Parents are by default in the business of entertainment. During summer, the demand for this prowess hits peak highs. As school’s close on the longest holiday of the year – two odd months in fact – we spoke to dads in the UAE about their game plan. From launching ice cubes in pools to heading up the mountains, learning about sustainability and more, here’s a look at what’s on their summer programmes.
Thirty-eight-year-old Dan Smith has two sons aged seven and four. The ‘Fail Forward’ podcast host, rugby coach and travel agent, says this is the first time since Covid-19 struck that the family is going home to the UK. “We’ve kind of structured the whole five weeks where we're spending time with family and friends, going to go to London, do daytrips around London – and have a bit of time for ourselves as well, which is nice,” he says.
That said, he stresses, staying in the UAE can be a lot of fun. He says that last year the family decided to make the most of their time-off in the country.
First, they capitalised on offers for summer; he explains: “We got to use hotels and pools and waterparks in and around Dubai. And it was quite affordable as well.”
They also got season tickets for the indoor theme park Dubai Parks and Resorts, with its 100 rides and attractions. Then there were the community events that the family engaged in.
Other ideas he suggests to parents are:
Mall visits: Especially those with installations or pop-up events for kids.
Trips to soft play areas such as Cheeky Monkey.
Movie evenings: Nothing will quite beat watching the latest releases on the big screen.
Staycations: “You normally find that there's some good deals on in the summer, when it's quieter,” says Smith. “There's always some good child-friendly hotels with kids’ clubs, some hotels have bowling and even some cinemas inside. It's good to shop around and see what's available.”
Smith and his family stay active; he’s started a community running programme in his neighbourhood of Dubai Hills 2; they like heading down to the beach and taking a boat out. “I think the key is to go for an activity that keeps [the kids] entertained the longest. And I think that then helps with your own wellbeing as well where you're not stressing and trying to entertain the kids and you still get to do something together,” he laughs.
When dad-of-two Syed Ghayasduddin, whose Insta account is @dadblogsdubai, thinks of the two-month break, he smiles. The Sharjah-based Indian expat has a calendar packed with everything from travel (seven-day trip to Turkey) to classes and exploration. “Besides art and craft classes,” he says, “I’ve enrolled myself in a society called Sharjah Architectural Society. We will be teaching kids the value of greenery, how to grow and tend to plants and how to make the environment just a little healthier.”
To ensure the lesson is reinforced, he says, his children – aged eight and five – help him keep their garden at home well maintained. They recycle, upcycle and work on sustainability.
The family also works with Al Manakh Spaces, a project in Sharjah that aims to grow an urban garden on the premises of Al Qasimiyah School. “When you go to Al Manakh Spaces, you help water, nurture and cultivate plans, and also do some architectural work in real life. There are classes every week. So we, parents and kids, attend and learn about it together,” he says.
But it’s not all hard work and no play for these folks. Ghayasduddin wants to play tourist with his kids in Dubai too. “We will go to Burj Khalifa’s At the Top, Dubai Frame, waterparks and water sports too,” he says.
Hassan Maidiha has a baby boy who turns one this summer, so his plans are set: to celebrate, celebrate, celebrate. “We want to celebrate his birthday among friends and then we are planning to travel to Canada, end of the month, because the family is there, so then with our second round of his birthday in Canada,” he says. The trip will mean the child’s first flight, but Maidiha isn’t worried. “We're going to be carrying his diapers and bottles and toys, but he’s not a fussy child,” he says.
For dad-of-three Jeremy Gilmore, who runs the Instagram account @outdoor_dad_dubai, Covid-19’s ‘stay orders’ were an eye-opener. “I think something's changed since Covid-19, [travel lust has dimmed].” He explains that for a lot of families, once summer break began, the wife and kids would go off on holiday while the dad would be left behind and would follow for short breaks through the next few weeks. “I think a lot of people realise that actually, you know, staying here there's a lot to do. There’s loads of fantastic kids’ clubs [and summer camps], which you can sign up to as much or as little as you want,” he explains.
This year the Gilmore family will be heading for a short trip to Sri Lanka and a bit of a longer break to the UK. But between these vacations, they’ll be right here, in Dubai. And what do they plan on doing here? Quite a lot, it turns out.
Early morning swims: “Doing everything outdoors is challenging, of course, but what we've done in the past is, even in the middle of summer, we like to get out of the house first thing, like go to the beach at say seven o'clock, taking with us sandwiches and just literally being in the water, playing on the beach until nine o'clock. By then it's hot. So we would head back. Early morning beach trips are nice,” he explains.
Drive up to Jebel Jais: Road trips with the family can be fun, especially when you are headed to cooler climes. The highest mountain in the UAE, Jebel Jais offers stunning sunsets, spots for a quick bite and picnic areas as well. “If you're feeling energetic there's a hike that you can do from the car park at the top up to some of the peaks. The first peak is quite manageable with kids, we did it the last time we went and it also a little playground up there,” adds Gilmore.
Sharjah is a must-visit: “We try to get to Sharjah quite a few times. And that's because they've actually got some really great affordable indoor activities such as the Wildlife Centre and Aquarium,” he says. [For a list of things to do, click here.
Try a paddling pool: A shade is a must with this activity. “What you do is, you fill up a few plastic containers, put them in the freezer, and then you've got big blocks of ice floating around your paddling pool. Now, admittedly, it doesn't actually do a huge amount to cool the water down. But it's quite fun for the kids to be playing with big blocks of ice floating around,” adds Gilmore.
British expat Mohammed Zia Akhter, who has a 10-year-old daughter with whom he runs the Instagram account @dxbdad, will be staying in Dubai for three weeks and then travelling abroad. His plan centres on parks and beaches in the morning; movies and malls during the day time; and desert visits at night. “It’s all about family time,” he tells Gulf News.
Yes, dads enlist in the entertainment industry with their child’s first breath – now, it’s show time.
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