For her first royal engagement after her five-month maternity leave, Kate Middleton went back to the future.
The mother-of-three, who welcomed Prince Louis with husband Prince William in April, dragged old $50 Zara jeans out of her wardrobe, and teamed them with a low-key parka and her favourite knee-length boots.
The duchess, 36, has been wearing the $939 Penelope Chilvers tasselled boots since they were handmade for her from Spanish leather in 2004.
That year, she was snapped wearing them with a mini skirt and sleeveless puffa. She also wore them to a hike in the Himalayas with William in 2016.
The casual look was a contrast to the heels and dressy pants Meghan Markle wore to play netball on September 24 while on the royal clock.
The recycled fashion wasn’t the only way Kate – whose hair was shorter and lighter than usual – was on familiar turf with her return to work.
The working mother eased herself back onto the court circular by driving less than four kilometres from home to a recreation ground in Paddington.
She spent time with school children in a wildlife garden, filling up watering cans and hearing from teachers about how being around nature can help children’s mental health and development.
And Kate revealed a creepy story about what she does at home with her older children, Prince George, 5, and Princess Charlotte, 3.
The snippet about what the Cambridges get up to behind Kensington Palace walls came after the duchess crouched down in grass with a child as they hunted for “mini beasts”.
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) October 2, 2018
Kate “was lovely – although she said the only mini beast she managed to find on the hunt was a slug,” said Zoe Stroud, interim head of Sayers Croft Forest School, where the outing was held.
“But she did see a frog under a log.”
A small amphibian seemingly wasn’t what Kate was hoping for.
“She really gets what we are doing here and said she often takes her children on spider hunts in their garden, which they love,” added Ms Stroud.
“They can spend hours out there.”
At one point, the duchess sat on a log next to a group of children for story time and a drink. One four-year-old girl, Anwaar, cuddled up to Kate and tried to drink from her cup without using her hands.
The royal was amused. She laughed as Anwaar threw back her head, still with the cup in her mouth, and yelled, “More!”.
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📖 Storytime with St Stephen's School as The Duchess of Cambridge joins the children to listen to the Monkey Queen. Today The Duchess of Cambridge saw the positive impact Sayers Croft Trust's activities have on children's emotional and physical wellbeing.
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Kate – who has said she grows potatoes in her own palace vegetable patch – chatted to other parents and locals as she walked through an edible garden.
According to People, she told one group of well-wishers that she had enjoyed her time with the kids at their forest school, adding, “There are amazing facilities here. Are you out for a walk?”.
While the outing marked Kate’s formal return to royal duties, she’s been seen at formal family events, including her youngest son’s christening, Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding and Trooping the Colour.
She sat in the royal box at Wimbledon and took George and Charlotte to the polo.
Her next big occasion is the October 12 wedding of Princess Eugenie to tequila ambassador Jack Brooksbank.