9 best kids’ play tents that make for a dream den

·15-min read
From cool garden hideouts in the sun to cosy indoor dens on rainy days (The Independent)
From cool garden hideouts in the sun to cosy indoor dens on rainy days (The Independent)

Kids love dens – fact. But if an old bedsheet hastily thrown over a couple of chairs simply won’t do, there are plenty of options out there. From play tents and playhouses bursting with kid-appeal, to teepees perfect for outdoors (and big enough to store those garden games), it couldn’t be simpler to keep your children entertained all year round.

The joy of a den is its versatility, whether it’s used for imaginative roleplay or simply a quiet place to read (or escape younger siblings, as we discovered). But, if you’re going to invest, there are some things to consider first.

Of course, space is usually the biggest issue. We’ve included plenty of smaller options or pop-up tents that fold down neatly into compact carry bags, but you’ll also find some larger, spacious teepees in the mix, offering a place for older children to relax, too.

The same goes for price – we’ve tried to cover budget-friendly options that offer value for money, as well as some serious investment pieces to be passed down to next generations.

Just bear in mind that many of these play tents and teepees feature cords and ties, so never leave a young child unsupervised inside, and always check the manufacturer’s safety guidance and age restrictions before play.

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How we tested

Our testers – aged three, six and eight – spent more than a month trying out all manner of play tents, Wendy houses and teepees, to help us put our round-up together. Taking into consideration the price, size, assembly required, how portable it is, whether it can be used indoors and out, as well as age suitability and – crucially – play value, these are the ones that really impressed.

The best kids’ play tents for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Djeco multicoloured tent: £53.95, Tickety-boo.co.uk

  • Best for quality – The Little Green Sheep kids’ teepee play tent: £99.95, Thelittlegreensheep.co.uk

  • Best for portability – Kid’s Concept play tent: £33, Kidly.co.uk

  • Best for a permanent feature – Jouet kids foldable play tent: £53.99, Robertdyas.co.uk

  • Best for younger kids – Melissa & Doug Blue’s Clues & You! Blue’s house play tent: £56.67, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best for luxury – Dock A Tot tent of dreams: £450, Dockatot.co.uk

  • Best fort style – Ferm Living ladybird tent: £125, Naken.co.uk

  • Best for adventurers – The Den Kit Co the original den kit: £45, Thedenkitco.com

  • Best for outdoor play – Cabana Kids Hettie teepee: £152, Scandiborn.co.uk

Djeco multicoloured tent

Best: Overall

Rating: 9.5/10

From the bright, modern pattern to the mercifully easy set-up, this mid-price offering ticked all our boxes. Much to our young testers’ delight, this tent popped up just seconds after we’d taken it out of the box. All that was needed was to fix the tent poles through the fabric pockets at the top and bottom of the tent, and tie them into place.

Because the tent structure uses five poles instead of four, the interior felt really spacious – in fact, we could even sit in there with one of the kids without feeling too squished. At 106cm in diameter and 130cm in height, it provides a roomy space for secret meetings or dolls’ tea parties, and all of our testers were drawn to it more than any of the other tents and teepees we tried out.

The door is easy to roll up (and Velcro in place) and pull down – something even our three-year-old tester could manage independently, which they loved – and the peep-hole windows were the perfect size for sticking a head out and shouting when a snack was required.

The tent’s incredibly lightweight, so we had no problem carrying it outside after it had been assembled. We even managed to squeeze it through a single doorway, thanks to the bendy poles, although we’re not sure it’s designed to be handled so roughly! The light fabric isn’t waterproof though, so we wouldn’t risk it in the rain.

There’s definitely a knack to packing the tent away – as anyone who’s floundered about with a pop-up tent will know – but once you get the hang of it, it’s actually very quick and easy. We’re talking seconds to fold once the poles have been removed. There are plenty of videos on YouTube to guide you through if you need a helping hand.

Overall, we think this is a great-quality, gorgeous gender-neutral design that would brighten up any child’s bedroom, living room or garden. Our only gripe is that it doesn’t come with a carry bag – instead, you have to make do with the original box – but it’s far from a deal-breaker, as it still folds down to a compact size. The fact that all of our little testers asked to play in this tent more than the others on test speaks for itself.

Buy now £53.95, Tickety-boo.co.uk

The Little Green Sheep kids teepee play tent

Best: For quality

Rating: 9/10

All play teepees are not made equal, and this stylish creation manages to look and feel luxurious without completely breaking the bank.

