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50 ways to keep kids healthy in Dubai

Fun ways you can help children develop through engaging activities in 2017

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A ll we want is for our children to be happy and healthy. Every parent would say the same thing. Knowing how to achieve that, however, is no easy feat. Should they be wrapped in cotton wool and protected from every harsh reality of life? No.
Should you become a social secretary and constantly taxi them from one engagement to another? No.

The truth is children need to be bored sometimes. There is no harm in the occasional ice cream. It is okay for them to be sad sometimes. So, getting parenting just right every time is never going to happen. But, we’re pleased to note, you can increase the odds of raising happy and healthy children. Our list of 50 ways to do just that includes ideas for arts, exercise, diet, education and things to do. Some will work for you and your family, some won’t. You decide.

Adopt a family pet

The soothing benefits of a pet in the household are scientifically proven to lower stress levels, improve academic performance and enhance emotional intelligence. At least that is what the kid who wanted a kitten told us. Seems right to us, though. Just make sure you adopt!
Find out details of adoption at www.friendsofanimalsdxb.com.

Artistically therapeutic

Art therapy is a growing field in child psychology. As well as sessions for developmental progress, behavioural conditions and gifted student assessments, this local art therapy specialist organises
arty events for children as well.
Art Therapy International Centre, Al Sa’ada Street, BusinessBay, www.aticarttherapy.com (04 557 3242).

Be a positive parent
Babies, as you have no doubt noticed, do not arrive with an instruction manual. Medical centre Kids First has a variety of parenting classes which can bring happy habits to your home. The Positive Parenting Program is designed to help all generations of a family communicate better.
Kids First Medical Centre, Al Wasl Road, www.kidsfirstmc.com (04 348 5437).

Channel aggression with karate lessons
There is more to kids’ karate than kicking and punching. As much as your little ones might like the sound of some Power Rangers-style training they’re also going to learn some discipline, confidence and control while they’re at it. So, try enrolling them in a martial arts class at Middle East Karate Academy.
Middle East Karate Academy, Al Khail Mall, Al Quoz, www.mekarateacademy.com (04 346 5775).

Change your takeaway
Kids will only scoff burgers, pizzas, fries and cake all the time if that is what you buy for them. Food delivery service Health Factory is all about getting more wholesome foods to your doorstep. Diet plans such as its Little Heroes will drop off four square meals and a couple of snacks on your doorstep every morning. Each day’s meals are designed to give children the nutrition they need to prosper and live a long, healthy life.
Health Factory. Cocoona Clinic, Umm Suqeim 1, www.healthfactory.com (04 347 3808).

Choose healthier snacks
We love the simple genius behind fruity start-up Fruitful Day. Subscribe online and you’ll get a box of fruit sent to your door every week. Blueberries, pomelo, grapefruit, mango, strawberries – there’s loads more to fill up the fruit bowl. Absolutely brilliant.
Fruitful Day, Dubai Investment Park, www.fruitfulday.com (04 883 5851).

Create the drama
Kids don’t need to dream of a career on the stage or screen to benefit from a developmental drama programme such as those offered by the Helen O’Grady academy. It can help with self-esteem, communication, social interaction and confidence.
Helen O’Grady Drama Academy, Jumeirah Centre, Jumeirah, www.helenogrady.ae (04 385 6668).

Dance, dance, dance
You can barely move at certain education conferences for people explaining why dance should be an important part of every child’s education. But if you could, it would be gracefully, in time to music and with a lot of pirouettes. Dance academy, Step Up, offers dance training in ballet, cheerleading and more for children aged three and above.
Step Up Academy, Apex Atrium, Motor City, www.stepup.ae (04 453 4360).

Develop confidence
Drama, crafts, illustration, creative writing − if it is arty and expressive then the chances are the Gaia Centre has an involvement. Boasting certification from Trinity College London it is an arts training centre with an interesting approach in Oud Metha.
Gaia Centre, Metha Plaza Building, Oud Metha, www.thegaiacentre.com (04 396 1341).

Discover a world of literature
Picking up a pen and paper does not have to mean homework, boredom and resentment for a child. Education centre Leaps ’n‛ Bounds has fun creative writing workshops that feeds a child’s imagination and unleashes creativity. Don’t tell them this, but the young’uns might actually learn something while they’re doing it.
Leaps ’n‛ Bounds Dubai, Detroit House, Motor City, www.leapsnboundsdubai.com (04 453 7720).

Do some sport
If your child’s favourite lesson at school is P.E., then encourage that physical interest into out-of-school clubs as well. East Sports Management academies deliver high quality sports coaching for athletics, basketball, cricket, football, golf and more.
Go team! East Sports Management, various locations across Dubai, www.esportsuae.com (04 369 7817).

