A summer of fun for the kids is only a click away

Three handy websites that have plenty of activities to keep the children entertained throughout the summer.

While offering information on popular topics such as summer camps, the websites also list offbeat activities for children, such as gelato-making workshops and Minecraft camps. Courtesy Coral Beach Resort
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There is plenty to keep the kids occupied and happy during the long, hot summer – if you know where to look.

We check out three websites that list cool activities that are guaranteed to delight youngsters.

One of the most well-­established sites, UAE4kidz.biz was launched 10 years ago by Petra Sander and recently taken over Isabelle Gallagher, 29, a Filipina-American expat who lives in Abu Dhabi.

“We cater for children up to the age of 12 in terms of ­after-school activities and classes, party venues and vendors,” says Gallagher. She makes sure she keeps her finger on the pulse of what parents want by running focus-group discussions, the latest of which was on the theme of summer activities.

“Up until two years ago, there was a misconception that during the summer the UAE turns into a ghost town – but now that notion is being torn down,” she says. “Companies see there’s a big need for kids’ activities and it’s growing every summer, as more mums are staying put with their kids over the holiday season.

“This year, we found that lots of parents are working through Ramadan, to take advantage of the shortened hours and spend the afternoons with their kids.”

Type a date into the site’s “What’s On” calendar and up pops a range of art workshops, floating-film nights and other events. The “Things to do” page is divided into 10 handy themes, including water activities, theatre and dance. There’s also a section comparing summer camps.

"The camps have now begun diversifying," Gallagher says. "Instead of the standard sports, music or arts, there are now so many different options that tap into the skill sets of the kids – ­Minecraft camps, improvisation-­theatre camps, finishing school for etiquette and even a camp for 'toddler calmness'."

The website has 6,000 subscribers in Dubai and 2,500 in Abu Dhabi, and a growing fan base in Sharjah and Al Ain, where subscribers get regular email updates on events and services.

Filipina Joanna Santillan, 30, launched this website in April last year after she got fed up with spending hours scouring the internet for activities for her daughters, Julienne, 9 and Jameelah, 6. “They’re into music and wanted to play the piano,” she says. “I realised there was no website where you could find all the after-school activities – you had to go to a listings site such as Time Out Dubai, then go to expatwomen.com to look for reviews. It was a frustrating ­process.”

The experience put Santillan off enrolling her kids in piano lessons – but it did inspire her to enlist the help of her ­technical-minded husband to build her website, which now has about 10,000 visitors a month.

Santillan says her site is unique because of its booking system.

“Parents can do the actual booking on our website and the providers are sent their ­information,” she says.

On this super user-friendly website, which can also be accessed through Facebook, you can browse through activities by selecting your area, the type of activity, children’s ages and preferred days of the week.

When you click on an activity, it provides information including prices and dates and allows you to make bookings. You can also ask questions and read reviews from other parents.

There are 74 activities listed for Abu Dhabi and 294 in Dubai, out of a total of 448. So which ones get the most hits?

“Swimming is the most popular,” says Santillan. “And over the past few months we’ve seen a huge demand for indoor activities such as gymnastics, basketball and ballet.”

This is another site aimed at mums, which launched last year. It is part of sassy media group, which provides localised sites in Hong Kong, where it is based, Singapore, Australia and now Dubai, where it is run by mums Sofia Berman and Kaya Scott.

“We’re trying to help mums navigate their lives in Dubai,” says Berman. “It’s fun and friendly, but also stylish. Our site isn’t about the dos and don’ts. It’s about going off the beaten track with your children.”

The stylishly designed site ­offers plenty of inspiration for summer fun. Recent posts ­include “10 non-Disney animated films to watch with the kids” and “Places for family fun with chopsticks”.

Don’t miss the “A-Z Guide to Surviving Summer with Kids in Dubai”, which includes gems such as “G is for gelato-making class for kids” and “I is for indoor camping”.