Helping Families Settle in an Expat World

Becoming an expat parent comes with its own set of challenges, none more so emotionally charged than settling family in a new country. Moving abroad typically means leaving behind extended family, friends and close neighbors, who form a web of support on a daily basis. The prospect of relocating and rebuilding close friendships can seem daunting to parents let alone the children involved in the move. The initial transition can prove to be tumultuous, filled with tears and tantrums.

Navigating through parenthood is hard enough, but when relocation is added to the mix there is no telling how children will adjust or adapt to new situations. While children do adapt easily, many parents know that the experience is hard on them especially in the initial transition. Parents may yearn for the stability they left behind, but how can they recreate the network of support again in a new country?

Isabelle Amatoury, founder of Kid’s Island Nursery in Dubai, has dealt with many families transitioning into the region. She prides herself on the fact that the Nursery is known for working closely with families to ensure that a stable foundation is created from which the family can grow. “Our belief at Kids Island Nursery is that children thrive on love, laughter and security. When there is no extended family around, the Nursery takes its place. We provide an inspiring, progressive, nature- themed environment for our children to learn and explore, while helping them settle into their new routine. However, it’s not only the children we are concerned about but the parents as well. Moving is stressful especially when moving abroad. We understand that parents may be feeling overwhelmed and our goal is to give guidance and support where needed. We also offer cuddles on the really rough days because nothing beats a cuddle from someone who cares!”

Isabelle recommends that new families find ways to connect to the city, “Set aside time within the week to explore the beaches, parks and malls around the area. Accept invitations to dinner or play dates. Join local clubs or Facebook groups. The sooner the family feels settled, the sooner they will find that Dubai is filled with many like-minded, caring people, who will start to help rebuild the network of support that has been left behind.”

Kid’s Island Nursery has been in Dubai for 28 years, and has provided a stable network of support to thousands of families over the years. The Nursery is an extension of the family, providing parents support to settle in an expat village, while offering guidance and stability. Their team of caring staff strives to create a loving, nurturing environment from which the families and children can grow. 

About Kids Island Nursery

Kids Island Nursery in Dubai was founded over two decades ago by Isabelle Amatoury. The philosophy of the nursery centers on the fact that each child is unique and should be given the opportunity to explore and learn. The Nursery follows the British Curriculum and caters to children starting preschool and kindergarten. They provide a safe and nurturing environment helping children gain social skills and increase self-awareness.

“Mum, read me a story”

In this technology-driven world, curling up with your little one and a good book is increasingly rare. Some reasons you should make time for it and benefits it can have for you both are;
1. Bonding
Story time with your child on a regular basis, whether it’s each evening before bed or during the day, can help further strengthen your relationship with your child. The physical closeness of sitting together and hearing your voice with no distractions is hugely comforting to them. Many children look forward to this undivided attention as much as they enjoy the actual story. Reading together can also improve a child’s confidence as they are secure in their bond with you. 
2. Exploring emotions
Story books are an excellent way for your child to see how other people deal with new and challenging situations. Whether the plot covers positive or seemingly negative emotions, using a character to explore them opens up the communication lines with your child. Ask questions like “What do you think they are feeling? What do you think is going to happen next? How would you feel if…?” Books can be especially useful as a way of starting the conversation or dealing with situations such as starting school, moving house or a new sibling.
3. Boosting language, interest and curiosity
Even if a book doesn’t have many words, the images held within are fantastic for teaching children new terms and sounds. You may look at the same book time and time again and by describing the illustrations it can be a new experience every time. By prompting your child to tell you what they see in the picture, identify letters or numbers and by praising them, you will begin to build positive associations with reading.
4. Understanding real vs make-believe
From magical lands to outrageous beasties, books can open up a whole world of imagination for children. By identifying what they see around them in the real world and what appears on the pages of their books, your little one will become aware of what’s possible and be inspired to use their imagination. Encourage them to take the story further, draw their own pictures and even spot subplots or characters in the images for older children.
5. Improving listening and concentration
It’s no secret that people of all ages are experiencing reduced concentration. With our children growing up in times dominated by screen time and countless choices, this situation is unlikely to improve unless we take major steps at home. Setting up boundaries for screen time is essential. By sitting quietly with a book a child’s listening skills improve as well as their concentration and their ability to remember details. Ask them about characters, the story so far and descriptions to further boost their visual memory.
6. Learning other languages
Books are also a way to introduce second or even a third language to your child. Those aimed at younger children, with sing-song styles or rhyming, are a fun way to explore new words and vocabulary. Books set in different countries can also help children understand the wider world where a multitude of cultures can be explored and respected.
7. Social and communication skills
Sitting, listening, taking turns to choose a story all contribute to your child’s social skills development. As they grow older their concentration levels will improve and they will continue to thrive at school. Remember that by reducing screen time and increasing reading they will have a head start in their growing up years!

