Louise Emma Clarke takes her toddler to try out the new Cheeky Monkeys Playland in Dubai Marina.
As I drove over to the new Dubai Marina branch of Cheeky Monkeys, I experienced a horrible sinking feeling as it dawned on me that I had forgotten a pair of socks for my two-year old. Friends had warned me they were essential, but I had slid his feet into summer sandals in a rush to get out the door without it even crossing my mind. I decided to head upstairs anyway, located on the first floor of Trident Grand Building, but envisaged being turned away and having to drive all the way home again with a disappointed toddler in the back.
I didn’t need to worry, as the clever people at Cheeky Monkeys had a box of socks at the reception desk for forgetful mothers like myself, priced at just Dhs5 a pair. I breathed a sigh of relief as I pulled them onto his feet, before we headed inside to investigate.
Friends had also warned me to avoid visiting in the afternoons and at weekends, as it can get very busy with birthday parties are being hosted. This piece of advice I did remember – and we arrived at 9am, just after opening. It paid off and we got to explore while the place was nearly empty.
We walked past rows of white tables and colourful chairs in the café area (where I made a mental note that Starbucks coffee was on offer) and past a playhouse, complete with supermarket and mini trolleys at the front, to discover the main play area at the back of the venue. There was an audible gasp as Stanley looked around, before he ran straight into the jungle gym and hauled himself up several platforms to reach the exciting world above my head.
As he explored, I took a moment to take in our surroundings. Everything was very new and shiny, with bright primary colours, glitter finishes, and innovative lighting. My eye was drawn to a small blue slide, which had running water gushing through the perspex plastic, lit very cleverly by neon blue lights. I wasn’t the only one; a baby was transfixed as he watched the flow of water and attempted to crawl up the slide.
While I was watched his efforts, my son arrived at speed at the bottom of a tall twisting red slide. He’d had so much fun in the jungle gym that he rushed straight back to the starting point, but I wanted to show him what else was on offer. For the next 20 minutes he swung on a zip line, threw himself into a ball pit, sat on a horse on a merry-go-round, rolled giant balls around, tried on various outfits in a dressing up area, and jumped on a trampoline (complete with a netting surround to protect little ones).
Children need to be supervised at all times, but a few staff members were stood around watching the children. I chatted to one of them, asking if they would be able to help my son if he was right at the top and couldn’t find his way down – she told me that they would immediately climb up. This was a relief, as it isn’t always easy to find them in the maze in a hurry.
Outside this large soft play area, we discovered a small craft area, with paints and crayons already laid out. As my son dipped his finger straight into the paint and smeared it over the table, I was reminded why children need to be supervised at all times – and with the mess cleaned up, he sat down to do some colouring.
After all that playing and creating, he was shattered – so we took the opportunity to sit down at a table for snacks and coffee. I ordered myself a Starbucks Cappuccino (Dhs14) and scanned the menu for kid-friendly food options. There was plenty on offer, including Pizza (Dhs18), Chicken Nuggets (Dhs18), Fish Fingers (Dhs20), Mozzarella Sticks (Dhs16) and French Fries (Dhs12). I thought it was a shame they hadn’t provided healthier options for main meals, but was pleased to discover apples and portions of cut-up fruit available as snack options, alongside a good choice of juices and bottles of water.
After eating and drinking up, it was nearly 11am and the place was getting busier. We paid on our way out, vowing to be back soon – and this time, we will bring socks and a couple of friends to join us.
Cheeky Monkeys Playland is located at Trident Grand Residence in Dubai Marina (opposite Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa). Children between 10 months and eight years old cost Dhs45 (for one hour), Dhs50 (for two hours), Dhs60 (for three hours), www.cheekymonkeys.ae (04 276 0011).