The 15 Best Play Tents and Forts for Kids of 2023

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 Best Play Tents and Forts for Kids

Verywell / Kristin Kempa

Play tents and forts provide a special space that kids can call their very own. They’re also a wonderful setting for pretend play, dramatic play, and other forms of screen-free entertainment that allow kiddos to let their imaginations run wild.

Reviewed & Approved

The Little Dove Play Tent is an adorable and spacious option that kiddos will love using as a hangout spot. With the budget-friendly Sunny Days Entertainment Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine Tent, your little one can go on adventures with the Mystery Inc. crew.

Play tents can be a first step into gaining independence, says Elanna Yalow, Ph.D., chief academic officer at KinderCare. “It is great for kids to have a special space that they feel is just for them, whether they use it to organize their stuffed animals in their own way or to hold secret office meetings with their friends. It provides a great base for their unstructured play,” she tells Verywell Family. 

To select the best play tents and forts for kids, we spoke with a pediatrician and an expert in child psychology about the benefits of play tents and pretend play. We also made sure that our top picks are safe, sturdy, and easy to assemble, keeping multiple age ranges in mind.

Best Overall

Little Dove Play Tent

Little Dove Play Tent

Amazon

Pros
  • Fabric is machine washable

  • Non-slip mat and string of lights included

  • Several neutral color options

Cons
  • Light colors may dirty easily

This roomy tent is an adorable hideout that can comfortably fit two kiddos. The tent comes with a padded non-slip floor mat to keep playtime safe, and the three windows and door have pretty curtains for a little bit of privacy if your kiddo wants some quiet reading time. A string of star-shaped lights is included for an added touch of fun.

The tent is available in several neutral and pastel shades, so it’ll work well with most color schemes. To assemble, connect the poles as directed and then cover the structure with the tent fabric, which is machine washable in case of spills.

Price at time of publication: $100

Dimensions: 52 x 47 x 40 inches | Age Recommendation: 24 months to 8 years old | Materials: Polyester

Best Budget

Sunny Days Entertainment Scooby Doo Mystery Machine Tent

Sunny Days Entertainment Scooby Doo Mystery Machine Tent

Amazon

Pros
  • Easy to set up and store

  • Budget-friendly

Cons
  • A bit flimsy

Join Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Inc. gang on adventures in this Mystery Machine pop-up tent. With a simple open rear entrance, your kids can crawl into the Mystery Machine and pretend they’re on their way to solve crimes and unmask ghosts. To assemble the tent, simply pop it open and slide in the poles, then it’s ready for action. When playtime is over, the tent can be folded flat and tucked away for easy storage.

This budget-friendly tent has a "sunroof" on the top that kids can peek out of to survey their surroundings, and the front windshield features Shaggy, Velma, Daphne, Fred, and Scooby. 

Price at time of publication: $30

Dimensions: 27 x 40 x 27 inches | Age Recommendation: 36 months to 7 years old | Materials: Polyester

Best for Toddlers

Sunny Days Entertainment CoComelon Musical Yellow School Bus Pop Up Tent

Sunny Days Entertainment CoComelon Musical Yellow School Bus Pop Up Tent

Amazon

Pros
  • Music box included

  • Easy assembly

Cons
  • Kids may outgrow the tent quickly

Does it get any cuter than this pop-up CoComelon school bus? Roomy enough to fit two tots, your kiddo and a friend can crawl in through a flap in the back of the bus. Inside, they can peer out of two round openings on the top, read a book, or pretend they’re helping JJ drive the bus to school. 

Plus, a music box in the shape of the CoComelon logo is attached to the outside and plays "The Wheels on the Bus" with the push of a button. No tools are required to assemble this play tent—it pops into place right out of the box.

Price at time of publication: $35

Dimensions: 27.5 x 43 x 27.5 inches | Age Recommendation: 18 months old and up | Materials: Polyester

Best for Preschoolers

Melissa & Doug Cozy Cottage Fabric Play Tent and Storage Tote

Melissa & Doug Cozy Cottage Fabric Play Tent and Storage Tote

Amazon

Pros
  • Carrying tote included

  • Features help inspire imaginative play

Cons
  • May be too large for some play spaces

This roomy cottage is nearly 4 feet tall to accommodate several busy preschoolers. It comes with realistic features to aid in imaginative play, including a working mail slot, a reusable postcard, and windows with shutters that can open and close.

Your preschooler will get plenty of playtime in this homey tent, which is decorated like a house with a bird bath, a tire swing, and other lovely illustrations on the sides. The mesh fabric on the windows and roof let in plenty of light, so they can use the tent as a private reading nook or play pretend to their heart's content. 

