I think if the boys had their way, they would be on the X-Box all day every day which would make for a pretty stress-free day for me but alas, we all know the downside to copious amounts of screen time and developing brains. For that reason (and because I’m such a geek) I offset their screen time with geeky educational games and activities. Sometimes I get it horribly wrong and they are really not at all interested and sometimes I land the perfect gem – the last few weeks I’ve been finding some seriously cool activities for 5 – 8-year-olds that we all seem to be enjoying and thought you may like too!
Joshua is a big fan of non-fiction books and will pretty much always choose a non-fiction over a classic tale and now that his independent reading is quite strong these are the perfect way to get him learning and practising. What we love about the Usborne books is the wide variety of topics covered because, honestly, it’s a bit tedious to keep reading about bugs and dinosaurs. His current favourites are Pompeii and the Spy book which have both been keeping him busy.
Where to get them: Borders
2. Laser Maze
Well, who doesn’t love a laser!? I suspect given the freedom to choose, Liam would become a criminal mastermind or super villain so the idea of playing around with a laser really appeals to him! The game has 72 levels of varying difficulty and the ultimate aim is to get the laser to shine on the final piece through the use of mirrors. I love this just as much as the boys and may have been spotted playing on my own. This is a great activity for them to play independently and as there is no “winner” it should minimise the fighting if you have multiple boys – unless one of them decides to run away with the laser.
Where to get it: Virgin Megastores
3. Dr Steve Hunters Paleontology Kit
You may have seen me raving about the Palaeontology Kit that Joshua has been busy with on Instagram lately and I’m so happy we discovered these albeit by a combination of sheer fluke and my sons’ inability to walk past a gift shop! The kits are created by real-life geologist and palaeontologist Stefano Piccini whose mission in life is to instil a love of all things dusty in our kids. The box comes complete with goggles, hammer, chisel and brush to help you excavate and assemble the dinosaur skeleton. This is not a quick 30-minute activity and requires some tenacity and patience but even Joshua who is probably the least patient in the family is willingly going back for more and gets so excited as more and more bones are freed.
Where to get it: Orbi Dubai
4. Shape by Shape
This is another one of my favourites because it lends itself so well to independent play – I use it quite a bit when one of the boys is frustrated with the other as a constructive break apart. There are no reading skills required for this and each card has its own clues at the back so easy enough for a sneak peek now and then if the specific picture is too challenging.
Where to get it: Desert Cart
Liam is in love with this game, and he is pretty darn good at it too! I remember the birthday parties of my youth where moms would venture out with a tray containing all sorts of odds and ends and you had to memorise them all and then spot the missing one! This is pretty much the same concept but with cute tokens and a few variations. It’s a great to play with multiple kids and mine keep changing the rules so that they gang up on me which is great because neither winds up disappointed for having lost!
Where to get it: Tic Tac Toe
6. World Bingo
Before moving to the UAE we’d done a bit of travelling with the boys. Since we’ve arrived here, we’ve done so much more. Combine this with the fact that their friends are from all over the globe and suddenly World Bingo becomes not only relevant in their frame of reference but much easier than you would expect! This is a super simple variation on normal bingo that helps kiddies learn where in the world countries are located and a perfect mix of fun and learning!
Where to get it: Tic Tac Toe
7. I Spy Dubai: Bugs and Birds
This is not a new find for us (read our full review here), but it is still a favourite! Most of the activities have been completed, but the boys are happily using the magnifying glass to study the bugs in the garden and as we’ve only recently moved into villa, they are cataloguing all the birds in our neighbourhood – it is honestly the cutest thing to see and well supported by the fact that we have two baby pigeons that have recently hatched in our yard!
Where to get: Little Majlis