Although the amount of money that UAE residents spend on children’s entertainment varies from one household to another, the overall consumption patterns tend to be similar based on age-related requirements. Certain common habits were formed during the pandemic, like consumption of home-based over-the-top (OTT) video content, which are likely to stick. This article analyses how much do residents spend on children’s entertainment and how they plan for it?
Dubai: When it comes to children’s entertainment, there are many things to consider starting from birthday celebrations to visiting paid entertainment venues as well as pursuing extracurricular activities and hobbies. Add to this consumption of home-based OTT video content. Evidently, there are many expenses to factor in and plan accordingly.
Let’s start with birthday parties and the costs involved
From themed cakes to outfits, coupled with renting venues and giveaways, organising children’s birthdays is an expense affair.
“Expenses can easily go over Dh3,500 based on the choice of venue, birthday cake and giveaways,” said Dubai-based Tunisian national Slim Mekki. Having organised birthday parties for his daughters Kenza (8) and Yasmin (4), Mekki shared that a large-sized themed cake can cost up to Dh600.
The per-guest cost at an indoor entertainment venue is roughly Dh140, with a minimum requirement of 20 guests. Add giveaways or return gifts costing a minimum of Dh20 per bag. “Since birthdays of our daughters are in proximity, we have organised a common party so far, therein economising on costs.”
Another Dubai resident from the UK Sana Khan, a mother of three Zain (14), Sofia (10) and Adam (4 months) agreed that children’s birthday celebrations tend to be expensive costing roughly Dh2,200 each time. “Being a teenager, my son likes to celebrate his birthday with a small set of friends, while daughter likes to go to the cinema on her birthday.
Overall, our expenses on birthday celebrations have reduced from the time when we used to book a venue at a minimum of Dh100 per head, with a minimum requirement of 15 guests. In addition, giveaways would be worth Dh30 per bag and a minimum of Dh250-300 for a birthday cake.”
On the other hand, for Dubai-based Polish national Urszula Kingston buying toys and gifts for her son Logan (4) on his birthday is the major expense. “On his last birthday, we bought Logan a LEGO set (Dh600) and a Nintendo Game Boy (Dh1,600) with a couple of games, each priced at Dh200-300.” That’s roughly Dh2,500 only on gifts. “However, we only buy gifts for him on Christmas, Easter and his birthday.”
Some useful tips: Consider buying affordable and practical giveaways from retail outlets, suggested Mekki and Khan. Also, try to look for deals on entertainment venues. Khan’s husband had availed an offer to purchase 20 tickets at a Dubai-based indoor ski resort, where their daughter’s birthday was celebrated one year. For younger children aged four years and below, it might be more comfortable and economical to host birthday parties at home. Also, it is wise to not let them get used to expensive gifts except on special occasions, Kingston advised.
Extracurriculars shift away from home-setting, cost of visiting entertainment venues rise
While pandemic related restrictions reduced the expenses on extracurricular and entertainment activities for most households in 2020, as the situation got better parents started accounting for these again.
For instance, UAE-based Indian national Rachel Yohanan, a mother of two David (11) and Juda (7) spent Dh600 each for eight classes of football and basketball for her sons. The boys had also pursued a WhiteHat Jr. online coding course for Dh1,000 each during the pandemic. “During this summer holidays, I plan to enrol them for music lessons that will cost Dh75-Dh100 per class for each child.”
After school activities add to the expenses. Khan spends around Dh1,500 each on swimming and tennis lessons for her two children that lasts for 12-15 weeks.
Similarly, Mekki’s elder daughter pursues swimming (Dh600 per month), horse riding (Dh1,800 per quarter) and French lessons (Dh1,800 for 10 classes). Meanwhile, he spends Dh1,000 for 10 classes at CrossFit for his younger daughter who needs more physical stimulation.
Same age as Mekki’s younger daughter, Kingston’s son had enrolled for jujitsu classes that cost Dh850 per month. “Logan’s jujitsu classes get over in June. So, during the summer holidays, I plan to take him to Bounce every other week to engage him in physical activities, which might cost Dh150 per hour.”
Visitations to paid indoor entertainment venues such as Bounce, Cheeky Monkeys, Fun City, Magic Planet and themes parks including Dubai Parks and Resorts, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, IMG Worlds of Adventure can cost between Dh85 and Dh300 per child, depending on the venue and chosen option.
Some parents like Mekki and Khan have invested in annual passes to theme parks. But they agreed that unless multiple visitations are planned during the year, an annual pass does not offer much value. In fact, due to the pandemic Mekki decided against renewing their annual membership.
Some useful tips: Kingston and Yohanan suggest using free to enter options such as public parks, beaches and community swimming pools when the weather is good. Mekki and Khan recommend looking for offers and attractive deals on The Entertainer as well as specific groups on Facebook, WhatsApp and platforms like Privilee.
Monthly cost of pursuing hobbies
Children get the opportunity to pursue various activities in school. But they also like to engage in hobbies at home. For example, before Kingston’s son started school, they would spend Dh200 to 300 per month to purchase books for him. Now it has reduced but they still allocate Dh50 to purchase one book from the Dog Man comic series every month.
On the other hand, Yohanan spends Dh10 on an annual Bug Club membership that her younger son avails to read books online. She also looks out for sales to buy books for her elder son once a month, spending roughly Dh60. In addition, she also spends Dh50 to Dh80 to purchase art supplies every quarter that the family shares.
Mekki’s wife allocates Dh100 to buy art supplies every month to teach their daughter art forms like tie and dye. “During winter, we also took them to the Ripe Markets where the entry fee is only Dh5 and they could engage in painting, games and spend time at the petting zoo. Overall, we would spend roughly Dh250 per visit.”
Having slightly older children, Khan admitted to spending more on toys such as LEGO sets and e-scooters that can easily cost Dh750 per item. “On the other hand, we manage to save on clothing as my husband and I are now able to share clothes with our children.”
Some useful tips: Kingston recommends using online platforms such as FirstCry to avail attractive prices on toys and games, while Yohanan strongly suggests reusing to reduce expenses and expand the lifespan of a book. Yohanan has also started giving monthly allowances to her sons to gradually introduce them to the concepts of rewarding and saving. The boys use their monthly allowance to buy toys and games, sometimes even clothes.
Factoring in the cost of consuming of online content
The pandemic has accelerated the adoption and consumption of OTT video content, while also boosting consumption of online gaming. Take the example of Khan who shared that her son used to visit bowling and go karting facilities at least thrice a month before the pandemic, each time spending Dh200 to Dh250. Post-pandemic, this has reduced to once in two months as he has turned to online gaming.
All the parents – Khan, Kingston, Mekki and Yohanan – admitted to having more than one OTT platform subscription for the household. They all have subscriptions of Amazon Prime, Netflix and OSN and in some cases even Apple TV. The monthly spend on these platforms range between Dh60 and Dh550. Some households like Mekki’s spend an additional amount (Dh500 approximately) for one-off access to watch programmes like the UEFA European Football Championship.
Some useful tips: During the pandemic Yohanan planned movie nights at home with popcorns that her sons have begun enjoying, a habit that she expects will stick. While Mekki said a complimentary movie ticket every Tuesday by a telecom service provider offers value for money.