So the school year’s almost over and you’ve got small humans in tow to keep entertained. Here’s how to ace this year’s summer holiday
School’s out, your little ones are fizzing with unspent energy and you’re wondering how you’re going to keep them busy until September.
But, here’s the thing. We don’t want you to just survive this summer, we want you to have the best one yet.
We want to arm you with an arsenal of activities to keep your little ones, and yourself, entertained throughout the hot summer months.
From tips to keep their brains active to grand days out and indoor family activities, here are your secret weapons for this summer.
Rules of engagement
While the kids may have some ideas of their own on how they want to spend their summer – which may involve long hours craning over an iPad – with ten long weeks stretching ahead, it’s crucial to keep their brains ticking over to avoid the summer slump.
“The moment the brain slows down, you have to warm it up and get them thinking,” says Vanessa Boson, founder of edutainment facility Hallabolou and former Early Years teacher.
“That’s not to say they need to be academically stimulated 24/7,” she clarifies. “It’s more about encouraging them to keep thinking and problem solving. If they’re sitting in front of the TV or computer the whole time, they’re going to go brain dead.”
Simon Hetherington, owner of tuition company Kip McGrath in Al Raha Mall, agrees.
“It’s vital not to switch off totally; it helps the transition back to school life when they return in September.
“Especially for students for whom English isn’t their first language: if they don’t keep their brains active and engaged, they often come back to school with a decrease in literacy.”
If you choose to send your children to a summer camp or class with their peers, there are even more benefits to reap on a social level, adds Vanessa.
“It eases the back-to-school transition socially,” she explains. “When they’re around other kids, they’re staying within those social norms and routine, which are particularly important to keep them engaged.”
However, with so many camps on offer, it can be tempting to go for an academic option, but be sure to maintain balance between fun and learning, advises Simon.
“Kids do need a break after a long year, so it’s a fine line to find the balance between children enjoying themselves and pushing them too hard.”
Vanessa shares Simon’s opinion: “It’s about finding a camp that provides ‘down’ and ‘up’ time. Children need to be doing something every day, but it doesn’t need to be a 12-hour day.
“The summer time is a great time to explore more of what your kids like and try different things,” she adds.
“Whatever their IQ, they need to move,” Vanessa adds. “If you pick a good camp, it will give them mental and physical challenges. Academic camps are good, but they shouldn’t be the emphasis.”
If camp is just not for your child or you’re struggling with activities at home, Vanessa says that there’s power to be found in numbers.
“You need to seek out other people in the community for playdates,” she suggests. “It’s not just about the interaction between you and your child that’s important, but the interaction between the kids.”
Whether they’re a creative kid or just want to burn off some energy, you’ll find a summer camp for your little one here.
Little artists aged five to 12 can take part in painting, decoupage, collage and arts and crafts at The Bulb’s art camp. 2nd July–30th August. AED 100 for one day, AED 450 for one week. Al Rayyana Community Center, Khalifa City. Daily 10am–1pm. Contact: 02 551 1898, facebook.com/thebulbuae
At Orange Wheels, kids aged four and up can get stuck in to science and arts-related activities, music, Zumba dance classes and percussion sessions. 2nd July–31st August. AED 700. Al Wahda Mall, Hazza Bin Zayed Street. Daily 10am–3pm. Contact: 02 667 4411, orangewheels.com
Forget the idea that camp is just for kids: Warehouse 421 has the whole family covered.
For children aged five to 12, Creative Mornings provides an educational and fun outlet, while teenagers 13 and up can take on Active Afternoons, with a range of diverse workshops including screen printing, stop motion animation and ceramics.
