The art of school holidays: Ten top galleries for keeping the family entertained this summer

By Mark Sheerin | 29 July 2010
A mother and daughter complete worksheets on a piece of abstract sculpture

(Above) Art for all ages at Ikon, Birmingham. Image courtesy the gallery

Picasso once famously said that "every child is an artist." Presumably he said this at the beginning of the school holidays, and not after six weeks of cartoons on TV, high pitched complaints about boredom and the occasional screaming fit.

If your enfant terribles are driving you up the wall this summer, here are a selection of ways you can nourish their creativity. Vigilance may be called for on a day out at an art gallery but, as with most challenging activities, the rewards can be great.

And next time they paint you with a green face, spherical body and dangling limbs, you will at least be able to blame the modernists.

The Herbert, Coventry: This Coventry museum has just won the Guardian Kids in Museums Family Friendly Award. Arty activities include workshops, dressing up, story baskets and trails. There are even exhibitions to look around, if you get a spare moment.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield: The art is almost indestructible, the gallery has 500 acres of outdoor space, and running is permitted. YSP could have been conceived and designed with kids in mind. Do not miss Deer Shelter by James Turrell, the top cloudwatching opportunity in the UK.

Serpentine Gallery, London: You won't need to so much as step inside to appreciate why the Serpentine is a top spot for families. Until October 17 2010, the gallery will boast a stunning Pavilion designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. A café, table tennis tables and views across Hyde Park are all on offer at this playful red structure.

BALTIC, Gateshead: The quayside at BALTIC is one of the few places your little ones will find themselves producing work inspired by, among others, John Cage. The Gateshead gallery offers a fun-packed programme this summer, including Explorer Packs and Toddler Tuesdays.

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge: Quite apart from the suits of armour and weaponry to be found indoors, the 2010 Sculpture Promenade makes the Fitzwilliam an ideal summer destination. The range of 14 monumental sculptures is liable to spark debate, enquiry and ad hoc games of hide and seek.

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea: Few galleries are so well positioned for abandoning the plan to look at art altogether and repairing to a nearby beach. However, if you do venture inside, the De La Warr can offer easily negotiated galleries, a resource area and creative sessions for families on Sundays.

Aspex, Portsmouth: Aspex is supporting a piece of public art that promises to bring out the big kid in us all. Luna Park on Southsea Common is a 16-metre model dinosaur. The Ultrasauros is based on a set of giant bones found in the region in the 1970s, but sadly it never existed. Open July 31 to October 10 2010.

Ikon Gallery, Birmingham: Family workshops, kids' gallery guides and high impact shows make Ikon the perfect venue for an intro to contemporary art. The well-stocked resource room at this Birmingham gallery also has plenty of materials to absorb all ages.

The Lowry, Salford: Could there be a more accessible painter for younger audiences than LS Lowry? His densely populated landscapes have an enduring picture book quality and the Salford gallery bearing his name has many of his best known works on show.

Tate Modern and Tate Britain, London: Not only does Tate Modern have the cavernous Turbine Hall, Tate Britain has the equally stimulating Duveen Galleries with, currently, full scale fighter planes. Best of all is a boat designed by Damien Hirst, which can shuttle you back and forth between venues.

Do you disagree with this selection? Too predictable? Tell us what you think. Send us your museum recommendations and we'll feature them on Culture24 as Punter's Picks this summer...

Email – include a picture if you have it and some words telling us what was so great about your museum experience. Mark your email "Punter's Pick".

Visit Mark Sheerin's contemporary art blog and follow him on Twitter.

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