What? Another contender for the ‘too cool for pre-school’ list, the Design Museum in its past life in Shad Thames and my past life sans-child was somewhere I could while away a whole day idly browsing perfectly presented exhibitions, window-shopping the ludicrously tasteful museum store and guzzling cocktails in the trendy bar. Now that our respective circumstances have changed, with the museum relocating to a new £83m Kensington home in 2016 and me giving birth to an 8.3lb baby in 2016, I was keen to find out how well the two of us would gel these days, so I dragged my tiny teether along to find out.
Perhaps the most important thing to note is that the museum in its new incarnation houses, for the first time ever, a free permanent exhibition, which is just as well since I’m less than prepared to fork out money for a ticketed show only to be screeched at by a my angry buggy-bound toddler because she’s bored/hungry/thirsty/feels trapped, and/or eyeballed by judgy exhibition-goers because… actually I don’t know why people do that – live and let live I say. Anyway, Designer Maker User draws on the museum’s collection of objects to help the viewer think about design in new ways, and explore the process of design from the perspectives of the designer, maker and end user.
Bab is perhaps a bit too young to appreciate the concept of design, but the good thing about this museum where under-fives are concerned is the presence of interesting, colourful stuff to gawp at. As ever I was on the lookout for interactive bits and bobs for Bab to poke, lick and generally destroy, and found them in the form of a big yellow tiled design timeline, which she had fun cruising back and forth along; iPad-based games in which you’re given a design project to complete (it goes without saying that Bab had no idea what she was doing here but she enjoyed jabbing away nonetheless); a chic IKEA-showroom-esque kitchen to potter in; plenty of audio stuff with dozens of pairs of headphones to hold up to her ear and talk to because she assumed daddy was somehow inside all of them; and a giant, technicoloured rotating billboard displaying the words DESIGNER, MAKER and USER that had her completely mesmerised.
The building itself is vast and relatively clean, making it ideal for crawler/toddler emancipation, and Bab really enjoyed pressing her face up against the glass balcony partitions, even if it awakened mummy’s vertiginous dread. For warmer days there is a small triangular water feature outside the gallery, which children are permitted to play in with adult supervision, though I did find the sign warning that the water ‘may destroy clothing’ vaguely alarming.
Where?: Just off Kensington High Street, on the edge of Holland Park. High Street Kensington (Circle, District) is an eight-minute walk, Holland Park (Central) is 13 and Kensington Olympia (Ginger) is 15.
Best Bits: The shop is predictably beautiful and includes a painfully cool edit of design-led books, toys and homeware for kids.
Worst Bits: The museum offers a free programme of Create & Make workshops for kids aged 5-11 and ticketed Get into Design courses for 7-16s, but there is diddly squat for under-fives.
Facilities: Clean and spacious baby-changing; step-free access; Coffee & Juice counter on the ground floor – there is also the Parabola Bar & Restaurant upstairs, but we decided it looked a bit too fancy for mother-and-toddler coffee-time.
Would We Come Back?: Sure, why not?
Bab has a pushchair party outside the Design Museum, Kensington