Build Imagination

When the Archer family saw the wooden play sets popular with children in Denmark, they knew they had to have one at home. Back in the Pacific Northwest, David Archer built a set for his own kids — and mom Jill saw a chance to build a business. Today Bilderhoos 2.0 is USA-made and mom-owned. Jill’s sons handcraft the notched boards out of sustainably sourced, marine-grade plywood. The notches make it easy for kids to fit the boards together; like Lincoln Logs but on a grander scale. No tools are needed. Imagination is all that’s required for building forts, playhouses, stores . . . the possibilities are endless. Easy enough for kids to assemble—and disassemble—themselves, Bilderhoos 2.0 are perfect for the yard, the garage, the basement, or the playroom. Anywhere you have the space, let the building begin. The thoughtfulness and craft in these sets is meticulous. Longer boards have a notch for easy carrying by little ones. Precision cutting makes for smooth edges. Non-toxic painted finishes safely add pops of color. Bilderhoos 2.0 make a great statement gift and are perfect for neighborhoods or schools to go in on together. Way to teach cooperation to everyone!

Bilderhoos 2.0

Kid-Sized Architectural Play Sets

Build Imagination

When the Archer family saw the wooden play sets popular with children in Denmark, they knew they had to have one at home. Back in the Pacific Northwest, David Archer built a set for his own kids — and mom Jill saw a chance to build a business. Today Bilderhoos 2.0 is USA-made and mom-owned. Jill’s sons handcraft the notched boards out of sustainably sourced, marine-grade plywood. The notches make it easy for kids to fit the boards together; like Lincoln Logs but on a grander scale. No tools are needed. Imagination is all that’s required for building forts, playhouses, stores . . . the possibilities are endless. Easy enough for kids to assemble—and disassemble—themselves, Bilderhoos 2.0 are perfect for the yard, the garage, the basement, or the playroom. Anywhere you have the space, let the building begin. The thoughtfulness and craft in these sets is meticulous. Longer boards have a notch for easy carrying by little ones. Precision cutting makes for smooth edges. Non-toxic painted finishes safely add pops of color. Bilderhoos 2.0 make a great statement gift and are perfect for neighborhoods or schools to go in on together. Way to teach cooperation to everyone!
Handcrafted
Independent Maker
Made in the USA
Sustainable Living
Underrepresented Entrepreneur

Grommet Launch Conversation

Grommet Launch Conversation

  • Jill
    Jill

    Hello Grommet community! I am thrilled to launch Bilderhoos to you today! I am happy to answer any questions you have. I answered a few from Mike which you can see below.

  • Mike
    Mike – Grommet Team
    7/6/2015 10:38 AM

    What prompted you to look into a build-it-yourself playset?

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 10:44 AM

    I wasn't looking for it, nor ANY business. I was happily plodding along as a graphic designer working from home. I think it found ME and I remember the moment: The first set my husband David built for his small sons a dozen years ago (his "popsicle stick" play house kit, he called it) ended up in our back yard last summer. He piled these boards on the lawn while he figured out what to do with them since his sons are in college.

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 10:44 AM

    I'm not a kid, but that didn't matter: I played with it all afternoon. David and his son Max helped, and the three of us built a bunch of different structures. At some point that day, probably when I was utterly worn out from all that playing, a couple of thoughts took hold in succession: "Kids need something like this", and "maybe I can make that happen." Those thoughts started my engine, and prompted this business.

  • Mike
    Mike – Grommet Team
    7/6/2015 10:46 AM

    My next question was going to be: is it weird if I buy this for myself? But you just eliminated all doubt. Thank you!

    Why is this something people should buy over the latest Playskool dream castle or whatever it is called?

