Step2 Neat & Tidy Cottage Review

by SusanVillasLewis

An in-depth look at one of the most popular playhouses for kids

My niece Avery is at that age where she just can't wait to get into everything and everything is a toy with great possibilities. Not to mention, doing all the things mom does like a big girl. (Why don't cooking and dishwashing and vacuuming continue to feel like play when we get older?)

Well, the Step2 Neat & Tidy Cottage fulfills all those desires with style. It's one of the most popular playhouses on the market and for good reason. It combines features that are fun for the kids with features that are functional for the adults.

Out of the hundreds of reviews found around the web, the cottage averages around 4.5 stars with most parents raving about the details and functionality of the playhouse. It's a great starter playhouse for a toddler; once the kids get bigger, you'll probably want something bigger like a wood climber.

The playhouse is made in the U.S. out of parts made in the U.S. and overseas.

Product Features

  • Open Design: See the kids from all sides while they're playing
  • Molded-In Items: Kitchen table, faucet, burner, two seats
  • Working Items: Electronic phone, doorbell, pass-through mailbox
  • Assembly: Some required
  • Cleaning: Floor drain hole makes it easy to rinse off and dry
  • Size: 6 1/2"H x 51"W x 35"D (box?)
  • 46.5 " H x 35.0 " W x 51.0 " L, 53.5 pounds
  • Age Recommendation: 18 months until they can't fit inside

Open Design

One of the first things that stands out to me in looking at this playhouse is the open design. Most playhouses have at least one solid side, fine if it's up against the fence, not so great if it's out in the middle of the yard or room.

But the Neat and Tidy Cottage has all four sides open, allowing mom and dad to see in from every side. And the kids as well. We all know how toddlers like to know where mom is at all times!

Being in Texas, I also like the open sides because it keeps what little breeze there is flowing through the playhouse. Not good to be playing in a solid plastic box in the heat!

Several parents also noted that the open sides made it easier to get the playhouse clean inside because you can reach in from all sides. You should also realize that it almost guarantees your child will be crawling over the walls instead of going out the door!

Molded-In Items

The nice thing about the new plastic molded playhouses is that items that come with the playhouse are actually part of the playhouse. So the table that goes with the playhouse stays with the playhouse. That does mean your child can't drag them around the yard to places unknown, although that might be fun if you're on an adventure.

The Step2 Neat & Tidy Cottage comes with some standard molded-in items - a kitchen table, faucet, burner and two seats. The outside of the cottage gets extra details as well from the stone and wood architectural features added to make it look real.

I did realize when I looked at the assembly directions that the table is molded, but it is a separate piece from the walls. A few parents have noted that it doesn't have a support underneath and seemed a little unsturdy when their kids crawled on it.

Working Items

Kids love the working phone!

Now, the molded-in features are nice. And your child will enjoy them. But for most toddlers, it's the working features that bring the most joy. This play cottage includes an electronic phone, a working doorbell and a pass-through mailbox. (Nice - now you have a use for junk mail!)

The shutters and Dutch door all work as well, opening and closing to make the playhouse feel more like a real house.

Phone is a cordless like your house phone, which means it might just go missing quickly.

Available Accessories

Accessories don't come with this particular playhouse, but your child will probably bring in their own. Probably everything they own at one point! You could start with a cleaning set - it is the neat and tidy cottage after all - and the kitchen just calls for a cooking set for the stove and maybe play food. I'd even think a handyman set of toys would be a great idea so your child can fix things around his house just like you fix things around yours.


Assembly is fairly simple.

To get this cottage up and running (and your child squealing and jumping), you need a Phillips head screwdriver and four AAA batteries. Most people (and the assembly directions themselves) recommend using a drill or electric screwdriver for the screws as the guideholes can be tiny to non-existent. The extra torque of the power tool will make things go much more smoothly.

Most of the pieces snap together, then are secured with screws to each other. The faucet and the phone holder do just snap right into place with no screws. The directions are pretty clear, although the door assembly directions on my copy doesn't have words, just the pictures. Had to move ahead a few pictures to realize what we were doing. (Very IKEA.)

The batteries are used in the first and last pieces you put together. Two of them go into the doorbell to get it working, then it is screwed to the front panel. The other two go into the phone and you'll need a tiny screwdriver to get it open to put in the batteries.

I've seen others who said assembly too anywhere from less than 30 minutes to two hours. Those were the ones who thought assembly was a breeze. If you aren't handy with tools, any amount of time might feel like too much. But overall, putting the Step2 Neat & Tidy Cottage together really isn't that challenging.

One thing to note, the cottage isn't overly large, but it will be tough to get it through the door once you have it assembled, so put it together where you plan to use it first.


The molded floor is easy to clean.

Hooray for plastic! The plastic construction makes it easy to keep this particular house clean. You can wipe it clean with soap and water if you're really wanting it clean, or just spray it down with the hose every now and then. (Plastic also means easy maintenance, especially over a wooden climber.)

The molded-in floor is a great bonus. The drain holes keep water from collecting in the house so it stays clean and dry. And having a floor at all is great for keeping the kids from the dirt and mud under the house. The floor actually is molded to look like stones, so that can add a little extra work since you need to get dirt out from the cracks.


The footprint of the Step2 Neat & Tidy Cottage isn't that big - 35"x51" - but it's still plenty big enough for more than one toddler to play in it at once. In fact, I've even seen a few moms who said they were able to get into the cottage to play with their child. Not move around or stand up, but they were able to get in!

The size is also nice if you plan to set it up inside since it won't take up that much room. You could use it in your child's bedroom instead of outside. The big benefit there over the types of playhouses usually meant for inside use is just the general sturdiness of the plastic construction. It should last much longer than a fabric or cardboard house.

Final Thoughts

The overall consensus by parents is that the Step2 Neat & Tidy Cottage is a good deal for the price. It's not the most expensive playhouse by any means, but also not the most feature-laden. It's a good starter house for a really young child, but one that has room for them to grow.

Many parents liked that the cottage came in gender-neutral colors, making it a good choice for boys and girls. Since it has a table, you might want to plan for your children to have their snack time in the house as well.

Keep an eye on the shipping costs as you shop around. Because this is a bulky and heavy item, those should guide your buying decision as much as the price. And most of the stores I looked at only offer this item online, so shipping is definitely something to consider. (On the plus side, having it shipped means you don't have to try to get that box in your car!)

Buy it at

Updated: 11/09/2013, SusanVillasLewis
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NausetViews on 08/12/2013

What a great playhouse. My kids would absolutely love this and I know that we would enjoy it for many years.

kimbesa on 06/18/2013

We did something like this with refrigerator boxes, back in the day (Yeah, they used to come in cardboard boxes.) But we would have gotten a lot more play value out of something like this. Cardboard gets soggy overnight when it is covered in dew.

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