5 to try: Family fun in malls

Pop your kids into a mall-based activity centre while you shop


Favourite Things at Marina Mall
Kiddie Kudos: With sand play, a kitchen (and cooking classes), arts area, jungle gym and endless dress-up options and facepainting, Favourite Things is most definitely a favourite thing of any child aged seven or under. Kids aged four and above can stay without adult supervision and should take advantage of a range of free activities during the week. And tots aged three and under are welcome at the crèche facility, Sunday to Thursday.

Shopping Score:
Within Favourite Things there’s the Brush & Co salon where mums can get their talons (and more) jollified ahead of a Christmas party, plus plenty of shopping opportunities at the quirky in-house kids’ boutique. In Marina mall itself, we suggest SoBoHo for some cool not-to-be-found-elsewhere gifts, Build-a-Bear workshop for kiddie pressies and, if you’re shopping for your own Christmas list, Mac and Bobbi Brown makeup stores.
Dhs85 first hour, Dhs20 for additional hours. Members Dhs50 first hour, Dhs15 for additional hours. Crèche Dhs60 hour/child, Dhs40 for members, booking is essential. Open daily 9am-9pm. www.favouritethings.com (04 434 1984).

Kidzania at Dubai Mall
Kiddie Kudos: This mini kids’ world take ‘let’s pretend’ to a whole new level, where kids can fight fires, design their own HP laptop, scale buildings, become a dentist and embark on all sorts of other new careers. It’s ideal for leaving older kids by themselves for a good few hours and all visitors are tagged so staff will know exactly where they are so they can drag them out when you come to collect them. Experts
in making sure kids are both well entertained and looked after, your kids will have an absolute ball, although we reckon younger kids (aged five and under) and children without siblings or friends will need to be accompanied by an adult.

Shopping Score: Perfect if you’ve yet to start your seasonal shopping and panic is beginning to set in. It’s the world’s biggest mall for heavens’ sake… if you can’t find what you’re looking for here, there’s no hope.
Dhs125 (kids aged 4-16), Dhs95 (aged 2-3), under two years free, Dhs90 adults. Sun-Wed 9am-10pm; Thu 9am-midnight; Fri-Sat 10am-midnight. www.kidzania.ae (04 448 5222).

Cité des Enfants at Mirdif City Centre
Kiddie Kudos: We’re huge fans of Cité des Enfants, the fabulous educational play zone housed within Playnation at Mirdif City Centre. The 90-minute workshops here are excellent value and a superb option for curious little minds. Book them in and let them get stuck into a 30-minute session on a winter wonderland theme (this is just for December, the topics change every month) with ‘animals of the ice’ running from December 1-15 and ‘cool creations’ from December 16-31. Other one-off workshops include designing the national flag on UAE Day, December 2, and gingerbread house-building on December 24 and 25. All sessions are followed by an hour of supervised play within the centre’s five zones – think building your own car, water play, and a brilliant building site complete with foam bricks, chutes and mini-wheelbarrows.

Shopping Score: Ideal if you just need an uninterrupted hour to pick up a few gifts, Mirdif City Centre has everything you’ll need, from all the usual high street stores (think Debenhams, Borders and Hamleys) plus some great speciality shops. For kids gifts, check out Little Explorers and Sanrio.
From Dhs90 per workshop, workshop timings Sun-Wed 10am, noon, 2pm, 4pm; Thu-Sat 6pm. www.citedesenfantsme.com (800-5347873).

Peekaboo at Ibn Battuta
Kiddie Kudos: Suitable for all kids under seven (tots under 3-1/2 years must be accompanied by an adult but there is one-on-one babysitting available) there’s much more to Peekaboo than just cool climbing frames and fabbie toys. It’s the activities which set Peekaboo apart from other commercial play areas, with a constantly-changing schedule including cooking, yoga, groove time, dressing up and face painting, all supervised by friendly and energetic staff. Drop your kids off for one hour (Dhs40) and pay just Dhs10 for every additional hour – bargain!

Shopping Score: Choose from the traditional haunts and department stores of Ibn Battuta and Mall of the Emirates, or check out the smaller independent shops and boutiques of The Village Mall, Jumeirah.
Dhs40 per hour (ages 1-7), Dhs10 extra hour, Dhs100 full day. One-on-one babysitting additional Dhs50 per hour. Open daily 10am-9pm (Village Mall 9am-8pm). www.peekaboo.ae (04 429 7949).

Fun City at Lamcy Plaza
Kiddie Kudos: An oldie (it used to be known as Loulou al Dugongs) but still a goodie, this branch of Fun City has been recently refurbished, and the results are impressive. Retaining its old-fashioned charm, the large, quiet play area is bursting with activities for kids aged seven months to eight years such as puppet shows, arts and crafts and cooking classes (kids aged four and above can be left by themselves). We love the mini supermarket, mini gym, dress-up room and soft play area – and the fact there’s a café on site. Older kids can get their fill of bleeping bedlam in the noisy arcade next door.

Shopping Score:
Lamcy Plaza is worth a trip just to stock up on cheap-as-chips gift boxes and stocking fillers at bargain Japanese store, Daiso. But while you’re there check out the range of jewellery and watch stores, as well as bargain UK fashion store Matalan and great value kids’ clothing store J’adore.
Dhs45 unlimited time. Open daily 9.30am-10pm. (04 335 2700).

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