Setting up the teepee was very straightforward – you just fix the wooden poles together with a plastic join and thread through the fabric. We loved that the top tie was attached to the canvas, rather than separate – the potential to lose something like that when constantly packing and unpacking the teepee is huge, so we thought that was a clever touch.

Made from heavy canvas cotton, this teepee creates a dark, cosy den that got the thumbs up from all of our testers. Its five-pole design means it sits in a hexagonal rather than a square formation, and this provides some welcome extra space (it measures W 143cm x D 113cm x H 155cm), so siblings can play alongside each other inside.

We liked the scalloped edging along the entrance, which can be tied back easily – it definitely makes this model stand out from many of the other teepees available. You can also buy a padded, coordinating playmat that sits perfectly inside the teepee, although at £49.95, it’s a pricey extra (it works out less if you buy as a bundle). The set comes with a carry case, so you can pull the wooden poles apart and fold the fabric cover away to a much more portable (or pack away-able) size.

Buy now £99.95, Thelittlegreensheep.co.uk

Kid’s Concept play tent

Best: For portability

Rating: 8.5/10

If space is at a premium and you’re after a play tent that you can pop up and pack away quickly and easily, this cute and compact offering from Kid’s Concept is a great choice. At £33, it’s the cheapest play tent in our round-up, but despite the modest price tag, it really feels like it’s built to last – or at least withstand a couple of kids.

Assembly is similar to the Djeco pop-up, although this one has just four poles to contend with and they’re attached with Velcro. Measuring D 100cm x H 130cm, it doesn’t take up too much floor space, but our two youngest testers still fitted in together, although that didn’t leave a great deal of room for toys.

This tent has a decent-sized mesh window on one side (perfect for keeping an eye on what the kids are up to), and the door can be Velcroed shut to keep annoying adults away. The grey star print has a timeless appeal, but the play tent is also available in some brighter colourways if you prefer.

Hands down the biggest hit (for us) was the round, zip-up carry case, which fits the tent and poles down into a compact package – perfect for trips to the beach, park or the grandparents.

Buy now £33.00, Kidly.co.uk

Jouet kids play tent

Best: For a permanent feature

Rating: 8/10

If you’ve got the space – whether that’s a large bedroom or generous playroom – this gorgeous starry play tent would make a dreamy addition. We were instantly charmed by the classic tent shape, wooden frame and dark starry-night fabric cover, with built-in padded base. Our three-year-old tester and friend thought this tent was amazing and were especially taken with the two matching star print cushions that came with the set.

Unlike any of the other play tents in our selection, this does need to be screwed together when assembling, so you’re either going to want to keep it up or face having to get the screwdriver out every time play is over. Something else to bear in mind is that while this tent is described as “foldable” on the website, it isn’t – you’ll need to unscrew the frame to pack it away into the carry bag. Having said that, it’s only six screws and took us minutes to put together, then take down again, so it’s not too time-consuming. That aside, the end result is a super-cosy den with room for two kids to lie down, making it the ultimate sleepover setting.

Buy now £53.99, Robertdyas.co.uk

Melissa & Doug ‘Blue’s Clues & You!' Blue’s house

Best: For younger kids

Rating: 8.5/10

Setting up this traditional playhouse gave us a serious trip down memory lane. Transporting us back to our Eighties childhood, it has more than a hint of old-school Wendy house about it but in the best possible way. Designed to look like Blue’s house from the kids’ TV show Blue’s Clues & You!, it’s very bright, very colourful and very, err, Blue’s Clues. It’s pretty much as if the cartoon has come to life, and our little fan of the show thought it was the most amazing thing ever.

As you’d expect from a more traditional Wendy house, set up was simple, involving some poles and plastic connectors. Measuring W78.7cm x D96.5cm x H119.4cm when assembled, there’s a decent amount of room inside, although we did feel it could have done with being a little wider.

You don’t need to be a fan of the blue dog to enjoy this play tent, and there are little features that really made it stand out. We particularly liked the working mailbox, which our testers had great fun opening up to mail the postcard (included) through, then closing it up again. The house design really sparked their imagination, and the three- and six-year-olds in particular came up with some great games when this was set up.

The base of the tent is waterproof, which quite frankly was music to our ears, as the number of smoothies the kids have spilt inside there is record-breaking. This also meant that the play tent fared pretty well outside, even when the grass was a little damp. The fact that it all folds down neatly into a compact storage bag is another welcome bonus.

