By Amy Brotherton
As if Kew Gardens wasn’t magical enough already, they’ve now gone and created a lush play area just for kids, that feels like stepping into a secret space. The new Children’s Garden is the size of nearly 40 tennis courts and has been designed especially for children from 2 to 12 years old around the elements that plants need to grow: earth, air, sun and water.
The landscape is dappled with shade thanks to the over 100 mature trees rooted here, and there are a variety of play and discovery features scattered throughout. Some kids will undoubtedly just see this as a big play area, but hopefully some nature appreciation will sink in as they frolic.
Playground in London: The Children’s Garden at Kew Gardens
We visited on a press preview morning – so we didn’t queue, it wasn’t crowded. My kids loved it so much though that I’m sure we’ll be back and then I’ll update this review with that experience. We spent about 90 minutes exploring and playing in the garden and it turns out that the time period visitors are allotted now that’s it’s open to the public which was a good call by Kew as that seemed just the right amount of time. You can then go have your picnic and explore the rest of the gardens which will easily fill the day.
You enter the garden through a tunnel of scented jasmine plants before arriving at a 200-year-old English Oak tree, surrounded by an aerial walkway 4m above the ground. The first element you encounter is the Earth Garden, a giant sand pit with play hut village surrounded by bamboo plants, worm tunnel slides for muddy adventures and a totem pole that teaches about acorn germination.
Next along the trail is the Air Garden, with winding paths, giant windmill flowers, colourful pollen spheres, hammocks, and trampolines to bounce around on. A mini amphitheatre under shade of some of Kew’s largest Eucalyptus trees is a nice spot to take a breather and put down all the crap you’ve been lugging around for a few minutes. And breathe.
The Sun Garden is a large open space where children can run wild beside a ring of sunflowers, cherry trees and pink candy floss grass. Intricate pergolas festooned with colourful climbing plants and apple trees trained along a tunnel of hoops will take children on a sensory adventure.
Lastly, the Water Garden is filled with water pumps for kids to control the flow of the water into a splash pool. Waterlily shaped stepping stones will encourage children to hop along the different streams and engage them in the importance of the water cycle to plants.
My kids favourite feature was a wooden wall you can climb up using either footholds or a rope to then reach three tunnel slides. They did this on repeat for a while. They also were amazed by the little sunken trampolines, which were like a hidden treat, and the water pump play area. My son shouted with such joy, “Mum they work!” because as you know so many water features in playgrounds around London are disappointingly defunct. Being a new play area, everything here is functional and it can’t be an accident what the first three letters of that word spell.
I love that there are seating areas in various sections of the garden (some in shade, always on the hunt for shade…), a water fountain to refill your reusable water bottles, and the quirky artistic touches that played off the coulours of the plant life so well and gave the garden a magical touch.
Obviously, this garden is going to be extremely popular. If you’ve been to Kew before you know the indoor play area (which looks due a revamp itself) is always swarming. The good news is there is an allocated time entry system in place. When you arrive at the Children’s Garden you’ll be given a time for a 90-minute session. The not so good news is you cannot pre-book these slots online, and once they’re filled that’s it. You savvy mums know what to do, get to the garden right when it opens; this is a top tip with any family attraction really.
For more information visit the Kew Gardens website HERE.
Photos provided by Kew Gardens. We were invited to visit the garden.