Halloween at Splash ‘n’ Party

Halloween is around the corner!

If you, like me, are one of the mums who still don’t know which of the numerous Halloween parties in Dubai to attend with the little ones, why not do something a little bit different and take them ‘Trick-or-Treating’ at Splash ‘n’ Party?

Dubai’s newest kids aqua park is organising an exclusive Kids Costume Party on October 31 from 3.30 to 6.30pm with a spooky fire show and a scary magic show, a kids meal filled with Halloween-themed treats and, of course, loads of water fun. What is more,  the best Halloween swimming costume can win a prize of one-year membership to Splash ‘n’ Party. I find this idea of dressing up in a costume that can go into the water quite fun😉

The entrance fee for every child is AED 100. One adult is free for every child paying. Additional adults will be charged AED 50.

Thought I’d share this with you as it sounds like something different from all the other parties😉

I had heard of Splash ‘n’ Party a while ago already. But it is only last weekend that we finally went to this new kids aqua park.

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Luca is still a bit impressed by the big aqua parks here in Dubai. So, I was quite happy to see that Splash ‘n’ Party is located within a nice Jumeirah villa and garden complex. Not too big but big enough for a toddler to have hours of water fun!

We went with the whole family and it was initially planned that I would just sit in the shade with our little Miss M while daddy and Luca would play in the water. Well, 10 minutes after we had arrived I was already running around in the splash pad area (don’t worry if you don’t want to change into swimwear – I was wearing shorts and T-shirt and that was absolutely fine).

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Personally, I really loved the splash pad, especially the water tunnel, but little L had also so much fun zooming down the water slides with daddy and simply playing in the shallow water next to the slides. Watch out for the bucket that tips over quite unexpectedly once in a while, pouring water over those who stand below (including parents that are not in swim clothes haha).

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Around the splash pad and slide areas, there are different party sections where birthday parties can take place (for more information on the birthday party packages, check out the Splash ‘n’ Party website or give them a call 04 388 3008 ) as well as other entertainment facilities such as a stage for music performances and a bungee trampoline.

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When it was time to nurse Miss M, I simply sat down at one of the numerous tables next to the juice bar where you can order some snacks and refreshing drinks. The tables are situated just next to the pool and perfect for parents who want to relax a bit while keeping an eye on their little ones playing in the water.

It didn’t take long before my dear husband and Luca joined me for some yummy pizza and popcorn (ok, there are healthier snacks available but hey, it was the weekend!).

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Splash ‘n’ Party is located in Villa no 1, Street 8A, Al Safa 2, Jumeirah, Dubai.

Opening times are: 9am to 8pm every day of the week.

Rates for children are AED 100 on weekdays and AED 140 on weekends.
One adult is free for every child paying. Additional adults pay a cost of AED 50 each.
Membership rates are AED 499 /month and AED 999/year.


My toddler is applying to university!

I am one proud mummy, standing here, announcing the big news: my 2-year-old seems to be ready for university. I’m a bit emotional. I remember how emotional my own parents were when it was time for me to leave the house and study in one of the universities we had carefully selected together. I remember the pressure I felt to apply to the right ones. The ones that were right for me. The good ones. The prestigious ones. Knowing that they might not take me. And even if, that it might be hard studying there. Very beneficial but hard.

Sitting in the taxi with little L, I remember how I went to visit some of the universities and business schools with my parents myself. When we took the plane to London, when we were driving to Switzerland. To make sure the schools were up to our expectations. To make sure the environment would be right for me. To make sure the professors were amongst the best. We had carefully read the rankings. We knew which ones were the top universities in my field of study. We had informed ourselves online. We had talked to other people. We had tried to get as much information as possible. Cause it’s not easy to choose the right university. And, today, I feel the same pressure again. Not for me, this time. But for my son.

It’s not only the reputation of the university or even your gut feeling that counts. It’s also the budget. Sending your kids to university can be quite an investment. It requires planning. It requires to make some adjustments to your own way of living. But of course, you do it. Somehow, you try to find a way to do it. Cause education is important. It is maybe THE most important thing for the future of your kids…

Then there’s this whole application process. It scares me. It scared me when I applied for university myself. And it still scares me today. If you want to enter one of the top universities or business schools, you don’t only need to be good. You need to be quick to secure your place. And even then, it’s not guaranteed. Once you’ve applied, your application is assessed. You are assessed. You are assessed to see if you’re worth entering this school or university. Then, the wait. The unbearable wait that never seems to come to an end. You wait for a reply for weeks, for months sometimes, only to be told that your place has already been given to someone else. That you were too late. Or not good enough maybe. Luca is still so young and this whole university application process is kind of nerve-racking. Of course, I don’t want him to get too much involved in this. So, I am the one dealing with things for him.

Pardon? Your little one is applying to university as well, you say? What do you mean, it’s not university? What do you mean, it’s the normal application process for primary school, even for FS1??

