The Ministry of Social Affairs sets out a number of safety regulations which early childhood education centers must follow. This guide will give you an idea of what is available, and important factors to look for in choosing a nursery for your child. You can find most of this information on the nurseries section of our site.

[Guide to choosing a school in the UAE]

Should I send my baby to nursery or provide home child care?

It’s a highly debatable question: should you send your baby off to a nursery or have help at home?

Many working mums who benefit from the 45-day UAE maternity leave have this dilemma. Here, nurseries accept babies from different ages. If you’re a working mum with only 45 days of maternity leave, you may well be looking at daycare once you get back to work, or else a live-in nanny.

There are pros and cons to sending your child to a nursery and you need to weigh up the advantages and the disadvantages.

Why send your baby to nursery at a young age?

  1. Social development and interaction: Many parents believe that having their child in an environment where there are many other kids helps their child to become more social and learn the concept of living in a community. Many kids learn from each other and  therefore are seen to develop more rapidly in terms of motor skills.
  2. No help at home: Many working mums who do not have help at home have no choice but to take their child to daycare.
  3. Time away: It is very stressful to be a new mum, and a little time away for yourself is no bad thing. Many mums told us they appreciated the time they spent with their child much more when they’d had a couple of hours to themselves, whether to do sports, lunch or just relax.
  4. Multilingual: They say babies and kids can take in a lot the younger they are, and our mums generally liked multilingual nurseries; their children then benefit from extra languages they would otherwise not learn at home.

However, there are downsides of nurseries to consider…

  1. Infections: As babies interact with others, germs are easily spread and, as their immune system is still developing, it’s very easy for them to catch a cold or infection. You need to be prepared to have your child sick at times – especially at the beginning of nursery – until their immune system become stronger.
  2. Separation anxiety: There is nothing more heartbreaking than to see your child crying out for you when you leave them behind. It can be extremely stressful, and many of our mums felt guilty leaving their child to be looked after by someone else.
  3. The perfect care: Care will never be the same as at home, full stop. This is something many of our mums had to come to terms with. As a mum, there are things you want done a certain way. Teachers have more than one child to look after and it will simply not always be the same care  you would have at home one-on-one. This is a very important factor to consider.

Nursery checklist questions

If you decide to take up daycare, consider these factors when choosing a school.

  1. The age: There are a few nurseries that take babies from a very early age (i.e less than or from three months old). Find nurseries which accept very young babies
  2. Half-day or full-day: You can opt to send your child for a half-day, until early afternoon or even full-day. If you can afford to get off work for pick-ups and drop-offs, or have someone do the pick-ups, it’s a good compromise between your child having down-time at home and a lot of stimulation for a few hours.
  3. Teacher-to-kids ratio: This is extremely important, as you want the closest care possible to home. You can find the teacher-to-kid ratio for each nursery on our searches.
  4. Routine: All very young babies have a routine at home, which you would want to keep so as not to disturb their daily lives. Make sure you ask the nursery to show you how they keep to a routine for your child and, if there is more than one teacher, how the information gets disseminated.
  5. Visit the nursery: Make sure you visit the facilities and look at how current babies are being taken care of, especially in terms of hygiene:
    • Are they wearing gloves while changing the babies?
    • Are they disinfecting their hands after changing nappies and before feeding?
    • How is the milk/ food kept?
    • How often are the toys and carpets, if any, being cleaned and disinfected?
    • Where are the babies sleeping – do they have their own cot ? If not, how often are the sheets changed?
  6. Out-of-term cover: If you are both working parents and have no help at home, then out-of-term cover is extremely important.  It is very often paid and you need to factor the costs in additionally to the fee quotes.
  7. Affiliated schools: Some schools have an affiliation to a primary school which may give you priority for that school. Be sure to ask nurseries if they have any affiliations.

The waiting lists for nurseries are not as long as those at UAE schools, but it is advisable to start looking six to 12 months ahead of the start date.

How do I apply for a nursery?

We would advise all parents to go visit the facilities of the schools before they decide on one. More importantly, you need to visit the section that your child will be in, as the facilities and care can differ significantly. Prepare your questions and bring them with you.

Once you’ve compared and chosen a few nurseries, bring the documents they require and register your child in person. There are some charges on top of fees in some nurseries to remember, such as:

  • Registration fees (anything between AED 500 and AED 1,500)
  • Medical fees (generally around AED 500)
  • Uniform fee (if any)
  • A deposit which is refundable in the last year
  • Vaccination booklet
  • Birth certificate and passport of sponsor

The most important thing in finding a school for your child is to plan ahead and carefully select the nursery which makes you most comfortable in terms of care, hygiene and convenience. Take your time to browse our site’s nurseries section and you can be sure to have peace of mind when you drop your baby off every morning.