Chubby Cheeks is one of the UAE’s largest nursery chains, with a total of 21 branches in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah. We were keen to visit one of the group's first branches in Discovery Gardens.
We feel the Chubby Cheeks Nursery group offer great value for money, something we explore in more detail in our recent Amazing Value Nurseries feature.
We visited the Discovery Gardens branch one sunny morning to see what this popular team are offering to local children and families.
The Chubby Cheeks Nursery (CCN) Discovery Gardens branch is located in the ground floor of a commercial building. Parking surrounds the building but many local parents walk from the nearby apartments. Many more children make use of the free bus service (free transportation is a key element of the offering from the entire CCN group).
As we approach, we see a small group of children having a lively ball skills session. They are listening attentively and laughing along with their coach. The children are mostly wearing the CCN uniform – hard wearing polo shirts in blue for boys and pink for girls.
The outdoor area is relatively small but the team have made good use of the space, including a role play kitchen and, lots of space for planting (in recycled tires) and plenty of well thought out resources and equipment. The area is mostly shaded and is secured by a high fence. There is CCTV here and throughout the branch.
In reception we are welcomed by Roshi Tandon (CCN CEO) and her smiling team. This branch is run by Ishita Sharma, Centre Director and Lisa Such, Admissions Manager. Ishita is Indian and holds a Bachelors Degree in Education plus a Cache level 5 Diploma*. Before joining Chubby Cheeks, Ishita ran Mother’s Pride Nursery in Delhi. Lisa is from the UK and was a Chubby Cheeks teacher before being promoted to the management team.
[*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).]
There is a great atmosphere here – lots of joking and fun between the team and a lot of laughter! We are offered a drink as soon as we arrive and begin by taking a tour of the premises.
Lisa leads the tour. We are impressed to see that she knows the name of every child we interact with. The first room we visit is the gym/indoor soft play area. A dance class is underway, led by a teacher dressed as Elsa from Frozen! The children are happy for our team to watch their impressive dance moves and seem engaged and happy with their teacher. One corner of the soft play room has been dedicated to role play, with a super market, technology and investigation table waiting for the children to explore. There is also a climbing wall, play houses and child sized exercise bikes.
This branch is able to cater for children age 45 days to 4 years. Each classroom is equipped with child sized tables and chairs and the walls are decorated with inspiring words and murals (the infant room has different, age appropriate equipment and furnishings).
We notice that in rooms where focussed activities such as Circle Time were in progress, children who did not wish to participate are simply offered interesting alternative activities. All activities are varied and well thought out – clearly aiming to focus on the priority areas of the EYFS. Most classes have a free access mark making area for children to strengthen those little hands ready for learning to write at school. We noticed that the classrooms have a ‘Wow Moments’ board – a special place to record and celebrate the children’s achievements. Each room has also has a ‘zero incidents’ board – a used to promote health and safety and minimise accidents wherever possible.
This is a relatively compact setting but we felt that the space was used well. Corridors are used for messy activities such as foam play, plus motor skills work such as a threading wall and construction. Staff had created imaginary sensory areas along the walls for children to play with as they pass and there was lots of storage areas for interesting shared classroom resources. There is one bathroom with separate stalls, this was clean and children were supervised and helped as needed.
We chatted with both parents and teachers during our visit. Teacher Sukriti has been with CCN for 3 years and praised the work culture and environment – saying that she loved working in this very friendly team. Sukriti felt supported by the management team in her own development and felt that this branch offered a loving second home for the children. She also felt that the very regular communication with parents – daily report books and monthly meetings – were incredibly helpful to parents and teachers alike.
Parents Maysa and Nihal had lots of positive feedback about the care and education their 3 and 4 year old children were receiving. Nihal felt that CCN had an ‘exciting teaching style’ and that her child regularly came home with interesting new ideas and facts she had learnt – the latest being the life cycle of a chicken! Maysa praised the parent orientation programme which had left her feeling confident about her child’s entry to nursery. She concurred with Nihal about the teaching style and varied curriculum. Both suggested one single improvement lower staff:child ratios. Other than that, they were both very happy with their choice and would recommend the nursery.
The nursery offers a variety of extra-curricular activities, including a popular Little Muslims programme, dance, yoga, karate and ball skills. Arabic and French are provided as part of the daily curriculum.
The CCN group have recently partnered with the well regarded Arabian Child teaching college to deliver regular continuous professional development courses and teaching qualifications for their staff. They were also looking forward to welcome a Special Education Needs Coordinator in Term 3, a new staff member to help identify and support children with additional needs.
Children progress to a variety of schools and curricula. The group has partnerships with many schools. Children from this branch tend to move on to Dovecote Primary, Barsha Heights Academy, Haartland School as well as a number of Indian and International Curriculum schools.
Overall, we felt that this is a well-managed nursery offering a board and balanced curriculum at a very reasonable price point. The team have great rapport and clearly enjoy working together.
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In addition to the three original nurseries mentioned above, CCN also now has branches at Business Bay Al Quoz, International City, Mankhool Bur Dubai (Orange Tree Children's Nursery), Barsha Heights Tecom, Skycourts DSO Dubailand, Al Nahda Deira, Al Qusais (Indigo Valley Nursery), RAK Mina Al Arab, Abu Dhabi Mushrif, and Ajman (Wonderkids Nursery).
The group has also recently (2020) purchased its first school - Deira Private School.
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