3 Of The Best Educational Play Spaces in Dubai

Our EY team are all for the benefits of free play, unfettered by adult guidance, where children develop formative ‘soft’ skills like creativity and communication.  We also want to them to learn wherever possible...
3 Of The Best Educational Play Spaces in Dubai
By Jenny Mollon
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LET'S GO

Our Early Years team are serious about free play !  That said, with many of us regularly emptying our wallets in desperation for something to keep our little ones entertained and happy (especially indoor activities once the mercury rises!) it is tempting for parents to look for place spaces with a more educational leaning that your average soft play centre or trampoline park. 

With this in mind, we borrowed two of our review team’s children (aged 3 and 7) and scoured Dubai to find our top three educational play spaces…read on for more information.

Oli Oli

Described as an ‘experiential play area’ we found a place that is part adventure park, part science lab, part inspirational play space…Oli Oli represents something distinct and frankly spectacular on the Dubai kids scene.   What’s more, although created by adults, Oli Oli really places the emphasis on the child – allowing them freedom to explore and experiment with the inspiration provided.  Our team had planned to spend a couple of hours here…we finally dragged the kids away almost 5 hours later!


Amazing interactive murals

Oli Oli is divided into several zones or ‘galleries’, these being:

  • Air - a series of thrilling, hands on experiments, all based around air pressure and flight. Our mini reviewers particularly loved the Hurricane Booth…a chance to experience some incredible wind speeds ‘it’s like being in a jet engine!’ said Finn, age 7
  • Water - water based experiments and a funky car wash. Coveralls are provided as this area is most definitely interactive!   Our reviewer is still waiting for her kids to take up a sponge and implement their new found car wash skills at home, however…
  • Toshi Nets. No, we’re not sure where the crazy name comes from!  The Toshi nets look something like a giant crochet project suspended from the ceiling.    Really.   Like Nana’s crochet project but way more exciting.  Perfect for climbing and exploration!  An absolute favourite for our 7 year old, who thoroughly enjoyed that the tunnels to enter the climbing zone were far too small for Mummy to follow…a little intimidating for our more timid 3 year old, who was instead insistent we follow him to the Creative Zone
  • Creative Zone - a room packed full of open ended resources ready for children to create whatever their hearts desire. We loved the focus on wooden and natural resources and watching children work imaginatively with minimal adult intervention – a winner
  • Future Park. A massive hit!  Here kids can bring their own drawings to life in animated murals. On entering, our three year old found the darkness a little scary, but he soon relaxed and both loved seeing their work zooming around the walls and interacting with the murals.  We spent nearly 2 hours in this room alone
  • Forts and Dens – this took Mummy RIGHT BACK to rainy days during her English childhood. Who needs toys when you have sheets, clips, cushions and space to make an area with NO GROWN UPS ALLOWED.  In this zone there is also a play area for toddlers, with lots of safe yet exciting toys and equipment
  • Cars and Ramps – LEGO (lots of it). GIANT, ENORMOUS RAMPS. Enough said! What could be better?!

Oli Oli also has a café serving tasty snacks and food.  We found the team to be incredibly polite and passionate about play based learning.  Recommended.

Child (for 2 hours): 120 AED (For each additional hour 30 AED)
Adult (flat fee): 40 AED

Oli Oli is located in Al Quoz on 4A Street near to the Oasis Mall and behind Organic Foods and Café. 

 

XParkjr

Xrparkjr is a park with a difference.  Well, not just one difference – a whole host of them!  Focussed entirely on inviting children to play with and in nature, Xparkjr provides our urban children with an opportunity for free range fun and exploration. 

The park is the brainchild of Candy Fanucci.  Candy describes an incredible childhood of outdoor life and exploration, having grown up on a game reserve in South Africa.  A passionate conservationist, Candy went on to become a helicopter pilot – working on conservation projects in her homeland before moving to Mauritius for ten years.  It was these formative years spent out in incredible natural landscapes that inspired her plans for XParkjr. 


The lush and beautiful Xparkjr

The park is dominated by lush planting, the buildings within all being low rise and thatched.  One building houses a branch of the popular Park House café chain and another a party room available for hire.  There are numerous water features – gentle waterfalls which fall through rocks into rock pools and a fountain near the entrance.  Children splash, climb and explore through the water and as Candy says – sometimes they will slip! ‘They have to learn to manage risk, this is what we are all about’ she says ‘they might slip once, twice, but the third time they get it and the confidence comes.  Children here are so protected, they desperately need to learn to slip, trip and get back up again’. 

The entire park is connected by an enormous treehouse come climbing frame, come den!  This was a favourite for our mini reviews team, who left Mum behind, formed a gang of new pals and created an elaborate pirate game.  Just the kind of play we want a park to inspire! 

We also liked how the climbing equipment offered varying levels of challenge for children of different ages.  There is a fantastic mud kitchen with nearby flowing water, and we saw plenty of children engrossed in their creations. The park also contains a small petting zoo, where children are encouraged to learn about animals and handle them with care.

For school and nursery visits, Xparkjr staff have been trained to the deliver a complete ‘Forest School’ programme – where children have the chance to take part in nature inspired arts and crafts, planting, den building and camp fire building (not lighting – but an important life skill nonetheless!). 

Each child: 45 AED for two hours with 1 adult admitted as part of price.  Additional adults - 25 AED for two hours. 

Xparkjr is situated just off Kite Beach, behind the skate park.

 

Kidzania

Now something of a stalwart in Dubai, and one of the many exciting options for children in Dubai Mall, Kidzania offers children the opportunity for elaborate and imaginative role play, all centred around developing an understanding of the world of work.

In Kidzania, children ‘work’ their way through the huge play area, with the opportunity to run a radio station and make juice on a production line standout moments in our mini reviewers visit.  All activities enable the children to earn money (alas, not real money), which can be spent in one of the shops before leaving. 


Incredible role play opportunities

We were entirely wowed by the range of activities available and the careful thought that had gone into each.  The Dubai Police costumes were perfect replicas and the whole experience of being a firefighter created in a thoughtful and highly detailed way.  Our team LOVED riding the fire engine, fully kitted out to fight a fire with real water!  The many options were incredibly realistic and offered something to cater for all interests – from being a fireman, to performing on stage, to following a shopping list in Waitrose and, impressively – to piloting a plane! 

Whilst there are large variety of activities, some were height or age restricted for our younger child.  We felt this was a perfect place for children age 5 and up.  Learning about the value of money is a life skill that many children in Dubai miss out on and our mini reviewers haven’t stopped talking about Kidzania yet!

Kidzania, Children 2-3 – 105 AED, 4-16 180 AED, Adults 17-64 – 75 AED

Dubai Mall, Level 7, Cinema Parking

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