Mum hacks: Five UAE influencers share their tips to keep children entertained indoors

Five UAE Instagram mums share their top tips to keeping kids (and parents) sane inside this summer

Dina Butti says it is important to 'tap into things children are already passionate about'.
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After having dealt with being confined indoors because of the coronavirus pandemic for almost three months, UAE parents are now faced with a long summer ahead.

With schools not reopening until September, they have to continue to creatively occupy their children for several months more.

While the country is slowly opening up, and restrictions are gradually easing for children under the age of 12, the weather is also heating up, which means beaches and parks are off limits, at least during the day.

The National asked five mothers, who are Instagram influencers, for their advice to parents who are running out of ideas on how to entertain children at home. 

Louise Nichol 

Mother to daughter Leo, 7, and sons Fox, 5, and Kit, 3

Louise Nichol is an influencer in Dubai
Louise Nichol is an influencer in Dubai

I do not have the patience for arts and crafts, but one thing we all enjoy as a family is Just Dance on the PlayStation using the PS4 camera, which tracks your moves. For a collaborative experience, play in the World Dance Floor mode and move together as a team.

There are also some fantastic Zoom classes that will buy you an hour or two of peace. Diverse Performing Arts School's online classes have kept my children busy practising routines from musical films Annie, Trolls and The Greatest Showman

All three love building dens using sheets. Give them torches and they will play under there for hours, blissfully out of sight.

Being selective about what content they can access on their iPad is important. We have erased YouTube from every device in the house. The Reading Eggs app is the best for young children in terms of combining entertainment and education. They get a real sense of achievement from advancing through the levels.

Zeina Abdalla

Mother to sons Zayn, 6, and Hadi, 4, and daughter Ayla, 18 months

Zeina Abdalla is a big advocate of baking with her kids.
Zeina Abdalla is a big advocate of baking with her kids.

Baking is a chance to teach them maths, new vocabulary, fine motor skills, and help them gain confidence. I bought a learning tower from Moon Kids so they can stand safely beside me in the kitchen. There are many local bakeries, such as Sugar Moo, that have ready-mixes for kids to make at home.

It is also important to support small, local businesses if you can. The Happy Box, Elbirg, Laila’s Candy Cart, The Little Big Company, Crafty Station, Yummy Bakes, My Discovery Lab and Kidzapp all have amazing activities for children. 

With three of them at different ages, I got them each a tray to hold whatever they’re working on. Sometimes they don’t finish a Lego project and, to avoid anyone cleaning up their work, I encourage them to use the trays to keep it safe. I also hide a lot of their toys so I can rotate them when they get tired of the current ones. 

Dina Butti

Mother to sons Faris, 5, and Amir, 2

Tap into things they are already passionate about. My 5-year-old is going through a Pokemon phase, so we are helping him to learn how to draw the characters. There are endless colouring sheets available online for free to print out.

My family is not the most organised bunch, but, a couple of months ago, my husband and I came up with a schedule that gave him and I, and our nanny, each time to focus on work, exercise and an hour to chill. It does mean when we are solo with the kids it is more intense, but overall it has saved our sanity.

As the weather heats up, we have begun waking up earlier so we can spend time outdoors. We lay out outfits and prepare snacks the night before so that we can wake up and go straight to the desert or beach. 

Sahar Wahbeh

Mother to daughter, Neeva, 9, and son, Zain, 3

It is less about planning activities to keep them busy and more about listening to what interests them and giving them permission to indulge their curiosities.

After my daughter whipped up a batch of guacamole, she asked what we could do with the pits instead of throwing them away. I discovered the pit can be planted to grow an avocado tree; we also ground it and mixed with a few drops of vitamin E and essential oils to make a body scrub; and boiled the pits to make a natural dusty pink dye, which we then used on some leftover fabric.

As mothers, we have a tendency to sacrifice ourselves to fulfil our family’s needs, so set yourself some boundaries around what you need, too. For me, it is 20 minutes of yoga every morning and having some uninterrupted time to focus on Dumye [a doll company Wahbeh founded]. If I can have those things, then I can be present and engaged with my kids the rest of the time.

Lama Houssami

Mother to three sons, Teymur, 6, and twins Hany and Layth, 4

Lama Houssami has made a supermarket for her boys in the family kitchen.
Lama Houssami has made a supermarket for her boys in the family kitchen.

I’ve kept my boys busy by making our own supermarket in the kitchen, complete with treats, a price list and Monopoly money. Each good deed is awarded Monopoly money so that they can buy a treat.

For example, speaking Arabic is $10 and ice cream priced at $15, so they are learning about saving while gaining a few entrepreneurial skills, too. All three boys love food, so I’ve found anything around cooking is a win. Lego is great if I want some peace and quiet.

The key is to keep calm about the mess. My expectations have become significantly lower post-lockdown and I’m more chilled about a messy room or if the kids have pasta two days in a row. As mums, we need to be kinder to ourselves.