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 10:47 AM

    Just last night I sat in a toddler's playroom surrounded by colorfully pretty Playskool castles, and noticed that the little ones were ignoring them, opting for the stacking wooden blocks instead, the toys that weren't so defined. But maybe you mean the bigger playhouses like the crooked house, the hobbit house, and the like, that people set up in their yard to become part of the landscaping. I see those as static spider habitats, and not really comparable to a reconfigurable play set like Bilderhoos, which can change with every new idea that kids have. I have nothing against spiders, but Bilderhoos is not static, so spiders don't have time to move in. The boards pile into a neat stack (16"x20"37") so can be tucked out of the way when kids aren't building with it. A Bilderhoos play set is not likely to end up in a landfill, ever.

  • Mike
    Mike – Grommet Team
    7/6/2015 10:47 AM

    This is such a great product for kids. It gets them to think creatively and make things. It’s sort of a microcosm of the Maker Movement. Where do you see this product making the biggest impact?

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 10:48 AM

    The way Bilderhoos boards link together so easily encourages collaboration and teamwork. Everybody can play, not just the kid with the tools, because you don't need any tools. It gets kids trying out ideas, taking turns. I see it impacting kids where they gather: schools, camps, community centers, church playrooms, birthday parties. I see it engaging the impetus in kids to get together with friends in yards and playrooms all year around just to try out a new configuration they were seeing in their mind. I see it impacting parents and educators, too: new programming can be designed around a 'Hoos set having to do with spatial visualization, building principles, design, math and physics. How high is too high?

  • Jules
    Jules – Grommet Team
    7/6/2015 12:56 PM

    @Jill I am glad you mentioned school. Bilderhoos is such a natural for them. If my kids were still in preschool I would organize the parents to give a Bilderhoos set for an end-of year teacher/school gift. In a similar vein, I will never forget how excited the kids were to join in together to give a gift to our preschool in lieu of bringing birthday gifts for my son. As the youngest of three sons he had every toy he needed, and he felt proud to have his birthday contribution/gift permanently contribute to the classroom. All the kids in his class enjoyed what they gave (a cool builder set--but not as cool as Bilderhoos!)

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 1:11 PM

    @Jules

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 1:15 PM

    @Jules Hi Jules - Agreed! Bilderhoos is ideal as a group gift. We recently helped facilitate a community garden group purchase an extra large Bilderhoos Play Set for the kids who attend summer camps in their city garden space. It's been a huge success, and makes it possible for many more children to have the chance to play with a set.

  • James L
    James L
    7/6/2015 1:00 PM

    How much does the largest piece weigh, and what minimum age would you suggest Bilderhoos for?

    Thank you.

    Jim

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 1:11 PM

    @James L Hi Jim! The largest piece would be the Roof Triangle and it weighs in at just under 7 lbs. The 2-Zee boards weighs just over 6 lbs. We've seen that kids from about age four can usually lift the boards and place them into the slots. Little kids might need assistance from a grown up or older sibling during the building, but have no trouble with the playing and climbing, after it's built.

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 1:19 PM

    @Jill @James I'd like to add that the boards are heavier than one might expect because they are made of marine-grade plywood, which increases its longevity in the outdoor elements. That's why we say the boards are meant for play outdoors as well as indoors. It also adds to the sturdiness of the set: kids feel how solid it is as they are climbing all over it!

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 1:55 PM

    @James Oops! I was using figures from an old spreadsheet. My son in the shop corrected my board weights: The Roof Triangle is 6 lbs even, and the 2-Zee is 5 lbs 10 oz. Sorry for the error!

  • Manuel
    Manuel
    7/6/2015 2:03 PM

    Two Questions:

    1) Why the reason for using Plywood rather than MDF?

    2) Have you considered coloring both sides of the boards with non-matching colors to increase the variety and color combinations?

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 2:16 PM

    @Manuel Hi Manuel, We explored a lot of different materials, and MDF was rejected early on for several reasons: It's heavier than the plywood we chose, it doesn't do well when exposed to weather, it's not nearly as natural-looking (no wood grain!) and most importantly because there may be some issues with the wood dust and -- despite their prudent use of safety equipment and masks -- I didn't want my sons to breathe any of the MDF dust in the shop.

