How To Find The Right Nursery For Your Child


Education plays a vital role in building knowledge and the overall development of life skills in students. As a child starts growing up, one of the main questions that crosses every parent's mind is choosing a nursery that helps them learn through interactive activities.

Nurseries are important, as it the first stepping stone in a child's life, and make it easier for children to prepare for life at school.

There are many aspects to look into for parents that are considering and planning to enrol their child in a nursery. Connector has asked nurseries around the UAE some questions to make the decision process easier. 

Why is it important to send my child to a nursery?

Nurseries help in developing a child and provide a platform for children to explore their curiosity and creativity. The formative years in a child's life are when they are able to learn the best, and the skills and knowledge learnt during this time, shape the way they perceive things. While at a nursery, they are taught how to interact with other children their age, receive guidance from teachers, communicate better, and learn how to be more independent while making decisions.

Dr Vandana Gandhi, CEO and Founder of British Orchard Group in the UK and UAE said, "Sending a child to a nursery offers invaluable developmental benefits. Research proves that zero to 6 years old is the crucial age in a person's life where brain development is at its highest. Qualified preschools foster social skills, aiding children in learning to interact, share, and collaborate with peers. Trained teachers provide tailored guidance and stimulate curiosity, creativity, and problem-solving abilities in young children, promoting their emotional and intellectual growth which is highly crucial for holistic development. Additionally, nurturing independence and routine adaptation instil essential life skills."

When is the right time to enrol my child in a nursery?

In the UAE, children can be enroled in a nursery, anytime from the time they turn 45 days old to four years old. The right time to enrol a child in a nursery entirely depends on the parents. For some, it can be due to busy schedules where they need to find care for their child while at work, and for others, it is to make their child more independent, and learn how to better interact with peers. Zulekha Khan, Nursery Manager at Dibber Al Barsha South said, "The appropriate age to enrol a child in a nursery can vary based on cultural norms, country-specific regulations, including parent leave length and the child's individual development. Children can start at nursery, as long as the setting and the educators come together to make every child feel valuable and become the best version of themselves."

What are some things to look out for when choosing a nursery?

After deciding to send a child to nursery, finding the right one is key to ensuring they are able to thrive in the environment and develop in all aspects. Some of the things to consider are:

Finding the right curriculum: Each child enroled at a nursery has varying interests and rates of development. The first thing to consider is if the nursery matches with the values of the family, and if they are able to provide the right care and nurturing to develop the child in various aspects. Zulekha Khan of Dibber Al Barsha South said, "It is essential to thoroughly assess the nursery's curriculum and teaching approach to ensure it aligns with your child's unique needs and your family's values. The ideal nursery should foster cognitive, emotional, and physical development."

Additionally, as children enroled at nurseries are young, a curriculum that focuses on development through interactive activities and play, can help in expanding their creativity, learning how to share with other children, increasing their physical capabilities, and retaining their attention. Dr Vandana Gandhi of British Orchard Group added, "Opt for a qualified preschool that offers a balanced curriculum combining play-based learning and structured activities. A well-designed curriculum encourages social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development, fostering creativity, problem-solving, and teamwork skills in children."

Enquire about the staff: As children at the nursery will be cared for by the staff, enquiring about their roles is essential in noting if the child will be able to thrive in the set environment. While visiting a nursery, try to meet with the teachers and see whether their qualifications and roles, match with the requirements of the child. Damien Marshall, Vice Principal at Primo and Junior School at Bloom World Academy Early Excellency Centre said, "Try to meet with key staff including the nursery manager, asking questions such as, how do you professionally develop your teachers and assistants, what experience and qualifications do your teachers have, and how do you recruit your teachers."

Additionally, teachers at the nursery need to have a welcoming feel, to ensure the child is comfortable and able to grow. Another key aspect to consider is the staff-to-children ratio, where the number of children are assigned to one teacher. During formative years, children require more care and attention, and the nursery needs to provide the right amount of staff to ensure their child is taken care of. Roshi Tandon, CEO of Chubby Cheeks Nursery and Deira Private School added, "Staff should be qualified and trained in early-year education, child care and first aid. Do not hesitate to ask questions about staff qualifications, training, and very importantly, staff to children ratio. Whilst nurseries in the UAE are regulated to hire qualified staff, make sure there is a welcoming culture. Do the staff look happy, friendly and welcoming? Do they give you a listening ear and show empathy for your concerns? Do staff go down to the child's level when talking to a child and speak in a gentle, reassuring voice? These are essential cues. Children need to feel safe and loved, check that the staff are able to respond to individual children's needs, comfort and encourage them and keep them safe."

