French nursery group Babilou is slowly making its presence felt in the UAE with four nurseries now in the group. Its merger with Blossom will greatly extend its reach further.
Added to this, Babilou UAE has recently merged with the well known, ‘home grown’ Blossom group of nurseries, spreading the reach and capacity of the combined group across Dubai. Watch our in depth discussion about this merger with Zahra Hamirani, Blossom’s Chief Education Officer on our Facebook page here.
Babilou D3 is in a new area of Dubai, the Design District – otherwise known as ‘d3’. Directly off a new interchange of the Al Khail Road, and within striking distance of Downtown and the Festival City/Garhoud areas, this is a superb, central location which will appeal to working parents. Children are accepted from two months to four years, and the nursery is opened all year round, closing only for a few public holidays and 3-4 days of staff professional development each year. A variety of timings are available between 7.30am and 6pm.
Opened in September 2017, the nursery is situated in the ground floor of a new office building. Parking is a short walk away and is free, although the nursery does have a quick drop off bay outside, where parents can pull up for a few minutes and escort their child into the nursery.
We met Marie Eltarazi, Nursery Manager and her Deputy, Jamila Saad. Both are experienced nursery professionals who are keen to ensure the success of this new branch and who have lots of interesting plans for the future.
Marie is Palestinian/Jordanian and is a qualified Montessori teacher ). She tells us that Babilour D3 offers a blend of the English EYFS, Montessori and the approaches of Reggio Emilia and Emmi Pikler.
There is a great emphasis on the development of language at Babilou. English is the first language at the d3 nursery, and staff are encouraged to sit and really talk to the children, whilst modelling good grammar and the use of a wide vocabulary. ‘Baby talk’ is discouraged!
Arabic and French are taught from the very youngest age, with language lessons delivered in a cycle of one week Arabic, one week of French. Our reviewer was impressed by this approach – we could really see how this could help to solidify language acquisition for young children. In most nurseries we have seen languages are alternated daily – a method that can be confusing for some children.
Marie and her team are excited to be opening a new outdoor area soon. At present there is no outdoor space, which our reviewer did feel limit the experience of children somewhat. However, Marie tells us that permissions are imminent and they have plans to create a cycle track, sand and water play areas in an area running alongside the premises. There will also be ‘free flow’ from a number of the classrooms into the outdoor space, which will be great for the good weather season – especially for creative and messy play! We feel that this will greatly enhance everyday life for the children here. WSA will update this review once the new facilities are in place.
In the meantime, physical development is encouraged in many other ways. Children are taken for walks using stollers and ‘crocodile’ safety harnesses for older children. Marie told us that the d3 security team love to help the children move around safely (we could see how a crocodile of pre-schooler could brighten a normal working day!) and accompany the children on their walks, stopping traffic to allow the children to cross any service road areas. That said, the d3 area is mostly pedestrianised, making it an ideal place for children to explore safely.
An unused classroom is currently a gym/free play area, with lots of age appropriate climbing equipment, slides and bikes. Teachers plan their time in here carefully, making obstacles courses, relay races and other fun activities to ensure children are continuously challenged.
Children improve their fine motor skills with lots of threading, puzzles and messy play which encourages scooping and pouring.
We met Diana, a parent of a one-year-old who has attended the nursery since it opened in September. She praised the warmth of the team (management in particular), location and the new equipment and facilities.
She also however, feels the group’s merger with Blossom was not all positive for her child. Of particular concern was some upheaval in the classroom, with a number of personnel changes since joining in September. She was also concerned that the Babilou group now using Blossom’s catering service had lowered the standard of food provision. Despite these concerns (which Diana hopes will be dealt with soon) she remains happy, overall, with her choice of nursery. She intends for her child to remain at Babilou D3.
Marie then led us on the tour of the premises. The nursery has a very high standard of cleanliness and is well organised. Small touches like power sockets being above child height are sensible, well thought out additions to the rooms.
Rooms are spacious and well lit. Toys and books are plentiful and there is a library area with bean bag seating for cosy reading time. However, given that the nursery has a focus on the Reggio Emilia style of learning, we would have liked to see more natural colours and resources in the rooms.
Bathrooms are a particular strength in the design of this nursery. Sinks are deep, with a small ledge/seat for children who need to be bathed. For older children, a pull out set of steps to climb (kept under the nappy change area) creates an element of independence in what is otherwise quite a passive experience for a child. All the bathrooms we saw were spotlessly clean.
Teacher’s are a varied group, with lead teachers required to have a minimum of the Cache 3* qualification. Assistant Educators are required to have a B’Ed qualification. There are no ‘class nannies’ here – all staff are considered responsible for cleanliness and hygiene in the children and the environment.
We highly commend this approach and the healthy respect for all nationalities it will promote.
[*Cache qualifications are qualifications awarded by the Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education - the UK's leading provider of vocational qualifications for those working in the care and education sectors. Cache qualifications are divided into five different levels, ranging from Level 1 (entry level) to Level 5 (for experienced professionals).]
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