As we all know, Dubai is home to all things ‘new’ so to find a nursery that has been in operation for more than 28 years is something of a rarity! Opened in 1991, Kids Island Nursery in Jumeirah is still going strong after more than quarter of a century of Early Years Education.
Opened in 1991 by Isabelle Amatoury (Isabelle is ‘Owner and Founder’ and still works full time, six days a week for the nursery), Kids Island Nursery in Jumeirah is one of only a handful of Dubai preschools with such lengthy heritage. Close to the beach in Jumeirah 3, we went along to see how this family run business continues to serve the surrounding community.
Our very first impression of the nursery is of…the beautiful smell! Not a descriptor often given to nurseries, but this home-to-many-small-people smells delightful! By the end of the tour we realise that this is simply an element of the Kids Island focus on organisation and presentation, but more on that later…
We are greeted by smiling Nursery Administrator Jacqui Morris who offers our Reviewer a seat and a cool drink. Jacqui is an ex Kids Island parent (her children have now moved on to primary school) and clearly she holds the nursery in great esteem. We note how she speaks with immense pride about the level of energy and commitment amongst the team, and when she is later joined by Nursery Principal Agathe Jameson we also notice how they complete each other’s sentences and enthuse over the same aspects of day to day life at Kids Island. To complete the picture here we should note that Agathe is Isabelle’s daughter – making this a truly family run enterprise.
We put this question to Agathe at the beginning of our chat. Her answer?
“Isabelle. Really! I would describe her as a “visionary”, this nursery is her whole life. She still is full of energy and new ideas and never lets us get stuck in a rut. I’ll give you an example. Two and a half years ago we were all pretty happy with the outdoor areas, but Isabelle walked in one day and said “the garden does not represent who I am”. So, we made a change – a very big change and overhauled the lot! The gardens are now vital to everything we do and blend seamlessly with our indoor provision”.
Kids Island is uses the English EYFS curriculum, although Agathe is keen to point out that:
“We tailor the curriculum a lot and we don’t box ourselves in to looking at what we do in separate ‘areas’. Every aspect of the curriculum is continuous in everything that we do”.
The nursery team take inspiration mostly from ‘natural’ early years education philosophies, such as Steiner and the forest school movements, both of which place an emphasis on unstructured, child led play in natural surroundings.
As with many nurseries in this older part of the city, Kids Island Nursery is housed in a converted residential villa. The nursery caters to children age eight months to four years and offer options for children to attend two, three, four or five days per week.
Classrooms are mostly small and decorated in a simple fashion. We did not find the classrooms to be as well thought out and equipped as the outdoor space. There is also an indoor gym, separate creative space/art room and a sleep room for infants equipped with wooden cots.
The beautiful smell we encountered on arrival is a testament to the team’s commitment to creating a very clean, dust free environment for the “increasing number” of children enrolling who have asthma and/or dust allergy symptoms. The nursery uses only eco-friendly cleaning products and a microfibre cloth cleaning system to reduce the use of chemicals. Being ‘eco-friendly’ is important to the Kids Island team, even on our tour we were reminded to switch off lights and air conditioning units as we went.
Having toured the nursery we would absolutely agree that the outdoor space is a great strength here. The play areas are surrounded by leafy greenery and the (mostly wooden) play equipment leaves room for children to explore and imagine.
Most of the outdoor resources have been procured slowly and thoughtfully by the team. Agathe tells us that for the staff at Kids Island it’s vital to source the right items (be that bought, donated or upcycled) rather than simply ‘equip’ a space all in one go. This care and attention to detail certainly shows and we liked simple, clever ideas like having large plants in containers on wheels, so that they can be easily moved to enclose or open up spaces as the teachers require.
As we toured we met several friendly staff members and we were impressed to hear that staff turnover at Kids Island is very low, in fact for the current year there will be no new staff at all.
We received feedback from two parents, of children aged two to four years.
Overall the comments were very positive, with parents commenting that:
The only slight negative comment we found was that parents would like the nursery to consider longer opening hours in order to better cater to working parents.
Agathe tells us that children from Kids Island tend to progress to nearby schools including Horizon English School, Horizon International School, Hartland International School, JESS, Safa British School as well as the further afield Dubai Heights Academy.
We felt that Kids Island was an excellent nursery where staff are free to focus on the foundations of good practice in early years education: warm and consistent relationships formed in an inspiring and engaging environment. Recommended.
NB - Whilst we would usually display an average price based upon 45 hours care per week, the reality is that the maximum a child might attend Kids Island Nursery is 32.5 hours per week. For this the nursery charge a very reasonable 15,400 AED per term (other fee options are available/extra curricular activities such as Yoga, Soccer and Baby Arabia classes are an additional cost).
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