The Best Play Tents and Forts for Instant Secret Hideouts

These imaginative indoor play spaces build kids' confidence too!

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Best Play Tents and Forts

Parents / Jaclyn Mastropasqua

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.

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 us. 

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


Why We Like It: This dreamy tent can fit two children, and it's machine washable if the fun gets a little messy.

But Take Note: Its light colors may look 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

The Details:

  • 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


Why We Like It: It's super easy to set up and store.

But Take Note:  The pop-up style means it's a bit flimsy.

Join Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Inc. gang on adventures in this Mystery Machine pop-up tent. Your kids can crawl into the simple open rear entrance of 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: $20

The Details:

  • 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


Why We Like It: CoComelon fans will get a kick out of "driving" the bus, and they can sing along to the music box included.

But Take Note: Kids may outgrow this tent quickly.

Does it get any cuter than this pop-up CoComelon school bus? Like with the Mystery Machine, it has a flap in the back of the bus for entry, and it's roomy enough to fit two tots. Inside, they can peer out of two round openings on the top, read a book, or pretend they’re helping JJ drive 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

The Details:

  • 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

Melissa & Doug Cozy Cottage Fabric Play Tent and Storage Tote


Why We Like It: Its realistic features enhance role-playing, and it's big enough for growing preschoolers.

But Take Note: The tent may be too large for some play spaces.

Since this cottage is nearly 4 feet tall and 3 feet long, it can accommodate a few busy preschoolers at once. 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

The Details:

  • 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


Why We Like It: We love the old clubhouse theme, which is enhanced with windows and doors that open and close.

But Take Note: Its 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

The Details:

  • 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


Why We Like It: Because Bluey. (And also it's an easy-to-assemble tent that fits two kids.)

But Take Note: This tent tends to sell out.

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. (Also, if the house is sold-out, we highly recommend the family's 4WD tent instead.)

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. The tent should easily fit two kids without squeezing.

Price at time of publication: $25

The Details:

  • 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

Why We Like It: It's got a stylish design that will fit in with the rest of your house.

But Take Note: It has a 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, the playhouse has enough space 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

The Details:

  • 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


Why We Like It: No sad beige play happens in here.

But Take Note: It's not very durable.

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

The Details:

  • Dimensions: 49 (height) x 37 (diameter) inches
  • Age Recommendation: 3 years old and up
  • Materials: Polyester

Best Creative: USA Toyz Rocket Ship Tent

Pop Up Kids Tent


Why We Like It: The design is so imaginative, and it comes with a space projector and its own carrying tote.

But Take Note: The 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: $37

The Details:

  • 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


Why We Like It: It comes with several accessories, like string lights and a cardboard campfire.

But Take Note: The 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: $42

The Details:

  • 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

Why We Like It: It encourages kids to develop their building and problem-solving skills.

But Take Note: It may be frustrating for younger children.

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—unless they like the open look, that is. Whether they’re building a hideout for watching movies, a puppet theater, or even a submarine, the options are pretty endless here,

Price at time of publication: $47

The Details:

  • 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


Why We Like It: There are seemingly endless configurations kids can build.

But Take Note: Cardboard can be 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 allow for taller walls. 

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


Why We Like It: Crawling through the tent and tunnels helps develop gross motor skills.

But Take Note: It 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

The Details:

  • 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: The Original AIR FORT



Why We Like It: It's super easy to inflate, and it will stay up for as long as your fan is on.

But Take Note: The box fan is 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

The Details:

  • 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


Why We Like It: You can use this indoors or outside, and it fits three kids.

But Take Note: It's not suitable for actual camping.

This spacious tent will work for both indoor and outdoor play, and it’s large enough to accommodate 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, which 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

The Details:

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

Our Review Process

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, M.D., 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.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Play Tent

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. Those parts may pose a choking risk to children younger than the designated age range, she explains.

“Parents should…make sure to readily observe their children in any play structure, to ensure their ongoing safety,” Dr. Yalow tells Verywell Family.


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.


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.


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 the 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.

Your Questions Answered

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 Fantasy Forts Kit and the Crazy Forts! 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.)

Who We Are

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

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