With temperatures in the UAE soaring to the late 40s in the summer, it’s rapidly becoming time to face the annual challenge of living in the desert – finding new ways to occupy the kids, that don’t cost the earth.
Inevitably there will be more TV watched, as the weather makes it too hot to play outdoors, however, the screen needn’t become a substitute for time spent together as there are plenty of new shows to watch with your kids, that are both entertaining and educational.
“My kids don’t watch massively more TV in the summer, but you have to plan your days well, particularly with boys who need lots of exercise,” says one UAE mum.
Another resident adds, “There are many good summer camps, but some of them charge crazy amounts. You need to have alternatives. My kids love watching funny vines, videos on gaming and a lot on OSN.”
So what’s new to entertain your little ones this summer? We find out…
The BBC’s BAFTA award-winning pre-school brand CBeebies was recently launched in the Middle East as part of a new partnership with beIN on 134 and it’s the first time that CBeebies is available as a full channel on these shores.
This version of CBeebies has been specifically designed for the UAE audience, but the quality, core values and ambition of the UAE channel are closely aligned with those of CBeebies UK.
“We have lively, action-packed programming to get viewers up in the morning, followed by shows for younger viewers to find out about the world, then after-school fun and games, before more gentle programming to wind down at the end of the day,” says a spokesman.
“CBeebies is known for having a strong educational element, encouraging learning through play and is a useful tool in teaching children the English language. For that reason, it broadcasts in original English audio to enable children to develop their language skills.”
The channel is targetted at children up to six years old and aims to offer fun ideas and games to encourage children and parents to continue playing and learning even once the channel is switched off.
This follows the adventures of four heroes, Xuli, Kyan, Lars and Foz, as they travel the world with their teacher, mentor and friend, Ubercorn.
A series narrated by Monty Python star Michael Palin about creatures living on a moon-like planet.
Aimed at two- to five-year-olds, this show is all about "The Squirrel Club", an after-school activity club based around learning new skills.
Nelly and Nora
An Irish cartoon about two sisters who spend time in a holiday house by the sea.
Nina and the Neurons
An educational science show, where Nina uses the neurons in her brain to solve problems.
Sports network beIN has also recently acquired Cartoon Network, on top of airing Boomerang and Baby TV and is now host to a wide range of children’s programmes.
The Powerpuff Girls
Follow Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup, three superheroes out to reduce crime.
The Amazing World of Gumball
An animated comedy about a cat called Gumball Watterson and his adopted brother, a goldfish called Darwin.
A cartoon about a blue jay and a racoon who have extreme adventures at their local park.
A popular Emirati cartoon that returned to the station last month.
We Bare Bears
This follows the adventures of three bears, Grizzly, Panda and Ice Bear, who are trying to integrate with humans.
The Disney Channel is on OSN and airs some of the most popular kids’ programmes.
“We look for the best-rated shows from our partners, with a focus on quality entertainment for children of all ages that informs as well as delights. We also listen to the feedback from our subscribers so we can give them the content they want to watch with their families,” says Emad Morcos, chief content officer for OSN.
This summer Disney Jr. was also made a dual language channel for families to enjoy their favourite shows in English or Arabic.
US sitcom about a small-town Texan girl who moves to New York to pursue her dreams to become an actress.
A series about musical prodigy Chyna Parks who attends the prestigious Advanced Natural Talent programme.
Liv & Maddie
This show is about two identical twins who are very different – one is into theatre, the other has a talent for sport.
This follows the trials and tribulations of a talented teenager who returns to Buenos Aires after living in Europe.
There are plenty of new episodes of shows on Nick Jr. this summer, which is aimed at under sevens, and on OSN.
Popular shows with new episodes:
An educational cartoon, following the adventures of the fish-tailed pre-schoolers in an underwater classroom.
Blaze and the Monster Machines
An interactive series for pre-school children featuring Blaze, the world's most amazing monster truck.
