x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Travelling with Kids: a toddler at Tates St Ives

I struggled to think of art galleries as child-friendly zones.

We're drowning in balloons. Big white ones, each about the size of a gorilla's head. Astrid, my two-year-old daughter, is thumping them into the air. She's flailing around and smiling and shouting. She's in my arms because I am afraid of losing her in this swamp of airy latex, but I'm struggling to keep my grip. A woman waves at us from the balcony and I try to gesture back.

For a moment, I forget where we are: Tate St Ives, a museum of international modern and contemporary art in Cornwall. We're in the middle of Martin Creed's Half the Air in a Given Space, a huge installation work that consists of lots of balloons in a room.

I look up and out of the building's huge windows I see waves frothing and churning. The sky is grey. The beach is empty.

To think I was worried about going to an art gallery with Astrid. In truth, the weather left us with little choice. The camper van we are travelling around the south of England in had become a bit like a cell. Rain and wind had kept us cooped up together for too long. The Tate was an opportunity for space. It was a chance for some room to breathe.

Nevertheless, I was a tad apprehensive. I struggled to think of art galleries as child-friendly zones. I worried about Astrid's oft-sticky digits on expensive works. I fretted about haughty admonishments from art lovers as she ran screaming through a room.

Yet the slow and steady change in attitudes to children in art galleries - helped no doubt by a wealth of education programmes and family days in galleries around the UK - has been assisted by a new factor: the art is starting to become more appealing to children.

We leave the room of balloons and end up in a much smaller white room. An attendant greets us and asks if we would like to be measured. Measuring the Universe by Roman Ondák involves putting a mark and a name next to the height of everyone who visits the room. The areas around 1.6m to 1.8m are thick with black pen. Around Astrid's height, there is space to put her name and today's date.

Glancing at the walls, though, I can see plenty of names around Astrid's height. The idea that it is difficult to visit art galleries when travelling with young kids is starting to change and artists are becoming part of that transformation.