Garden Centres: A fun toddler outing

What is it about garden centres that have become so appealing to me as a parent? I have very little interest in actual gardening. In fact I rope in my folks to mow our lawn and help keep our outdoor space in a reasonable condition. So why am I drawn to garden centres. If you don’t know, I’m going to reveal why they are such a great outing with little ones.

I’m pretty sure my girls think they are giant gardens. We enter and wander through all the plants spotting colours and choosing our favourites. They like to run up and down between the raised beds to see what is new and any chance they get to burn off some energy is great by me.

Next we move onto the garden ornaments. Our local centre has hundreds of animal statues of varying sizes. They pet the fake dogs and pretend to feed the ceramic tortoises. Again we choose which we like best before heading to the water features to dip in our fingers.

As we head inside, there is always something new on display and it’s a rare chance for mummy to browse if not actually shop. After a quick scoot around, it’s into the aquarium. They must get sick and tired of parents traipsing their little ones through with absolutely no intention of purchasing a single thing but they never show it. In contrast, the staff are chatty and friendly telling us all about the different fish.

My girls make themselves right at home here, sitting on the floor and staring into the tanks of colourful coral and creatures. I quite like it too. There is something very calming about fish. At this particular shop, they have huge tanks of pond fish which you can feed for 20p. Jessica and Emily love to lean in and watch as the fish gawp at them, mouths wide in anticipation.

After all this excitement, mummy has earnt herself a large caramel latte and the girls an hour in the softplay. Often these softplay areas are best suited to younger children which is perfect as you can supervise them from your coffee drinking table and they can access all the levels. It also means they are less likely to be trampled by older ones.

If you’re feeling extravagant, you could splash out on lunch and grab a lunch box full of tasty treats or head to the on site farm shop to check out the meat and cheese samples. Often they stock delicious preprepared pies and lasagnas which are great for freezing so I often bag one of these before we head for home.

All of this for less than a tenner and you’ve got dinner sorted too. Does anyone else use garden centres as a day trip? Where else are the hidden gems I’m missing?

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35 thoughts on “Garden Centres: A fun toddler outing

    1. Just a easy, cheap trip that we will do over and over I’m sure

  1. Hahaha as a garden blogger I love this so much. My kids love them too the water features etc. Shame ours does not have soft play 😂😂

    1. You are probably shaking your head at my misuse of the place 😝

  2. I’m definitely with you on this one! We love our local gardening centre too and yet, like you, I have zero gardening skills haha! Our local gardening centre has fish etc too, always a winner with the kids although it does not boost a soft play area like your epic gardening centre does! Is it weird to say that I love the smell of gardening centres?!xx

    1. I prowess plants sometime and imagine what they’d look like in my garden….never actual buy. I like the smell too

  3. Totally agree with this! We have an aquatics shop near us which actually doesn’t seem to mind people coming in just to show their kiddywinks the fish. They have set it up with a cafe and pocket money toys to buy, so I think they expect it and make money that way too. They even do kids birthday parties! Am yet to find one with a soft play though…that looks fab!!

    1. The one we go to is part of the Wyvale chain. I know another close by that also has softplay. Maybe see if there is one near you.

    1. Just an excuse for me to have a decent coffee so it’s win win.

  4. We have a garden centre just like this about a 1minutes drive from our house. Its a great cheap afternoon for us, soft playing and looking at the fish. In the winter, we also look around the Winter Wonderland #TriumphantTales

  5. We used to get taken to the garden center a lot lol. I love taking the kids there at Christmas, they love all the festive displays.

    1. How did I forget the Christmas displays – that’s a whole trip in itself.

  6. I’ve not thought of this but when Ben was a baby we took him to our local Van Haughe’s centre that has a pet’s corner… we should really take him again.. i agree with the cheapness and you dont need to care about gardens!
    Thank you so much for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week.

  7. I totally agree with this. Trips to the garden centre are great with small children, such a lot of things to see an do. An interest in gardening is definitely not essential.

    1. It’s a good job as if I was quizzed about plants I’d fail. Can’t keep them alive.

    1. Those giant cakes are definitely a reason to take agarden centre trip

  8. I can really relate to this! Our garden center has a small farm yard attached, and is my ragamuffin’s favourite place to visit. We’re never allowed to leave having not stopped for a slice of cake or scoop of ice cream (such a chore as you can imagine!)

  9. Like you I’m happy to leave the gardening to those in the know. Garden centres are great for seeing the fish and some local pet centres run free animal sessions. #daysoutwithatoddler

  10. We love the garden centre – it’s a cheap day out, really, and they often have activities on for little ones in the school holidays at little or no cost. Magic!
    Thanks for joining #daysoutwithatoddler this month – see you again soon! 🙂

    1. I’ve managed to miss all the holiday activities but must look out in Oct as they’ll likely do something for Halloween

  11. I think it’s great that Garden Centres recognise they are good for days out with kids and are set up accordingly. We have a great one near us with animals, a mini railway and a toy shop! Garden Centres also have some of the best Father Christmas’ and Grotto’s too.
    Thank you for joining in with my month hosting #DaysOutWithAToddler Linky

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