Sanity savers

Summer in Dubai can be a nightmare with kids. Here's how to survive it

Get chilled out

Dubai’s frenetic pace of life can sometimes make us forget the art of relaxation. Take some time to just be still with your kid, and you’ll both feel better for it.

Photo albums
Back in the days when our cameras had good old-fashioned film, we had photo albums – remember? Kids love seeing pictures of their parents as youngsters, and can often scarcely believe it’s their boring old mum and dad in those long-haired, fresh-faced pictures. Settle down on the sofa and you’ll easily while away an hour or two flicking through the albums.

Indoor camping
Kids love camping but it’s impossible in the summer months. Why not bring the great outdoors indoors, and set up their tents inside the house? Get the sleeping bags out (and airbeds if you’ve got hard floors) and they’ll be occupied for hours. Probably a good idea to forget the camp fire, though.

Home cinema
Stock up on films that you all want to watch – we recommend Pixar or old musicals, depending on your taste – buy some popcorn, shut the curtains against the midday sun (and so they don’t notice when you fall asleep) and snuggle up on the sofa for an afternoon of doing absolutely nothing. Bliss.

Get in the kitchen

Cooking with the kids is one of those things we all feel like we should do, but rarely get round to. Well summer provides the perfect opportunity, so get the aprons on and try out one of these simple ideas.

If you have five minutes… Ice lollies
Fill ice lolly moulds with cordial or juice, adding chunks of fruit if you’ve got any to hand. Don’t have moulds? Then make flavoured ice cubes, perfect for popping in their mouths to cool them down (or shut them up).

If you have half an hour… Pizza
Buy pizza bases (you can get four from Lulu for just Dhs2.5) and either a shop-bought pizza sauce (American Garden does a good one) or tomato purée. Set a range of toppings out on the kitchen counter, then let your kids spread the sauce and choose and arrange their toppings – setting them a challenge, like making a smiley face pizza, makes it even more fun. Just add some mozzarella, pop in the oven and hey presto – dinner is served!

If you have an afternoon… Cake
There are masses of cake recipes available online, and making the mixture is a great way to while away some time. Kids have an innate love of sieving and stirring, meaning they’ll provide the elbow grease and all you need to do is crack the eggs and lick the bowl. The real fun, though, comes when the cake has cooled down. If you stock up on sprinkles, sweets and edible sparkly bits, you and the little one can really go to town on making it the most OTT cake ever seen. If you can’t be bothered making the cake itself, just buy one, or use biscuits instead.

Get creative

OK, so you may have a small cleaning job on your hands after this, but lay down enough newspaper and it shouldn’t be too much of a problem – plus it’s a small payoff for half a day’s peace and quiet.

Fairly self-explanatory, really – just fill a bowl or palette with paint, get a big piece of paper and let their fingers do the talking (creatively speaking at least). If they’re a bit old to find random splodges diverting, set them a challenge, like drawing the family in dots. Brave parents could also let them do foot painting, although this one is perhaps best left to outside areas.

Potato stamps
An oldie but a goldie: get a potato, slice it in half, dip it in paint and use it as a stamp. More dexterous parents could also cut a thinner slice of potato and carve it into a shape (as long as it’s still thick enough for little hands to grip).

Infinitely preferable to the dreaded saucepan-cum-drum, all you need is an empty bottle and some lentils or dried pasta. Pop them inside, close the lid and then get the kids to decorate their instrument. Just remember to teach them that a gentle side-to-side motion is much more grown-up and sophisticated than shaking the bejesus out of it.

Get a huge piece of paper and let the kids channel their inner Michelangelo. It’s best to stick it to the wall rather than the ceiling, mind you. Give them a range of brushes and paints, kick back and see what happens.

Get active

If all these pleasant, quiet activities have left them creatively fulfilled but in need of burning off some energy, there’s nothing for it but to address their need for action, and why not embrace it and join in – you’ll have a lot more fun.

No, we’re not talking a bank-breaking day out – you can play waterparks in your own back garden. In the late afternoon, get a sheet of tarpaulin, set the hose on it and add some washing-up liquid for endless slippery fun. Alternatively, run water down the slide or, if you’re without either of these things, get the sprinklers on, get a couple of water guns, and get involved.

Indoor ball games…
…Without the balls – use balloons instead. You can play balloon tennis using flyswatters, balloon keepy-uppies with knees and feet or balloon volleyball using hands.

Treasure hunt
This one’s almost as much fun for grown-ups as it is for kids. Decide on a prize and construct your very own treasure trail. Take it in turns to be the hunter and the trail-layer (the hunter needs to stay shut in a room while the other player hides the clues around the house). Hours of fun.

Get playing

There comes a time in every child’s summer holiday when they’ve played with their toys and games one too many times, and they’re sick of even their old favourites. Before you get mall dread, however, remember that it’s possible to create new games without hitting up the toy emporium.

TV stars
Cut a square out of a big cardboard box and decorate it together. Your child then puts their head inside the box and pretends to be a TV star. Genius.

Mocktail hour
Probably best if this one is kept alcohol-free, get your tot to make you a mocktail. Give them different juices, cordials and fruit pieces, a big jug, straws and umbrellas, a spoon to stir and a cup, and let their imaginations run wild. Just pray that they don’t insist on watching you drink every last mouthful of your lime, milk and chocolate margarita.

Clothes horse
Get your child to lie down on a huge piece of paper and draw around them. Then cut it out and let them add colour, ‘make-up’, wool for hair etc. They can then play dress-up, placing their own clothes on the life-size model to see which outfits they like the most.

Get together

Play dates are great – but to most children the question remains, why invite one classmate when you could have the whole crew? As long as it’s done with a bit of forward planning, it’s possible for this not to be too much hassle – especially if you go with a theme.

Happy unbirthday!
Throw a traditional children’s party, complete with pass the parcel, musical statues and, our favourite, sleeping lions. It doesn’t matter if it’s not their birthday – you can just call it an ‘unbirthday’ party (although if you want to stay in favour with the other mums, it’d be worth stressing that presents are not necessary!).

Teddy bears’ picnic
As we discovered at the Time Out Kids teddy bears’ picnic back in December, this remains a winner among bear-owning tots. Invite your friends and their toddlers round, spread a few blankets over the floor and let the kids play at making ‘tea’ – preferably the invisible sort which comes from plastic teapots – while you and your own gang eat cake and catch up on the goss you’d normally be getting at the playground.

If you haven’t already thrown the kids’ CD du jour out the window, now’s the perfect time to use it to your advantage. Remove all fragile items from the room, close the curtains, brace yourself for possible RSI from flicking the light switch on and off, and turn the music up as they boogie the afternoon away. The best thing about this is that they’ll tire themselves out and be as keen on an early night as you are.

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