Sorry, I was confused. I was confused by this lengthy process, by the pressure that is put to apply early enough to get into the good schools. Sorry, I was confused by the assessments, the fees, the rankings and all. When I went to primary school, there was only one. Yes, sure, I grew up in a small town in the German countryside. You can’t compare really, can you? But still. I didn’t start primary school before the age of 6. Before that, it was all fun and games. Of course, we also learned stuff. We learned quite a lot of things, to be honest. But we mainly played. We listened to stories, we drew, we sang songs and were outside in the countryside. We didn’t have language classes. We didn’t have maths. My parents had never heard of Montessori. Or Waldorf. Or any other educational approach. I just went to nursery (Kindergarten) and then to primary school. And I still seem to have turned out fine. Well, most of the days.

Don’t get me wrong. I do think that what is done at nursery and primary school by the teachers and the whole educational system is quite amazing. I totally encourage early learning. Communication. Languages. Counting. But it’s this whole application process that seems odd to me. It just feels so wrong. Does is really make such a huge difference to which school my toddler will go by the age of 3 that I need to worry about it so much? Isn’t the most important thing at that age a caring and loving environment? Isn’t the most important thing at that age to play, to laugh and to learn what it means to share and to make fiends? To learn what it means to be a good person? Aren’t these the really important things to be taught at that age? Anywhere. At home. At nursery. Or at school.

Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to be judgmental. I am sure there is a reason for sending children to school this early. I am sure they become independent much earlier that way and that it is good to encourage learning at that age. And if it’s learning through play, if the kids have fun and are happy, than I love it. I am just wondering and questioning this whole idea of being assessed, of competing for the best schools this early. Cause it is a competition, isn’t it? I am wondering if this is what I want little L to learn by the age of 2?

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How to make your little one’s lunch box more exciting

I am blessed to have a toddler who loves to eat. Not everything, of course. And, of course, his preferences can change from one day to the next. But, overall, Luca is eating what the whole family is eating. Well, to be honest, the whole family is rather eating toddler meals. Which is not a bad thing per se. We try to cook healthy meals that include lots of veggies, starches and proteins. We also use only few salt and sugar but lots of different spices. And, last but not least, we try to cook meals that look exciting. Colourful. Yummy.


Having said that, our meal plan is generally evolving around 5, 6 or 7 dishes we know Luca likes. And, while I seem to cope with lunch & dinner at home, I completely fail when it comes to nursery lunchboxes (or rather snack boxes in our case). I always give the same few things… Watermelon, grapes, blueberries. Little cheese or jam sandwiches. Yoghurt (that’s a risky one), biscuits, bread sticks. Boring!

So, when I was recently invited to meet up with Spinneys’ in-house nutritionist Freda Molamphy, I couldn’t wait to get some new ideas. I wanted something simple. Something I’d be able to prepare in advance. Something that our little L would be able to easily hold in his hands without smearing it all over himself in no time. Something attractive. And yummy. And healthy.

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I will share with you some of the (admittedly super yummy, healthy AND easy-to-prepare) lunchbox ideas Freda gave us. But let’s start with some general tips from the pro on how to make sure our kids get a balanced and healthy diet:

  1. Choose natural foods with minimal processing. Processed foods contain important amounts of added sodium and sugars.
  2. Don’t cook separate “kids’ meals”. Give exactly what the rest of the family is having, but in appropriate serving size.
  3. Eat together as a family whenever possible.
  4. Try to vary foods as much as possible to expose kids to a whole range of nutrients.
  5. If children don’t eat much of their meal, accept what they have eaten but don’t offer any further snacks in “compensation” until the next meal.
  6. When it comes to breakfast, think outside the cereal box! Meatballs, chicken, cheese, sardines on toast can make highly nutritious breakfast ideas
  7. Give yoghourts as they are a good source of calcium but make sure you don’t choose those that are loaded with added sugars. Full fat plain yoghourt with fresh fruits and maybe a bit of honey is the better option.
  8. Don’t forget hydration! The best fluids to keep the kids hydrated are plain water, milk or very diluted fruit juices. Fizzy drinks should be avoided and be seen as a special treat only.

According to Freda, lunchboxes (and meals at home as well, of course) should include 5 core nutrients:

  1. Healthy Starch for energy: Wholegrain breads, bagels and tortillas, wholegrain pasta, rice, grains (quinoa, couscous, bulgur, freekeh, barley etc).
    Serving size can vary with the age and activity level of the child, but give less more often rather than too large a servings.
  2. Protein for growth and overall health: Meat, fish (especially the oily varieties such as salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines), chicken, eggs, tofu, nuts, cheese.
  3. Fruit for vitamins and antioxidants: A portion size is roughly the same size as the child’s hand. Don’t over feed fruit as all fruit has sugars, albeit natural sugars. Try to vary fruit also as much as possible. Berries are a powerhouse of nutrients and usually loved by children. Try to avoid too much acidic fruits such as citrus as they can be irritating for some children. Always remember that eating fruit is far better than drinking juices and kinder to teeth also.
  4. Vegetables for vitamins, minerals and antioxidants: Portion size here can be larger than a child’s hand. Children often prefer raw, hand-held veggies rather than cooked. The “Sulphur” notes in broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower and cabbages, when cooked, can be off-putting for some wee folk but do keep re-introducing them on a regular basis as palates develop over time.
  5. Dairy for Calcium: A very important part of a child’s diet in order to lay down healthy bones, teeth, hair etc. Always give full fat to younger children so that they get the valuable fat soluble vitamins A. Also, look for a milk that is fortified with Vitamin D where possible.

