Choose the nursery carefully to ensure your little one gets the best possible foundation for future learning Image Credit: Getty

Choosing a suitable nursery is an important decision, with experts saying early learning has a direct bearing on a child’s further education. Therefore, parents in the UAE hunting for that perfect place for their kids to blossom should look for a combination of a few essential elements — from core practical aspects such as proper safety and staff qualifications to more personal points such as a welcoming atmosphere and a happy vibe.

Infrastructure and safety

“First and foremost, parents should ensure that the nursery chosen offers a safe environment where their child would feel secure in terms of interaction with caregivers,” says Dr Vandana Gandhi, CEO and Founder, British Orchard Nurseries.

“The place must have safe learning tools, a high level of cleanliness and child-friendly building such as gates to protect children from climbing or falling off stairs.”

The place must have safe learning tools, a high level of cleanliness and child-friendly building such as gates to protect children from climbing or falling off stairs.

- Dr Vandana Gandhi, CEO and Founder, British Orchard Nurseries

She adds that all day nurseries must provide a safe environment for staff, children and visiting parents. Parents must ask questions to satisfy themselves that steps have been taken to minimise every risk to their child. Another top tip is you shouldn’t see any broken or ageing play equipment on your visit. There should also be clear fire emergency procedures, with well-marked exits and extinguishers.

Learning environment

It has been scientifically proven that pre-school years are the most important as they lay the foundation for future learning and success. “A positive learning environment that allows students to feel comfortable and confident achieves high levels of success,” says Sylvia Al Hazmi, Centre Director, Safa Early Learning Centre.

“Early years settings must ensure that children can independently choose from different learning environments, which allows them to have a continuous free flow of activities leading to progressive development,” says Shirley Jacob, Executive Director, New Dubai Nursery Early Learning Centre. “We at our nurseries ensure

that continuous provision is made available to each and every child thus making learning fun.”

Early years settings must ensure that children can independently choose from different learning environments, which allows them to have a continuous free flow of activities leading to progressive development.

- Shirley Jacob, Executive Director, New Dubai Nursery Early Learning Centre

Programmes

The British Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum is popular in the UAE. It is based on the ongoing observation and assessment of children and their interests. “The EYFS curriculum is based on prime areas of learning, personal, social and emotional development, communication and language development, and physical development,” explains Al Hazmi. “It moves on to specific areas of learning: literacy, mathematics, understanding the world, and expressive arts and design.”

There are some other curricula available too, such as the HighScope Approach, which is based on six key developmental indicators and a plan-do-review process that strengthens essential learning skills. There is also the holistic and home-grown curriculum where kids get back to nature with lessons in conservation, preservation, protecting endangered species, composting, recycling and organic gardening. The International Curriculum for Languages and Creative Arts (ICLCA) boasts an amalgamation of the world’s leading curricula, combined with a fresh take on what’s really age-appropriate in the 21st century. As a parent, the choice is yours. 

The EYFS curriculum is based on prime areas of learning, personal, social and emotional development, communication and language development, and physical development.

- Sylvia Al Hazmi, Centre Director, Safa Early Learning Centre

Staff qualifications

Early childhood educators should be properly qualified and experienced to deliver their best. “All early years practitioners must be trained and qualified in first aid and safety along with an emphasis on continuous professional development, as this ensures that they meet the quality standards that are set by the governing bodies,” says Jacob. It is fine to ask a nursery to show proof of any of this. Working with young children should be a passion and it’s important that parents can trust the staff.

Extracurricular activities

Childhood is a magical time, with varied activities making a youngster’s daily life truly happier and exciting. “Children at our nurseries learn through experiential activities such as music and dance, arts and crafts, junior gym, yoga, cooking, junior science, soccer and basketball, public speaking, story time, dress-up days, field trips, concerts, puppet shows, drumming lessons and much more,” says Roshi Tandon, Managing Director of Chubby Cheeks Nursery.

Children at our nurseries learn through experiential activities.

- Roshi Tandon, Managing Director of Chubby Cheeks Nursery

The X factor

When buying a house, we often go for a property because something just feels right and we simply have to live there. Ensure you are attuned to that elusive X factor when deciding on a nursery too. Did you smile when you walked in? Are the children noisy but happy? Are the colours pleasing? Do you want to stay and just hang out? If the answers are all yes, that’s an excellent sign.