Drum Circle
Drum up some enthusiasm. Djembe drumming is more than just music, it is a fun way to de-stress and make new friends. Kids’ drumming circles are run every other Saturday in Al Quoz and full-moon sessions are a good excuse to go into the desert.
Dubai Drums, Urban Tribe Studio, Al Quoz, www.dubaidrums.com (056 7442129).

Eat yourselves happy
You are what you eat. On the evidence of this afternoon, that makes us half a block of cheese, two packets of crisps and four slices of leftover birthday cake. Time to reconsider the diet for the whole family and seek professional nutrition advice. Beyond Nutrition in JLT can help you and the family out there.
Beyond Nutrition, HDS Tower, Cluster F, JLT, www.beyond-nutrition.ae (056 464 4430).

Express feelings through art
Al Quoz arts hub thejamjar encourages and nurtures creativity in all its forms. We love the community art space and reckon the Young Artist Programme here is a grassroots, cultural highlight of the city. Drop them off here and you can even have a go at it yourself.
thejamjar, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, www.thejamjardubai.com (04 341 7303).

Gain confidence via performance
Close your eyes and picture a child actor. They’re not exactly short on confidence are they? That famed projection, expressive communication and dramatic approach is not just something that happens. A performing arts school such as this London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art-recognised club is a great place to start.
Drama Scene, DUCTAC, Mall of the Emirates, Barsha, www.dramascene.com (055 310 0984).

Gather some academic help
Okay, you’re not likely to get kids queuing up for extra lessons. But the nurturing approach deployed by tutors and mentors at The Study Room, a KHDA training centre, is designed to keep students enthusiastic and motivated with personalised learning plans.
The Study Room, Mediterranean Building, Dubai Sports City, www.thestudyroom.ae (04 513 6620).

Get lost in a good book
If there is a better way to inspire, educate, entertain and enthral a child’s mind than reading, then we have not found it yet. The Dubai Mall’s giant book store has a special section for kids. Let them pick something out to read for themselves and you’re achieving parenting goals.
Books by Kinokuniya, Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai, www.kinokuniya.com (04 434 0111).

Grab a good night’s sleep
So much of a person’s physical and mental well-being comes down to how well they’ve slept. Multiply that by a hundred for children. We’re not just talking about babies who need to be rocked to sleep, either. Sleep issues such as bedwetting, grinding teeth, daytime lethargy and difficulty dropping off are often the symptom of other issues. A consultation with experts at a clinic such as the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology can help address concerns.
American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology, Sunset Mall, Jumeirah, www.americancenteruae.com (04 314 1000).

Giggle while you wiggle
“Happy Kids, Happy Families” says the tag line to Kidville, a JBR-based activity centre. As true as that is for all the baby movement classes and musical sing-alongs, it neglects to mention “Happy Mothers”. Countless friendships have been made by mums attending the easy-going drop-in sessions and long may that continue.
Kidville, The Walk, JBR, www.kidville.com (04 440 1220).

Hula hoop yourself happy
Hula hoops have been putting smiles on faces and wiggles in bodies for decades. Dubai fitness and creativity specialist Flowground takes it to the next level. Known for bringing hula hoops into corporates, it also provides pre-teen sessions that’ll enhance body control, dexterity and choreographed creativity.
Flowground, The Fridge, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, www.flowground.com (056 697 0099).

Hire a happiness consultant
Strange as it may sound, a life coach and happiness consultant can help teach children as young as ten the skills that can help the transition to adulthood. Emerge Coaching helps develop positive habits, emotional intelligence, self-awareness and proven techniques for coping with juvenile stress.
Emerge Coaching, Boulevard Plaza Tower, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai, www.emerge.ae (04 444 9474).

Incredible young engineers
There is more to life than sports, drama and ponies (whatever certain Time Out-ers say). If your child is more interested in taking things apart and building them up again, then Motor City organisation Engineering for Kids could be the club for them. It operates in- and out-of-school programmes with fun educational concepts at the core.
Engineering for kids, Motor City, www.engineeringforkids.com (04 456 2220).

Inspire with painting
Kidzart is an international painting and drawing programme designed to unleash creativity and imagination onto canvases from children over the age of two. Unlike a sporting class, where there is the sudden rush of excitement with a scored goal or victory, these sessions are about relaxation, focus, problem-solving and creativity. Something parents and children will appreciate every now and then.
Kidz Art, various locations, www.kidzart.ae (055 222 0129).

Jump around
Boing! Trampoline park Flip Out won our Best Kids’ Sports Experience Award this year. Boing! It is a load of trampolines in a warehouse. Boing! Kids will love it. Boing! It is a great family workout, too. Boing!
Flip Out, Al Quoz 3, www.flipout.ae (600 567 568).

