04/04/2010 22:19 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Garden Playhouses For Children

I have heard this summer is set to be a scorcher. I know, last year was supposed to be too. But I am sure, at some point we will have some warm weather (and I have my fingers crossed, while touching wood).

In anticipation of spending some lovely time outside, instead of being wrapped up against the cold, I've been thinking about our children's playhouse in the garden.

Creating a den for your child outside is great fun for you and them. And it doesn't have to cost the earth.
We bought our little wooden house from a DIY store more than ten years ago. It has withstood the games of five children, the weather and being moved countless times.

Looking at it yesterday, I admit it's in need of a bit of a revamp. I plan to repaint it a cheery blue and make some curtains for it. It is structurally sound, although we did have to replace the roof last year, and it's worth its weight in gold.

Maintenance free, plastic versions are available which all children seem to love. They are a bit smaller, so ideal if you have a small garden. In the winter they can be handy places to store the tricycles and buckets and spades.

You can, of course, get playhouses that are so palatial I feel like moving in there myself. But if you haven't got lots of money, or space, you can still create something that will give hours of pleasure to your children.

Sunflower houses sound idyllic. I haven't managed to construct one myself because I always seem to underestimate how many sunflowers we'll need plus the slugs seem rather too fond of them.

Now's the time to get sowing sunflower seeds though. They can be popped straight in the ground but I've always had more success growing them on a windowsill first. Use empty loo roll inners and they can be put straight into the ground with least disturbance.

Plant three sides of a rectangle with sunflowers alternated with runner beans, staked with canes. Once the sunflower stalks are quite tall tie string from one to the other so you have a roof made of string. The runner beans should wind their way along the string but this has to be planted in a sunny spot to work.

Alternatively, you could make a teepee using large bamboo canes and plant a climbing ivy at the base of the canes. It's not as pretty as a sunflower house but this could be remedied by planting a clematis or two as well.

The ultimate natural den though is one made from willow. These can be a dome or a teepee or, if you have room, a tunnel. If you do decide on a garden playhouse, just make sure it's big enough for you too to enjoy all the tea parties you'll be invited to.