Buy now £56.67, Amazon.co.uk

Dock A Tot tent of dreams

Best: For luxury

Rating: 9/10

You’ve got to be pretty confident in your product if you’re calling it the “tent of dreams” and, in fairness, Dock A Tot has nailed the brief with this uber-luxurious offering. Let’s be clear, at £450 this is a very considerable investment but, wow, does it spark joy! From the heavenly Morris & Co pattern (we tested the strawberry thief print) to the tasselled trim, this is one stylish addition to the playroom. But it’s not just good looks – there’s plenty under the skin to captivate the kids as well.

The teepee arrives as one ready-assembled piece in a very long box. It comes with its own carry case and, once out, you just have to manoeuvre the poles to set the teepee in place. With a footprint of L 110cm x W 110 cm x H 175cm, there’s lots of room inside for siblings (or for you to hide away with a book), but because the solid wooden poles measure 190cm in height, you’ll need plenty of space to store this away. Having said that, with a teepee this good, you may just want to leave it out on display.

Our little testers loved peeking through the tasselled window, but it was the storage pouch inside that got the biggest reaction. Perfectly sized for storing away a good supply of books, toys and snacks, our six-year-old loved getting stocked up for the afternoon and hiding inside, away from their “threenager” sister. Someone’s got the right idea.

Buy now £450.00, Dockatot.co.uk

Ferm Living ladybird tent

Best: For style

Rating: 9/10

If you’re looking for a classic design that won’t date, this stylish offering from Scandinavian interiors brand Ferm Living is a winner in our book. With a simple, hinged wooden frame and cotton cover, it’s a minimalist’s heaven, but the addition of the ladybird embroidery on the side brings the essential kid appeal.

Based on a more traditional old-school tent set-up, assembly of the wooden frame takes minutes, then the organic cotton tent cover is draped over the top, hooked over the corners of the frame and tied into place. It’s not huge (the wooden frame measures just 100cm x 100cm when folded), but our eight-year-old tester had enough space to lie down in here with their tablet for some quality quiet time.

On either side of the tent are open windows with roll-up curtains, which our youngest tester enjoyed posting their dolls through – probably not what it was designed for but, still, it delivered the fun factor.

The tent comes with a carry bag, so you can pull the frame apart and store it in here, although if you have the room, it can slide – fully assembled – under the stairs or behind the sofa, to save some time.

Buy now £125.00, Naken.co.uk

The Den Kit Co the original den kit

Best: For adventurers

Rating: 9/10

A den in the truest sense of the word, this excellent pack has everything your kids need to build their own tent outside, including a camo tarpaulin, waterproof groundsheet, jute rope, tent pegs and a wooden mallet. Our older testers threw themselves into den building with so much excitement, it was infectious. Making the most of what we had in our garden, they knocked up an impressive tent, securing the rope to a tree and our climbing frame – and it worked a treat.

What’s great about these kits (there are a few different varieties you can choose from online) is that there are no concise how-to instructions. Instead, you’re offered a little bit of visual inspiration, some info on knot tying and general encouragement to get out there and just give it a go.

Once the den was up, our testers could sit back and bask in the glory of their Bear Grylls-esque skills, while covering themselves in the complimentary camo face paint and cheering one another with a squash in the cute enamelware mug that also comes as part of the pack.

The best bit about it all? Once the kids are done, they can pack everything away – in the traditional haversack included – and start dreaming up their next adventure.

Buy now £45.00, Thedenkitco.com

Cabana Kids Hettie teepee

Best: For outdoor play

Rating: 9/10

Whether it’s sunny days spent in the garden or family holidays on the beach, this cool play teepee has got you covered. The five-pole design means it’s super-spacious inside, measuring an impressive W 135cm x D 135cm x H 170cm, making it the largest teepee on our list – our testers all fitted in together at once, with no arguments (hooray!). And with practically no assembly required – all you have to do is thread the lace fastening through the holes in the solid-wood poles – you can have it set up in minutes.

You can tell the 100 per cent cotton canvas is such great quality from the first touch, but it’s the fact it’s been treated to provide UPF+50 protection that completely won us over. Making the perfect sunshade for babies and sensitive adults, you can feel safe knowing you’re sheltered from the heat and harmful rays, while also feeling smug that you’re the owner of the coolest tent on the beach. Available in a range of colours from natural ecru through to a deep pink rose, we loved the summer vibes of the ochre colourway.

Buy now £152.00, Scandiborn.co.uk

The verdict: Kids’ play tents

The Djeco multicoloured play tent does it for us, ticking all the boxes on quality, easy assembly, size and style, while being a clear winner with our young testers. For a more hands-on approach, you can’t beat The Den Kit Co’s original den kit – it’s guaranteed to fire up a sense of adventure.

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