The very bight and spacious Little Wonders nursery is situated on a quiet road in Al Manara, just behind the Al Manara fire station. WhichSchoolAdvisor.com toured the pre-school with its manager, Tamara Tucker.
The location of Little Wonders makes for convenient access to the Sheikh Zayed Road, and there is plentiful parking on the quiet residential street.
Tamara Tucker, Nursery Manager was ready to welcome our reviewer to Little Wonders. The reception area is bright and welcoming and there were lots of smiling staff around. As we enter, many of the children were passing through - just about to watch a talk from a visiting dentist, who came equipped with a giant toothbrush and grinning crocodile!
Tamara has worked at a number of Dubai nurseries, and acquired her Early Years qualifications along the way. She now holds a Cache 5 Early Years Management diploma. As a nursery delivering the English EYFS, we asked Tamara to talk us through Little Wonder’s approach to the three primary areas of the curriculum.
Tamara tells us that children are encouraged to take part in lots of ‘real life’ activities and role play to help build their social skills. Every Thursday, the older classes have ‘free-flow’ time, where the upper floor of the nursery is opened up for the children to move freely between rooms and to choose their own activities. This is designed to encourage independence and interaction between the age groups. Tamara also says that older children are often asked to support the younger groups in lots of different ways.
In order to support children who are about to become siblings, the Little Wonders team have developed a “Sibling in Training” programme – we love this idea! Towards the end of their mother’s pregnancy each soon-to-be sibling spends time in the baby room, playing with and becoming used to younger children. Teachers also create activities around babies and read lots of books about families and new brothers and sisters.
Little Wonders offers children two languages, Arabic and French – each delivered once per week. Teachers have lots of books in each room and there is a spacious library area upstairs. Circle Time and happens daily for all age groups.
Children who have English as a second language are encouraged to enrol here and given lots of support by the team. Teachers work closely with parents to ensure that consistency between home and nursery.
Tamara is very proud of the outdoor area at Little Wonders. The children have access to almost all of a very large space surrounding the villa. There is a new sensory garden, a large sandpit, climbing equipment and a bikes and trikes area. Timetables have been created that allow children lots of time outside when the weather allows. When we visited it was a beautiful, cool morning and even the very youngest babies were outside experiencing the garden and getting some vitamin D!
There are a range of extra-curricular activities in the afternoons – these include ballet, gymnastics and football at present.
Another feature of the nursery that Tamara was keen to highlight was the ‘Sensory Spa’. This room has been equipped with a variety of equipment, all designed to stimulate or calm the senses – depending on what the teacher feels her class needs! There is a bubble tube, disco lights, sounds that the children can control as well as ropes of lights that are safe for even babies to play with. This room is used by all children twice a week, though children with additional needs may use it more often.
Tamara is keen to point out that Little Wonders is inclusive nursery as much as they possibly can be. One Learning Support Assistant has been appointed to coordinate their approach to children with additional needs, and on the day of our visit we saw her working with one on one with child who needed help with fine motor control.
Classrooms are clean and spacious here. We did feel that the design and décor was perhaps a little dated in places, but that this did not detract from the experience of the children. Outdoors had recently been improved. Each room had prominent, bright displays of the children’s work. One room had an interactive whiteboard and was used as a gym/soft play area in the hotter months.
We received lots of positive, complimentary feedback from parents, with one saying:
“Little Wonders [is a ] homely nursery where children’s happiness is put first. Not as ‘salubrious’ as some but with exceptional teachers and TA’s who care for the children as their own”.
The warmth and quality of staff was a constant feature of the feedback we received.
Children wear a uniform and parents agreed that the quality is excellent. All who answered our questions agreed that the nursery offered good value for money. Others praised the great hygiene saying,
“The hygiene level is so high. Like I have never had a case of mixing the bottles and I have been here for 5 years.”
The only negative that was highlighted by parents was the lack of food provision, something that Tamara hopes will happen in future.
An additional service to parents and the local community is a regular mother and toddler group, which offers a programme named 'Born Smart' for children aged 2 - 18 months at a very reasonable price.
Teachers were friendly and welcoming and were obviously having fun with the children in their care. We sat and chatted with Ruth, a teacher of the preschool class who had been with the nursery for four academic years.
Ruth loved the relationships she had built with children, parents and staff. She thought that prospective parents should know that the nursery has a ‘deceptively spacious’ and well equipped garden area – something that would not be obvious from seeing the nursery from the street. Ruth thought the nursery could improve somewhat on the resources in the classrooms, but overall she had been extremely happy during her time here.
Staff to child ratios are in line with Ministry of Education guidelines, there being a ratio of 1:3 for the youngest babies (from 2 - 12 months, maximum of 12 in the room) and 1:8 for the FS1 class (3-4 years, maximum of 22 in the class).
Overall our team felt that Little Wonders is a good, solid nursery with loving staff and offering excellent value for money.
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