Victoria Bentley finds a welcome distraction for her daughter in the madness of The Dubai Mall.
Why did we think this was a good idea? The problem with being an optimist is that you think that you can achieve a multitude of things in any given weekend. Which you can, as long as you are by yourself, not weighed down by the time-reversing baggage of one toddler, one pre-schooler, a snackbox, a change bag, and hordes of Saturday shoppers and lost tourists.
So here we were in The Dubai Mall on a Saturday lunchtime. Husband needed to find some specific shoes for work, bigger child needed a haircut, I had to do a big food shop and we all needed to eat at some point before we passed out. Problem was the smaller one had fallen asleep, so lunch was off the cards at that moment. However, I spotted an opportunity – two birds, one stone. We were near Galeries Lafayette and I suggested that my husband took the sleeping child to buy the shoes, while I got the bigger child’s hair cut and then we could have lunch. So far, so good, except being an optimist, not a planner, I had failed to book the haircut and we had an hour to kill.
Le Petit Palais was the answer. Tucked away at the back of Galeries Lafayette, this beautifully designed play place is made to look like a miniature French town, with a sweet French marketplace and a ‘road’ for cars, including two old-fashioned petrol pumps. On one side is a two-storey soft play climbing area with a ball pit and slide, as well as a small area with a few toys for babies to play in.
There’s also a ‘craft’ area, a karaoke room, a mini-spa where little girls can go and have treatments and a playhouse with a kitchen, sitting room, bedroom and dressing up area. I peeked into the ‘party’ room, laid out for a birthday party that day, which was spacious, if a bit devoid of colour on the walls.
We paid for an hour and were given a voucher which would give us a free second hour of play on our next visit. Shoes off, my daughter immediately headed for the soft play which is clean and quite well kept. My daughter spent a while climbing the ladders and going down the slide. There’s also a big ball ‘shooter’ that was pretty fun, if noisy.
Moving on to the craft area, I was disappointed that although there was a nice big table for drawing and colouring, it was cluttered with old drawings and a couple of tired-looking children’s books. There were two big pots of pencils, and once I had found some clean paper from the shelves behind, my daughter sat and drew a few aliens (her new favourite thing), followed by a look at a fairy book.
At the ‘French market’, daughter was happy putting fruit in and out of the miniature trolley and basket, but a lot of the very realistic fruit was ripped, with the polystyrene ‘inner’ showing. It didn’t seem to bother my daughter though.
The playhouse is perfect for little girls, with a good selection of cups, saucepans and spoons to ‘cook’ with. Daughter immediately found a fairy dress from the bedroom area, put it on and set about making my ‘dinner’. If only we could all cook dressed as fairies, it might make putting dinner on the table more fun!
There are signs everywhere telling adults not to sit on the children’s furniture, so adults have to stand to supervise their little ones, or sit on the floor – this rule did not seem to be enforced during our visit though.
My daughter did peek into the karaoke ‘disco’ room but quickly retreated – too loud for her but a braver child would enjoy the flashing lights and loud music. There are a few ‘boy toys’ – a garage and a few dinosaurs, which seemed popular, as did the ride-on cars.
The staff, although not particularly hands-on, were helpful at the gate when coming in and out, and greeted my daughter in a friendly way. One hour was enough for us, perhaps because the whole area is quite small and with my daughter now just over three, she might be getting too old for this type of play.
There is a small shop at the entrance selling baby items and sweets, which are displayed at a low level to entice toddlers. Scooping my daughter up away from temptation, we went to rejoin the other half of the family and order some much needed lunch. Le Petit Palais was a welcome run-around for my daughter, and helped to break up our day of shopping and chores.