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As a parent you want your child to have the best experiences possible. But how do we know for sure? It’s important to note that a nursery should not just be a play area for your little one. No doubt play is an important component in gaining new knowledge and developing social skills but it needs to be structured and constructive. Nurseries or preschools are the first stages of formal education for your child and need to be selected carefully to shape a healthy academic life for your child in the future.

Here are a few points you might look for while selecting a nursery for your child:

What’s in a name?

Everything. Often preschools and (schools) will put the words ‘International’ or have a certain school of thought such as ‘Montessori’ or ‘IB’ based in the name. Don’t get fooled by these claims. Before seeking admission, ask the managers or concerned staff the ways they incorporate these curriculums in their daily routine. Are they equipped to follow the curriculum they showcase with appropriate resources and facilities?

For example, an IB (International Baccalaureate) Curriculum in preschool would work on the principle of ‘inquiry-based learning’ where students facilitate their own learning and teachers are mere facilitators. Here, topics/lessons are not pre-decided but are driven in the direction the children take with guidance by the teachers. It is also important to select the curriculum based on the type of school you wish to send your child in the future. For example, a nursery with an EYFS (British) Curriculum should be complemented by a school following the same.

Classroom environment

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All nurseries will offer a tour to their prospective clients before admission. Here it is important to look out for how the classrooms have been set-up. For example, is the child’s work up on the bulletin board for display? This will show if the child-care providers value and respect the child’s work and encourage independence in their students. If the classroom is neat and tidy with picture perfect boards, this does not necessary mean the nursery is good.

A classroom’s decor should reflect the children in it; this is where your child feels most recognized. Also make sure to look for a clutter free set-up where your child has enough room to navigate in the classroom. For example, how are the tables and chairs are set-up, is the furniture child-friendly? Are there are wires, switches or sharp corners close to the child’s reach? You could also look at what kinds of charts and displays have been put up. If there are boring charts or printed tables with letters, numbers and alphabets your child is not going to be motivated to learn however a stimulating environment with colours will excite your child to go to nursery.

Get informed

A great way to learn about a nursery is to ask parents who are just as concerned as you are. You could be rest assured a parent’s recommendation will be honest. When you visit a nursery, ask parents in the vicinity what they think about the nursery, its staff and functioning. Ask the nursery for an events calendar and look at the different types of celebrations and days they recognize. A good nursery will incorporate various global celebrations like Earth Day, World Book Day, Chinese New Year, Diwali, Christmas and Halloween to name a few, making your child aware of various cultural and traditional events.

Talk to the teacher

During the admission process, parents interact with the management who may or may not be fully informed about the academic functioning of the nursery. Check if it is possible to have a quick word with the teacher meant to be teaching your child. Of course, make sure not to judge her and jump to conclusions immediately but do ask important questions like what routine she follows in class, what school of discipline is practiced, how they incorporate the needs of different children and ask for short term goals they are working towards currently.

This will give you a clear idea on what to expect after you enrol your child at nursery. Build a good rapport with the teacher and ask her to keep you informed through pictures or a phone call about the progress of your child.

Play area and infrastructure

Every nursery should have an indoor and outdoor play area with meaningful and skill-based equipment. A play-area should consist of basic sport materials like hoops, balls, a soft jungle gym, racquets amongst other things to keep the child engaged. A nursery may have acres of space for your child to run around in but if it is not properly utilized, it serves little benefit to your child. Children need tools that will help build their gross-motor skills, which will only be possible if they are exposed to a host of different tools. A play area is an important structure of a good nursery which is sometimes overlooked. Remember, learning goes on even outside the classroom.

Nurseries seem to be opening up at every corner, but it takes patience and a vigilant eye to look past the advertisements and choose the one that works best for you and your child. Keep in mind, the best nurseries are not always the biggest and most expensive! Choose wisely, and you will see the fruits of your labour in your child’s smile every day as they happily jump out of bed to rush to nursery. 

- Sanobar Mistry is a published journalist and currently a kindergarten teacher in Dubai.