One of the few memories that will be etched in your toddler’s young brain is his or her first day in school. Your child’s recollections of how happy or sad he or she was at his or her first school can make or break his or her interest and motivation to learn. It will have a great impact on his or her desire to go to school every day now, and in the future.
Choosing the best nursery in Dubai, therefore, is crucial in helping your little one develop a lifelong interest in learning and love for formal education. Because of this, the last thing you want to do is enroll your child in just any preschool.
To be sure that your child’s first year in school will be a memorable one, and he or she begins his or her academic journey in the best way possible, follow these tips for selecting the right nursery school:
1. Consider your child’s needs and strengths
For your toddler to learn the alphabet and numbers, how to make new friends, share, and follow simple instructions, he or she needs to be in the right environment, under the supervision of the right teacher.
First, think about your child’s personality. Is he or she shy, or does he or she make friends easily? Does your little one remain outgoing or become withdrawn when he or she is in a room full of people?
Next, consider his or her learning pace. When you teach him or her a new game or read him or her a story, does your toddler remember them quickly?
Once you have considered all these, you can proceed to the next step.
2. Choose a curriculum that suits your child’s needs and personality
Learning methods for kids fall into two general categories: child-driven and skill or teacher-driven.
A nursery that follows a child-driven curriculum uses play to teach students. They make the most of a child’s innate sense of curiosity to promote learning.
A skill and/or teacher-driven curriculum is one that is guided by the teacher. This is a more structured approach where teachers use drills and worksheets to teach their students concepts and skills. Students will also be given time for play; however, most of their time will be devoted to learning as determined by the teacher.
If your child is playful and learns more when he or she is playing and loves interacting with other kids, it would be best to select a school with a child-driven curriculum. If your toddler already loves answering simple flash card quizzes you have at home, he or she may benefit more from a skill and/or teacher-driven curriculum.
Some preschools use a combination of these approaches. If you think your child will benefit from a combination of these methods, find a school that applies both.
3. Find a school within a reasonable traveling distance
Choosing a school that is near your home will allow you to experience a lot of conveniences. In addition, a nursery that is close to where you live will make it easier for your child to foster the friendships he or she makes in school. This is because he or she can readily join playdates and party invitations.
However, if a nursery near your home isn’t a good fit for your child, and he or she doesn’t seem to want to go there, you will have to find another one.
If you are looking at ones a bit far from your home, consider the travel distance. If you select a school that is too far away from your home, your toddler may fall asleep in the car or bus and may become cranky when woken up. If you don’t want this to happen every day, choose a school you can reach daily within a reasonable travel time.
4. Visit your shortlisted schools
Once you have four or five nurseries to pick from, visit them. Take a tour of the facilities and inspect the classrooms. If the teachers are there, talk to them so that you can have a feel of their personality and see if your toddler will like them.
Ask the teachers about their background as well. At the very least, the head teacher should be certified in early childhood education. Other teachers can be graduates of general or primary education; however, make sure they are good with kids
Take the time to speak with the director or principal as well. Ask him or her about how they discipline kids, their policies on tuition fees, teaching values, etc.
While visiting the nursery, check if it has the required licenses to operate. Find out what accreditations they have already been awarded as well.
Lastly, check if the school has a sufficient outdoor space. Make sure your toddler will also have time for outdoor play and simple sports since these activities will also complement their school learning.
5. Ask about the school’s separation guidelines
It is also important to ask about the nursery’s phase-in policy especially if you are worried about leaving your toddler for the first time. Some schools allow the parents to linger in and outside the classroom for over a month. Other nurseries will ask the parents to leave for good after the second day.
Although there is no good or bad way to approach separation, you have to be comfortable with how you and your child will handle this part.
Once you have factored in the cost, hours at school, and classroom size, you are a step closer to finding the best school for your child.
Involve your child in the selection
Lastly, don’t forget to include your child in the decision-making process. Visit the possible schools for your child twice and bring your little one on your second visit. Observe how your toddler interacts with the teachers and staff, and how interested he or she is in the facilities and classrooms.
Ask your child as well which of the nurseries you visited he or she prefers the most. This will also help point you in the right direction. Once done with the selection process, and your child is admitted, it’s time to look forward to all the learning your child will be taking home every day.
Lama Chivi is the CEO of Blossom by Babilou Education in the UAE. Having lived in Dubai for over 30 years, she combines the best of international practice and local expertise into this leading British Curriculum Nursery, delivering a top-tier and high-quality offering to the MENA region. The mission of Blossom by Babilou Education is to support children in building their own identity, self-discovery and awakening while respecting their own pace and their uniqueness.