Not all nurseries are the same and parents should make a thorough assessment of the childcare on offer before they put their trust in an establishment.
Essential safety guide to choosing the right nursery school
After 13 children died in a fire at a nursery school in Doha in May, many people questioned how things could go so badly wrong. And for parents who were in the process of thinking about leaving their child in a nursery for the first time, their fears were inevitably heightened.
However, not all nurseries are the same and parents should make a thorough assessment of the childcare on offer before they put their trust in an establishment.
Here are four key safety features every parent should look for in a nursery so they can go to work confident in the knowledge that their child is in good hands.
Ask to see the nursery's licence if you can't see it on display. The Ministry of Social Affairs ensures annual safety checks are carried out on nurseries before they renew licences. "This check will include inspecting fire extinguishers, exits, stair safety and the condition of the building," explains Salima El Guanaini, the nursery coordinator at Humpty Dumpty Nursery in Abu Dhabi (www.humptynursery.com). "It's also worth asking when the nursery last had a fire drill. Ideally, all nurseries should carry out a drill at least once a month." Ask the manager if the fire alarms are regularly tested and if they are directly linked to the Fire Department.
If your child bangs his head or has a nose bleed, you want to be sure the staff members are fully trained in first aid. The staff at good nurseries will hold Emergency First Aid Training certificates and stay up to date with health and safety policies and procedures.
While it's impossible to keep all germs and infections out of a nursery, it's important daycare centres are doing everything they can to keep the environment as healthy as possible. Rooms should frequently be aired, cleaned and thoroughly disinfected.
Find out which health guidelines the nursery has in operation. "Each morning, a registered nurse takes and records the temperatures of all children entering each of our four nurseries," says Bernadette King-Turner, the founder and director of Beautiful Minds Nurseries in Dubai (www.beautifulmindsdubai.com). "If a child has a temperature above 37.8°C, we ask the parents to keep them at home."
Although it might not always be convenient, it's best to look for a day nursery with a strict illness policy. The policy will detail which illnesses will keep your children at home, and for how long.
All nursery staff should hold labour cards and be qualified nursery practitioners. "Criminal checks have to be completed on staff before a labour card can be obtained," explains El Guanaini. You shouldn't be embarrassed to check that your children are in good hands. "At our nurseries, parents should feel free to ask to see a teacher's credentials at any time," says King-Turner.
Enquire about the average age of employees and staff turnover, which will tell you a good deal about the quality of the nursery. Check if there is a key worker system in operation and find out what happens in the absence of your child's usual carer.
While you're touring the nursery, take some time to observe the manager and check whether she appears to possess strong leadership skills and has a hands-on approach.
Investigate how secure the premises are. Some nurseries will alarm the building throughout, including doors and windows. Main access doors should have alarm pads which require access codes in order to gain admittance and visitors to any nursery should be carefully screened and buzzed in by staff before they gain access to the main nursery area. Garden and play areas should be securely fenced to make sure no child leaves the nursery or the grounds.
"We have double child-proof gates and fences," says King-Turner. "The exits on the ground floor have two gates to enhance the security for the children entering and exiting the grounds. Additionally, we post security staff in the nursery car park and at the nursery gates during the busy morning and afternoon times. We also have security cameras strategically positioned throughout the interior and exterior of the nursery."
How to settle a toddler into nursery
- Take her for a visit It's important that you give your child a chance to familiarise herself with the building and the staff before you leave her there. It's perfectly normal for a child to feel shy and scared in a new place and visiting in advance is a great way of getting her accustomed to the nursery. Ideally, schedule in a few short visits before you plan to leave her alone
- Read up There are many "first day at nursery" style books. Make sure you spend time reading through such a book with your child and talk about any fears she may have.
- Inform the staff If the nursery staff know your child's likes and dislikes, what she prefers to eat and drink, whether she needs a nap, how far along she is with potty training and so on, they will be much better equipped to welcome her on her first day.
- Take a toy If your child has a favourite toy or blanket, let her take it with her to help her settle in and feel a connection with home.
- Put on a brave face You might feel like crying, but you can't. As the parent, you need to keep smiling to show that nursery is a great place to be.