The thought of sending your child away for a few hours is sometimes scarier than looking for a nursery, and not just for first time parents.
It is hard to believe that the little life is growing so fast and now they are ready to go to a pre-school. May be a nursery does not play as vital a role in deciding how a child does in overall future life, but as parents, we would want to send our child to the best nursery possible, which helps them develop skills right from their foundation years.
According to experts, over their first five years children absorb everything like a sponge and we as parents want them to take in as much as possible.
You are not sending your child to spend a few hours out with other children, play and come back, rather you want experts to help you and your children in the process of learning.
Therefore, choosing a nursery is not at all an easy task, but it’s neither impossible if you make a list of things you need to checkout before making your final call.
Here are few points and things to look out for-good or bad- that would help you in choosing the best nursery for your child.
Low Child To Staff Ratio
One question that should be on your priority list is the ratio of staff to children. Obviously it cannot be 1:1, but it should not either be 1 staff to every 15 children, your child is still too young and needs more personal attention. The recommended ideal staff to child ratio is 1:2 for babies (45 days to 1 year), 1:3 for toddlers (1 to 2 years), 1:5 for 2 to 3 year olds and 1:8 for 3 to 4 year old children.
Kelli Allen, Head of Nursery and Preschool, Aga Khan Early Learning Centre (AKELC) says, “Nurseries that follow low child to staff ratios provide safer supervision, more adult interactions and assist children in settling in more quickly. AKELC follows "Best Practice" for adult to child ratios and there are always an appropriate number of qualified staff responsible for the children.”
Quality Staff And Qualification
Parents should inquire about three major things here: qualification of the staff employed - for EYFS curriculum look for a minimum of CACHE Level 3 Diploma or equivalent relevant to the position, on the job training provided and staff turnover ratio, and you can then gauge overall staff quality at any nursery.
In addition to the above, Samina Khanyari, General Manager at Jumeirah International Nurseries advises parents to observe staff behaviour during their visit to the nursery. Samina Khanyari says, “During the nursery tours, notice how staff are interacting with the children. Talk to the staff, ask them questions like the positive and negative experience of working at the nursery, as well as the opportunity of continuous professional development provided. Get recommendations from the parents attending the nursery and look at the pictures posted on social media. Friendly relationships help children settle easily through.”
Parents should look for a learning environment which is children friendly, inclusive, inviting and have learning activities as per the age group that enable children to adapt to the environment quickly.
Look for outdoor and indoor play areas and other learning domains such as a gym, a library, role play area and sensory corners. Look for activities designed for indoor and outdoor areas, what activities are there on their chart and how they rotate these activities between children to make it a more fun learning experience.
Rachel Carpenter, Head of Admissions, Orange Tree Children's Nursery says, “The nursery classrooms should be bright and inviting, with plenty of evidence of children's work on display. If the children's work is mostly colouring in printed sheets, this is not a very educational activity compared to free painting, for example. The children should be involved in a variety of activities to develop their socio-emotional and motor skills, as well as their reasoning and literacy.”
Savvy Kisani, Director of British Berries Nursery says, “Exposing children to reading, writing and building curiosity, teaches empathy and problem solving skills. This helps children to learn important pre-academic skills and concepts like counting, recognising colours, shapes, coordination, sitting tolerance and group learning. A joy of learning and the love of school starts early and your children can bloom in the right environment.”
Pay close attention to the nursery vibe, it should be warm and welcoming. Believe your instincts and intuition to measure that.
Monika Agrawal from First Steps Nursery Montessori says, “When you enter a place, you feel the ‘vibe’ of a place and if that is good, it is the place for your child. One can feel the warmth a place exudes or sometimes a place can feel too uptight and all covered under a professional blanket. Trust your gutfeel.”
Hygiene And First Aid
Paying attention to certain hygiene parameters can influence your decision. Check where children sleep, how they keep their food and milk, how they change diapers of toddlers, at what time they feed children, how they clean them after they eat their food, if the lavatories are clean and if they have cleaning check-lists in place and finally, ask for the toy cleaning schedule. Observe if children look motivated and excited about being at nursery. Ask if the staff are first aid certified and have a full time nurse on
You know your child the best, so read up on the curriculum offered and make sure you feel it will meet the needs of your child.
Dr Vandana Gandhi, CEO and Founder of British Orchard Nursery says, “Read the curriculum carefully, check if it’s creative and interactive to get your child involved in developing skills; social, emotive and cognitive. Ask if the nursery has parameters of assessment, how rigorous are these assessments? How do they improve to achieve the child’s development goals? Don’t fall for the theoretic explanation. Delve further and try to understand if these assessments are proven and trusted, even better if it has achieved some sort of recognition or maybe an award.”
Make sure the nursery building is secure and safe. It is important that a nursery has a proper security check at the entrance and it is not easy for you as an adult to just walk in. The harder it is for you to get inside a nursery, the better it indicates higher security and safety levels for children.
There are nurseries in Dubai which operate on a term basis, if you are a stay at home parent or have someone to look after your child at home when nurseries are closed for spring or summer break, it is not an issue. However, if you have limited holidays and no one at home, you need to look for nurseries which are open all around the year and it may cost you extra.
Affiliation With Primary Schools
In Dubai, nurseries have direct affiliation with schools. Planning for long term, you can pick nurseries, which have direct affiliation with the targeted schools, it may help in the admission process later.
Other Things To Ask
- What is the parent and nursery feedback communication mechanism?
- If a nursery provides for meals and transportation?
- What are the fees?
- Is transportation available?
- If they provide lessons in languages other than English?
In a nutshell, shortlist nurseries based on you and your child’s needs and trust your gut feeling.