And here are some lunchbox ideas that I personally found very interesting and will certainly try to make for little L:

Crunchy Lunchbox Quinoa Falafel

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Makes 30
Prepare 15 minutes plus cooling
Cook 15 minutes

2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
400g kale, stalks removed and leaves chopped
300g cooked quinoa
100g parmesan, finely grated
50g chick pea flour
2 eggs, beaten

Set a large frying pan with 1 tbsp oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Season, stir in the kale and cook for 2-3 minutes more, until softened.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool, then finely chop and transfer to a bowl. Alternatively, blitz in a food processor.

Add the quinoa, parmesan and flour and mix well to combine. Season the mixture, if you like, then stir in the eggs to form a thick paste.

Set a large frying pan with 1 tbsp oil over a medium-high heat. Working in batches, spoon the falafel into the pan and cook for 3 minutes, turning halfway and adding more oil if needed, until golden brown.

Leave to cool then pack into airtight lunchboxes. Freeze the extra falafel for up to 1 month and defrost overnight in the fridge when needed.


Lunchbox Mini Miso Chicken Skewers


Makes 10
Prepare 10 minutes plus soaking and cooling
Cook 10 minutes

25g miso paste
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 chicken breasts, each sliced lengthways into 15 strips

Whisk together the miso, honey and 1 tbsp oil in a shallow dish. Add the chicken strips and coat well.

Soak 10 bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes. Thread 3 strips of chicken onto each skewer.

Set a non-stick frying pan with the remaining oil over a medium-high heat. Add as many skewers as you require to the pan and cook for 8-10 minutes, turning halfway, until golden and cooked through.

Remove from the pan and leave to cool before packing into airtight lunchboxes.

Arrange the remaining skewers on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover with cling film and freeze. Defrost overnight in the fridge when needed and cook as above.


Lunchbox Granola Bites

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Makes 30
Prepare 10 minutes plus cooling
Cook 30 minutes

250g butter
150g honey
150g coconut palm sugar
450g porridge oats
50g ground flaxseed
100g dates or sultanas, chopped
100g sunflower seeds

Line a 30cm x 20cm shallow baking tin with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5.

Put the butter, honey and sugar in a large saucepan set over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, without allowing the mixture to come to the boil.

Stir in the porridge oats, flaxseed, dates or sultanas and sunflower seeds. Tip into the prepared tin, packing the mixture firmly and pressing down to even the surface. Cook for 20-25 minutes.

Leave the granola to cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Cut into 30 bite-sized pieces, offering 2-3 per portion. Store the extra granola bites in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.


Portable Popcorn Cones


Makes 4

Prepare 20 minutes plus cooling
Cook 10 minutes

coloured card
waxed paper or baking paper
1 tbsp canola oil
50g popcorn kernels
1 tbsp zaatar
4 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp finely chopped pecans

Use the coloured card to make 4 cones and seal the edges with glue. Line with waxed paper or baking paper.

Set a heavy-based pan with the oil over a high heat. Add the popcorn kernels and as soon as they start to pop, cover with a tight-fitting lid. Shake the pan occasionally until the popping stops. Remove from the heat and divide the popcorn between 2 large containers.

To flavour the popcorn, sprinkle one batch with the zaatar, shake to coat and leave to cool. For the other batch, set a pan with the maple syrup over a medium heat. Tip in the pecans and warm through for 2 minutes, swirling the pan. Drizzle over the remaining popcorn, then leave to cool.

Divide the popcorn among the cones. Tuck the paper over the popcorn and into the cones. Fold over the back section of each cone to create a lid and secure with string.


Personally, I am always searching online for new lunch/lunchbox ideas for little L. Some useful websites/ IG accounts I’ve found are:

www.AnnabelKarmel.com as well as the IG account @annabelkarmel (we regularly cook her toddler recipes for the whole family😉 )

www.spinneys-dubai.com (you will find plenty of yummy recipe ideas under ‘Recipes’ – ‘Family & Kids’), IG: @spinneysdubai

www.secretsquirrelfood.com (not necessarily for toddler but yummy and fun), IG: @secretsquirrelfood

www.easytoddlermeals.com and the IG account @easytoddlermeals

www.kidsfooduniverse.com, IG:@toddlerfoodideas and @babyfooduniverse

www.cuddlesandcrumbs.com, IG: @cuddlesandcrumbs for some great bento ideas

Let me know if you try out any of these recipes or if you have other great ideas (recipes, websites, IG accounts…) to make our little ones’ lunch boxes more exciting.

xxx Tani