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Choosing the right childcare for your child

Placing your baby’s care in anyone’s hands is daunting, but most mums need extra support for a variety of reasons. Here in the UAE, that usually means deciding between nursery and at-home help, or a combination of the two. We look at what to consider and get some expert advice from Banu Akca and Zeynep Guney, founders of the online platform UrbanCircle, which connects families with a range of childcare providers.

“As parents, we have a lot on our shoulders, and being away from our home country makes it even harder. That’s why we need people supporting us to help raise happy kids,” explains Banu. “Once you do decide to get help, it’s easy to get lost in all the scattered information, which is mostly word of mouth recommendations based on other families’ parenting styles and experience. The priority should be finding a solution that works for you.”

Understand Your Own Needs

The first thing you need to do when weighing up childcare is think about your needs as parents. Sit down with your partner and get real about your family’s situation. Depending on whether one or both of you work full-time, the hours and logistics will be different. Do nursery timings fit around your schedule and is it feasible to do the drop-off and pick-up every day? If you are at home with your child a lot, are you looking for a more social environment for them to interact with others their age? Also remember, it’s normal for children to get sick more frequently when they first start nursery and their immune systems are still developing. In that case, is someone available to care for them, or will it mean taking time off work? Budget is another important factor as you don’t want to commit to something that you might struggle to afford long-term.

Finding the Right Nanny

Having one-to-one care from a trusted helper who can provide your child with a high level of attention, interaction, and stimulation is appealing for many parents. That person can also be in regular contact with you to provide updates and reassurance if you are out of the house. However, trust and quality are crucial. “Choosing the right nanny to live and/or work under your roof is a big decision. Unlike nursery staff, there is no government regulation of the nanny market in the UAE and you need to do your own due diligence to establish things like their experience, health and safety knowledge, criminal background checks, and medical history,” says Zeynep.

Develop a clear job description that meets your needs then, when you’re ready, there are several places to look, including online forums, nanny agencies, and personal recommendations. Take your time, be prepared to do lots of interviews and draft questions in advance.

If you hire someone and want to invest in their development, there are companies that offer nanny training, covering maternity care, feeding and sleep routines, nappy changing, infant health and illnesses, among other topics.

Choosing a Nursery

Banu adds, “finding a good nursery also takes work. Waiting lists can be long but don’t get carried away by the hype over the most popular ones. Instead, focus on finding the best fit for your child.”

Consider the following:

Your Child’s Personality – what kind of environment do they thrive in? Do they need big spaces for climbing, jumping, and running or more creative opportunities for arts and crafts? Also, what makes them nervous and how do they cope with routine? These things will help you ask the right questions when you do a tour.

Teachers and Environment – watch how the teachers interact with the kids, especially those with a similar personality to your child. Are they engaging, and is there a language-rich environment? A nursery that looks too clean and tidy with walls full of perfect art projects is not always a good sign. It should look like small children actually play there. You want to see materials that children can access and easily put away themselves. See whether the bathrooms are close to the classroom and if the sink and toilet can be used independently by a small child. Something else to address is how does the teacher handle conflicts and promote social skills? These elements are all much more important than academic progression at this age.

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