Dubai gets hot in the summer. Crazy hot. So hot that most mothers who can will pack their kids up as soon as the school term is finished and ship out to pass the summer in cooler climes. The summer exodus we call it. Not me though, for various reasons we are here all summer long. In fact, this is my eighth summer in Dubai, clearly a glutton for punishment. Usually we get away for a week or two but we don’t even have that this year.
To be honest, I never really minded the 49 degree heat or the steam-up-your-glasses humidity back in the pre-kids days. I would be going from my air-conditioned apartment to my air-conditioned car to my air-conditioned office, eating out in air-conditioned hotels and restaurants and shopping in air-conditioned malls, all while enjoying significantly quieter roads. Fast forward to the present day and it’s a completely different story when you have a toddler and a pre-schooler to entertain.
So, in an attempt to plan our summer a bit and have a go-to list of activities to work through, I have put together my summer bucket list of things I want to do with the kids. Some will be new experiences, some are old favourites and most of them are indoors. They may not all be suitable for both kids so I will have to plan around Missy’s nap times and just take Monkey to the ones she is still too young for, but where possible I want to involve them both.
In no particular order:
- Swimming and splashing – Water is a great way to keep the kids cool and one of the very few things we can still do outside. We are lucky enough to have a temperature controlled pool in our garden which we plan to use all summer and invite friends over for swim dates. If you don’t have access to a pool at home or in your community there are also waterparks such as Wild Wadi, Aquaventure, the Splash Pad at The Beach, JBR and lots of hotels offering day rates for their pools and beach clubs. Many of these will also have deals on over the summer. Just don’t forget to pack your hat and sunscreen! If all else fails, just fill up the bath, chuck in a few toys and let them have fun.
- Dubai Butterfly Garden – I will have to get over my fear of moths and flying bugs first but I love the idea of letting my kids wander around the butterfly house chasing these little fluttery things and having the butterflies sit on the kids’ hands. That’s how I picture it but we will have to see how this turns out in reality!
- Ski Dubai Penguin Encounter & Snow Park – Monkey is now old enough to meet the penguins and he just loves throwing snow balls so I think this will be right up his street. We may also add on lunch at the Cheesecake Factory and make a full outing of it. Although they have recently lowered the age requirement to 2 years old, Missy will still not be old enough so she will have to sit this one out.
- The Old Library – Both Monkey and Missy love books. While they have a huge stack of books at home already, I want to teach them about the library and hope that it becomes an enjoyable part of their childhood as it was for me. A trip to the library is a nice, calm, inexpensive activity that will continue to entertain the kids once you get home with a stack of new books. I’m hoping that the book selection will also be good with so many people out of town for the summer.
- Trains, trains trains – The munchkins are both obsessed with trains – Monkey had an awesome train themed 3rd birthday party and one of the few things Missy can say is “All Aboard, chugga chugga chugga!” They play trains at home a lot and this summer I plan to get them out riding the variety of trains available to us in Dubai. From the Metro to the Tram, the Palm Monorail to the miniature train running inside Marina Mall, we will hopefully be trying them all. Riding the train is an inexpensive activity that teaches kids about the world around them and provides a different perspective on their city. We spend a lot of time train spotting as we drive up and down Sheikh Zayed Road so I think it’s about time the munchkins were on one and not just looking up at them.
- See the fish – What kid doesn’t like to see fish? I know mine do and there are plenty of places to see them here in Dubai. From Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo to the Lost Chambers or the Ambassadors Lagoon at Atlantis. I may book in for the Saturday family buffet lunch at Kaleidescope at Atlantis and combine it with a free look at the Ambassadors Lagoon as we’ve previously done a couple of times. There are also vouchers in the Family Entertainer Dubai book that can be used to make these outings easier on the wallet. In fact you don’t even need to spend anything to see fish – Monkey has previously enjoyed watching fish at ACE Hardware, Dubai Garden Centre and various pet stores.
- Golf – Monkey is obsessed with golf! So much so that he watches youtube lessons given by professionals, happily “reads” golfing magazines and pretends to be Rory McIlroy while instructing me to be the adoring crowd. We even had to have a small putting green included in our garden design for him and the sandpit is now for practicing bunker shots! There’s nothing he likes more than going to the driving range with his dad to hit a few balls but that is not possible in the summer, so, to ensure he still gets his golf in we will be playing a few rounds over at the glow in the dark mini golf course at Njoi Marina Mall and there is also the tee & putt at Wafi for which there are vouchers in the Family Entertainer Dubai book. He received this mini golf course for his birthday earlier in the year so no doubt that will be set up our living room and he’ll still be begging to go outside to his putting green in the early mornings and evenings.
- Painting – Both the munchkins and I love painting. I plan to do lots of painting activities at home but I also want to check out Cafe Ceramique and the Jam Jar (which has a summer discount offer on and is also in the Family Entertainer Dubai book). To be honest, I’m just using the kids as an excuse, I love this stuff!
- Children’s City, Creek Park – In 8 years in Dubai I don’t think I’ve ever been to the Creek Park. I’ve been hearing a lot about the Children’s City there though so I am intrigued to check it out. It looks like there is lots for toddlers and older children to investigate, explore, play, discover, and learn. Since it is operated by the Dubai Municipality the entrance fees are also minimal (10dhs children over 2 and 15 dhs for adults).
- Sharjah – Sharjah is another place I’ve not really explored in my time here. However, it appears there are some great children’s days out to be had there so I think we will have to brave the trek across town at some point this summer. There is the Discovery Centre, the Science Museum, Aquarium, Natural History Museum, Arabia’s Wildlife Centre and Children’s Farm. I’m sure there are lots of other hidden gems there too and since they are all Government museums the entrances fees are minimal.
