Finding A Nursery in Dubai.
Updated: Jul 13, 2022
Why I Chose Home Grown Eco-Nursery.
Finding the best nursery for your child that is aligned with your parenting values and visions can take a lot of thought. It’s especially the case if you happen to be a first-time mother, or if you’ve moved to a new city or country and are not too familiar with what is available in your new environment. When I first heard about Home Grown Children’s Nursery, I was very intrigued because of their “green-thinking,” eco-friendly and holistic approach to a child’s early years of life. It was a far cry from how my nursery days were in the early 80s. I love how the world is changing and how parents have the option to choose a sustainable or holistic approach to educate their children.
There are two Home Grown nurseries in Dubai, one is in Umm Suqeim 2 and the other is in Al Safa – both are in the area Jumeirah. Opened in 2011, they are the UAE’s first eco-friendly pre-school institution. Their belief is that it is never too early for children to learn how to be kind to nature and the world they inhabit. They created a unique ‘Green Curriculum’ based on the British Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum (EYFS). The EYFS sets standards for the learning, development and care of your child from birth to 5 years old.
The curriculum includes lessons in the following areas of learning:
• Communication and Language
• Physical Development
• Personal, Social and Emotional Development
• Understanding of the World
• Expressive Arts and Design
The Eco Mindset
All the children have lessons in conservation, preservation, saving our rainforests, composting, recycling, protecting endangered species and organic gardening. Their practices help raise awareness in a fun and engaging way about ‘the cycle of life’ through daily discussions and activities that focus on different elements of nature. For instance, they celebrate and educate kids about all the environmental days in the calendar year, like “World Bee Day”, “World Ocean Day,” “Earth Day,” “World Water Day” and “International Polar Bear Day.” Their “Eco Days” promote an understanding of ways in which kids can help conserve our planet and help others. Examples of the Eco Days include – ‘Saving Water Day’, ‘Up Cycling Day’, ‘Green Transport Day’ and ‘Give to Others Day’.
Topics such as “In the Ocean” are explored using artwork with recycled materials; “In the Garden” looks at what creatures exist in the garden. They make anthills out of Play-Doh and sing songs like The Ants Go Marching. They learn about bees and beehives and do crafts like making a beehive out of bubble wrap. They also have weekly planting and potting sessions in the outdoor and indoor gardens to help nurture a passion for gardening.
Their idea is to help kids understand the importance to “Reduce–Reuse-Recycle” with green initiatives. They ensure to place all unwanted materials and rubbish into the correct indoor recycling bins. Parents are encouraged to drop off any used art materials, such as paper or corrugated cardboard at the “ART” recycling bins located within the nursery. Every month they have monthly recycle drives too where they collect as much of one recycled item as possible.
All the teachers are trained to deliver mindfulness classes to children within a classroom setting. For mindfulness practices, they are taught to embrace the simple joys of life such as nature walks in our garden, playing in the sand area, gardening in the organic patch or sitting in our outdoor quiet corners observing their natural surroundings.
They aim to teach children to be able to control the mind, breath, and body. They work on breathwork, by listening to the sounds of dolphins and mimicking dolphin breathwork. They practice yoga and learn about positions like ‘The Seahorse’. Physically, it enhances their flexibility, strength, coordination, and body awareness. In addition, their concentration and sense of calmness and relaxation improves.
All the children participate in short mindfulness sessions. “Mindfulness” meaning maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of their thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. This helps them tune into what they are sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Cultural Development, Art & Music
Dubai is such a melting pot of nationalities so, from a cultural perspective, kids learn French, Arabic and English. Lessons are carefully planned and delivered through play-based interactive activities, which include singing, music, dancing, games, and stories.
They celebrate international festivities like Holi, Saint Patricks Day, and International Women’s Day, among others. They explore cultural and natural diversity by learning about different countries and cultures in celebration of International Day, where they get to represent their own country. Here’s Noura in her little Emirati flag outfit.