Junior scrums with chums
Much like sister organisation Soccer Kids, Rugby Kids Dubai, the youth coaching scheme, delivers competitive sports and quality life lessons through sport at venues all across town. Except this time the balls are egg-shaped.
Rugby Kids Dubai, various locations, www.rugbykidsdubai.com (055 207 3168).

Just relaaaaax
Have you any idea how much stimulation a child’s brain is subjected to in a single day? Video games, lessons, toys, siblings, parents − the input is nearly relentless. So if anybody needs meditation classes, mindfulness coaching and emotional intelligence-enhancing yoga lessons, it is children. Posetivity is a youth organisation dedicated to helping children achieve emotional fitness.
Posetivity, various locations across Dubai, www.posetivity.com (050 356 2709).

Lean on the experts
The Sensation Station is a private therapy centre for children and families with a variety of special needs and learning challenges. Numerous therapeutic and educational workshops can help families beyond measure and facilities at the progressive centre include rooms designed to intrigue the senses and challenge bodies.
Sensation Station, Ibn Battuta Gate Offices, Jebel Ali, www.sensationstation.ae (04 277 6769).

Learn to fly
Not fly perhaps, but simulated indoor skydiving is the closest your kid will get to it. Strap on a special suit, clamber into the wind tunnel and do your best. It is hard to tell if that is a real smile or just a jet of air blowing cheeks out, but when they’re back on firm land you’re not likely to hear many complaints.
iFly, Mirdif City Centre, Mirdif, www.theplaymania.com (04 231 6292).

Learn to swim
Every muscle group is worked out during a swimming lesson and you get to develop an essential life skill as you do it. Now they can fly AND swim (see point “Learn to fly” above).What else do you need to know?
Waves Academy, various locations, www.wavesacademy.com (055 575 2888).

Let out a laugh
Part of being a corporate laughter consultant, we imagine, is to help stuffy business folk get in touch with their inner child. When not running laughter yoga sessions and delivering motivation workshops in Dubai, Jo-Dee Walmsley offers sessions for families wanting to make happy emotional bonds.
Simply Laughter, www.simplylaughter.com (052 804 1393).

Line up at the barre
The longest-running dance academy in the UAE, The Ballet Centre, celebrated a 30th anniversary this year. As well as the eponymous ballet, kids can learn jazz, hip-hop and Irish dance styles here. Let them groove.
The Ballet Centre, Jumeirah 1, www.balletcentredubai.com (04 344 9776).

Make beautiful music
Listening to music has the power to make you laugh, cry, dance, sleep and just about everything in between. That power is even more profound when you’re making the music yourself. Music lessons are a gift that will stay with a child for a lifetime. A music school such as Brooklyn Melodies has a veritable orchestra of instruments just ready and waiting to be learned.
Brooklyn Melodies Music Centre, various locations, www.brooklynmelodies.com (04 388 4815).

Make bubbles
Under the sea, under the sea, darling it’s better, down where it’s wetter, take it from me. Trust Disney on this one. Sign children up for a PADI Bubblemaker course and they can be happy on land and water.
Al Boom Diving, Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah 1, www.alboomdiving.com (04 342 2993).

Move your body
Children need physical exercise. It is as simple as that. It is not always possible to find outdoor areas to run around in, so a youthful fitness centre like My Gym in Jumeirah is ideal for burning off energy. There are literally dozens of sessions every week, ranging from mixed martial arts for toddlers to cardio for pre-tweens. All sessions are age specific and put an emphasis on fun.
My Gym, Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah, www.mygym.com (04 394 3962).

Picnics in the park
We’ve never quite worked out how to design a happiness matrix. But when we do, a visit to the park is likely to score off the charts with children, thanks to the outdoor exercise, sunshine fun, fresh air, playfulness and the chance of spotting some birds and flowers. Plus, if you go somewhere like Barsha Pond Park, there are lots of sports facilities, climbing frames and bike rentals, too.
Al Barsha 2, near Emirates NBD Bank (no number).

Play some soccer
Boys and girls love to kick a ball around, but getting enough people together for a game isn’t as easy as you may remember from the parks and makeshift pitches of your youth. Soccer Kids coaching academy has camps, tournaments and lessons at around ten venues across town and has been operating in the city for almost 15 years. Multiple age groups, locations and ability levels mean your child is always likely to get a game.
Soccer Kids, various locations across Dubai, www.soccerkidsdubai.com (055 207 3168).

Pop on the wheel
Combining the twin childhood joys of making a mess with creating something new, a pottery lesson at DUCTAC community arts centre is a tactile, hands-on way to get children involved in arts and crafts. We reckon that is a clear path to happy.
DUCTAC, Mall of the Emirates, Barsha, www.ductac.org (04 341 4777).

