Outdoor life for kids in the UAE

Pristine at the park

I’ve been asked over and over again – “Is Dubai an ideal place to raise children?” or “We are thinking of moving to Dubai and we have 2 kids, is that a good idea?”

Honestly, there’s no cookie cutter answer to these questions. I wish there was but every family situation is unique. And I can only share my insight based on our personal experience. My daughter’s school recently had a Sports Day event a few days back and these questions sprung up from my mind, especially after I saw my daughter actively participating in the sports events, beaming with joy, running around with her friends under the sun.

Luckily, the weather right now is very pleasant so the children can enjoy running outside without the stifling humidity and scorching desert heat.

Sports Day

I get asked by parents who see the appeal and potential in Dubai but who have children and who are therefore naturally concerned about the type of lifestyle their children will have if they move to the UAE. Here’s what I have to say…

The cost of an international school education in Dubai is most certainly a negative factor.  Fees vary depending on the school and the age of the child, but we’re paying US$8,000 for annual tuition (and this belongs to the cheaper category compared to other British curriculum international schools) – factor in uniforms, extra equipment and school trips on top and it quickly adds up to some seriously high sums of money.

If that doesn’t bother you, the next would be the weather.

The next point you need to consider is that the weather in Dubai is not conducive for outdoor play for the majority of the year.  In the summer, it is simply too hot to allow children to safely and comfortably play outside.

We love living in the UAE – if not, hey, we wouldn’t last for seven years. But if there’s one thing that makes me a bit sad about living in Dubai, it’s the connection of children with nature, or the lack of it.

Outdoor life.

Grass beneath their feet.

Trees to climb. 

Those simple little things.

There are green spaces, yes, big parks like Safa Park and other smaller ones in the small residential areas. But our outdoor life here is limited – we can’t really allow the children to roam wild and free during the hot months that start as early as May and end in November.

Pristine’s love the outdoors so even though she was a bit sick, that nasty cough was back, she didn’t want to miss it for the world.

Sports Day

So, where can and do children hang out to play or socialize? Most meet at friends’ temperature controlled homes or they can hang out at the shopping malls on weekends and in the holidays. I admit, it was ok for us during the early years but a few years on, the mall culture can get to you. It can be exhausting and monotonous even with new and glitzy malls being opened every now and then. Mind you, the government is really doing a great job in entertaining us during the hot summer months. There are plenty of free entertainment inside these malls. But somehow right now, we got too lazy to go out every single weekend and would prefer to stay at home and play (though my heart just breaks for the kids when we couldn’t go on holidays during the summer/school vacation due to my work…). They loved the time when we went to Japan in the summer, sweat and all.

A part of me wishes my children can be more in touch with nature like I was while growing up…

With all that negativity aside, however, there can still be a benefit to enjoying a brief adventure in the United Arab Emirates with your family – it broadens children’s horizons (and yours), generally makes the kids more tolerant, enable them to learn a new language (Arabic which is mandatory even in international schools), make lots of friends from different nationalities and certainly more understanding that there is a far wider, diverse world out there.

Anyway, back to the Sports Day event…

It was a pleasant day for the children with the sun playing hide and seek most of the time and wind was cool. We thought, why don’t we bring the little guy out as well? He loves parks and crazy about running where he can feel unstoppable.

Sports Day

I saw the small kids in kindergarten at the grounds and remembered the time when Pristine was that small. Now she is in Year 5. Next year, Ben could be in that group of kids.

Sports day

Pristine was just telling me the other day that it’s horrible her little brother cannot talk properly yet. “Mom, he needs to go to school. He needs education.” So funny. I agree that he needs to go out more with children his age so I’ve started taking him to the park on Saturdays now that I don’t have work on Saturdays anymore (started last December).

Benjamin at Sports Day

When he walked closer to where the smaller kids were, some of the girls ran to him and started patting his head. He surely loved the attention!

Benjamin at Sports Day

Bye, girls! See you next year…sort of conversation going on here. I am already sure he’s going to love school and every chance of outdoor fun like this when he is ready.