From an art perspective, they’re exposed to different artists of various genres, like Claude Monet and David Hockney. They familiarise the children with the artist’s signature strokes, shades, subject, colours, and texture. Children are guided to follow the style of the artist to create their own interpretation of the artist’s work.
The kids are given opportunities to listen to and appreciate music from a variety of eras, backgrounds and cultures. I love that they are learning about all kinds of musicans' from all over the world, like The Beatles and Buena Vista Social Club, to Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Umm Kulthum. They learn to identify various traits in music such as rhythm, pitch, tone and instruments in hope to encourage a love for all types of music and styles.
The Atmosphere & Setting
Noura attends Al Safa branch as it’s closer to our home, but both nurseries are in a peaceful and tranquil setting. This is felt the moment you walk in, with bright Tibetan flags on the archways – blue represents the sky, white is air, red symbolises fire, green highlights water, and yellow supports earth. All five colours together signify harmony and balance, which is felt throughout. Occasionally, they even invite parents to do yoga and practice sound healing therapy on the grounds, so parents also get to enjoy the space.
When the children go indoors, they are asked to take off their shoes. A ‘no shoe’ policy (although they do wear socks) within the classrooms encourages them to walk freely in class and have a sense of feeling 'at home'. There’s just something to be said about the energy, with nature surrounding the nursery and a sense of grounding with the policy of no shoes. Also, the kind and friendly staff contribute to this sense of harmony and wellbeing.
There’s ample outdoor space for kids to play as well as bright and colourful classrooms for them to enjoy art, crafts and a multitude of educational activities that encourages children to be responsible, caring, mindful and respectful to all creatures, including themselves, and the planet. It’s an enriching place for a young person to develop.
Harmony House & Charity Work
They are working in partnership with their own charity, Harmony House, a day shelter for children and families living in the near-by slums, just outside of Delhi, India. Established by the Home Grown Nursery Founders Lucy Bruce and Beverley Jatwanai in 2010, it provides underprivileged children, aged 6 months to 18 years, living in the slums of Delhi, education, nutrition, medical and hygiene facilities, COVID care packages, social services, vocational training to aid them in finding employment, and love and care.
Noura has been paired with a child at Harmony House called Prince. She got a card from him in the first few weeks of nursery. Check this cute card out! Every child there is paired up with someone at Harmony House and as the academic year continues, parents and kids are informed of their progress and development. It’s great that very privileged kids like mine, get to learn how their friend in Harmony House lives. The children in both schools are introduced to each other through a welcome card and picture, and there are engaging activities throughout the year including Skype sessions and lessons that teach the kids at Home Grown about the importance of global citizenship and giving back to those less fortunate.
Part of Noura’s fees at Home Grown make a difference to one child’s life and that’s good to know. By Noura being in Home Grown, a contribution of her nursery fees is sent every month to Prince which allows him to have a place in Harmony House. Every donation, no matter how big or small, is spent on supporting the lives of those who are most in need. This also helps raise some awareness at a young age about the different cultures that surround us. If anyone wants to donate or learn more about Harmony House, please visit www.harmonyhouseindia.org.
Q&A with Co-founder Lucy Bruce
Q: How and why did Home Grown launch?
Lucy: Myself and my good friend Beverly Jatwanai are co-founders of Home Grown. We opened in 2011 after we both wanted to create a platform for children where the focus was developing their innate and intuitive love for our planet. We were both mothers and both had worked in corporations, although my background was teaching. I had two children at a very good nursery and Beverly’s children had been to the same one but we both felt that young children deserved the opportunity to learn about community, nature, partnerships, and compassion. After much deliberation about what we should do we knew that developing a nursery school with a focus on sustainability and social responsibility, which was run by love, was what we wanted to do, and we felt that was exactly what Dubai needed. We set out to make our vision a reality without having any experience of setting up a nursery, but we immersed ourselves in every component. We learnt so much, made a lot of mistakes and there were times when we felt like giving up, but we kept going and never looked back.
