Mirdif City Centre’s Little Explorers has long been popular with kids and parents alike, thanks to the hands-on activities that make it fun to learn. But did you know that since May 2010, they’ve also been running themed workshops for little ones, too? As our own kids get stuck in to a session making 3-D foam elephants under the patient and watchful eye of one of the Little Explorers staff, operations manager Julie Dubosq, explains the concept.
‘The goal and hope is that the children will leave after each session having enhanced their own knowledge, skills and sense of discovery,’ she says. There are two main themes each month (often seasonal, to tie in with calendar events such as Eid and Ramadan, spring and Christmas), and the workshops are open to children aged between three and seven, enabling them to play together in a series of supervised, mixed activities. There are a maximum of 10 to 12 kids per group.
While the premise for Little Explorers has travelled across to Dubai from Paris, where it originated, the workshops are completely unique to the region and have been developed exclusively by the Little Explorers’ staff that work here.
‘Our staff come from the teaching profession and are well-versed in education and the different curricula,’ says Julie. ‘They use their experience to and expertise to develop the workshops around educational topics plus socially and culturally-relevant themes. So, for example, as part of this month’s April workshops, we have chosen to teach the children who join us about Earth Day, so we’ll focus on activities that increase awareness of conservation and the environment. It is important to encourage children to explore, create and discover the world around them.’
Kids can be dropped off for a 90-minute session, which includes 30 minutes in the workshop, then an extra hour of supervised play in Little Explorers’ five zones (which include ‘I discover myself’, ‘I can do’, ‘I locate myself’, ‘All together’, and ‘I experiment’). For many parents, it’s an ideal opportunity to do a solo shop around the nearby Carrefour, or grab a quick coffee while the kids are in a safe, fun and chaperoned environment. ‘The majority of children like the group setting and enjoy being with other children their age in a fun and interactive environment,’ says Julie about the drop-off process. ‘However, if a child is uncomfortable, we encourage the parents to stay and assist in easing them into the groups.’
The idea of edutainment, or learning through play, has become something of a buzzword here in Dubai over the last few years – so it’s not surprising to hear that the workshop sessions at Little Explorers are a big draw, both for kids living in Mirdif and further afield too, with many families turning the trip into a full day out. ‘The idea is very popular with parents,’ says Julie, ‘but its also popular with kids too – we have so many repeat visitors because it is so exciting for children. It allows them to play creative games, making things that they can take away with them.’
The age appropriate classes are designed to teach important life skills, too, from sorting and decision making to team work and developing their motor skills. Julie explains: ‘In the early formative years in a child’s’ life, it is important to teach them about sharing, team work and collaborating together and the workshops provide an ideal environment for this. Because they are specially designed for children between the ages of three and seven, the kids can enhance and develop their skill sets while also learning to be less dependent on others and more confident in their own abilities, in a fun and safe environment, that is unique to what we have here.’
Observing the children as the workshop ends and they move on to play in the main five zones, it’s interesting to see edutainment in action. The kids (all under the age of six, for whom ‘sharing’ is an alien concept), don hard hats and luminous vests and team together with their instructor to build a wall on a mini-construction site (with even more fun to be had knocking it down!). Over in ‘I discover myself’, there’s squeals of delight as they sprint down a mini track, with a huge timer telling them how fast they can run.
The only drawback? Cajoling them into leaving at the end of a long day – if we’d left it up to the kids, we’d probably still be there now. But luckily for them, with a whole host of fun, themed activities already planned for the months ahead, there’s plenty of reasons to go back.
For more information on upcoming themes or to make a booking, visit www.littleexplorersme.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800 386.
This month’s theme at Little Explorers is ‘Nature Calls’.
• The Furry Friends workshop is running from April 1 to 8, and April 23 to 30, and kids will be learning all about camping, forest animals and how to make their very own cute critter craft.
• The Down to Earth workshops run from April 9 to 22 to celebrate Earth Day, with a focus on environmental awareness, recycling and a special craft about mother earth.
Dhs100 (30 minute workshop session, followed by one hour in Little Explorers. Sessions run 10am-10pm weekdays and 10am-12am weekends.