Exploring at my own pace

As parents it’s so easy to rush and push towards the next milestone, and walking is the big one, with mums and dads using it as a benchmark for so-called progress. However, every stage that our children go through is precious and critical, helping them develop in specific ways, and only when your baby’s nervous system is ready and operating at its full potential will they move on to the next activity.

By the time your baby is 12 months old, their brain will be 50% of its adult size, and it will continue to expand, with experiences and movements creating connections between nerve cells. You might not realise it, but the most simple (and fun!) activities can have brain-boosting capabilities.

Floor time and movement on the floor is essential for learning. Your little one must be able to spend up to 20 minutes of ‘tummy time’ per day from around 3 months old.

Why is it so important?

It strengthens your baby’s neck and shoulder muscles - as they will want to look up to see what’s happening around them. This will encourage your child to sit up, roll over and crawl earlier and this can prevent “positional Plagiocephaly”, which is flattening on the back of the head.

Between car seats and strollers, today’s babies spend most of their time on their backs or upright. You might find that your child initially resists floor time and persistence is key, building up from even just a few minutes.
To have the best of Tummy Time, position a favourite toy or child-proof mirror within their gaze and encourage them to reach for it.                            
Avoid tummy time shortly after eating to make sure it’s as enjoyable and comfortable for them as possible.

Building up strength

You might also see your baby push off the floor using their hands, which is the beginning of rolling over and crawling. It will assist in developing their will and determination to take action and complete a task. Their hands will become strengthened, assisting with holding a pencil when a little older.

Floor time also builds spatial awareness

Informing babies of their environment and helping them to build an internal map of their physical position in the world, such as next to a toy, on the rug, in the playpen, which helps with movement and navigation later on in life.

So what happens if your baby doesn’t get enough floor time?

Skipping the crawling stage can have a major impact later on. While this may appear inconsequential from a brain development angle, it can lead to challenges once your child reaches school age. By not crawling, their eye tracking can be compromised, and there might be less integration between left and right sides of the brain, which can inhibit fine motor skills such as tying shoe laces, cutting paper and doing up buttons.

How to get the most from floor time:

  1. Do a little every day, building up the time to around 20 minutes.

  2. To stimulate, regularly change the toys.

  3. When they’re ready, offer a smooth space where your baby can try to move (leave hands and feet uncovered for grip).

  4. Get down to their level. Eye contact and talking will help with bonding and model each other’s movements for fun.

  5. Use this opportunity to safely stretch and massage your baby. Gently try cross-body movements to introduce the brain to patterns for crawling.

  6. Floor time can be continued into childhood, with families interacting on the same level, playing, reading and discussing topics.


The importance of teaching our children to be independent

As parents it’s tempting to do everything for our children and often WANT to do it, as well as it being easier and faster! Teaching them independence from an early age has the most impact to build a child’s self-esteem and confidence.
A child’s brain starts developing from day one and by acknowledging that they’re capable of doing things for themselves, we as parents can have a positive impact on their overall development, understanding of the world, self-confidence, as well as emotional maturity. When a child feels empowered, they want to do more.

