| Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Kids Connection at Wafi

New children's play area brings the outside indoors in Dubai

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Louise Emma Clarke takes her toddler to try a new play area in WAFI Mall that promises to bring the outside in…

It’s the time of year when kids can kick a ball around outside, roll around on manicured lawns, and build sandcastles on the beach to their heart’s content - but knowing that the hot weather will return in a few short months, I’m always on the hunt for indoor entertainment to keep my toddler busy in air-conditioned comfort.

Having said that, I admit that I am bored stiff of soft play areas and ball pits. The thought of spending my morning following a 19-month old up slides and across sweaty plastic mats is enough to have me running to the airport and demanding a seat on the next flight to cooler climes.

Newly opened Kids Connection in WAFI Mall, however, promises to be so much more. Their advertising boasts that ‘children can stroll, crawl, toddle, walk, and ride at a park that brings the outside in!’ Still fantasising about our idyllic summer back in the UK, where we spent a good chunk of our time frolicking in lush, green parks (not a grain of sand in sight), I was keen to check it out.

I dragged the toddler and husband there one Saturday morning and demanded an early start, envisaging the place to be full-to-the-brim shortly after opening. How wrong I was! We arrived at WAFI (only the second time we had set foot inside) to discover the place to be eerily quiet. Following the signs to Kids Connection, based alongside the Café Court on the first floor, we passed no more than two or three people.

Mums that share my fear of packed, chaotic play areas will understand my glee when we arrived at Kids Connection to discover just three other children playing inside. What we discovered, I will add, was a real joy.

Firstly, the place is large and spacious. The activities are spaced out nicely, meaning there’s little chance of a toddler being knocked over by an older child in a mad rush. I loved the way they’d tried to recreate the feel of an outdoor park, while staying practical to an indoor play area. The green floor alluded to grass, but was smooth and rubbery to make it easier to keep clean, while also ensuring that little feet didn’t slip and little bodies weren’t hurt. I loved the styling of the place, with its wooden play structures, benches for parents dotted around, trees illustrated on the walls, and blue sky and clouds painted on the ceiling.

But of course the play area didn’t just need to appeal to me – and the real test was my son’s reaction. After paying our Dhs35 for two hours (surely one of the most reasonable price tags in Dubai), we walked through the lockable swing doors and he squealed in excitement. He clocked the ball pit area first (yes, there’s really no avoiding them in Dubai) and shrieked ‘balls!’ as he darted for it at top speed. Looking around me at all the lovely things for him to play with, my heart sunk a little, but I should never have doubted him – within seconds, he emerged (ball in hand) to explore what it had to offer.

For the next 60 minutes, he bounced on a charming hobby horse, swung in two different swings, bounced on a trampoline, giggled his way round a bouncy castle, sat on a caterpillar see-saw, and made friends with a wooden sheep. He didn’t stop – and despite being 30 weeks pregnant, I found the whole experience calm and very enjoyable.

Meanwhile, my husband enjoyed a coffee in the conveniently located Café Court alongside – and while I’d usually be insanely jealous, we were having such a lovely time that I felt he was missing out and sent him a message to join us.

While Café Court isn’t within sight of the play area, Kids Connection have their own sofas for parents of older children (aged five and over) to sit just outside and watch their kids play. Following the park theme, there’s also an ice-cream counter to refuel after a play date.

The staff also deserve a mention. Despite there only being four children playing at any one time during our visit, there were two or three staff members in the play area throughout, keeping an eye on kids, interacting, and helping with any problems (such as a dropped bracelet under a trampoline).

So will we be back? Without a doubt. In fact, we love the place so much that I was a little loathed to write this review and give away the secret…
Kids Connection is based on the First Floor of Wafi Mall. Dhs35 for two hours (kids below 3 years); Dhs45 for two hours (kids above 3 years). www.wafi.com (04 327 9011).

Time Out Dubai,

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