Ride on a pony
Little children, particularly girls, dream about ponies. There is simply no better thing for them to be doing than riding on, grooming, feeding or just talking incessantly about ponies and horses. Earn major parent points, as well as send your child’s happiness scores off the scale, by taking them along to the pony club at Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club for good, wholesome, outdoor fun.
Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club, Al Qudra, opposite Arabian Ranches, www.poloclubdubai.com (04 361 8111).

See a counsellor
Despite how it may seem, life for a child is not all ice cream parlours and playtime. There is more going on in their minds than you would imagine. Bullying, peer pressure, separation anxiety, not to mention homework, are all bouncing around in their minds. Child counsellors at centres such as Illuminations are trained to talk to children and help them with their concerns.
Illuminations, Fortune Executive Tower, Cluster T, JLT, www.illuminations.ae (04 448 7043).

Sift through greenery
How could a trip to an authentic jungle experience not make children happy (or adults for that matter)? See and interact with birds, snakes, plants and animals from the indoor rainforest, The Green Planet, here in Dubai.
Green Planet Dubai, Citywalk, Al Safa, www.thegreenplanetdubai.com (800 637 227).

Smile, you’re a star!
Have any two words ever conjured up an image of confident, smiling, expressive children more than “musical theatre”? Courses in star-making start for three-year-olds and progress all the way through to late teens at Kids’ Theatre Works.
Kids’ Theatre Works, DUCTAC, Mall of the Emirates, Barsha, www.kidstheatreworks.com (050 158 5653).

Start an Olympic journey
We’ve noticed a competitive edge to children in the city. While we can appreciate the edge that gives, we love the sportsmanship, focus on fun and inclusiveness that come with elite coaching at the award-winning sports organisation Ultimate Athletics. Tots to teens can try their hands at sprinting, running, high jump, javelin and loads more track and field events. Ready, set, GO!
Ultimate Athletics, Dubai Sport City, www.ultimateathleticsuae.com (04 382 7813).

Step into a bubble
This new sport is like football. Except you climb inside a giant, transparent, inflatable bubble to play. Possibly the most fun on the pitch since those tiny 1980s shorts went out of fashion.
Bubble Soccer, Al Quoz, www.bubblesoccer.ae (056 387 8537).

Stretch out at yoga
Remember how bendy and happy you were as a child? Before the belly. It is nothing compared to how supple and emotionally-centred children will be after a yoga lesson at Zoga. Can we get an “om”?
Zoga, Southridge 6, Downtown Dubai, www.zoga.ae (04 276 7657).

Take a comedy course
Encourage your child to laugh more by signing them up for comedy courses with chuckle specialists Dubomedy. Every Saturday from January 28 until March 11, comedians aged ten to 14 can learn the basics of improvisation, public speaking, joke telling and plain old confidence.
Dubomedy, www.dubomedy.com (800 266 339).

Tend to your garden
Nurture something small and give it care, love and attention and it can blossom into something beautiful. Can you see where we’re going with this analogy yet? Looking after a small patch of garden, even just a window box, is a great responsibility for a child, so stock
up on essentials at Dubai Garden Centre.
Dubai Garden Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.dubaigardencentre.ae (04 590 4333).

Train a brain
Parents have conveniently forgotten it, but school is really hard. Learning stuff four hours on end every day, week-after-week is tough. A few sessions with a brain training consultant can unlock learning potential and help children improve academic performance. Whether it is a few extra sessions to make homework easier, or elite student sessions, check out some extra coaching options.
The Brain Workshop, Jumeirah Terrace, Jumeirah 1, www.thebrainworkshop.com (04 327 5075).

Try family therapy
Does your home feel like a battleground? Family therapy is far from the new-age mumbo jumbo you may have thought. Talking through issues with family counsellors can teach new communication skills to young and old.
Lighthouse Arabia, Villa 1, Al Wasl Road, Al Safa, www.lighthousearabia.com (04 380 2088).

Walk around the gardens
Turning a frown upside down can be as simple as just going outside for a walk. We love the floral displays at Dubai Miracle Garden and have had many a pleasant walk with the children through the stunning displays. Low-key wholesomeness at its best.
Dubai Miracle Garden, Al Barsha South 3, Dubailand, www.dubaimiraclegarden.com (04 422 8902).

Year-round camps
We first came to know about youth activity centre Our Kids First because of the event-packed holiday camps it operates each summer and winter break. You don’t need to wait for term to end to get involved in a massive selection of out-of-school activities, which includes volleyball, junior Zumba, basketball, football, gymnastics and more.
Emaar Business Park, The Greens, www.ourkidsfirst-uae.com (050 341 6600).

Time Out Dubai,

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