Inclusive learning: Nurseries are the first educational facilities that a child is enroled in. Here, children are taught important life skills on how to learn from challenges, and use them as a learning curb, to develop holistically. Lessons taught during these formative years, can be used throughout a child's life to make better decisions in the future, as well as learn how to process their emotions. Dr Vandana Gandhi of British Orchard Group said, "Encouraging children to embrace challenges and develop a 'Bounce Back' and "Never Give Up' attitude from an early age is essential. Through an inclusive and supportive learning environment at preschools, children are further empowered to tackle obstacles with determination and grace. Children who learn resilience and perseverance from the start are more likely to face hardships confidently, never shying away from trying new things, and become strong leaders who inspire others through their perseverance. Mindfulness programs, 'Feelings Finder' and 'Calm Corners' at preschools help children further develop their emotional intelligence."

Importance of communication: Parents should always be part of the decision-making process, in a child's education, be it at nursery or at school. As parents know their children the best, and are better at catering and understanding their needs, parents need to be included in their child's progress as well as be informed about the ways the student develops in the nursery. Damien Marshall of Bloom World Academy Early Excellency Centre said, "How does the school communicate about your child and their progress at school? Effective, regular and quality communication is a key component of a quality nursery setting."

Happiness of the child: Starting nursery can be a difficult transition for children. As it is an unfamiliar environment with new people, is it important to visit the centre and assess if the children present seem happy and engaged. This also provides a great insight into how the nursery operates, the schedule of children, and how the talents of the child are grown. Roshi Tandon of Chubby Cheeks Nursery and Deira Private School said, "Children should look busy yet calm, engaged and purposeful. An ideal early years setting is child-centred, embraces the uniqueness of all children and caters to diversity and inclusion. Do not hesitate to ask for the children's schedule, curriculum, lesson plans and the activities that the nursery offers. Do also ask what are the daily timings and schedules at the nursery and how can you incorporate my child's routines."

Learning environment: Children enroled at nurseries need to be engaged, where programmes and activities held daily, keep them interested and engaged. This helps in fostering a great learning environment, where children can be inquisitive and learn more, while also being completely immersed in the activities held. Damien Marshall of Bloom World Academy Early Excellency Centre said, "Are the learning environments rich and engaging for your child? Learning environments should inspire curiosity in your child and should allow for high-quality hands-on learning experiences for your child."

Safety first: As children spend a good amount of time learning and developing at nurseries, one of the key aspects to look into is the safety and quality of the facilities at the centre. The nursery needs to cater to the needs of the child, by providing ways that children can have fun while learning, through activities in classrooms, as well as on the playground. Visiting the centre before enroling a child, can help in assessing the facilities at the school and if the safety of students is a main priority. Roshi Tandon of Chubby Cheeks Nursery and Deira Private School said, "Make sure that the nursery for your child is safe and has clean premises. You can always ask for health and safety checklists and policies as a safe and healthy child will be a happy and learning child. The classrooms and play areas should be welcoming and inviting spaces with plenty of resources to cater to children with different interests and abilities. Also, look for cultural sensitivity and responsiveness to children's home life."

Additionally, it is also important to note that the health of the child is a main priority. As children are prone to catching colds, an on-site nurse can help in ensuring children are in prime health and taken care of. The facilities also need to foster creativity and let them explore their curiosity at the nursery. Zulekha Khan of Dibber Al Barsha South said, "Facilities must be safe, clean, and stimulating. The presence of a certified nurse provides extra reassurance that the children will be catered to appropriately and that hygiene will be of utmost importance. The settings must promote exploration and prompt children’s curiosity."

Sending a child to nursery can be a difficult process for any parent. Before enroling it is important to check whether the child is ready to venture into learning at an educational facility, and if they match with the busy schedules of parents.

After making the decision to send a child to nursery, it is important to check the facilities, safety, environment and the quality of staff, before finalising a centre.

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