“Can we go to the playground?” I have to admit that my heart sinks a bit when I hear this request. After three years of trying to maintain a convincingly enthusiastic “wheeeeee!” whilst pushing a swing ad infinitum I feel I have hit park saturation point. I had therefore keenly anticipated the new Children’s Garden at Kew which opened recently after years of development. This thoughtfully designed garden has a variety of beautifully landscaped natural environments for children aged 2-12 to explore. It is set among 100+ mature trees including several magnificent eucalyptus, giving it a lovely Australian vibe but without the threat of imminent death from wildlife. If, however, the threat of imminent death is your thing, you could always try the 4m high aerial walkway which is mildly exhilarating if, like me, you’re scared of heights and don’t get out much. The 10,000 m2 space has been divided into four areas to reflect the elements plants need to grow; earth, air, sun and water. The Earth garden features a wooden hut village and tunnel slides set in a large sandpit. In the Air garden children can bounce on trampolines, hop over multi-coloured “pollen” spheres and swing in hammocks beneath towering flower windmills. The Sun garden is a visual feast of colourful tunnels and flowers with plenty of space for picnics. Finally, the Water garden has pumps feeding a little paddling pool set in a rock garden, and seemed especially popular with the under-5s. For older children there is a more ambitious “log scramble” where a series of log and rope obstacles must be traversed to get to the 5 metre high tower. As you would expect from Kew, the landscape is meticulously planted but twisting paths and secret corners give it a whimsical rather than formal feel. Whilst there are opportunities for learning, the emphasis is on fun and play. I’m afraid my photos don’t really do it justice but I managed a few shots whilst trying to keep pace with a three year old pumped up on ice cream and novelty. He loved every corner of the garden and for me it was a refreshing alternative to the swing/slide/seesaw trifecta of tedium that is the standard offering from outdoor playgrounds. The practicalities Take a child, adults can’t get in without one. A towel, swim nappy and change of clothes would be helpful if your little one likes a paddle. Toys for water and sand play might be fun too. Getting there: The Children’s Garden is closest to Elizabeth and Brentford Gates. Information on getting to Kew Gardens can be found here. Getting in: Entry to the Children’s Garden is included in the price of admission to Kew Gardens. For local families I really recommend membership which is excellent value compared to the standard entry ticket price. Ticket and membership information is available here. Entry is timed to avoid overcrowding, you can book a 90 minute session online up to a week in advance. The earlier time slots seem to book up quickly but fortunately there’s plenty more of Kew to see whilst you wait!
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