Dora & Friends
Follow the Dora The Explorer gang as Dora heads to school in the city of Playa Verde.
Shimmer & Shine
Starring a young girl named Leah, whose budding genies Shimmer and Shine grant wishes, but cause chaos along the way.
Internet TV channels are also fast becoming a go-to for families, with live streaming via Netflix, which only launched in the UAE earlier this year. Throughout July and August there are four new series launching which are specifically for kids.
Word Party Season 1
A vocabulary building show from The Jim Henson Company that follows four baby animals as they sing, dance and play. Live July 8.
Popples: Season 3
A high-energy comedy series about an amazing species of creatures that can pop into and out of a ball. The story is driven by the optimistic comedic enthusiasm of the BPP’s (Best Popple Pals): Bubbles, Sunny, Lulu, Izzy and Yikes. Live July 24.
LEGO Bionicle: The Journey to One: Season 2
The new storyline takes place on the mythical island of Okoto, where the forces of darkness are on the move and the evil Makuta is working to cast the world into darkness. The desperate inhabitants enlist six heroes to help save their beloved island. Live July 29.
Follow four super smart and science-skilled girls as they are recruited to join the spy organisation NOV8 ("Innovate”) and work together to save the day and prove that Smart is the New Cool. Live August 12.
Glitter Force: Season 2
When the magical kingdom of Jubiland is invaded by an evil emperor and his band of fairytale villains, a tiny pixie named Candy recruits five pre-teen girls to form the powerful team of the Glitter Force to help defend Earth from becoming the next target. Live
With an estimated 500 hours worth of video uploaded to the channel every minute, YouTube is a hub for everything kids want to watch, from educational programmes to funny clips. There are now dedicated YouTube kids’ apps in the UK, US and some of Latin America, and in the UAE its popularity is rocketing with kids watching everything on their tablets and computers.
Toys are unveiled, described and reviewed.
The classic US educational puppet show, which first aired in 1969, is still a family favourite.
Little Baby Bum
A British nursery rhymes channel that consistently tops most-watched polls.
The Dubai Talk show
This is streamed predominantly on YouTube with some of the comedy segments so far including "Kids Interviews" in which the host asks children that live in Dubai questions in a Jimmy Kimmel style. Another segment "Getting a job as a Zookeeper" involves interacting with animals, such as in a banana eating competition with elephants and cleaning up after donkeys.
Karim & Noor
A new, original animated series produced in the UAE that was launched during Ramadan, with additional seasons in the pipeline. A series of two-minute episodes explores the special relationship between Karim, a kind-hearted seven-year-old boy, and a “Lanbot”, a glowing lantern and robot all-in-one. Karim & Noor airs on Spacetoon TV Channel and can also be watched on its dedicated YouTube channel www.youtube.com/karimandnoor.
Not in the mood for TV? Why not try out listening to the radio together instead.
Pearl FM, the UAE’s first dedicated kids’ radio station, was launched in October 2014 on 102FM and is aimed at toddlers to 12-year-olds. Although it’s broadcast in Dubai, you can also listen online via TuneIn.
Annah Jacob presents on the station and tells us, “I was fortunate to be positively influenced by media in my youth and it certainly helped shape my personality and social skills. I’m looking forward to this summer as I know quite a few families are opting to stay put instead of travelling. Pearl FM will be inviting children to join us at our studios all through summer to experience being on-air live.” Sound like something you’re interested in? Then you just need to contact the team on email@example.com to coordinate a visit.
These are not the only airwaves worth tuning into either. Time Out Kids staff writer Carolyne Allmark recommends Dubai 92, which can also be found online. “My kids love the breakfast show with Catboy and Alyssa,” she says.
Discovery Kids was originally launched in the US as a spin-off from the science and nature channel. In the UAE it will go live on August 1 on beIN. Programming is yet to be confirmed, but if you’re looking for an educational television session, this could be the place to go.