A toddler in Kew Gardens

*Not an ad.  We paid for our tickets.*

As we haven’t had a holiday this year my husband took some time off work so we could go on some day trips. We decided to visit Kew Gardens because James loves running around in open space seeking out things to explore.  We had read that Kew Gardens has a children’s garden and after some online research we knew it would be something that James would love.

We pre booked our tickets online, paying £16.50 each with James getting in free, along with booking entrance into the children’s garden.  The children’s garden is included in the price but you need to pre book a slot online, which gives you 90 minutes access.  if your child is 4 years + it costs £4.50.

One of my concerns about going to Kew Gardens was where we would park.  I had read online that the Kew Gardens car park is small and fills up very quickly.  As we weren’t aiming to arrive until about 11:30 we decided it was likely to be full by then. My husband had a great suggestion that we should park in Richmond Station NCP car park, which we pre booked online and then walked to Kew Gardens.  This worked really well, although I found the lift in the car park scary, but I just have a thing about multi story car park lifts.  It took us about 15 minutes to walk to the nearest entrance to Kew and with James in the pushchair this was no problem.

Kew Gardens is under the flight path for Heathrow Airport, so on our walk to the gardens and whilst in the gardens there was a constant stream of planes to look at.  As a family that quite likes looking at planes this really wasn’t a problem for us, and it certainly gave James something to look at on the walk there and in the gardens. These planes were a lot lower than those that he is used to seeing in the sky.

Our plan was to arrive at the gardens for just before 12 so we could start by having lunch, and then explore a bit before our entrance to the children’s garden.  We opted to eat in Kew’s Pavillion restaurant which was situated near the Lion gate entrance that we had come in by.  There are numerous places to eat but we opted for this one because it did breaded chicken for James on their children’s menu.  The menus for all their restaurants are available on their website which was helpful to us when planning our trip. The food in Kew gardens is expensive so it’s understandable why so many families opt to take their own picnics, especially with the beautiful surroundings.

We had booked the children’s garden for 2PM so my husband planned us a route so we could see some of the gardens on our way and get there for 2PM.  We began by visiting the Temperate House, which was like a big conservatory housing 1500 species of plants.  James wasn’t fond of the Temperate House because we kept him in the pushchair and he wanted to run around.  We didn’t spend too long in there as we didn’t think people really wanted to hear James’ moans as a soundtrack to their visit.

We moved onto the Treetop Walkway which is essentially a walkway or bridge like structure 18 metres above the ground.  My husband isn’t a fan of heights so he stayed at the bottom while I walked up what seemed like never ending stairs with James.  James loved it up there and saw it as a great opportunity to run around, which meant I got very little time to actually admire the views of the tree tops. It was great seeing him so excited and frequently shouting “too high” which he says for anything that’s high up.

We then worked our way to the Lake and Sackler Crossing  which was beautiful. James enjoyed running across the bridge with Daddy chasing him, whilst I admired the views.  This part of the gardens are less visited so naturally it was a lot quieter.  We opted to visit when some of the schools had already gone back, hoping it wouldn’t be as busy.  We soon realised that Kew Gardens are so vast that even on busy days it would probably still not feel crowded.

We then visited the Bamboo Garden and Minka House which is home to 1200 bamboo species, before arriving at the children’s garden too early, so we decided to explore more things nearby.  The Great Broad Walk Borders are stunning and so colourful.  James loved pointing out the different colours of the flowers.  He had a purple car with him so enjoyed matching the car to the purple flowers, and at one point very nearly touched a bee.  Talking of bees we then moved onto The Hive installation, which at 17 meters tall is meant to be like entering a real life bee hive. There are 1000 LED lights that light up according to the vibrations of bees living at Kew. James loved running around in this structure and didn’t want to leave it.

It was then time to move onto the Children’s Garden.  They operate a queueing system where they come and check your tickets and give you a coloured wrist band, they then call your colour when your 90 minutes are up.  The children’s garden is aimed at children aged 2 – 12 years old and is the size of 40 tennis courts.  It’s like one big interactive park with lots to explore, or to James a place to find lots of places to move his car over.  The garden is split into 4 sections – Earth, Air, Sun and Water allowing children to explore the different elements.  James was fascinated by a wooden walkway with coloured filters making things change colour as you walk through.  This kept him entertained for a while as he got very excited running through it seeing our faces change colour.  He also really enjoyed the tube slides that went into the sand.  This was the first time he had been on a tube slide and he really loved it.

We ended up spending about an hour in the children’s garden, and James would have spent longer but it was hard work constantly running after and watching him.  The children’s garden is an amazing space for children to play, but there were some things I had issues with.  The age range of 2 – 12 years old is quite extensive considering the size difference of a 2 year old and a 12 year old. You really need to watch the little ones playing amongst the also very excitable older children.  We were constantly telling James to watch where he was going for fear he was going to get knocked over or walk into someone else.  Some parents of older children also tended to just find somewhere to sit and chat to their friends while their children roamed freely without being watched, which meant the older children weren’t always playing fairly or safely.  There was one child that just refused to get off one of the trampolines, despite there being younger ones waiting for a turn and another child was throwing stones down one of the slides.  It’s probably more suitable for toddlers during term time when the older children are at school.

After exhausting ourselves in the children’s garden we headed to The Orangery restaurant for a drink and some cake (and biscuits for James).  Although pricey the cake I had was gorgeous, one layer of plain sponge and the other with chocolate sponge. We sat outside as we thought it would give James more to look at and it didn’t seem to be swarming with wasps. The Orangery looks out onto a grass area which was then perfect for swiftly changing James’ nappy rather than battling him into a baby changing room.

We could see James was tired after running around in the children’s garden so we put him in the pushchair and hoped he would fall asleep.  Typically he didn’t but I think the rest still did him good while we looked at some of the other gardens, including Duke’s Garden, Bonsai House, Student Vegetable Plots, Prince of Wales Conservatory and then the Rose Garden.  We let James out of the pushchair at the Rose garden thinking he would run around the flower beds, but instead he spotted some crates that he wanted to climb on.

After that he was back in the pushchair and we headed to the exit at around 4:15pm.  We were back in the car for 4:30pm ready to face the rush hour traffic.  Luckily I decided to check Google Maps and we followed that instead of the Satnav and avoided most of the traffic.  James fell asleep as soon as we were back on the motorway and we then stopped off at the services for some tea so we could give James his bath and put him to bed as soon as we got home.

We were all exhausted and looking at the step counter on my phone it was over 17,000 steps or 10km that we had walked.  It was a great day out and nice to be outside all day.  We were really lucky with the weather in that it was warm and sunny but not too hot.  Kew Gardens is vast and there is so much that we still didn’t see. I would definitely recommend it as a place to visit with toddlers if they like being outside and running around, but you do need a pushchair for when they get too tired.


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