    About your second question, Yes! Great idea, and I'm happy to say we already do it: One side of each board is painted a bright primary color + green, and the other side of each board is stained a natural pine. So every Bilderhoos Play Set is reversible, and the colors complement each other well. As a graphic artist, I didn't want to combine too many colors - clashing is not an option! :)

  • Gail
    Gail
    7/6/2015 2:43 PM

    What do you think the ages of interest are in your product. How high can a building go? My son is 7 and 50" tall

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 3:02 PM

    @Gail Hi Gail! When we bring a 'Hoos to a park we get such a wide range of kids coming over to take a look -- the ones who really dig in and build are from about 4 to 10 or 11. They are the ones who will spend time, between building, in imaginative play on the thing they just put together.

    The littlest ones can't really build by themselves, but that doesn't stop them from wanting to climb (and they do!).

    How high can it go? The highest tower we've built with this basic 'Hoos 50-piece set is 72". Here's a photo:

  • Pamela
    Pamela
    7/6/2015 4:03 PM

    Have kids used these indoors? - Pam

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 4:16 PM

    @Pamela Hi Pam! Absolutely, these are great in a playroom or porch or bedroom. We hand-craft the boards so they look good indoors, too. And a big plus is that when they aren't being used by kids to build, the boards make a neat stack. Here's a photo of all 50 boards:

  • Pamela
    Pamela
    7/6/2015 5:24 PM

    @Jill thanks. The stack looks small. How much room does it need to be set up? How many kids can play with one normal size set at a time?

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 5:31 PM

    @Pamela Yes, the stack doesn't take up a lot of room. That's part of the beauty of a 'Hoos - it expands! Just add kids.

    The smallest footprint of a 'build' is 37" x 37" and the footprint size goes up from there, depending on what kids decide to build.

    An ideal building crew for optimum collaboration seems to be 2-4 kids, but there were six playing together the other day. Leaders emerge quickly.

  • Mary
    Mary
    7/6/2015 7:52 PM

    I think this looks fabulous, but I wondered - will you make the sets in smaller sizes? It would be fun to build a little town, sized for action figures or dolls.

  • Mike
    Mike – Grommet Team
    7/7/2015 1:22 PM

    Hi Mary, here is the answer from Jill:

    Similar building sets on a much smaller scale, as you suggest, are already being made by others, but nobody builds them this size. Bilderhoos would lose its magic if it were small!

The launch day conversation has ended. Please direct further questions about this Grommet to our Community Experience Team.

 

Bilderhoos 2.0

Kid-Sized Architectural Play Sets

Build Imagination

When the Archer family saw the wooden play sets popular with children in Denmark, they knew they had to have one at home. Back in the Pacific Northwest, David Archer built a set for his own kids — and mom Jill saw a chance to build a business.

Today Bilderhoos 2.0 is USA-made and mom-owned. Jill’s sons handcraft the notched
boards out of sustainably sourced, marine-grade plywood. The notches make it easy for kids to fit the boards together; like Lincoln Logs but on a grander scale.

No tools are needed. Imagination is all that’s required for building forts, playhouses, stores . . . the possibilities are endless. Easy enough for kids to assemble—and disassemble—themselves, Bilderhoos 2.0 are perfect for the yard, the garage, the basement, or the playroom. Anywhere you have the space, let the building begin.

The thoughtfulness and craft in these sets is meticulous. Longer boards have a notch for easy carrying by little ones. Precision cutting makes for smooth edges. Non-toxic painted finishes safely add pops of color.

Bilderhoos 2.0 make a great statement gift and are perfect for neighborhoods or schools to go in on together. Way to teach cooperation to everyone!
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Bilderhoos - Kid-Sized Architectural Play Set

Shop Bilderhoos 2.0 Products

Grommet Launch Conversation

  • Jill
    Jill

    Hello Grommet community! I am thrilled to launch Bilderhoos to you today! I am happy to answer any questions you have. I answered a few from Mike which you can see below.

