How to Prepare Your Child for Preschool in the UAE

Mar 6,2024

Tips for Preparing Your Child for Preschool in the UAE

When a child starts preschool, it is a big and exciting change for the whole family. It means a new routine, new people, a new place – overall, a new adventure, and the start of a new era.

Here is everything a parent in the UAE must know about helping their child get settled into preschool. If you are new to the school system in the UAE, this guide will also help you understand how preschool classes run here, and the top preschool and kindergarten choices available. 

Using these tailored tips from UAE teachers, you will know exactly how to prepare your child for preschool so the whole family can feel ready and excited to take this big step into your child’s education. 

Understanding Preschools in the UAE

In the UAE, your child can usually begin preschool at three years old and continue until the age for school admission at either five or six years old. Preschools in the UAE are generally part of a primary or all-through school, meaning your child can move effortlessly into their formal education when the time comes.

The name of the preschool class will depend on the curriculum that is taught at the school of your choice teaches. For instance: 

  • Both American curriculum schools and IB schools run three years of preschool with a Pre-K class for three-year-olds, then Kindergarten 1 and 2. 
  • British curriculum schools run two years of preschool (Foundation 1 and 2) beginning age three before Year 1 of formal school at five years old. 
  • In Indian curriculum schools, two years of preschool begin at four years old in KG1, followed by KG2. 

Preschool children playing in outdoor space in GEMS School

Choosing a Preschool in the UAE

You might decide to look for a preschool that is part of a school you want your child to attend through the primary years or even longer, to avoid a later change. This is a popular option amongst UAE parents. Choosing a school is a big decision for all parents, regardless of how long you expect your child to attend., although always remember it is not irreversible.

Here are four key factors to consider when choosing a preschool for your child in the UAE. 

  • The Curriculum

There are four main curriculum choices in UAE international schools. They are British, American, IB, and Indian. Their differences begin right from preschool age. Therefore, it is a good idea to become familiar with the different content and styles of teaching and learning in each. 

  • The Practicalities

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are both very large cities. Choosing a school that is convenient to your home and workplace is important as this will prevent stressful commutes and allow you to become more involved in the school community. There are excellent schools and preschools in many districts of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

  • The School’s Ranking 

Schools in the UAE are ranked by local inspectorates such as the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) in Dubai and the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) in Abu Dhabi. These provide an easy-to-use guide of where your child will receive the best schooling, especially at pre-school age where a school’s exam data is less applicable to assist you in measuring the success of a school. 

At GEMS Education, we are proud to have several KHDA ‘Outstanding’ schools in Dubai and well-ranked ADEK schools in Abu Dhabi that have preschool places.

  • The Values

The environment a school offers your child is so important. The core attitudes and values promoted by a school will define its culture and community spirit. It’s vital that you choose a school that nurtures your child in the way that you desire. 

Once you’ve made a choice, then you can begin to get your child ready for preschool attendance.

Tips on How to Prepare Your Child for Preschool

The best way to prepare your child for preschool is to focus on things that will help them feel confident and happy to attend. Here are four important recommendations from our preschool teachers across all the key curricula.

Preschool child preparing for GEMS Schools

  1. Establish a morning routine

Before term starts, get your child used to the routine you’ll need to get to preschool on time so that it is not a big shock when you need to do it for real. It will also help your child get used to the idea of routines – a skill they will need to navigate on any typical preschool day

Keep your routine simple, focusing on doing the same key things each morning in the same order. Lots of preschools use picture timetables to explain routines. Why not make one for home? 

  1. Plan a visit

Good schools will provide opportunities for your child to meet their teacher, see their classroom, and try out some activities before they begin the new school year. Visiting with your child will allow you to discuss all that they see and do, answer their questions, and help them get excited about starting actual classes. A visit will also help to familiarise your child with their new surroundings.

Nearer the start of term, your child may attend short sessions by themselves before they begin full days. The more familiar and comfortable your child becomes with their new environment, the easier the transition to full-time preschool will be.

  1. Encourage independence

When your child can do more for themselves, they will have more time for fun and learning at preschool. Help them develop skills in using the toilet, handwashing, putting their coat on, taking shoes on and off, tidying away snacks and toys, and using a cup and water bottle. But don’t be too concerned if there are things that your little one still finds difficult to do; their preschool teacher will be very understanding. 

It is important to know that parents shouldn’t worry about how well their child can count or how many letters they can name when they start preschool. In all international curricula available in the UAE, play is at the heart of preschool education. Your child will be gently introduced to reading, writing and maths through play during preschool. By choosing an excellent preschool, you can be confident that your child’s first teacher will have them ready to begin more formal learning in maths and language by the end of their time there. 

  1. Talk and play with your child

Talk to your child about all they have to look forward to at preschool. They may have some worries or fears, and this is completely normal. Encourage them to tell you about these so you can reassure them.

There are many picture books and stories written about starting preschool or school. Sharing these with your child and chatting about how the characters navigate this change successfully can be really useful. 

Role-playing school can also be lots of fun and will help your child learn what to expect. Pretend play is a great way to practise and get used to the routines of preschool, like saying goodbye to parents, taking part in circle time, and having lunch. Your child can use their favourite soft toys to be classmates, and you can take turns with your child to be the teacher. 

Preschool child playing at GEMS First Point School

Finding Your Child’s Preschool

Parents are invited to browse our list of GEMS schools in the UAE. It is straightforward to filter schools by age range, curriculum and by area to find the best options for your family. With our track record of providing outstanding education, we are confident that you will find a school in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or the wider UAE that meets your family’s needs – and one where your child can thrive for many years to come.

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