Green Toys: Cardboard Playhouses

KidsCraft USA: $59.95

Green toys are becoming easier to find these days, and one of my favorites for imaginative play is the cardboard playhouse.

Recyclable when they're done (and some brands, like KidsCraft even use 100 percent recycled materials in manufacture), it's one toy your kids can love to death without loading up a landfill.

What better toy to load up on for Earth Day?


For those of you who haven't had the pleasure -- the "houses" come flattened in a big box, so you generally need to do some set-up work. Nothing major, but you want to follow the directions to ensure it remains sturdy. 

Good news is houses like this one from Color Me House ($39.95) are easy to fold down when you want to stow it, then easy to pop back up when it's play time.

White as the driven snow when they arrive, these houses are MADE to be decorated. No more scrubbing at marker stains on that plastic playhouse or furiously scraping at stickers. Basically, you can let the kids go wild. And now that spring is here, set it outside and hand them the paints -- you won't have to worry about a mess in the house.

Scared that cardboard won't hold up? Don't worry -- they're surprisingly sturdy. My daughter played in the KidsCraft house ($59.95) over the weekend, and despite hours of moving in and out of the front door, poking her head out the window and generally being a total goof ball, it's still holding up.

Oh, and one biiiiig tip -- don't set them down on dewy grass (we made that mistake once) or leave them outside if the weather looks like it will turn. They might be eco-friendly, but Mother Nature plays her evil tricks on cardboard when it rains.

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