Adults can enjoy Cultural Evenings, which include a mix of film screenings, educational workshops and board games. 16th July–10th August. AED 50. Near Mina Center, Mina Zayed. Times vary. Visit: warehouse421.ae
British Orchard Nursery
The well-known nursery group British Orchard Nursery is running a Summer Camp Literature Festival, which is going to be perfect for all those budding bookworms and wannabe wordsmiths. Running from 25th June to 7th September, little campers will love the theme – Eric Carle’s Magical Storyland – based on the amazing books of the 88-year-old author, which include The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Slowly, Slowly, Slowly Said The Sloth. AED 850 per week. 9am-2pm. Visit: britishorchardnursery.com
For adventurous types, Discover Sports promises an action-packed summer holiday. Hosted at Adventure HQ, kids can keep active with wall climbing, caving, zip lining and dodgeball. 25th June–7th September. AED 200 for one day, AED 800 for one week. Yas Mall. Sun–Thu 8.30am–2pm. Visit: facebook.com/discoversports
Al Forsan International Sports Resort
Al Forsan’s indoor camp focuses on developing teamwork and healthy lifestyles, with fun games to keep kids fit and healthy without even knowing it. The camp is split into three categories for different age groups. 2nd July–31st August. AED 150 registration fee, AED 150 per day thereafter. Khalifa City. Daily 9am–3pm. Contact: alforsan.com
City Football Schools
Aspiring Agueros will get a kick out of the City Football Schools camps running throughout July. This weekly course running from Sunday to Thursday gets girls and boys on the pitch to improve their technique and have fun. 2nd–6th July and 9th–13th July. AED 950 for one week. IPIC Arena, Zayed Sports City. Daily 8.30am–2.30pm. Contact: email@example.com, cityfootballschools.com
Zayed Sports City
Kids can keep cool over the summer months with this sports hub’s popular ice skating camp. Aimed at all levels from total beginners to proficient skaters, the camp aims to hone skills on the ice and develop a love for the sport. 2nd July–24th August. AED 750 for one week. Zayed Sports City. Daily 9am–1pm. Contact: 02 403 4333, firstname.lastname@example.org
World Trade Center Mall
The camp at this city-based mall brings together Primal Gym, Art Hub and KoolKidz play centre for a boredom-busting camp where kids can enjoy sports and arts all under one roof. 9th July–17th August. Half days from AED 125, full days from AED 150. Hamdan Street. 8.30am–1.30pm or 8.30am–5.30pm. Visit: facebook.com/wtcad
With the aim of stimulating minds, Hallabolou’s STEM-based camp includes themes such as Lego, science and space, as well as a wizard week and drama for creative little ones. 2nd July–31st August. AED 850 for one week. Villa A54, Marina Office Park, near Marina Mall. Daily 9am–3pm. Contact: 02 622 2285, hallabolou.com
Kids will discover topics including the natural world, science and technology through inquiry-led activities and exploratory play to spark their curiosity at Little World’s summer offering. 22nd June–8th September. AED 250 for one day, AED 1,150 for one week. Nation Galleria, Corniche West. 10am–2pm. Contact: 02 681 8824, littleworlduae.com
Learning holistic skills is as important as developing academic ones. With that in mind, Inner Seed’s camp focuses on getting kids to unplug from the iPad and develop their self-confidence, independence and mindfulness. 2nd–6th July and 9th–13th July. From AED 150 for one day, AED 700 for one week. The Studio, Villa 42, Corniche, near The Third Place Café. Daily 9am–noon. Visit: innerseeduae.com
Kids can get a head start on the new term with fun English and maths themed classes to keep their brains ticking over without it feeling like homework. AED 925 for five sessions per week. Al Raha Mall, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Street. Times vary. Contact: 02 558 8505, kipmcgrath.ae
Hit the road with these grand days out:
Al Ain adventure: Travel to the Garden City and get your day off to a rip-roaring start at Wadi Adventure. Try your hand at surfing, kayaking and whitewater rafting. Next, head up nearby Jebel Hafeet for some beautiful views and (slightly) cooler climes to watch the sun go down. AED 50 entry to Wadi Adventure, supplement for activities. Off E95, Al Ain. Ramadan timings 5pm–11pm; 11am–7pm thereafter. Visit: wadiadventure.ae
Park life: With over 40 indoor attractions and 20 water rides, Dubai Parks and Resorts promises a fun-filled day for kids and adults. Enjoy a taste of India at Bollywood Park, explore film activities at MotionGate and head to Legoland Water Park to cool off at the end of a busy day. From AED 85. Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai. Times vary. Visit: dubaiparksandresorts.com
Set sail: Take to the sea to escape the capital for a trip around Abu Dhabi’s islands with Capt. Tony’s excursions. This island tour takes you to a remote natural beach where you can enjoy a barbecue, sunbathing and stand-up paddleboarding. AED 400 for adults, AED 250 for children. Yas Marina. Times vary. Visit: captaintonys.ae
Arabian nights: If you need to unwind with the kids in tow, enjoy a night in the desert at Arabian Nights Village. While it’s not quite sleeping under the stars, the resort’s range of activities more than make up for it, including campfire nights, camel trekking and desert safari. From AED 950, supplement for activities. Arabian Nights Village Road, off E40. Visit: arabiannightsvillage.com
So you’re staying home? Here’s how to keep your kids guessing:
Custom couture: Grab some fabric paint, brushes and plain, solid-coloured T-shirts and let the kids design some new threads. Allow their imagination take over with potato printing, painting and a whirlwind of glitter.
In the kitchen: It’s time for the kids to take over. Help them design a menu, shop for the ingredients and cook their own healthy meal from scratch. It’ll make a lot of mess, but they’ll have a blast and learn about healthy lifestyles.
Overcoming obstacles: Remember when you were a kid and the floor was lava? Create an obstacle course across your home with pillows, couches, boxes and anything that comes to mind – just make sure it’s safe first.
Movie magic: Close the curtains, dim the lights and set up a mini movie theatre in your lounge – popcorn mandatory. For extra fun, get the kids to script and act in their own short movie complete with a clapperboard.
WORDS Camille Hogg