Colour me happy at the @SerpentineUK Pavilion 2015

Imagine if, instead of a cocoon that was drab and brown, Eric Carle had given us a sneak-preview of our friend The Very Hungry Caterpillar as a magnificent multi-coloured butterfly. Well this year’s 15th annual Serpentine Pavilion is a great indication of exactly what that might have looked like.

Approaching through a sea of greenery that is the beautiful Kensington Gardens, prepare to be hit by a wall of colour followed by a frisson of excitement at the prospect of losing yourselves in this brand new magical space.

Designed by Madrid based architects SelgasCano, this unusual polygon, made from panels of translucent, multi-coloured polymer, was inspired by the chaotic yet structured way that us Londoners move around our city. The result is a maze-like structure, with ‘secret corridors’ between its outer and inner layers, creating a fun, interactive and welcoming space for visitors of all ages.

Wherever you choose to enter or exit the Pavilion, each path walks you through a variety of colours and fractures of light before eventually leading you into the kaleidoscope interior. The process of walking in and out of the tunnels will feel strangely addictive, with an overwhelming feeling of wanting to rush back in as soon as you find yourself on the outside of the fun.

For visitors hoping to find an airy shade for little ones on a sunny day, you might be disappointed. On the day of my visit, the temperature was upwards of 25 degrees, creating a near greenhouse effect as layers trapped warm air inside rather than providing free-flow. That said, however, once you’re inside, you’re definitely in the best place, with Fortnum & Mason in residence serving cold drinks, ice cream scoops and even a Knickerbocker Glory, providing the perfect compliment to this colour therapy for keeping everyone happy.

As well as a playful public space by day, the Pavilion is a forum for learning, debate and entertainment by night, with Park Nights bringing together art, poetry, music, film and literature, every Friday between July and September.

With such a stunning setting, it’s easy to while away a day here with the kids, particularly if you are considering combining it with a visit to Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground, Serpentine Lido or even the nearby Science Museum or Natural History Museum. Visit on Sunday 5th July and you’ll get the added treat of the gallery’s Family Day (12-5pm, admission free) promising free, artist-led events open to families with children of all ages.

Serpentine Gallery Pavilion is open daily 10am-6pm until 18th October 2015, admission free.

** NOTE The Pavilion is closed to the public on 2nd and 3rd July for private function**

Nearby: Walk 5 minutes over the bridge to neighbouring Serpentine Sackler Gallery, where kids will marvel at the work of artist Duane Hanson, who has created incredible life-like sculptures portraying working class Americans in everyday life. With meticulous details such as body hairs, veins and bruises, every figure makes you double take, particularly if your little ones are prone to giggling and staring at statue street performers for hours on end.

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Carsten Höller @HaywardGallery: What every parent should know before they visit.

There’s no mistaking the big draw of Carsten Höller’s new exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. With my eldest referring to every non-conventional slide as a helter skelter, we couldn’t wait to be one of the first to slide down ‘the slide to end all slides’. So there there was a bit of making up to do before we’d even set foot in the door, when we collected our tickets and found out that the much heralded Isomeric Slides were 100% not for little people.

Passing trade or speedy bookers will have missed the disappointing news that the slides carry a minimum height restriction of 120cm/4ft, and given that the slide marks the exit of the exhibition (and there isn’t a child relocation service!) this news will also disappoint accompanying parents when they have to bow their heads and take the lift instead. And if you’re thinking of enjoying this whilst your baby is in the pram fast asleep, your luck is out too, you’ll need to take an alternative entrance. It’s not the greatest start to my review, granted, but it’s important to state this up front.

Now, hopefully you are still reading, because what you also really need to know that slides aside, you are just about to witness one of the most awe-inspiring and family friendly exhibitions I have seen in a very long time. Hayward Gallery, you are very much forgiven.

So much is great about this exhibition, it has to be seen to be believed, so I don’t want this review to turn into a series of spoilers. Believe me, however, when I say, that if you brave only one exhibition with the kids this year, brave this one, because even to a seasoned kiddy gallery-goer like me, it’s the most relaxed I have been in a major gallery for a while.

Here’s my top 3 Arts Aloud highlights:

Flying Mushrooms – Alice in Wonderland fans will love these fairytale mushrooms, strung upon a mobile structure that can be manually swung in different directions to spin above your heads. The only thing that interrupts the hallucinogenic feeling for parents, is the consciousness that visitors of a certain height can be knocked out or decapitated by them at any time.

The Forests – Comparable with that moment on an aeroplane, when finally the in-flight entertainment comes on; a rare moment to focus on your own destiny. No head is too small to don the 3D headset and headphones to embark upon a night journey through a snow-covered forest, which eventually forces you to see double. If that’s too much for your 2 year old, the Start and Reset buttons are hours of fun.

Fara Fara – A bit like standing in a multi screen cinema without the seats, this two-screen video installation is based around the music scene in Kinshasa, Congo. Before you even get in the room it sounds like there is an all-night party going on that you need to be part of. The spirit of this piece picks you up and keeps you there. My 2 year old groover had to be dragged out kicking and screaming.

In summary, Decision offers visitors just that; a choice. A choice when, how and why to interact with a series of installations, devices and situations designed to throw all the gallery rules out of the window and liberate even the most inhibited audience.

For me it was the ultimate meeting of art and science, theatre and fun all wrapped up with a healthy portion of visitor camaraderie – something you don’t experience much of when you visit galleries with under 5’s. So if you are lucky enough to experience the Two Flying Machines high upon the roof or exit by hurtling down the Isomeric Slides (and not through the gift shop), you might have a rare moment of peace to ask yourself the age-old question; “..but really, is this art?” The Decision is yours.

Decision is at Hayward Gallery until 6th September 2015 (Mon 12–6pm, Tues, Weds, Sat & Sun 11am-7pm, Thurs & Fri 11am-8pm, Standard Admission £15, Children under 12 free).

Nearby: Southbank Centre’s Festival of Love has more explorative installations on the riverfront terrace, as well as pop-up theatre, live music and daily free activities for kids of all ages.