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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Opinion: How to keep your kids entertained in Qatar this summer


Although many families try to leave Qatar for at least part of the summer to escape the heat, many also stay put, either by choice or by necessity. American expat Steven Stay, for example, will spend the whole summer in Doha this year due to the impending birth of his third child in August.

Faced with a season of mall visits and entry tickets to expensive indoor play parks, the school counselor decided to create a list of cheap activities that could entertain his children, aged five and two, at home. He’s even filmed some of his ideas, and uploaded them to YouTubeHere, Stay shares some of his tips with Doha News readers. What would you add?

If you’re like me, you find it emotionally and mentally draining to think of something new to do every five minutes when your kids’ attention span runs out yet again.

So try this as your first summer activity: In each room of your house, look at each object in every cupboard and on every shelf and ask yourself, “What could the kids and I do with this that would keep us genuinely entertained for just five minutes?”

Then write all your answers on a numbered list. Then, when anyone needs something to do, just pick a random number and do whatever the list says.

Some of the ideas we came up with include smelling spices, doing a treasure hunt and letting the kids be the boss for 15 minutes.

See the still-growing list of more than 230 ideas here, or click here to see my YouTube channel, where I’ll be posting a short video about each and every one of the activities I’ve been doing with my kids.

Keep it simple

The key to making these activities work is to not over think them. Those lists of summer ideas people pass around on Pinterest and Facebook all sound delightful, but a lot of them require you to do the activity outside, buy supplies, or make a significant mess. These are all things I don’t want to do.

If you don’t either, then make some rules about what’s allowed on your list. Here are my list’s rules:

  • We should already own the necessary supplies;
  • We should be able to find them and start the activity in less than a minute;
  • If the supplies get used up, they should be inexpensive to replace;
  • It shouldn’t take more than a minute to clean up; and
  • It shouldn’t make me too tired to stay cheerful until my next chance to rest.

Simple activities don’t have to be dull for you or for your kids.


For example, I like math and science, and my son has come home from kindergarten talking about 3D shapes a few times in the last month (cubes, pyramids, rectangular prisms, etc.).

So when he asked me about some strangely-shaped dice he found in our house a few weeks ago, I grabbed some raisins and toothpicks from the kitchen and taught him the shapes’ names and the patterns that make them.

He still mentions it to me whenever we eat raisins or he sees the dice!

Other advice:

Don’t rely on electronic entertainment

I’m not a Luddite – I love technology, and I love my screen time. However, you can have too much of a good thing, so set a time limit for how much screen time your kids can have, and save those electronic activities for the times when you know you’ll need a break most.

Also, filling your time with the activities on your list will help you avoid eating too much out of sheer boredom.

Let out your inner kid

You can probably remember games, rhymes, songs, and pastimes from your own childhood that your kids have never experienced. Preserve your family and/or national culture by teaching them to your kids.

My parents did this a lot, teaching us all the games they played as kids (Hide and Seek, Tag, Duck Duck Goose, Kick the Can, etc.) and even making up lots of new ones.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

  • Mother, May I? is a game in which one person pretends to be Mom standing at one end of a space, and everyone else pretends to be kids at the other side. Each kid’s goal is to reach the Mom first. The kids take turns saying things like, “Mother, may I take three dinosaur steps?” or “Mother, may I do ten bunny hops?” or some other ridiculous mode of locomotion. Then Mom decides whether to say “Yes, you may” or “No, but you may take three alligator crawls,” etc. Take turns being the Mom and be as zany as you can with your ways to move.
  • In The Gingerbread Man game, a parent is the baker, and the kids start out rolled up on the floor pretending to be balls of dough. The baker rolls out the dough/kids, shapes them into gingerbread men (with a lot of tickling involved), then throws them in the “oven”(meaning the couch or a bed) to “cook” and pretends to fall asleep nearby. Then the kids try to sneak out of the bakery and run through the house saying – or more likely screaming- the famous line “Run, run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me! I’m the gingerbread man!” while the baker tries to catch them and put them back in the “oven.”

Share the fun

Chances are you know somebody else spending this summer in Qatar with kids, so work out a babysitting trade –  for example, you take the morning, and they take the afternoon, or just take turns spending the day at each other’s house.


The kids will keep each other entertained, and you’ll get the grown-up conversation you so desperately need. You’ll make your friends’ summer better, too.

“But what about cabin fever?” you might be wondering. “We’ve got to go out sometimes!”

Of course you do. I’m not suggesting that you never leave your house, never spend money for entertainment, never go to the mall, or never have another Netflix binge-watching marathon.

I’m just advocating for moderation and providing some alternatives to two solid months of wandering the malls staring at our phones.



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7 years ago

Being British (Welsh, not English, mind you..), I’m a huge admirer of good old fashioned Child Labour for keeping the kids occupied.
Sadly, there’s no Coal Mines or chimneys to be swept in Qatar, but the construction sites should keep your kids busy all summer, and bring in a handy second income.

Illusionist's wife
Illusionist's wife
7 years ago
Reply to  MrJames

hehehehe, you made me laugh in the morning – good one 😉

7 years ago

We’ve got you covered, Iain! See Idea #185 – Do Chores
Here’s the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLIulc–CIw
Suggestions of good chores for kids are in the description if you click “Show More”

Observant One
Observant One
7 years ago

My maids and drivers take care if all this.

7 years ago

will there be any activities for children outside like in sports clubs this summer?

7 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

If you’re asking whether my children will have those activities, the answer is yes. If you’re asking whether I’ll be making a list of those activities, the answer is… maybe.

7 years ago
Reply to  Steve

That’s great and good for your kids. I like that. But maybe I need to clarify my intention. I wanted to know if the local sports clubs offer some events for summer activities for children. It’s always good to know how to entertain your kids at home like mentioned in this article, but for the summer and vacation time it would be great to spend time together away. I don’t live in Qatar but was spending several weeks in Doha this year and I’m very interested how things develop.

7 years ago
Reply to  Nicole

Yes, I think almost all the local sports clubs (and many of the clubhouses in the larger housing compounds) offer events, lessons, etc. for kids. The cost is the main concern there. The swimming lessons we looked at were something abominable like QR 300 per 45 minute session. This site (Doha News) is pretty good about identifying fun activities for kids each weekend. They mentioned one specific event at the IAID in this post: https://dohanews.co/five-things-qatar-weekend-june-26-28/

You can also search http://www.timeoutdoha.com/ and http://www.qatarliving.com/ for particular activities you’re interested in.

7 years ago

Update: We’ve finished all the videos and have created an Android App that will give you a random idea from my list at the tap of a button. You can download it here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=appinventor.ai_steven_thomas_stay.IndoorIdeas

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