Great Preschooler Days Out: White Elm Petting Farm

White Elm Petting Farm near Chelmsford in Essex is a great place to visit for families with young children. It is a lovely family run petting farm with an indoor soft play. If the weather is on your side there is also an outdoor play area, outdoor tractor track and picnic area. Adults will appreciate the garden centre, Tearoom and shops on the same site.

A tan and black spotted pig stands surrounded by straw against the pen wall, a child is stood out of shot holding a pot of animal feed
A fun day for all at the farm

Visiting White Elm Petting Farm

Why White Elm Petting Farm is a good place to visit with children

  • There are over 100 animals including alpacas, a miniature pony, wallabies and peacocks. 
  • It's an interactive farm where visitors can pet and feed the animals with the food purchased from the ticket hut.
  • There are farm themed play equipment including a tractor climbing frame, outdoor children's kitchen and a selection of sensory games.
  • The Playbarn softplay is suitable for children up to 8 years old with a separate area for younger children. There are also an array of ride on toys, dressing up outfits and learning toys available.
  • Outside the Playbarn is a play Tractor Track with a large selection of pedal and balance tractors and a fantastic track for driving role play including a drive through, mechanics workshop, tunnel and petrol station.
  • Outside the petting farm is a shopping village with 20 independent small businesses. 
  • Shops include- 
    • The Bug Hut which has a collection of invertebrates including scorpions, beetles, orchid mantis and even tarantulas. 
    • Finley’s Sweet Shop sells all your childhood favourite sweets, ice-creams and hot and cold drinks. 
    • The Reptile Hut is a must visit for reptile keepers and enthusiasts and is home to leopard geckos, royal pythons and crested geckos.

A llama in an enclosure at White Elm Petting Farm Chelmsford
There are a range of animals to see, feed and you can stroke them over the fence too
A wooden play area with a slide, providing fun and entertainment for children.
Play areas can get muddy in wet weather so bring wellies

A child plays with the outdoor play kitchen
This great play area has a mud kitchen and lots of interactive sections for toddlers and preschoolers

An outdoor track for ride on vehicles for children
A new(ish) Tractor Track has ride on toys to enjoy

A wooden tractor themed outdoor play equipment with slide and climbing wall for children
A tractor themed play equipment for toddlers and preschoolers

What age children will enjoy visiting White Elm Petting Farm? 

While all ages will enjoy the animals, the play areas and soft play are designed for under 8s so it is a perfect day out for preschoolers.

Is it suitable for pushchairs?

Yes, the main path is concrete so fully accessible for buggies and wheelchairs. If you venture off the beaten track it is mainly grass and bark so you will get muddy if its been raining.

It is worth noting that prams and pushchairs cannot be taken inside the playbarn where the soft play is located (this is to comply with fire regulations) but they can be parked undercover outside in the Buggy park.

A softplay full of bright, colourful play equipment for children
The soft play has a small front section for toddlers, a main play frame and lots of toys around the outside

What you need to know before visiting White Elm Petting Farm

  • White Elm Petting Farm is located in the grounds of White Elm Garden Centre. When you park you go past the tearooms and the entrance to the Petting Farm is on your right.
  • The petting farm is open daily from 9am to 4pm however on weekends and school holidays they run 2 time slots. If you book on to the morning timeslot you have to leave by 12.30, if you book on to the afternoon time slot it starts at 12.30 and you need to leave by 4pm.
  • Booking is online only, book here.
  • Tickets currently cost £8.95 for adults, £7.95 for children (age 2-16 although over 8s aren't allowed on the soft play), £2.50 for 6 months to 2 years.
  • At weekends and some school holidays the Playbarn is closed for parties until 10.15am and from 3.30pm.
  • You can buy food to feed the animals, but it is important to not feed them anything else.

When you go through the entrance to the Petting Farm you have the Playbarn, picnic area and Tractor Barn in front of you and to the left. Inside the Playbarn is the soft play, toilets and "Snack Shack" cafe. 

The soft play is for under 8s only. There is a main play frame and down the sides are lots of different toys to play with. The section at the front of the play frame has 'Jumperoos', soft blocks and other toys suitable for babies and toddlers. 

If you go forwards and to the right from the entrance to the Petting Farm you go into the actual farm area. The farm area has a number of enclosures with farm animals in as well as several play areas suitable for little ones.

Outside the Petting Farm area (so best visited before or after your visit) is a Tearoom, the Garden Centre and a shopping village with a number of small shops. The opening hours for these areas is the same as the Petting Farm (9am to 4pm) so if you do want to visit them make sure you leave enough time.

Is It Dog Friendly?

Dogs are not allowed in the Petting Farm area. They are welcome in and around the Garden Centre though and in the outside seating area by the Tearoom (not inside the Tearoom).

Toilets and baby changing facilities

The toilets for the Petting Farm are in the entrance to the softplay. They have a built in toddler toilet seat which is super helpful for little ones! There are also toilets in the Tearoom.

Where To Eat at White Elm Petting Farm

The 'Snack Shack' located within the playbarn serves freshly made sandwiches and baguettes as well as children’s lunch boxes, Ella’s Kitchen baby food pouches, snacks and hot and cold drinks.

If you fancy something more substantial (or being away from the soft play hustle and bustle!) the Tearoom offer freshly cooked main & children’s meals, light bites and a selection of freshly baked cakes, pastries and desserts. The cakes on display looked especially delicious! 

The Tearoom is outside the paid Petting Farm area. If you are visiting at the weekend or holidays when you have a shorter time slot it can be a good idea to plan to eat at the Tearoom before or after your slot or to bring a picnic. If the outside area isn't in use (eg in Winter) the Tearoom can get very busy. 

There is an outdoor seating area outside the Playbarn where you are welcome to have picnics. Food is not allowed to be eaten inside the farm area. 

A kiosk with food on display including ice creams and crisps
The Snack Shack in the Playbarn soft play area

A paved patio with a gazebo and a table and chair set up for alfresco dining
The outside seating area for the White Elm Garden Centre Tearoom

What to take with you when visiting White Elm Petting Farm

Don't forget to bring your wellies if the weather has been rainy as the outdoor play areas can get pretty muddy. 

How to get to White Elm Petting Farm and where to park

White Elm Garden Centre,
White Elm Road,

The Petting Farm is located in the grounds of White Elm Garden Centre. When you arrive enter the main Garden Centre entrance and follow signs round to the Petting Farm


There is a car park with free parking available for all Garden Centre customers (including those visiting the Petting Farm).

What Else Is Nearby White Elm Petting Farm?

White Elm Petting Farm is about half way between Maldon and Chelmsford so there are a lot of other great places nearby, although many of these are a day out in themselves. The following are all 15 minutes drive away or less (traffic dependent).

Recommendation and photographs by Jo, mum of 1, living in Essex. 

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