Price at time of publication: $65

Dimensions: 47 x 37 x 31 inches | Age Recommendation: 36 months to 5 years old | Materials: Polyester

Best for School-Age Kids

Swehouse Clubhouse Tent Kids

Swehouse Clubhouse Tent Kids

Amazon

Pros
  • Machine washable

  • Two doors

Cons
  • PVC poles can get bent

School-age kiddos will love the idea of a no-adults-allowed clubhouse of their own. This fun play tent gives them a sense privacy—there are signs like “Kids Only, Keep Out” pictured on the outside—while keeping them safely in your house for some imaginative play. 

Large enough for three or four kids, this tent has two doors and windows that roll up or down, allowing for easy entrance and also hiding out. Assembly is simple—just screw the poles together and pull the tent over them. 

As a bonus for caregivers, the cloth portion of this tent is machine washable, so it’s easy to clean up if your kiddos choose to use it for outdoor play during the warmer months.

Price at time of publication: $39

Dimensions: 42.5 x 38.6 x 27.6 inches | Age Recommendation: 3 years old and up | Materials: Polyester

Best Pop-Up

Bluey Pop 'N' Fun Play Tent

Bluey Pop 'N' Fun Play Tent

Amazon

Pros
  • Pops up easily

  • Trending Bluey theme

Cons
  • On the smaller side

It’s always a fun time with Bluey, and this pop-up tent will delight kids who love the show. The tent features Bluey, Bingo, Bandit, and Chilli on the outside, and kiddos can pretend that they’re playing with the Heeler family on the inside. 

To put it together, just assemble the poles, and the tent pops right up. It also has a roll-up door that kiddos can open and close and two porthole windows to peep through for lots of fun play. The tent should easily fit two kids without squeezing.

Price at time of publication: $25

Dimensions: 40.2 x 28.3 x 28.3 inches | Age Recommendation: 24 months and up | Materials: Polyester

Best Playhouse

Pottery Barn Kids My Very Own Playhouse

Pottery Barn Kids My Very Own Playhouse

Pottery Barn Kids

Pros
  • Available in neutral colors

  • Stylish design

Cons
  • Dry clean only cover

Available in two neutral shades to blend seamlessly into your home’s decor, this playhouse has plenty of space for playing pretend, reading, and more. Made from a PVC frame and a dry-clean-only cotton canvas cover, there’s enough space in the playhouse for a small table and chair set. To add to the homey feeling, it has a door that rolls up and two cute framed windows. Pottery Barn also promises that the house has gone through anti-tipping testing to make it secure and safe for your little ones.

Price at time of publication: $199

Dimensions: 56 x 49.25 x 38 inches | Age Recommendation: 3 years old and up | Materials: Cotton canvas

Best Circus Tent

Poco Divo Red Floor Circus Tent

Poco Divo Red Floor Circus Tent

Amazon

Pros
  • Zippered carrying bag included

  • Folds flat when not in use

Cons
  • Small

Bring the big top to your living room with this jolly circus-themed play tent. The circus tent comes with poles that you insert into the fabric for simple assembly, and it folds flat for compact storage when playtime is over. With red and yellow stripes, a pointed top, and blue curtains, this tent is great for a circus birthday party or everyday imaginative play. Plus, the tent is small and light (it weighs less than two pounds), so it’s easy to fold up and tote to the grandparents’ house in the included zippered carrying bag. 

Price at time of publication: $33

Dimensions: 49 x 37 inches | Age Recommendation: 3 years old and up | Materials: Polyester

Best Creative

USA Toyz Rocket Ship Pop Up Kids Tent

Pop Up Kids Tent

Amazon

Pros
  • Carrying tote included

  • Unique design

Cons
  • Poles may bend during rough-and-tumble play

Little astronauts can blast off into outer space in this unique rocket ship tent. With a round shape supported by sturdy poles and floor anchors, your child and their friends can pile in through the rounded door, unfurl the fabric door closure, and play space explorer to their hearts’ content. The tent also comes with a space projector flashlight that displays planets and stars on the tent’s walls or the ceiling.

To assemble, insert the foldable poles into the fabric and secure them with ties. When it’s time to stow it away, the tent twists down to fit into the included carrying tote. Plus, the ship has mesh windows and small rocket ship wings on the sides for an added touch of whimsy.

