I think most Melbourne-based parents have heard all about the Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery. It has been on our list for ages. Finally, last week missy and I braved the long tram ride and went in to see what all the fuss is about.

First off, before I start, I need to tell you what a bargain a Museum membership is (well, comparatively). Last week we renewed our zoo membership to the tune of $200 – not bad when you go as often as we do, but it feels like a big chunk of change when you’re parting with it. The museum membership is $80 for the whole family (up to four children!) and covers Melbourne Museum, Scienceworks and the Immigration Museum. Plus discounts for Imax and parking. It took one calculation of three family visits to make it worthwhile to sign me up. And once we got in there I was glad we did!

Related: Collingwood Children’s Farm

First of all, before you even get to the children’s gallery there are loads of great things to look at, after all it is a museum!  We took a look at the dinosaurs with lots of “wows”. Any kid who is as obsessed with Peppa Pig as much as missy would appreciate the visit to George’s favourite thing in the world.

Next up, we head toward the gallery, where we got to walk through a tunnel, with a train. Does life get any better than trains? Missy didn’t think so. We went back three times!

Next you hit a bit of a soft play area. Great for babies and toddlers. There are walls to put puzzle pieces in (complete with noises), big mounds of cushiony goodness to climb, tunnels to shuffle through and mirrors to laugh at. There are even a few puppets lying around for a bit of play with Mum and Dad.

Next, we hit the panic attack area. Also known as a full-on experience for the senses. The large main room has a massive climbing structure in the middle. Good for the bigger kids, but a bit daunting for the little two-year-old. Instead we content ourselves with lying in tunnels, showing stories in the sky (a storybook film screens on the ceiling while you lie on your back in a cave-like space), playing with puzzles, reading books, shining torches on night life that then come to life with noises, painting wings on butterflies, and getting up close and personal with all sorts of creepy crawly bugs. Honestly, it was amazing!

There’s more!  After having a little jump around on a dance floor, we go outside to pull levers on a huge machine that makes bubbles, before wandering around a garden, dotted with bronzed replicas of animals. We head to the sandpit and dig for fossils, before building tunnels out of soft blocks. It is an awesome experience!

It was one of the rare experiences that suits kids of most ages. We went at the height of school holidays, and kids up to the age of about nine were running around and enjoying themselves. It was busy, but there’s enough going on that you can find a space and go into your own little world, without being bothered by the chaos around you.

It will be the best $80 we ever spent. Not only is it a blast, but it’s educational too. I could see little missy’s brain going into overdrive while we were there – evidenced by the giant nap that followed our visit! Meanwhile, we still have most of the museum to tackle. Next time, we will visit the forest, it was all the big kids could talk of!

Next up: To our fun-loving neighbours