Suggest taking the kids to a museum and they (like you) will probably be thinking history, artefacts and ancient times. But they (unlike you) probably won’t be too thrilled by the idea.
That’s precisely why the opening of a Dubai museum offering something different has got us all excited.
“OliOli is about much more than just entertainment and differs significantly from other spaces in the city in three fundamental ways,” its co-founder, Asha Ramchandani, tells us. “It’s an informal learning environment built with specific developmental and pedagogical objectives, such as working with hands, taking risks, innovating and experimenting, learning resilience, and improving social skills.”
Featuring 40 hands-on and interactive experiences, some of which have been plucked from around the world, OliOli isn’t about free play, but rather “smart” play. Meaning joy, the Hawaiian word OliOli describes what the kids’ museum is all about. It’s meant to nurture children’s curiosity, imaginations and desire for exploration, and it does so through eight separate galleries spread over two floors. Each space has been designed with innovative equipment, all inspired by ideas from leading global educators, developmental psychologists and artists, creating a whimsical, yet educational, experience for little ones.
“OliOli has engaged with globally acclaimed artists including Toshiko MacAdam, who built the region’s first textile playground – one of less than ten in the world. It’s a large-scale textile structure made from brightly coloured crocheted and knotted nylon weighing a tonne. We also worked future-world thinkers teamLab – the Tokyo-based ‘ultra-technologists’ known for creating totally immersive art,” Ramchandani explains.
Leading play expert Stuart Brown would certainly approve. He believes that “nothing lights up the brain like play”, and after seeing OliOli, we have to agree.
The museum is based on the idea of wholesome, open-ended play, experimentation, taking risks, making mistakes without being wrong, and being fascinated with STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics). Each of the eight galleries offers its own unique value proposition, with activities designed exclusively for OliOli, many of which are a first to the region. At Toshi’s Nets, for example, kids can climb or swing as they learn to assess risks and collaborate and share the fun with their friends. At Future Park, they use their imagination and creativity and see their artworks come to life, using technology to transcend into a new environment.
Then there are the Air and Water galleries. In Air, kids can build their own aeroplanes, rockets and floating sculptures, or withstand the pressure of extreme winds in the Hurricane Booth. In Water, they can splash through, analysing theories of engineering and physics as they interact and play with ten exhibits, including a rain experience, cannonball launcher, a whirlpool and weirs.
“We have so many unique things that the kids just love, like that rare, hand-made crochet playground, which was built by a 77-year-old woman. It took her a year.
We’re also the first place in the Middle East to host a Future Park, the magical gallery where kids’ designs and creations come to life.
“At The Creative Lab, kids can try incredible hands-on activities that celebrate their individuality. We even have massive raceways for children to test drive their own hand-made cars,” Rachmandani explains.
While not a museum in the traditional sense, kids will still learn lots at OliOli and will have a lot of fun while they do. Add it to your list of places to go on your next day out with the kids and experience something wholly unique in the UAE.
From Dhs120 per child, Dhs40 per adult. Open Sat-Wed 9am-7pm; Thu-Fri 9am-9pm. 4th Street, Al Quoz (behind Oasis Center), Dubai, www.olioli.ae (04 702 7300).
THREE MORE AT OLIOLI
In this rather technical gallery, kids will get the opportunity to embrace the process of building up small worlds from scratch and transforming natural materials into systems that make sense to them.
This gallery is dedicated to the youngest of visitors. The room features a vast number of components that are designed to meet the particular developmental needs of toddlers.
Cars & Ramps Gallery
Watch adults become kids again in this gallery. It’s built for exploring speed, gravity, friction and construction techniques, and in it, participants can even build their own car…