Price at time of publication: $55

Dimensions: 50 x 40.5 x 40.5 inches | Age Recommendation: 3 years old and up | Materials: Polyester

Best A-Frame

Tiny Land Kids Tent with Lights & Campfire Toy & Carry Case

Tiny Land Kids Tent with Lights & Campfire Toy & Carry Case

Amazon

Pros
  • Several accessories are included

  • Available in multiple colors and patterns

Cons
  • Floor mat doesn’t attach to the tent

Imaginations can run wild in this adorable A-frame tent, which comes with everything your little one needs for their next make-believe campout: a ​​13-foot string of star lights, a cardboard campfire toy, and a “Happy Camper” carrying bag. Inside the tent, there’s a small inside pocket for stashing books or treasures. 

Pine wood poles slip into the tent to support the machine-washable fabric, and the flaps on the front open and close. Though it comes with a floor mat, the mat doesn’t connect to the tent itself. Two kids can comfortably fit inside.

Price at time of publication: $60

Dimensions: 59 x 47.2 x 47.2 inches | Age Recommendation: Not listed | Materials: Cotton canvas

Best Fort Building Kit

Crazy Forts Set

Crazy Forts

Courtesy of Target

Pros
  • Helps build STEM skills

  • Can be rebuilt in different ways

Cons
  • Needs blanket or other covering

One of the more unique options on our list, this build-your-own play fort kit is ideal for curious older kids who love a project. (It’s also a great way to promote STEM skills.) The kit comes with 44 building sticks and 25 connector balls, which can be configured in a wide variety of ways. All the kiddos will need to finish their creation is an old sheet or blanket. Whether they’re building a hideout for watching movies, a puppet theater, or even a submarine, the only limit is their imagination.

Price at time of publication: $55

Dimensions: Depends on the configuration | Age Recommendation: 5 years old and up | Materials: Plastic

Best Cardboard Fort

HearthSong 32-Panel Cabin Fantasy Forts Indoor Building Kit

HearthSong 32-Panel Cabin Fantasy Forts Indoor Building Kit

Amazon

Pros
  • Endless play

  • Cardboard panels are recyclable

Cons
  • Less sturdy than other options

Little builders will love putting together this indoor cabin-building kit, which allows them to create a playhouse with tunnels, different rooms, and more. The kit comes with 16 cardboard panels for kiddos to fasten together with hook and loop connectors. Also included in the kit are 16 connector clips that support a second story for the fort. 

This toy pulls double duty: Kids can use their problem-solving skills to build the fort, then use their imaginations for creative play inside their cabin.

Price at time of publication: $99

Best Play Tent With Tunnels

Moncoland Kids Play Tent

Moncoland Kids Play Tent

Amazon

Pros
  • Helps develop gross motor skills

  • Soft fabric

  • Ideal for younger kids

Cons
  • May be too large for some spaces

Ideal for younger kids who are developing balance and walking skills, this tent with tunnels makes learning to crawl and climb so much fun. The brightly hued tent has three parts: an A-frame tent, a square-shaped tent, and a tunnel to connect the two. All of the pieces are made from soft fabric, so there’s no need to worry about your little one bumping their head. Each piece pops up out of the box and collapses easily. 

Price at time of publication: $50

Dimensions: 36 x 30 x 30 inches (castle tent), 30 x 28 x 28 (square tent), 18 x 59 (tunnel) | Age Recommendation: 3 years old and up | Materials: Polyester

Best Inflatable

AIR FORT The Original AIR FORT

AIR FORT The Original AIR FORT

Amazon

Pros
  • Available in a variety of colors and shapes

  • Easy to inflate

  • Easy to take apart and store

Cons
  • Box fan not included

An inflatable fort is less of a hassle than most parents might think, and it can make for a memorable family movie night or pretend play.

This fort can be inflated in around 30 seconds using a box fan (not included). When it’s inflated, kids simply lift up the edge to crawl under. This fort can easily accommodate four smaller kids and will stand up to heavy use, as there are no poles or posts to break. 

Price at time of publication: $60

Dimensions: 50 x 77 inches | Recommended Age: 3 years old and up | Materials: Polyester

Best for Outdoor Play

Pacific Play Tents 40205 Kids Super Duper 4-Kid Dome Tent

Pacific Play Tents 40205 Kids Super Duper 4-Kid Dome Tent

Amazon

Pros
  • Good for indoor/outdoor play

  • Multiple entrances

Cons
  • Not for actual camping

This spacious tent will work for both indoor and outdoor play, and it’s large enough to accomodate at least three kids for a fun pretend camping adventure. On one side, there’s a large entrance with a curtain that pulls back to reveal the inside of the tent. Two of the other sides feature porthole-style entrances that kiddos can wriggle through and can also be attached to tunnels (sold separately). To set up the tent, slide the flexible fiberglass-coated poles through the fabric and you’re good to go.

