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Last year my son received this playhouse as a birthday present from his grandma it has been standing in our garden since and continues to look good and be played with frequently meaning it is a great buy in our household. The playhouse is made by well know children brand Little Tikes so you do hope it going to be a quality product that is built to last to justify the higher price tag than other makes.
The house that we got had been bought from Adventure Toys near us and had been one that didn't have a box hence had been cheaper than the advertised £180 RRP. Despite not having a box it still had all the instructions and bits. We decided to put it together on a fine day which was just as well as there is a lot of laying bits around and trying to follow the instructions is a bit tricky really as the figures in the diagrams in the manual are not always well explained and did need to be read several times to ensure we had the right bits going where they should. This is also definitely at least a two people assembly job due to the need to hold walls quite firmly as screws are put in place. If there is a bit of a breeze as the day we put ours together it is better to have 3 people to hold the walls to stop them flopping and blowing around as you place them together. Though the instructions refer to screwing in the walls and ceiling your really do need a power screwdriver as trying to do it manually just doesn't work as there is not enough of a grip or pressure to ensure a good join. Putting the accessories in such as the curtains and the conservatory style extension is easy to do and a job of minutes however the poles for the conservatory are very tight and does need a degree of pressure to get them in correctly and to give a good fit. Overall it took us several hours to build the house and get it into place so do allow a degree of time for the job. However once up it has remained firmly in place even with all the wind and rain over the past year and has never fallen down or had the roof blow off at all.
My son was very excited to get this playhouse built and couldn't wait to start putting some of his toys in there to play with. Inside we have placed our Little Tikes barbecue and some chairs so he uses it to pretend to play house and do cooking on occasions and entertain his friends. The shutters to the front of the house also mean it is great for him to pretend that he is selling from an ice cream stall and often he will play shops from this window. The play opportunities for the house are quite varied and my son uses them to its full potential. One of his favourite ways of playing with the house at the moment is to pretend he is one of the three little pigs and I have to try to blow the house down as the wolf. The house really is only as limited as the child's imagination as ours has been a house, a jail a castle for knights and various shops.
The curtains are opened and closed depending on his wishes to be seen or to pretend to hide. The curtains glide very easily for him and never get stuck or ripped. Even in some of the bad winds and rains in the past year the curtains may blow around but have remained firmly in place and never suffered any damage. The material they are made from is a waterproof material so gets no mould on it and still looks as bright a red as the day it was bought.
The extension/garden room is another great little entrance for my son and the fact that it full height means that not only can he walk in without ducking down but it is also easy for me to get into the house that way too. The material is again well made and waterproof and stood the test of all of winters elements in the garden. We decided to leave it up this winter rather than take the extension down mainly because otherwise you are left with a huge great gaping hole at the end where it is and we felt this would see the house being used less and that a lot of the leaves and things from the garden would be blown into the house. The extension itself is a nice touch but one that really is a bit superfluous really it makes the house larger which is a great thing as there is more room to play in, but my son doesn't differentiate in his play between the two sections and sees it just as one whole house meaning the differences of two rooms is not really utilised. I personally would have rather seen a larger house rather than the extension. The entrance to the extension is via a door flap this can be rolled up with Velcro to keep it in place at the top so the material doesn't have to be pushed every time, but my son prefers it to be flapping around so he can view it as a tent style entrance. Again even with this rough style of treatment the material is still in place with no rips and damage.
The door to the house is a half door but the door frame is a full door height this is great as it means my son can go in and out without bending down and it makes it more natural for him to come and go as he pleases. The half door also allows me to keep an eye on what is going on inside the house and for him to lean out to chat to me in the rest of the garden
The shutters to the window by the door move with ease and swing open and closed with no problems and my son loves to do this when he is playing. The shutters are generally closed when not in use and this helps protect the inside of the house from the elements.
One side of the house is really a wide fully open window that doesn't have any curtains at all and the idea of this is so parents can supervise what is going on inside. However I personally didn't like this fully open bit and we situated the house against a hedge in the garden so this is totally blocked. This actually seems to suit our son well as he feels he can play inside the house in his own way. The doors and the other windows still allow me to see what is going on inside and be able to supervise the play.
The inside of the house has some moulded details such a clock however these are generally ignored by my son and play no part in any of his imaginative games. So whilst they are nice touch they are not really an addition that my son has needed or wanted.
The size of the house whilst not large at nearly 2 meters long by a meter wide is large enough to contain at least a cooker two children's chairs and at least 3 pre-school with easy and is certainly big enough for them all to play with ease in a friendly way. The size of the house also means it doesn't take up too much room in our garden.
The house is very sturdy the material for the extension is well made and the plastic of the house itself have in over a years' worth of play suffered no damage and the colours have yet to fade in any way from the bright vibrant red greens and yellows of the day it was bought. From a lasting and construction point of view there is very little to fault in the toy and it certainly seems built to last for years and the British weather.
Value for money
Much as my son loves this playhouse and enjoys going into it I do think it is very expensive for what it is and don't think it can fully justify its £180 price tag that seems to be the norm at the likes of Tesco and Toys R Us. The price of £80 that my mum paid for this I think is more reasonable and I would recommend looking out for special offers for it. That said it is well made and very sturdy and I can see it lasting the lifetime of our two children.
Overall and recommendation
Whilst my son loves his play house and it is great for his imaginative play outside in the better weather I do think it is rather expensive for the money. The house is well made but you have to have the patience to set aside an afternoon for construction but it will stay up once it is all in place. My son loves his and it transforms into a house jail shop depending on his moods and whims. The house is large enough for several children and items to be inside and to play comfortably. I am giving it 4 stars only taking a star off for the large open window which I dislike and extension which I think could have been better designed as a larger more permanent structure. I fully expect ours to last the several years as both our boys grow up and think that though expensive it does justify its price if found on special offer as ours was.
The Garden Cottage has an easy-fit extension with sun lounge curtains and shutters. The playhouse also has lintel height large window and dutch door. Age range: From 2 years.