Toddler Town Nursery is centrally located in the Jumeirah Beach Residence beachfront area of Dubai. Accessible either on foot or via the underground parking area, this is a great location for those close by, although as we discovered – this highly regarded nursery draws families from far further afield.
Toddler Town Nursery JBR (there is also a Toddler Town branch in Jumeirah) is run by Sarika Singh, a British national who lived and worked in nurseries in Scotland and England for many years before arriving in Dubai.
Sarika holds a Masters Degree in Botany and clearly loves to study! Having decided to change her career direction to Early Years several years ago, Sarika has since studied for a Level 3 Early Years Diploma and not one but two Level 5 Early Years Diplomas and as a diploma from the Institute of Leadership and Management.
Having led nurseries in the UK, Sarika was delighted to take up the challenge of this large multi lingual and multi-cultural setting in Dubai.
[*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).]
This focus on continual learning is clearly fundamental practice for Sarika – as we talk she constantly references the importance of staff development and training.
Toddler Town is a deceptively large space, with a very large outdoor area comprising two playgrounds, one for younger and one for the older children. There is a wide variety of play equipment and a very sweet pirate ship sand play area, all made of good quality materials.
There is a bikes and trikes area which looked like a lot of fun. On the day of our visit two members of staff were preparing a planting area for the children to grow their own flowers, fruit and vegetables.
Also outside, there is also a small, shallow swimming pool (which we noted was securely gated and covered for safety ) which Sarika tells us is used for building aquatic skills and confidence, rather than for traditional swimming lessons.
The seven classrooms and play areas follow a curving corridor which has a glass conservatory area to one portion. We liked how this would give children some natural daylight to play in during the hotter months. There is a small soft play area near reception and at the other end of the corridor there is a dress up, role play and ‘small world’ area, with a huge variety of resources for children to choose from.
Toddler Town also boasts a beautifully constructed library area close to the main entrance, where children can sit in a cosy area surround by walls made of giant books – very inspiring! One wall of the library is covered in story sacks – bags of props selected to accompany well known children’s books such as The Gruffalo. We could see that a lot of care and attention had gone in to fostering a love of books in the children here.
This is an EYFS nursery, following the curriculum developed in England. One of the primary focus areas of this curriculum is Personal, Social and Emotional growth and we were keen to ask Sarika how the team approach this vital area.
Her response was positive and enthusiastic - she felt that they offered a wide spectrum of age appropriate challenge, encouraging children to be independent wherever possible (especially in the area of personal care – dressing, feeding themselves and toilet training) and offering activities designed to encourage emotional strength. Outside of the classroom, the team like to support parents in this area - hosting lots of coffee mornings and events to educate and inform.
Children here have regular Arabic and French lessons as part of the regular curriculum, but parents can also opt for extra language lessons (additional cost) as well as more active extra curricular activities – currently the children can choose from soccer, ballet and tae kwon do.
We felt that Sarika and her deputy, Curriculum Manager, Negar had a very solid understanding of Early Years best practice. When we discussed supporting children with additional needs, both referred to the need for teachers to have a ready knowledge of the curriculum objectives by age, as a base point for beginning an assessment. The team have an appointed co-ordinator for People of Determination and on the day of our visit we were able to watch a shadow teacher working one on one with a child.
Both teachers and parents commented positively on the ‘happy’ atmosphere in this nursery. In fact, this was consistently mentioned by everyone we met at Toddler Town. Teacher Negar felt that much of this came down to teamwork and mentorship from the leadership, whilst one parent commented ‘Everyone always smiles! It is a happy place’.
Another parent mentioned the ‘continuous efforts to improve’ and all were happy with the frequency and style of communication. One consistent negative comment was the uniform, which parents felt either ‘ran small’ or was made from an uncomfortable fabric. This was something Sarika was aware of and was looking for ways to improve.
We felt that staff to child ratios were set at an adequate level. These are:
Sarika and her team have worked hard to build solid relationships with local schools and was due to host a ‘schools information fair’ the weekend after our visit – something that she saw as part of their commitment to parents. Children typically progress to Kings Al Barsha, various GEMS schools, Nord Anglia, Dubai Heights Academy, JESS, Horizon International or Foremarke.
This is a large community nursery with lots of space, a warm, approachable feel and very happy staff and parents. We enjoyed our visit and look forward to watching what the future holds for Toddler Town JBR.
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