Free Wi-Fi, organic coffee, and toddler supervision for just Dhs25 an hour, Louise Emma Clarke spends the morning at Dubai Marina’s new hangout for mums.
Looking for somewhere to work or unwind while your toddler is entertained? Live in Dubai Marina? I tick both boxes, so when I heard that a play area in The Jewels had launched Mum’s Time in September, I couldn’t wait to try it out with my 17-month old in tow.
The premise is simple. While parents sit in the café with a book or laptop, toddlers are cared for by staff – all for the very affordable price tag of Dhs25 per hour. For us, there’s coffee, snacks, music, and free Wi-Fi – and for sprogs, there’s a play area crammed with toys and one-on-one attention.
If you haven’t heard of Play a Round, you can be forgiven… The small location is hidden at the back of The Jewels in Dubai Marina. It boasts a great position overlooking the marina, but is currently inaccessible along the promenade due to construction work (I tried to shortcut across the sand with the buggy, but had to admit defeat and head back up to the road). If you come in the car, however, there is plenty of free parking in the basement.
We arrived at Play a Round on a quiet Wednesday morning to discover that we were the only customers. After receiving a warm welcome and leaving my son in the care of a member of staff in the ‘soft play’ area (really just a small padded space with crates of toys), I sat down at one of the café tables with my laptop and took in my surroundings.
My first impression was that the place was a little confused. On one hand, you have a serene café with neutral décor – and on the other, you have a whacky mini golf area lit by UV lights (imagine playing golf in a cartoon-themed nightclub and you get the idea). I can see the appeal of older kids coming to this place and hitting around a ball in surreal surroundings, but for the mum of a toddler looking for somewhere quiet to work while her son was entertained, I found it a bit of an assault on the senses.
As I expected from my independent child, he only lasted in the play area for about three minutes, before escaping through the swing doors to see what else the place had to offer. This is when I started feeling very thankful for that crazy golf area, as for the next 20 minutes he wandered around it happily ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the brightly lit walls and decorations. I could hear him happily squealing and laughing, but felt totally relaxed in the comfort of the café outside and made some real headway with my work (accompanied by an iced smoothie and warm beef sausage roll, which were served promptly to my table).
Exploring the mini golf area wouldn’t be possible if there were older children hitting balls around, of course – but as Mum’s Time runs between 9.30am and 2.00pm on week days, the likelihood is that there will only be younger children playing, so they are allowed to wander around to their heart’s content. I made a mental note to give the place a miss during the school holidays.
Play a Round also has a craft room, where my son enjoyed finger painting and play-doh moulding (both a first for him). I was delighted to be handed a stack of paintings as we were leaving, along with two instant photographs to show his Daddy that evening.
I must admit that the hour was a blissful break for me and while he occasionally wandered over to say hello, I welcomed these little interruptions - after all, if I wanted real alone time, I’d drop him at nursery. Perhaps not the place for conference calls or pressing deadlines, but definitely useful for dipping into emails, reading a magazine, or chatting with a friend while little ones are entertained.
I loved that the café serves 100 per cent organic RAW Coffee, sticks to a relaxing colour palette of green and lilac, and plays seriously cool jazz music (“We very rarely play nursery rhymes as this is an adult space” explained owner Muskan), Everything has been thought about, with power points for laptops hidden under flaps in the floor and soft corners on all of the tables to protect little heads.
Play a Round really is a hidden gem - and I have already booked our next visit.
Mum’s Time at Play a Round runs between 9.30am and 2.00pm every weekday, costing Dhs25 per hour (refreshments extra). It’s available for toddlers from walking age. For more information, visit www.playaround.ae.