Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 March 2018

10 new play areas to have fun out of the sun

Here are 10 new indoor play areas in Abu Dhabi and Dubai to try out this summer when the kids get all fidgety from staying at home and out of the sun.

Cheeky Monkeys at Etihad Mall in Dubai. Ravindranath K / The National
Cheeky Monkeys at Etihad Mall in Dubai. Ravindranath K / The National
Gone are the days when indoor play centres meant dingy, noisy caverns with violent games, stomach-churning rides and kids nagging for the chance to win an enormous stuffed toy that you definitely didn't want to take home. Here, then, are 10 new play zones featuring something for everyone - from the restless teenager who needs a new hobby, to the mum who wants to kick back on a sofa with Wi-Fi and coffee while keeping an eye as her toddler goes exploring.

1. Cheeky Monkeys, Etihad Mall, Dubai

This new branch of Cheeky Monkeys claims to be the largest soft-play area in Dubai. As well as the standard soft-play features, there's a separate play zone for kids under 4, with a waterfall slide (that has real water running beneath the surface), a giant doll's house, crazy mirrors, a ball pit and craft tables with play dough set out. The cafe seating is conveniently located by windows looking onto the toddler area.

There's also free Wi-Fi and a salon for kids opening soon.

. Dh45 for one hour or Dh50 for two hours; 9am to 10pm on weekdays, 9am to 11pm on weekends; 04 3850875, www.cheekymonkeys.ae

2. Kiddies Cafe, Jumeirah Lake Towers, Dubai

Though small in comparison with other new offerings, this place has a sense of community charm to it and you can immediately tell it was designed by a mum with small kids of her own. Hiba Momani says she opened Kiddies Cafe to create a cozy space with good-quality toys, where JLT mums could meet up. Momani also organises coffee mornings and movie nights.

Her cafe provides free Wi-Fi and an appetising range of cakes, salads and pastries. In the kids' section, there's the soft-play area, kiddies' supermarket complete with wooden toy food and craft tables where staff help children decorate paper roses.

Most eye-catching is the life-size doll's house and garage. Parking can be tricky on weekday mornings.

. Dh45 per hour, Dh30 per additional hour; 10am to 7pm; 04 360 8571, www.kiddiescafe.com

3. Kids Connection, Wafi Mall, Dubai

This spacious venue is the ultimate indoor park. Children can do everything they'd be doing in an average playground, but without the need for sunscreen - laying on the "grass" (the smooth, rubbery kind) and playing on wooden swings, slides, see-saws and a climbing tower. There are also a bouncy castle, trampolines, a traversing wall, redemption games, rides and a softball court.

To complete the park feel, trees are illustrated on the walls, blue sky and clouds painted on the ceiling and park benches are dotted around. No trip to the park is complete without an ice cream, which Baskin-Robbins is on hand to deliver.

. Dh35 for two hours for children under 3, Dh45 for 2 hours for those over 3; 10am to 10pm on weekdays, 10am to midnight on weekends; 04 327 9011, www.wafimall.com

4. Adventure HQ, Dalma Mall, Abu Dhabi

If your kids are bouncing off the walls this summer, this is where they really can bounce off the walls - off a wall-trampoline, that is. A more spacious version of its Dubai counterpart, Adventure HQ in Abu Dhabi lives up to its name. In addition to 22 trampolines, it features a cable climb and the UAE's first "bouldering" climbing wall, complete with a bouncy foam floor to protect from falls. The skate park can also be traversed on scooters and bikes and there's a "waving raceway" with ridges and furrows for the feel of a real BMX track. Children who might need one-on-one help from the friendly staff are advised to come on weekdays, when it's quieter.

Children under 4 are not allowed, while 4- to 6-year-olds have to be accompanied by parents.

Adventure sports classes will also be running soon.