  • Mike
    Mike – Grommet Team
    7/6/2015 10:38 AM

    What prompted you to look into a build-it-yourself playset?

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 10:44 AM

    I wasn't looking for it, nor ANY business. I was happily plodding along as a graphic designer working from home. I think it found ME and I remember the moment: The first set my husband David built for his small sons a dozen years ago (his "popsicle stick" play house kit, he called it) ended up in our back yard last summer. He piled these boards on the lawn while he figured out what to do with them since his sons are in college.

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 10:44 AM

    I'm not a kid, but that didn't matter: I played with it all afternoon. David and his son Max helped, and the three of us built a bunch of different structures. At some point that day, probably when I was utterly worn out from all that playing, a couple of thoughts took hold in succession: "Kids need something like this", and "maybe I can make that happen." Those thoughts started my engine, and prompted this business.

  • Mike
    Mike – Grommet Team
    7/6/2015 10:46 AM

    My next question was going to be: is it weird if I buy this for myself? But you just eliminated all doubt. Thank you!

    Why is this something people should buy over the latest Playskool dream castle or whatever it is called?

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 10:47 AM

    Just last night I sat in a toddler's playroom surrounded by colorfully pretty Playskool castles, and noticed that the little ones were ignoring them, opting for the stacking wooden blocks instead, the toys that weren't so defined. But maybe you mean the bigger playhouses like the crooked house, the hobbit house, and the like, that people set up in their yard to become part of the landscaping. I see those as static spider habitats, and not really comparable to a reconfigurable play set like Bilderhoos, which can change with every new idea that kids have. I have nothing against spiders, but Bilderhoos is not static, so spiders don't have time to move in. The boards pile into a neat stack (16"x20"37") so can be tucked out of the way when kids aren't building with it. A Bilderhoos play set is not likely to end up in a landfill, ever.

  • Mike
    Mike – Grommet Team
    7/6/2015 10:47 AM

    This is such a great product for kids. It gets them to think creatively and make things. It’s sort of a microcosm of the Maker Movement. Where do you see this product making the biggest impact?

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 10:48 AM

    The way Bilderhoos boards link together so easily encourages collaboration and teamwork. Everybody can play, not just the kid with the tools, because you don't need any tools. It gets kids trying out ideas, taking turns. I see it impacting kids where they gather: schools, camps, community centers, church playrooms, birthday parties. I see it engaging the impetus in kids to get together with friends in yards and playrooms all year around just to try out a new configuration they were seeing in their mind. I see it impacting parents and educators, too: new programming can be designed around a 'Hoos set having to do with spatial visualization, building principles, design, math and physics. How high is too high?

  • Jules
    Jules – Grommet Team
    7/6/2015 12:56 PM

    @Jill I am glad you mentioned school. Bilderhoos is such a natural for them. If my kids were still in preschool I would organize the parents to give a Bilderhoos set for an end-of year teacher/school gift. In a similar vein, I will never forget how excited the kids were to join in together to give a gift to our preschool in lieu of bringing birthday gifts for my son. As the youngest of three sons he had every toy he needed, and he felt proud to have his birthday contribution/gift permanently contribute to the classroom. All the kids in his class enjoyed what they gave (a cool builder set--but not as cool as Bilderhoos!)

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 1:11 PM

    @Jules

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 1:15 PM

    @Jules Hi Jules - Agreed! Bilderhoos is ideal as a group gift. We recently helped facilitate a community garden group purchase an extra large Bilderhoos Play Set for the kids who attend summer camps in their city garden space. It's been a huge success, and makes it possible for many more children to have the chance to play with a set.

  • James L
    James L
    7/6/2015 1:00 PM

    How much does the largest piece weigh, and what minimum age would you suggest Bilderhoos for?

    Thank you.

