Family learning at the Gardens

Family learning sessions help children and their families develop an awareness of the environment and an appreciation of nature

Children in our session are given the freedom to socialise and play outdoors to develop an awareness of the environment and an appreciation of nature in order to achieve personal goals such as using tools to make natural crafts and how to light a fire safely.

While the activities are fun, remember that it is the ethos rather than the activities that makes our sessions special. Children learn in small steps in a supportive atmosphere of exploration increasing self-confidence and self-esteem while learning to help others and look after the environment.

Who can come

These sessions are most suitable for children from age 4 to 12 years. As long as you can supervise all your children safely, siblings are welcome, but we do not always stick to paths, so a sturdy buggy or backpack carrier may be useful. There isn’t a charge for siblings under two, but remember that if your little one needs more attention or to leave, the older sibling cannot be left unaccompanied. Additional adults are welcome, but you will need to pay the normal entrance fee for additional adults. Please do not bring little ones on archaeology sessions.

Role of the leader

The leader is responsible for organising the day’s activities and equipment. S/he is also responsible for the safety and wellbeing of the group and risk assesses the site, daily conditions, and all activities before and during the session, including rule setting:

  • we must stay within the boundaries set by the leader and come back when called
  • fire circle and tool rules must be followed
  • we care for all living things and take particular care of our special site. We do not pick flowers or plants

Role of adults

  • To support the leader with tasks and supporting the children’s learning and development through asking and answering questions and responding to play cues
  • To help children recognise dangers such as fungi, berries, germs, trip hazards, etc
  • To praise good behaviour and allow children the freedom to explore and play without adult interruption where possible
  • It is important all adults help watch the perimeter and alert the leader immediately if a child is missing

Cancellation procedure

Bookings are non-refundable and non-transferable. Sessions will continue in most types of weather with the exception of high winds, thunder or severe cold. If we have to cancel due to low bookings or hazardous weather, we will refund your fee.

Safeguarding children policy, emergencies and risk

The Education Service takes safeguarding of children and young people very seriously. All leaders are first aid trained, qualified to lead and will carry a first aid kit and a radio to contact Reception if further help is required. All of our Education team follow Hampshire County Council guidance and the leader completes a daily risk assessment.

Behaviour policy

We do expect children to behave differently outside compared to inside, however it is our responsibility to ensure all children feel safe, respected and valued. If a child’s behaviour puts themselves or other children at risk, we will ask them to stop. If the behaviour doesn't stop, we will ask the accompanying adult to intervene. If the bad behaviour continues we may have to ask for the child to be removed from the session, either for a “time out” or the entire session. Don't allow accompanying siblings to be disruptive.

Tool use policies

The leader will demonstrate and remind users of how to use tools safely. Children need time to learn to use tools independently, and accompanying adults are asked to help supervise tool use. Only the leader’s tools may be used in our sessions.

Fire safety procedures

Fire is an integral part of Bushcraft and Archaeology sessions. A careful regard and respect of fire is reinforced with the children through a step by step process. Strict fire circle rules will be enforced at all times.


Sessions usually take place away from kitchen or toilet facilities. Nevertheless, we do our best to ensure that hands and utensils are relatively clean. No litter should be left as we always aim to leave the site as we find it. Sessions are not long, and we encourage children to use the toilets before a session starts.

Parental consent

Parents/guardians are asked to fill out a consent form before the start of our sessions if there is anything we need to know about their child (such as food allergies), or if you are sending your child with another adult (such as a grandparent).

Confidentiality and data protection

Information given is kept securely and will be kept confidential, unless the information conflicts with safeguarding procedures.

Equal opportunities

Leaders, as part of Education Department policy, strive to maintain equal opportunities for all. The leader will aim to make the sessions as inclusive as possible if given at least a weeks notice of any disabilities or difficulties prior to the start of the session.

Where to meet

Sessions begin and end in the Visitor and Education Pavilion courtyard, outside the Education Centre (opposite the Ticket Desk). If you arrive late, stop in at the Ticket Desk, and they will tell you how to find us.


Follow the brown tourist signs to the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens (SO51 0QA). Parking is free. Allow 10 minutes for parking and walking to the Pavilion. There is no parking next to the Pavilion, unless you have a blue badge.


The Education Centre has accessible and family toilets. Our woodland site is about a 10 minute walk away, over variable terrain, past the pond and into the woods.

Things to bring

We like to eat together rather than nibbling as we go along. You may like to bring a mid-session snack or drink. The course description will say what we will be doing.  Fire sessions will usually include fruit, marshmallows, popcorn or something else we have cooked on the fire.

What to wear

Remember to dress for outdoor play. Clothes need to be appropriate for the weather, including long trousers, sun cream, hat, wellies or walking boots, waterproofs, layers of clothing in cold weather. Outdoor sessions often include time sitting on logs or kneeling on the ground. Long hair must be tied back and loose clothing secured.

If you have any queries phone the Education Team on 01794 369308.