Though it looks just like a camping tent, it’s meant just for play, not outdoor overnights.

Price at time of publication: $46

Dimensions: 46 x 58 x 58 inches | Recommended age: 10 months old and up | Materials: Polyester

How We Selected the Best Play Tents and Forts for Kids

When choosing the best play tents and forts, we researched dozens of highly reviewed options on the market, examining their customer reviews, specs, and features. We also spoke with Elanna Yalow, Ph.D., chief  academic officer at KinderCare, and Rebekah Diamond, MD, a hospital pediatrician in New York City and the author of “Parent Like a Pediatrician,” about play tent safety, pretend play, and more. We considered size, sturdiness, ease of assembly, and age recommendations when crafting our list.

All of our top picks create great environments for encouraging pretend play, which is an essential part of a child’s development and growing up. “Playing house [and pretend play are things] that kids tend to gravitate to as they begin to explore their imagination and mimicking the world and people around them,” says Dr. Diamond.

What to Look for in Play Tents and Forts for Kids

Age Recommendations

When shopping for a play tent or fort for a kid, make sure to check the brand’s recommended age range to ensure the kiddo can play in it safely. For younger kids, you’ll also want to make sure there aren’t any small parts, says Dr. Yalow. “When buying toys, tents, or playhouses for your child, it is important parents follow age guidelines as many toys may have small parts,” since small parts may pose a choking risk to children younger than the designated age range, she explains.

You should also stay close by while little ones are playing in a tent, especially if you’re caring for toddlers or younger kids. “Parents should…make sure to readily observe their children in any play structure, to ensure their ongoing safety,” Dr. Yalow tells Verywell Family.

Size

All of the play tents on our list are meant to be used indoors, so it’s necessary to measure the space you plan to put the tent in before you place your order. Be sure to check the dimensions of the product when you’re ready to make your purchase. 

It’s also worth considering your children's height. If you have the space, you may opt for a play tent they could grow into, but keep in mind that a tent that’s too big could be intimidating to a smaller child. A fort-building kit like the Crazy Forts! play set or the Hearthsong cardboard fort kit are great options because they can be customized and grow with your child, although younger kids will need your help putting them together.

Assembly

Most play tents and houses will require some assembly by caregivers. When shopping for a play tent, look for an option with clear instructions, intuitive steps, and no unnecessary components. A well-designed tent should be fairly straightforward to assemble. A pop-up tent like the Bluey Pop-N-Fun is pretty easy to assemble, but if you want a tent that builds itself in 30 seconds (with the help of a box fan), the Original Air Fort is the way to go.

Sturdiness

Play tents and playhouses should be well constructed and made from solid materials to ensure kids’ safety. We chose options that are crafted from high-quality materials so caregivers can feel confident that their kid’s play tent is sturdy enough to withstand playtime. 

It’s also important to note that all of the tents and forts on our list are intended for play—none of these picks should be used for camping or as a shelter.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are play tents safe for children to use?

    As long as you follow the manufacturer's instructions, play tents should be safe for children to use. “If you purchase a playhouse or tent from a reputable vendor, follow the age recommendations, supervise play as needed based on a baby/toddler’s age, and assemble securely and according to instructions, you should end up with a playhouse that is safe,” Dr. Diamond says.

  • How do you make a play tent at home?

    The hardest part of making a play tent at home is creating a sturdy frame, and that's where fort-building kits like the HearthSong 32-Panel Cabin Fantasy Forts Indoor Building Kit and the Crazy Forts! 69 Piece Buildable Indoor/Outdoor Play Fort Playset come in. These kits allow little ones to flex their creative muscles and build any design they can think of. The connectors keep the frame in place and provide a sturdy structure.


    You may also choose to go fully DIY. “Utilize household items to foster pretend play,” Dr. Yalow suggests. “A shipping box can become a sailboat, a cottage, a fairy world, or a race car when paired with a child’s big imagination.”

  • How do you fold a pop-up play tent?

    The exact folding process will vary by tent and brand, but generally speaking, pop-up play tents have flexible support poles that are inserted into the fabric. To fold, press on the top or the sides of the tent to bend the poles into a circular shape, resulting in a flattened tent.

    Some pop-up tents come with a round carrying case to store it when folded, or you can stow a flattened tent in a closet or corner. Most play tents have a tab with a hook and loop closure to hold them in place when folded down, since the tension of the poles will try to push them back into shape. (This also makes it easy to pop the tent back into shape next time your kiddo wants to use it.)

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Tanya Edwards is an experienced parent, food, beauty, and health journalist who has been writing and editing parenting stories for over a decade.