them. Unfortunately, pre-built playhouses and DIY kits can be costly and confusing to install. You can easily build your own playhouse with a basic set of tools and common construction materials. Playhouses can be constructed in many different shapes, sizes, and colors, depending on your preferences and those of your toddler.

Framing Your Floor

Choose a flat, level surface in a safe location of your yard. Building your playhouse in the section of your yard where you plan on keeping it will prevent you from having to carry a massive structure all over the place. Choose a section of your yard where the land is flat and even.

Nail your joists together and lay them out on the ground. Lay out 2 floor joists parallel on the ground. Space 5 joists 16 inches (41 cm) apart so they lay perpendicular on top of the first 2 joists with their narrow side facing up. Use a nail gun to secure the side of each joist to the floor joist beneath it by firing at an angle through the side of each joist. Nail 2 slightly longer joists into the flat exterior edges of your frame. A joist refers to any piece of wood that is used to support a structure in a building’s frame. They are typically 2 in × 6 in (5.1 cm × 15.2 cm) or 2 in × 8 in (5.1 cm × 20.3 cm). The length and size of your joists and floor joist depends on how big you want your playhouse to be. A good size for a playhouse for toddlers is 76 inches (190 cm) in length and 96 inches (240 cm) in width.

Install 4 porch posts in the front of your playhouse frame. Clamp 2 larger posts to the front corners on the inside of your floor frame. Secure them to the joists where they form a 90-degree angle with a pair of hand clamps. Once you’ve measured their heights and checked to make sure that they’re level, nail them into the insides of the joists in the two corners of the floor frame. Repeat this process for the 2 shorter posts, but put these in the middle—equidistant from one another and from the 2 taller posts.

  • The 2 shorter posts will be the opening for your door. Keep them half of the height as your larger posts. 30 inches (76 cm) is a good height for your shorter posts.
  • Measure your posts with a measuring tape and check to make sure that they’re even and parallel with a level.
  • 2 in × 4 in (5.1 cm × 10.2 cm) posts are perfectly acceptable for porch posts.

Lay your floor boards down and nail them into the joists. You may need to use a jigsaw or circular saw to cut out the fittings for your porch posts. Lay each floorboard down so that they’re parallel and snug against one another. Nail each individual board into the joists in the frame of the floor twice. Do this on both sides of your floor, so that each piece of wood has a total of 4 nails securing it to the floor, with 2 nails placed symmetrically on each end of every board.

  • To cut fittings out of a joist, measure the size of each side that you need to cut and draw it on the joist with a framing square and carpentry pencil. Set the joist on two sawhorses and carefully remove the selected section with your power tool.
  • Treated 2 in × 4 in (5.1 cm × 10.2 cm) boards are excellent for floorboards.
  • Place a nail in between each floor board as you’re securing to keep your spacing uniform between planks.

Constructing Your Walls

Create the frames for your walls and nail them in. Measure out the length of your first wall with a measuring tape so that it matches the joists that form the long side of the floor. Calculate the height of your wall based on the height of your taller porch posts. Lay the 4 exterior sides of your first wall out on the ground by placing 4 joists in a rectangle with your floor-length section laid parallel to the ceiling.

  • You can use joists of the same size as the joists in your floor. You can also use 2 in × 4 in (5.1 cm × 10.2 cm), 4 in × 4 in (10 cm × 10 cm), or 4 in × 6 in (10 cm × 15 cm) joists if you’d like.

Lay 4 joists in between the 2 vertical sides of your wall. With your rectangular frame laid out on the floor, spread 4 joists out in the middle so that they are parallel and equidistant from the other joists on the ground. Push each piece together so that their flat edges are flush with the exterior joists of your wall. Nail each interior joist to its exterior side with a nail gun. Repeat this process for all 4 walls, leaving the section across from your shorter porch posts empty for a door.

  • While holding the edge of your interior joist flush against the edge, fire your nail gun at a 45-degree angle through the interior joist towards the exterior edge. Do this on both sides to secure it.
  • The distance between your joists will change based on how big you’re making your playhouse, but don’t space them more than 24 inches (61 cm) apart.

Raise your 4 walls up and nail them in at the corners and bottom of your frame. Hoist each of your 4 walls on top of the platform for your frame. Use a level to make sure that each wall is standing straight before you nail the bottom joist into the floor frame with your nail gun. Nail the 4 walls together in the corners and sides of the 2 joists where the walls meet with a nail gun positioned at a 45-degree angle between each edge

Install the sheeting for your walls on the exterior and interior of your playhouse.
 Use plywood or sheets of particle board and fit them across the body of your frame on the outside and inside. Fit each sheet so that it’s flush against each corner and edge. Nail each sheet into the joists that it’s covering with a nail gun by firing it directly into the joists at a 90-degree angle.

Installing Your Roof

Cut your rafters with a speed square and jigsaw. Use the 45-degree angle on your speed square to cut uniform ends off of your rafters by holding the bottom lip against the wood and cutting at an angle. Screw the lip of each rafter into the side of a single, separate joist that is the same length as your playhouse with #3 wood screws. Space your 6 rafters apart equally on each side of the joist that you’re using as a center beam for your roof. You can use the same sized wood as your joists and just shave the edges off after you’ve installed it. A rafter is any diagonal frame that is sloped against a center beam to form a roof.

Remove the section of each rafter where it meets the joist. To make your rafters fit perfectly on top of the walls, you’ll need to cut a triangular section out of each rafter so that the wood sits flat at the angle where it meets the joist. Put your rafters on top of the house and mark the location where it sits on top of the joist on each rafter. Use the 45-degree side of your speed square as a straight edge and measuring tool to cut these pieces out of each rafter with a jigsaw.

Hoist your rafters into place and cover the roof with plywood. After the rafters are resting in place, adjust the placement of your rafters by lifting and moving them along the top of your playhouse so that they sit flush with the 4 walls. Fit plywood or particle board sheets over the top of your rafters and nail them into the rafters with a nail gun to close your roof.

Fill in your siding by measuring the open space between your roof and the wall. The section between your wall and the angular roof will still be open. Measure this triangular section and add 2 inches (5.1 cm) to each side of your measurement so that you can nail it into the frame where it’ll rest. Measure and draw your roof siding out with a grease marker and a straight edge before cutting out your roofing material with a jigsaw or circular saw. Slide the siding behind the open area in your roof and nail it into the back of the 2 rafters and the frame at the top of the wall with a nail gun.

Paint and Use

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