We visit the Dubai Investments Park (DIP) branch of this popular group, located on the ground floor of a commercial office building. Chubby Cheeks now has six branches in Dubai, one in Sharjah and one in Ras Al Khaimah.
The DIP branch of Chubby Cheeks Nursery (CCN) serves many local areas including Remraam , Mira and Jebel Ali. There are free buses from a number of areas (free transportation is a key element of the CCN proposition group wide). For families who drive there is free parking immediately adjacent to the main entrance to the nursery.
Catering to children age 45 days to 4 years, we felt this rather tucked away nursery had a lot to offer.
On entry, there is a garden/outdoor play area split into two gated zones (enabling staff to ensure that the youngest children are kept safely away from the oldest). On one side, there is a music and sounds wall, a mud kitchen and space and equipment for water and sensory play. There are also planters where the children grow herbs and vegetables. We liked the use of recycled pallets and wooden boxes to make much of the play equipment.
In the larger outdoor area, there is climbing equipment, swings, a play house and bikes and trikes. It was a beautiful morning when we visited and we saw a class having a lively outdoor music and circle time on our arrival.
The main entry is staffed by a security guard who welcomed us warmly and ensured that we were signed in and wearing a visitor badge. The nursery is surprisingly spacious. On entering, we found an open plan reception adjacent to a very large indoor soft play zone. There we are welcomed by Chubby Cheeks CEO Roshi Tandon, as well as several members of her team including Centre Director Anam Fatima and Deputy Manager Johanna Kryney.
Also on hand is Group Quality Assurance Manager, Fiona Benger, whose role involves monitoring feedback from monthly parent and staff ‘happiness’ surveys. We were impressed by this commitment to continual improvement.
Johanna is keen to give us a tour of the nursery. We start at a small area named the ‘Mindfulness Majlis’ which has been created to give any child feeling out of sorts or overwhelmed a quiet place to sit and unwind. Traditional Arabic seating and gentle lighting have been used to create a calm and quiet area and the team tell us that this has proved a popular new initiative.
The indoor soft play area is equipped with a good variety of play equipment to ensure that children get plenty of physical activity even in the hottest months. On the day of our visit, part of this play area had been given a space theme in keeping with the topic enquiries of one of the classes. It was cleverly done and looked a lot of fun to play in! There is an interactive whiteboard in this area, which the team told us is used ‘only occasionally’ to support the curriculum.
As we walk through the rest of the nursery, we notice that almost every inch of space has been used in an inventive way. The area outside the soft play is a ‘sensory garden’ and the walls of the main corridor are lined with different activity areas including a ‘weaving wall’, themed ‘book bags’ (filled with props and ideas to help teachers extend learning around popular books) and a construction area with lots of giant lego blocks. Along the corridor are bright displays of children’s art work as well as a wall proudly displaying the qualifications of the entire teaching team.
Each classroom is clean and brightly decorated. The group use ‘Healthy Homes’ for regular sanitation and the entire nursery receives a thorough deep clean every Saturday. In the infant room, there is soft flooring, a small milk preparation area and a comfortable breast feeding area (carefully positioned away from the CCTV which covers the rest of the nursery). Parents send clean bedding each week for their child and each child has a travel style cot or cocoon for nap time.
We saw a wide variety of fun activities in each room. There was sensory play with shaving foam, language lessons (the nursery offers one hour of either Arabic or French daily) and lots of craft activities. All children have a daily yoga session and for Muslim children there is an optional ‘Little Muslims’ programme. Specialist extra-curricular tuition is available in Karate, Ballet and Soccer (additional cost).
The CCN group uses the EYFS curriculum and has a detailed lesson plan book for each age group. Whilst we commend the attention to detail in this thorough scheme of work, we would love to see the group take a slightly more adaptable and child led approach to the curriculum. Our feeling is that having these activities and topics set far in advance tends to limit the exploration of the children’s own ideas and interests.
In one classroom we came across the Chubby Cheeks group Speech and Language specialist, Maria. Maria has a Master’s degree in Speech and Language therapy and works across the branches of the group. During our visit to the DIP branch, she had taken two children for an intensive, small group session which was focussed on speech and concentration.
After our tour we spent some time speaking to Ms. Previous, a teacher who has been with the nursery for 5 years. From Zimbabwe, Previous has seen two of her own children pass through the nursery and had been extremely happy with their care and felt that on graduating from the nursery they had been extremely well prepared for school. Previous had received plenty of career support and training from the group and plans to embark upon her Cache 4 diploma soon.
[*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).]
We also met Lucia, an Italian parent to a little girl (aged three) who had been attending the nursery since the start of the year. Lucia finds the location of the nursery highly convenient and praised the staff as ‘friendly, helpful and knowledgeable’. She feels that communication between home and nursery is excellent and the teachers always make time to chat to her about her daughter. She has been very happy with her choice of nursery.
CCN DIP is open all year round (barring public holidays) with many different timing options for working parents. There is a food delivery service from Urban Chef. As with others in the group, we feel that CCN DIP offers excellent value for money.
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