- Trampolining – We have a mini trampoline at home for the kids but I think it’s about time we check out this trampoline park craze – I’m hoping it’ll exhaust Monkey into a full night’s sleep. Since Monkey is now old enough we plan to check out Bounce. Jumpboxx also looks great, it’s in Mirdiff, so a little further out for us, but then it is also in the Family Entertainer Dubai.
- Little Explorers and Aqua Play – Also in Mirdiff is Little Explorers and Aqua Play (both in the Family Entertainer Dubai). We ventured to these two last summer when Monkey was 2, he definitely enjoyed elements of Little Explorers (notably the water section) but I’m sure he’ll get a lot more out of it this year. At Aqua Play he was a little too scared to enjoy the mini pirate ship, bumper boats and mini log flume, preferring instead to play on the water based arcade games. I’m hoping he’ll be a little braver this year.
- Bowling – Monkey had his first go at bowling (or rolling ball as he calls it) on a recent holiday to Turkey. While he enjoyed it, even though the gutters were up, it was a little tough for him due to the weight of the balls. However, I am hoping to take him over to Switch Bowling where they apparently have lighter balls for children, will raise the gutters and also have the all important ramp to help the little ones get their ball over the line and hopefully knocking over a few skittles. It will be a great way to play a team game, practice taking turns and of course get some physical exercise in when rolling all those balls and doing the strike celebration dance (hopefully!) There are also other bowling lanes around town, including in Magic Planet in Mall of the Emirates (for which there are vouchers in the Family Entertainer Dubai).
- Modhesh World – After many summers of seeing Modhesh’s smiley yellow face popping up all over town, it’s probably about time I take the kids to figure out what this Modhesh World at World Trade Centre is all about. Covering a huge area, I’m sure there will be something for everyone, from Hello Kitty to robotics, zombie shoot ’em up simulator to trampolining and a mirror maze to the Al Tamimi petting zoo. The challenge will probably be to cover it all and convince the kids to go home!
- Movies – Monkey’s first trip to the cinema was for his third birthday when we went to see the Shaun the Sheep movie. He didn’t quite make it through to the end of the movie as he decided he was ready for lunch! Mr loves going to the movies but doesn’t get much of a chance these days so I might send them off for a bit of father and son bonding over popcorn while me and Missy hit the sales. There are a few kids movies due to hit the cinemas this summer which look good including Minions, Inside Out (from the makers of Up), Oops and Pixies, see here for trailers. It’ll also be fun to set up a cinema experience at home with one of their favourite DVD movies, the lights off, a big bowl of popcorn and all of us snuggled together under a cosy blanket.
- Dubai Ice Rink – It’s been a while since I’ve been on skates but with penguin pals for those over 100cm and bob skates for those under 100cm, it might be something fun to try with the little ones, there are also vouchers in the Family Entertainer Dubai book. Missy has only just learnt to walk so she won’t be able to get out on the ice just yet and will have to just watch our no doubt amusing antics on the ice. I might have to arrange to go with our ice hockey playing neighbour to give me a few tips on how to stay upright!
- Kidsventure – This is another new one I’ve heard of this year, the Kidsventure kids club at the Double Tree by Hilton. Based on Montessori principles it is full of beautiful toys and books, more like a nursery space, rather than your usual soft play. I’m definitely taking both munchkins here as, from what I’ve seen, I know they will both love it.
- Crafts & Baking – We won’t be able to go out all the time so I plan to set up a bunch of crafts and baking activities for the kids at home during the course of the summer. Inexpensive craft and baking items are readily available at the hypermarkets across town and the likes of Daiso and IKEA. Internet blogs and Pinterest are full of inspiration and I will be sharing here what we come up with so keep an eye out for that.
- Outdoor Fun Indoors – My little ones are still small enough that I can let them do some of their favourite outdoor activities inside, like riding a bike or scooter, kicking a soft ball or playing “tennis” with small bats and plastic balls (thank goodness for open plan living spaces!) I’m generally not too precious about these things, although I do draw the line at my white walls being ruined (there is already a small dent in one of the living room walls that looks suspiciously like it was made by a golf club!) and I won’t be allowing the sand/water table in! We went to a play date recently where the mum had brought their outdoor slide/climbing frame into the living area for the summer and the munchkins loved it! Another idea is to take the munchkins and their scooters over to the mall early in the morning before stores open to run/scoot around the big open corridors. Many of the malls are open long before the shops are, with coffee shops opening early to serve breakfast (after Ramadan). So I plan to set myself up with a hot drink and a pastry and watch them go wild, as long as security doesn’t chase us out! We can then pass some time playing in the toy stores and have lunch before heading home for nap time.
- Pre-school Preparation Play Dates – Monkey will be starting FS1 at a new school at the end of August, so, in preparation for this I am hoping we can set up a few playdates with other kids that will be starting at his school. New environments are always less scary when you have friendly faces around so hopefully making some friends before term starts will ease the transition. I set up a Facebook group for the parents of kids starting at his school for this purpose and we have already managed to have a few playdates and meet some of the other children. I hope there are others who will be around all summer like us and want to play!
Wow!! This turned into a really long post, I didn’t realise there were so many things I wanted to do with the kids until I’d written it all down. I’m now not even sure if the summer will be long enough to fit it all in. We’ll do our best though and you can follow our progress through this blog and our Facebook page. I’m thinking about returning to work part-time once Monkey starts school so that gives me even more reason to make the most of this summer.
Have you tried, or are you planning to try, any of the things/places listed above? Have you got any more suggestions to add to my list? Leave me a comment, I would love to hear from you.