    Jim

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 1:11 PM

    @James L Hi Jim! The largest piece would be the Roof Triangle and it weighs in at just under 7 lbs. The 2-Zee boards weighs just over 6 lbs. We've seen that kids from about age four can usually lift the boards and place them into the slots. Little kids might need assistance from a grown up or older sibling during the building, but have no trouble with the playing and climbing, after it's built.

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 1:19 PM

    @Jill @James I'd like to add that the boards are heavier than one might expect because they are made of marine-grade plywood, which increases its longevity in the outdoor elements. That's why we say the boards are meant for play outdoors as well as indoors. It also adds to the sturdiness of the set: kids feel how solid it is as they are climbing all over it!

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 1:55 PM

    @James Oops! I was using figures from an old spreadsheet. My son in the shop corrected my board weights: The Roof Triangle is 6 lbs even, and the 2-Zee is 5 lbs 10 oz. Sorry for the error!

  • Manuel
    Manuel
    7/6/2015 2:03 PM

    Two Questions:

    1) Why the reason for using Plywood rather than MDF?

    2) Have you considered coloring both sides of the boards with non-matching colors to increase the variety and color combinations?

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 2:16 PM

    @Manuel Hi Manuel, We explored a lot of different materials, and MDF was rejected early on for several reasons: It's heavier than the plywood we chose, it doesn't do well when exposed to weather, it's not nearly as natural-looking (no wood grain!) and most importantly because there may be some issues with the wood dust and -- despite their prudent use of safety equipment and masks -- I didn't want my sons to breathe any of the MDF dust in the shop.

    About your second question, Yes! Great idea, and I'm happy to say we already do it: One side of each board is painted a bright primary color + green, and the other side of each board is stained a natural pine. So every Bilderhoos Play Set is reversible, and the colors complement each other well. As a graphic artist, I didn't want to combine too many colors - clashing is not an option! :)

  • Gail
    Gail
    7/6/2015 2:43 PM

    What do you think the ages of interest are in your product. How high can a building go? My son is 7 and 50" tall

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 3:02 PM

    @Gail Hi Gail! When we bring a 'Hoos to a park we get such a wide range of kids coming over to take a look -- the ones who really dig in and build are from about 4 to 10 or 11. They are the ones who will spend time, between building, in imaginative play on the thing they just put together.

    The littlest ones can't really build by themselves, but that doesn't stop them from wanting to climb (and they do!).

    How high can it go? The highest tower we've built with this basic 'Hoos 50-piece set is 72". Here's a photo:

  • Pamela
    Pamela
    7/6/2015 4:03 PM

    Have kids used these indoors? - Pam

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 4:16 PM

    @Pamela Hi Pam! Absolutely, these are great in a playroom or porch or bedroom. We hand-craft the boards so they look good indoors, too. And a big plus is that when they aren't being used by kids to build, the boards make a neat stack. Here's a photo of all 50 boards:

  • Pamela
    Pamela
    7/6/2015 5:24 PM

    @Jill thanks. The stack looks small. How much room does it need to be set up? How many kids can play with one normal size set at a time?

  • Jill
    Jill – Special Guest
    7/6/2015 5:31 PM

    @Pamela Yes, the stack doesn't take up a lot of room. That's part of the beauty of a 'Hoos - it expands! Just add kids.

    The smallest footprint of a 'build' is 37" x 37" and the footprint size goes up from there, depending on what kids decide to build.

    An ideal building crew for optimum collaboration seems to be 2-4 kids, but there were six playing together the other day. Leaders emerge quickly.

  • Mary
    Mary
    7/6/2015 7:52 PM

    I think this looks fabulous, but I wondered - will you make the sets in smaller sizes? It would be fun to build a little town, sized for action figures or dolls.

  • Mike
    Mike – Grommet Team
    7/7/2015 1:22 PM

    Hi Mary, here is the answer from Jill:

    Similar building sets on a much smaller scale, as you suggest, are already being made by others, but nobody builds them this size. Bilderhoos would lose its magic if it were small!

The launch day conversation has ended. Please direct further questions about this Grommet to our Community Experience Team.