The monkeys have reached soft play expert level status. They have mastered cinema etiquette. They are borderline professional global travellers. They complain about wet feet and have no clue how to make a wooden raft. It’s actually incredibly embarrassing because the one thing I swore would not happen, has come to be. They are becoming the stereotypical Dubai kids!
Lucky for us, XPark Jr has opened its doors and it’s our new little oasis in the desert. XPark Jr is a mixture between a family home garden in the South African suburbs and an English countryside forest and farm. Expect vegetable patches, mud kitchens, jungle gyms and a maze of hidey holes perfect for hide and seek or imaginary pirate adventures. The boys were invited to the launch of XPark Jr and spent a good 3 hours running amok and would happily have carried on doing so if they hadn’t been bribed with ice cream on the way home (WARNING: have an exit strategy planned upfront, this will be a hard one to get the kids out of).
The park appeals to quite a few interests, but the bottom line is be prepared for messy play (be that we water, sand or in the arts and craft section) so take a change of clothing and a towel. Be prepared for someone to fall over. Since we’ve visited, I’ve heard of more than one mother complain that this or that is unsafe or not kiddie-proof. I disagree. I honestly believe that some degree of risk is natural and kids need to be exposed to it. This is NOT a soft play and things are not padded and cushioned. The climbing frames are wood and the rock pools are just that, rock. That doesn’t make it dangerous, it makes it real and means (unfortunately for some) that you will have to watch your kids more carefully especially if it is not something they are used to. While the Park House on site makes the most amazeballs cup of coffee, do not expect to sit in the air conditioning while your 3-year-old runs free outside. What you should expect, is to run around with them and introduce your child to the joys of making a raft out of sticks and racing them along the “rapids” or learning about handling and caring for smaller creatures or even about creating art with leaves and twigs (because where else in Dubai will you find that?!)
The boys only made use of the free play facilities, XPark Jr are also able to host birthday parties for those lucky enough to celebrate in the cooler months and they are launching a Forest School Programme which sounds amazing!
XPark Jr is located at Kite Beach (location) and is suited to children ages 1 – 12. The monkeys were 6 and 8 at the time we visited and this was a perfect age for them to be able to make the most of everything and require minimal supervision. Entrance costs AED45 for a 2 hour slot (this includes one child + one parent), additional hours are AED25 each. There are bathrooms on site and the Park House coffee shop with healthy snacks and drinks for both kids and parentals. Doors open and 8 am and close up at 6pm (Sunday – Wednesday) and 8pm Thursday – Saturday. My recommendation is get there early mornings (preferably weekdays) if you can manage it and try to avoid the traditional “peak times” to maximise your experience.
Note: The boys were invited to the launch event and our views and opinions are based on our experience.