Q: What makes your nursery so special?
Lucy: I truly believe that the only thing that separates us from other nurseries in Dubai is our incredible team and their shared commitment and passion for our vision and values. We operate like family and ensure that everyone feels valued, heard, loved and accountable. We pride ourselves on human values rather than corporate values and our collective mission is to ensure that every child has the very best early years education that we can offer. We stay true to what we believe and incorporate our “Seven Green Habits” into everything we do and every decision we make. It is important for us to remain fluid and to keep evolving. Our children, their families and our planet are what drives us to do better, be better and love more.
Home Grown’s Seven Eco Habits:
1. If it’s living, love it.
2. Use water like it’s your last drop.
3. If it’s bright, turn off the light.
4. Before you throw, think, where does it go?
5. Plant a tree for you and for me.
6. Make EVERYDAY Earth Day.
7. Show you care, do your share.
Q: How did Harmony House develop?
Lucy: My husband Gaurav and I worked together, morning and night, and we began to form a very close and strong relationship. When I first visited Gaurav’s hometown of Delhi I was overwhelmed and knocked sideways by the poverty that I was witnessing. I felt helpless and could not just walk by without doing anything. I was the western tourist that was mobbed by unclothed, undernourished children and my vulnerability was detected by anyone within a 1 km radius. I wanted to give on the spot but was quickly taught that handing out whatever cash we had and being swarmed by desperate people was not a permanent solution.
My husband and I decided that we would identify some independent children’s charities in Delhi and start working closely with them so we could make a tangible difference to a few children’s lives in Delhi. We were able to get support from our friends and together began making substantial contributions to the NGO. Sadly, I discovered that the donations were being misused and I felt heartbroken and knew I had let a lot of people down. We tried working with other organisations and were once again horrified by the outcome. It was then that we decided to take matters into our own hands and began working on a concept where we had full control over donations and who would benefit from them.
We soon came up with Harmony House, a day care centre in Delhi that provides slum children aged between 6 months and 18 years with education, nutrition, social services, medical facilities, vocational training and most importantly, love and care. We opened in 2009 with 12 children and a very small premises. Today we have 750 children and three fully operating centres. We open our fourth centre in July 2022 and we will then have 1,000 children with us. One of my favourite programmes in the nursery is where we pair our Home Grown children with a child in Harmony House. They get to learn about their paired friend in India and discover how they can make a difference to that child’s life.
Q: How does each child help someone in Harmony House?
Lucy: We like to call Home Grown a “Purpose Beyond Profit Organisation.” Our ethos and vision are one that allows us to have a positive impact on the local and global community. My business partner Beverly Jatwanai and I decided that our children’s nursery, Home Grown would focus on nurturing little people’s ability to give back and take care of our planet and all our living things. At Home Grown, we pair every child with a child in Harmony House and the nursery fees that you pay, also pay for your partnered child in Delhi. It has worked very well for us and gained tremendous popularity as parents strive to educate their children to become responsible global citizens from a very early age. We have had over 2,000 children with us at Home Grown over the 11 years we have been opened which means that together we have educated 2,000 children who are living in poverty in India. That is something that our team, our families, and Beverly and I are very proud of.
Q: What are your plans with Home Grown in the coming years?
Lucy: For a few years now, we have wanted to open a third Home Grown location in Dubai and for several reasons, including COVID, that hasn’t happened for us yet. Beverly and I truly believe that if something is meant for us it will come no matter what. We are continuing our search for a third location and when the time is right it will show up. COVID was challenging for the nursery sector to say the least. We were closed for eight months followed by a year at being capped at 50 per cent capacity. Our philosophy during this time was simple, be open and honest with our team and families, share as much information as we can. We hope that we will expand in the near future, so watch this space!
IG: @HomeGrownChildrensEcoNursery @HarmonyHouseIndia