Horrible Histories: Spies at the Imperial War Museum has to be my top recommendation for a family day out over the summer holidays. It combines interactive fun, learning and exhibits, effortlessly adding up to an experience that can be enjoyed by all the family. It is based on Terry Deary's Horrible Histories book on spies, and focuses on the work done by Allied spies during the Second World War. The instantly-recognisable Horrible Histories style is evident throughout the exhibition, making it a familiar and enticing environment. I visited the exhibition with my ten-year-old nephew, whose verdict was emphatic – the best exhibition he had ever been to, ever.

I can hardly believe that Horrible Histories are celebrating their 20th birthday this year. We've been buying and reading the books since the very start and, more recently, gleefully watching the television series too. It still feels so fresh and genuinely engaging. One of my favourite things about the brand is that it never talks down to children. This exhibition continues that excellent work, combining facts, evidence, humour and some amazing stories of heroism.

A trail sheet guides you round the exhibition, which is split into eight sections. Within each section there is a question that needs answering before the children can stamp their sheet. This is fun, gives a sense of achievement as well as giving the exhibition a focus. It was very welcome as it would be possible otherwise to let the interactive games overshadow the objects on display. Each section has a theme, such as Ruthless Resistance, Savage Sabotage, or Clever Camouflage. The first section introduces six extraordinary spies who all performed amazing feats of bravery and endurance during the Second World War. They are each introduced with their real name, codename, and special skill. As the exhibition progresses they reappear, along with their stories. In the last section we meet them again and find out what happened to them after the war. I found this a very touching tribute and thought it rounded the history out nicely.

Each section has a combination of interactive elements and exhibits. In the Ruthless Resistance area there are boxes to put your hands into to identify the items a resistance fighter needed, a wireless playing coded messages, and an escape tunnel just in case you are being followed! There are also examples of the banners and badges that resistance members used to identify themselves, the types of weaponry they carried, and medals awarded to a woman who worked as part of an escape line in France that helped crashed airmen get back home. The scenery is perfect; woodland, a village, and a kitchen all invoke the resistance movement. As you move through the exhibition the scene changes to reflect the themes.

I think there are some of the best interactive elements I have experienced here, both in terms of ease of use, fun and relevance. It is a mixture of digital and more hands-on games. Or feet-on, in the case of the "splat-a-rat" game. My nephew's favourite of the digital activities was probably creating a false identity for himself. A camera takes a passport style photo that can then be altered with false beards, hats and the like. This resulted in some very funny alter-egos. Two screens show spy clips from the TV programme that tie in with the themes of disguising people and things. There are also dressing-up clothes, a picture puzzle, quizzes, things to listen to and sniff, and a bike. Pedalling the bike generates the electricity needed to power a radio – the essential means of transmitting and receiving messages.

Amongst the objects on display there are some weird and wonderful things. A pair of false feet particularly caught my eye, meant for wearing over boots to disguise footprints. There is a selection of forged documents, including one made for Hitler, that was made to show off forgery skills. A drawing showing how an exploding rat was constructed required a second look too! The medals drew my nephew in, and helped illustrate the dangers faced by those working undercover. Gadgetry worthy of Q from the James Bond stories reminded me that fact can be stranger than fiction. I did not realise that tear gas pens were actually real. Nor a pipe that was really a gun. The attention to detail, innovation and invention are remarkable. It is very much worth taking a little time to appreciate the amazing exhibits on display.

I was so impressed by the exhibition, and more importantly, so was my nephew. It is definitely a family event, so I'm not sure lone adults would enjoy themselves as much. So, round up the kids and head to the Imperial War Museum for a horribly brilliant time.

Horrible Histories®: Spies, at Imperial War MuseumSarah Watkins' review of Horrible Histories: Spies at the Imperial War Museum.5