What is it: Described as a ‘mother and child’ workshop, Top Tots was developed by educational specialists in South Africa 30 years ago. This hour-long, once a week class is aimed at pre-school infants and tots. The programme concentrates on helping kids develop the skills they will need once they go into full-time nursery and school. The classes, which are taught by qualified nursery teachers, focus on a wide range of areas including visual and audio perception, speaking and listening skills, fine and gross motor skills, beat and rhythm, sensory integration and more. They also use paediatric-sized stability balls in every session to help improve core muscle strength. Classes are aimed specifically at mothers and children learning together, and provide activity ideas that can be done at home.
Best for: All pre-schoolers between the ages of three months and four years. There are 14 sessions a week, scheduled mornings and afternoons.
Where is it: Currently only at Step-Up Academy, Building Blocks Nursery, Motor City. A new location in Jumeirah is planned.
How much: Dhs85 a class, or Dhs935 for a term.
What is it: A class that teaches tots (and mums) the basics of spoken Arabic and Urdu/Hindi. The aim of the programme is to prepare little ones in advance and gives them a head start on the Arabic classes that begin in formal education. It’s especially good for Arabic children with working parents who have English-speaking nannies, and therefore don’t hear their mother tongue spoken much at home. Children are familiarized with the sounds and pronunciation of Arabic words through songs and stories. Currently most classes have a 50/50 mix of eastern and western tots and parents. The words and phrases are taught phonetically from song sheets, stories and rhymes. The words and sounds are easy to follow, and cover the basics, from numbers and the alphabet, to colours, family members, fruits and vegetables and so on.
Where is it: Favourite Things, Caboodle in Dubai Mall, Dubai Ladies Club, Kidz Venture.
Best for: All children from six months to three years of age (there are two different classes for babies and toddlers). Parents also benefit from learning the language basics.
How much: Dhs55 (for the first trial class). Then you purchase a term’s worth, which costs Dhs50 for babies and Dhs650 for toddlers.
What is it: Kindermusik is a well established, international programme designed to encourage a love of music in little ones. Classes are available for newborn babies to seven-year-olds. The emphasis in baby and pre-school classes is on parent/child bonding through musical activities which, we are told, is good for the vestibular sytem. There’s lots of singing, rocking and bouncing, as well as cuddling. Later on, the classes encourage rhythm development and body control through musical cues, thus strengthening listening skills, balance and coordination. The main aim of Kindermusik is to help kids develop an appreciation for music, which in turn can help them expand on other skills. Studies show a direct correllation between high numeracy scores and children with a keen musical awareness, so this is a great one to try for boosting those maths skills too.
Where is it: The Kindermusik Centre is in Umm Suquiem 3, behind Kings Dubai School on street 15b. Call Liz for more information (050 759 2844).
Best for: Anyone who wants to bond with their children through music.
How much: Dhs1,170 to Dhs1,400 per 12-week term.
What is it: Developed by Beverley Samuels, a paediatric nurse and primary school teacher, Mini Miracles is a brand new programme aimed at tots aged 15 months to three years. The classes focus on a range of activities that will help improve tot’s fine and gross motor skills as well as language development, sensory awareness, speech and rhythm patterns, balance, coordination and more. Mums and tots take part in group activities including parachute games, and get crafty too. There’s also a story at the end of every session – and a mini picnic snack. The sessions are supposed to last 45 minutes, but often run over a little ‘because everyone is having so much fun’ says Beverley. Not only that, but tots then get a free half hour in Favourite Things’ soft play area as part of the class, giving mums a chance to chill out and grab a coffee too.
Where is it: Favourite Things, Dubai Marina Mall on Tuesday mornings, 9.30am-10.15am and 10.30am-11.15am.
Best for: Active tots and mums looking for an educational all-rounder.
How much: Dhs85 (for the first trial class). The 10-week January term costs Dhs850.
Squiggles to Giggles
What is it: This 45-minute class run by the experts at Kidz Art is aimed at two to three years olds and tries to help them enhance their fine and gross motor skills as well as their creative imaginations. Little artists get a free rein to express themselves, and parents are an essential part of the classes, so it’s a bonding experience too. The sessions are often complemented by storytelling, singing and music, to enhance the creative side of things. The use of the paintbrush alone is a great way to help little ones practise holding and using a pen – very handy for when they start going to big school. All materials are provided by Kidz Art and are non-toxic and washable – perfect for little Picassos who are a tad enthusiastic when it comes to ‘self expression’.
Where is it: Mall of the Emirates, Ductac, once a week on Saturday mornings.
Best for: All kids aged two to three, who love getting creative with paint.
How much: Dhs70 per class, or Dhs560 for an eight-week course.