. Dh90 for a one-hour session; 10am to 10pm and until midnight on Thursday and Friday; 02 445 6995, www.adventurehq.ae

5. Art 'N' Move, Shining Towers, Khalidya, Abu Dhabi

This Montessori educational centre provides a range of activities to stimulate children's creativity. The treasure trove of art supplies, all neatly displayed in jars on shelves, provide inspiration for the craft activities on offer, which include painting, sculpting, mosaics and handicrafts. There are bean bags around an open space where kids can partake in yoga, hip hop, acting and games, and there's a closed-off area with toys for those under 3. Saturdays are a full day of scheduled activities.

. Dh90 per hour; Saturday to Thursday 11am to 7pm; 02 626 2020, www.artnmove.com

6. Kidoos, Deerfields Mall (Deerfields Townsquare shopping centre), Abu Dhabi

As well as having possibly the largest soft-play area in Abu Dhabi, Kidoos also boasts a quaint mini-village with a kid-size salon, supermarket, restaurant and clinic kitted out with stethoscope and thermometers. There are also electronic kiddie rides, colouring tables and two mini-cars. Parents can relax on the sofas and enjoy a cold drink from the snack bar. But the sight of the toddler-zone gate hanging off its hinges during our visit detracted from how much fun the kids were having.

. On weekends and holidays, Dh75 for children over 3 and Dh55 for those under 3, on weekdays Dh40 for children over 3 for the first hour and Dh30 for those under 3; 10am to 10pm on weekdays, 10am to midnight on weekends; 02 645 9070, www.kidoos-uae.com

7. Kool Kidz, World Trade Center Mall, Abu Dhabi

In Abu Dhabi's newest mall resides the city's hippest indoor play zone and there are already plans to open another branch on Yas Island. Staff here don't just supervise the kids - they play with them, too.

In the Lego Zone, mini-constructors can find architectural inspiration by looking around at the 3-D kids-size models of the Burj Khalifa, the Aldar HQ and Al Maqtaa Fort.

In another room, young children can play games where they make projected images on the floor come to life by touching them. There are Xbox games and beading is one of the activities at the craft tables.

A salon offers the little ones mani-pedis, facials and haircuts, while mums can rest in the cafe area.

A possible concern is that one of the slides, given how steep it is, would look more at home at Yas Waterworld.

. Dh60 for the first hour, Dh30 for additional hours; 10am to 10pm on weekdays, 10am to 11pm on weekends; 02 677 0954, www.facebook.com/KoolKidzAbuDhabi

8. Happynest Playhouse, Al Raha Gardens Plaza, Abu Dhabi

Besides the usual soft-play area, this neighbourhood play centre features a mini-library, an extensive dress-up corner complete with curtains that pass as a changing room or a stage, laser-projected interactive floor games and craft tables. The wooden play-food in the supermarket section looks good enough to eat.

There's seating overlooking the play area, with free Wi-Fi and coffee from the nearby cafe. There's no toilet or baby-changing station on site, although toilet facilities will soon be available next door.

. Dh50 per hour; 8am to 8pm on weekdays, 9am to 9pm on weekends; 02 676 0605; www.happynestplayhouse.ae

9. Fun City, Abu Dhabi Mall

Fun City has been entertaining kids for the past 15 years with 19 play centres around the UAE. This latest branch has bright, uplifting decor as well as the usual noisy electronic games and rides. There is also a soft-play area featuring a large, rocking boat and the Fun N' Learn room, for kids under 5, features a separate baby area with an interactive tunnel and wooden toys.

. Dh40 for soft-play area and Dh30 for Fun N' Learn room - for all-day play; 10am to 10pm on weekdays, 10am to 11pm on weekends; 02 644 2588, www.funcity.ae

10. Little World Discovery Center, Nation Galleria, Abu Dhabi - opening on June 20

This aims to be a play centre like no other in the capital, featuring numerous hands-on exhibits, water- exploration stations, a builder's zone, creation station, little village, playground, dark sensory room and a snack bar. An innovation station will provide instructor-guided science activities and there will be technology classes on various topics including animation.

Janee Johnson, the executive director, says: "It'll be like a children's museum. The activities will generate the spark that makes kids want to learn."

. The centre is hosting a summer camp for which registration is now open. www.littleworlduae.com