Isn’t it amazing when you find something new to do with your toddler? I honestly think I was even more excited than my daughter to try out Little Explorers this week and I’ve certainly been the one raving about it to anyone that will listen. I had heard that this was not like the bog standard soft play areas we are all bored of, rather an exciting discovery of fun and education for your little one. Eager to know more, mamas? Well here goes…
Mirdif City Centre boasts an extensive range of shops and eateries, as well as a cinema, bowling alley and aqua play centre. There is so much to do in this mall so if you want engage in activities beyond a little playtime, then you’re in luck. You can drop your child at Little Explorers (if they are over 3) and a member of staff there will look after them for you. Don’t worry I didn’t ditch my darling one for some retail therapy (not this time at least!).
On entering Little Explorers, my first thought was how spacious and clean the place looked. It was bright and airy, and I must say looked almost brand new. They definitely keep it in tiptop shape, which I was very pleased to see and am happy to report.
So what are we talking about? The play area is divided into 5 zones, with a workshop art craft centre for those that have added this feature into their package. The children can roam from one zone to another and can explore until their hearts content, revisiting the activities that they enjoyed as many times as they want. There is so much to do that your child could just never get bored, so for an active monkey like my little girl, with a short attention span, she was in heaven.
An insight into the 5 zones starts with…
I Discover Myself
An introduction to your little ones body; this section is really fun and educational at the same time. It offers children the opportunity to understand and discover themselves, in terms of their physical, mental and social capabilities. There are sensory tubes where you can smell a fruit for example and need to guess what it is, a running track where you can measure your speed, huts where you can watch a video that makes you experience an emotion, and mirror stations to see different parts of yourself. X-ray and bike machines show the children their insides and skeletons (its quite cool I promise) and there are different activities to show children about their size. My daughter looked particularly fetching in the 10x too big for her shoes!!
I Can Do
I must admit to find this zone quite daunting. Can kids really do this? I even found some of it quite hard myself but the instructor reassured me that these games and experiments help kids understand about their surroundings and they are assisted with all the tasks. There were practical activities such as fixing a car’s wheels, learning about car electronics, using gear connections to ring a bell and getting a ball to the end of the machine. The good old buzz wire stood proudly waiting for a challenger, and there were scales with beanbag weights – a great learning tool. Screens offered exercises such as guess the hidden pictures, finger painting and calligraphy in Chinese and Arabic, and there was a talking letters section, which caused much enjoyment. My daughter really loved the guessing the animal’s game where you can feel a skin or see a foot print for example and you have to match the correct animal (Yes she is more intelligent than me, I think I definitely got at least one wrong!!), and also the pictures without words where someone is acting out an object and you have to find the correct answer.
I Locate Myself
This zone comes complete with maze, a big pawn game of chess and some tall stalks that look like cables. The maze is not particularly challenging, my nearly 3 year old seemed to get to the other end in no time at all, but it does offer different obstacles along the way in a variety of textures and forms. The pawns have hidden objects in them that you need to find and then confirm your discoveries on a screen, and the tall stalks are positioned for the little ones to find their way through to the other side without touching the cables. There are also balancing steps, which the kids loved wobbling over, and giant foldouts where they can hide themselves away.
I call this the Bob the Builder zone! There are 2 houses, a big one for the older kids and a smaller one for the younger children. The aim is to finish the house using the foam bricks provided. Safety always comes first with helmet and bibs available for all to wear, and there are machines, such as cranes and conveyor belts, to help them fulfill their mission. The idea is that the children will build social skills through sharing and communicating with each other. Genius! For smaller children who are a bit overwhelmed by the big and small houses, there is a lego station, which still encourages building but is a little less hectic.
Most children were highly enamored by this section for its water play aspect. There were pumps and faucets and all things fun, as well as a splash fountain controlled by you. The zone also had wind pumps that showed how moving air makes feathers float and colour wheels spin. The light room was a particular highlight, especially the light pens! We really need one of those at home as it creates hours of fun.
If you purchase the “All Play Pass” or “Drop your child off” pass then your little one can have 30 minutes in the arts and craft area. Here your child will learn first, usually this is related to a particular topic, and then engage in painting, colouring and crafts. This month the theme was Moon Shine, where the children were educated about Ramadan, and then they made their own lanterns. Over Eid, children will celebrate by decorating cupcakes, and August’s theme is set to be Wild Wonders, a discovery of wild animals… ROAR!
The play center also has a coffee station for parents to refuel (phew!) and a toy store adjoining which offers a range of gifts, educational toys, books and puzzles. On leaving the play centre, the children can get a memento of their day at the souvenir photo booth, which is a nice touch.
Little explorers are always having exciting events. Advertised were 3 events that already looked appealing to me – Lets Rock, Beach Ball Hunt and Safari Hunt. They also have Sensational Summer Camps and more excitingly, packages especially for schools, what a fun outing! I will definitely be informing my daughters’ nursery… As for those with a child’s birthday approaching, the packages looked very appealing with great entertainment, including a puppet theatre and lots more fun.
Advice to those with younger children, the centre only accepts kids from 2-12 years old so for those with babes, you will want to leave them at home or arrange another activity for them whilst you take your older child/children to Little Explorers. The mall does have a baby crèche, which could be an option to investigate.
The verdict? Little Explorers is a really original and fun concept (based on Cite des enfants – well done the French!), with fantastic learning capabilities for your ever-growing and developing child. My daughter cried and cried when we had to go so I guess there is no uncertainty that she absolutely loved it and we will be returning to play again soon.
Mirdif City Centre
Tel: (+971) (0)4 231 6285
Saturday to Wednesday 10.00-22.00
Thursday to Friday 10.00-00.00
Drop your child Pass – AED 100 – 1 hour 5 zones play and 30 mins workshop
All Play Pass – AED 160 – Day pass and 30 mins workshop
Day Pass – AED 140 – Unlimited access to zones, 1 adult free (AED 30 per additional adult)