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