That desert feeling has definitely arrived: it’s 40 degrees in the shade and the last thing anyone wants to do is work up a sweat, which could be a problem considering that the World Health Organisation says children should have at least 60 minutes of exercise a day.
“The Middle East is a fantastic place to live, with endless opportunities for children to engage in physical activities, yet it boasts a poor diabetes and obesity problem starting from a young age,” says Russ Wilson, the director at Junior Life Fitness.
We can blame the heat for this, or we can look for solutions. “Incorporating some form of activity into our daily lives should be a priority for all families, rather than letting the seasons decide what we do,” believes Sarah Louise Crowther, a personal trainer and health coach for Healthy 4 U, Dubai (www.dubai-personal-training.com). “By improving your child’s activity levels, you will boost their performance academically, improve their overall mental health and increase their self-confidence and self-esteem.”
So how can a parent ensure their child stays fit and healthy over the sweltering summer months? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Make days out active
There’s no doubt the summer holidays are long and it can be hard (not to mention pricey) to fill them, but when you pull out your credit card, make sure it’s for something energetic.
Water parks are a great way to stay active outdoors in the summer. Try Yas Waterworld (www.yaswaterworld.com) in Abu Dhabi, where there are 43 slides, rides and attractions, not to mention Flowboarding (similar to surfing); or head to the Aquaventure Waterpark at The Palm in Dubai (www.atlantisthepalm.com/marineandwaterpark) to enjoy water slides and river rapids. There’s also a Junior Scuba Diving programme at The Atlantis, for children age 8 and over.
If you’re craving colder climes, check out the indoor snow resort at Ski Dubai (www.skidubai.com) where you can go skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing. Or spend an afternoon at the Dubai Ice Rink (www.dubaiicerink.com) at The Dubai Mall where you can enjoy a special “mums and tots” session, or let your teenager throw some moves at the disco sessions.
For those who like things extreme, try the skydiving simulator in Mirdif City Centre Dubai, or tackle the “Sky Trail” – an obstacle course suspended along the ceiling of the mall. For those who like their feet on the ground, there’s bowling. It’s still active!
Younger children who love role play will adore KidZania (www.kidzania.ae), an interactive centre in The Dubai Mall where children can try out more than 80 role-playing professions, from fireman to doctor, in a replica of a real city built to scale for kids complete with buildings, paved streets, vehicles and a functioning economy. Pilots navigate planes, television anchors read the news and chefs cook up tasty food.
Be active at home
Of course every day can’t be spent at a ski resort or water park, but getting your kids moving at home counts towards their 60 minutes.
“Being active doesn’t necessarily mean exercising or playing sports. You can have fun at home with a mini race or by setting challenges for your kids. For example, get them to see if they can move from one side of the room to the other without letting their feet touch the floor,” says Crowther. “This will keep them active indoors, while also testing their creative thinking and motor skills. You really don’t need to do much to keep them active and it doesn’t require much space or equipment.”
Sign up for a class
There’s no shortage of air-conditioned facilities offering fun and exciting ways for kids to get active. At My First Gym in Abu Dhabi (www.myfirstgymuae.com) children from the age of 3 can take classes in gym, dance and capoeira, and teenagers can give yoga a go. At The Little Gym in Dubai (www.thelittlegym.com) kids 3 and above can take classes in ballet, tap and hip-hop, as well as gymnastics, karate and sports skills development.
If you have teenagers under your roof, the Skillz Youth Facility (www.skillz.ae) in Dubai offers Step, Circuits, Spin and Combat sessions for those between 12 and 16. At Junior Life Fitness (www.juniorlifefitness.com), kids can learn football skills and take multi-activity classes and circuit training in Sharjah and Dubai. With so much on offer, there’s bound to be something to appeal to your child which can also fit in with your timetable.
Join a summer camp
“Staying active during the summer months is very difficult,” admits Bianca Srour, the director of My First Gym. “The best way to help a child get moving is to enrol them in an indoor summer camp programme.” The summer camps at My First Gym are for children between 3 and 9 years old and feature weekly themes including Circus camp, Science camp and Sports camp.
For an educational camp, check out the Mad Science camp which runs hands-on experiments for 4- to 12-year-olds and tackles subjects such as space travel and marine life (www.uae.madscience.org). For those who want to see their name in lights, there are drama camps packed with acting, singing, dancing and story creation. Kids’ Theatre Works is running camps this summer for 3- to 14-year-olds (www.kidstheatreworks.com).
A few more games ideas
- Challenge your kids to keep a balloon off the floor with their feet. Then encourage them to make up some passing and catching games with the balloon.
- Set up a pyramid of plastic cups then bowl a tennis ball at the pyramid.
- Play hide and seek.
- Set up your own egg-and-spoon races.
- Play limbo – try to shuffle under a rope, leaning backwards, without touching it. Lower the rope each time.
- Play musical bumps or musical chairs.
- Let your kids build a den or fort – prepare for your lounge to be rearranged.
- Try out elastics – all you need is a long piece of elastic with the ends tied together. There are plenty of videos on YouTube to help you get started.
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