Children learn by watching those around them and model their parents.    

For example, when a child starts to feed themselves, it not only helps with sensory development, and meal times become a social event. They might start by eating with their fingers and progress to cutlery once their skills develop over time. We might need to deal with a ‘mess’ and should welcome this as it is about the experiences for the child.
For children there is no right or wrong way to eat. Eating with the fingers is the best way to start.

So what small changes can we make every day to nurture independence?  

Set realistic targets. Allow the child to go through the process over and over to make the experience a learning curve and fun.  Enjoy the time with your child and bestow a lot of praise. Adding pressure builds up stress for parents and children.
Very early on we should be encouraging children to eat by themselves, wash their hands and sit at a table with their parents for mealtime with the family. There are some activities that children can help with too, such as packing toys away and pushing a baby shopping trolley. As children get older, their independence grows along with their self-confidence, therefor they will want to participate and contribute more.                                                                                           

We should encourage this from little things like, throwing their bib in the laundry basket, fetching shoes when it’s time to leave the house, putting their shoes on by themselves, wiping their face with a wash cloth and happily playing alone.
We can stimulate the children by singing together as we clean up (sing ‘Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share’) and appreciate these moments with your child. Give them your full attention and focus. Take a break from your phone and your laptop.  It might take a little time - a child learns to talk by being spoken to, by experiencing and articulating sounds / words and then one day a sentence will form.
As our children navigate their way through life, learning right from wrong, forming opinions and personalities, the independence they acquire from an early age can put them in great stead for taking on challenges with confidence. Support your child, by encouraging them to help themselves.

Change, one small step at a time

February has just burst through the door! The thought that we are well into the second month of 2016 creates a response of nodding heads and tut-tuts about how quickly time seems to fly. And yet it seems as if it were only yesterday that January arrived in a shower of confetti-shaded hopes, wishes and resolutions for the new year ahead. For many of us, this is the time of the year that we look at the year gone by and assess what we could have done better or achieved more with ourselves, our children or our family. And so during the beginning of the year, we often create grandiose resolutions during which, with steely resolve, we promise ourselves that we are going to do more or change more. By February all those plans have faltered, as we protest at how difficult it has been. Actually, those plans were more than likely to fail because we are trying to change too much, too quickly without enough resources or without enough time.  Perhaps, instinctively, we know that they are going to fail and so we give up before we have even started.

The “One percent Principle” goes a long way in explaining why resolutions or long-term plans often fail. It basically suggests that we often avoid setting major goals because achieving them seems so overwhelming. Sometimes changes we are trying to establish may be too great. Interestingly, the theory continues to support that small, often subtle changes create a momentum that increasingly brings about much larger change. I would say that when it comes to our children this idea makes a lot of sense.

Very often we, working in early years children’s nurseries in Dubai, hear parents saying that they are going to start disciplining their children more, spend more time with them, establish better eating habits or help them achieve better grades. The plans come from a good place but are often too general, broad or too drastic. With children, we cannot start changing established habits all at once. It creates too much insecurity as children do not know what to expect. Yet, if we change small things incrementally and consistently, we stand a better chance of succeeding which in turn will bring about confidence in ourselves and our abilities as parents. If dad arrives at home half an hour earlier to read a story to his child he has basically started and achieved in measure the change planned. Scheduling family dinners together over the weekend and at least once during the week creates the basis for a habit that impacts language, communication and cognitive skills. Half an hour less on the I-pad will mean half an hour more time playing and developing physical skills. Speaking to our children and others using “and “instead of “but” will reinforce that respect and love are not conditional. Small, positive changes that we apply with consistency can have the potential to create a lasting effect.

The “W” sitting position in young children.

Lying, rolling, sitting-up, crawling; infants go through a host of developmental stages before they develop the coordination, muscle tone and strength to finally walk. Each motor stage milestone emerges once the previous is matured and mastered.

Over the years, we have seen children with various levels of coordination, gait, posture and balance. It is not uncommon to see children sitting in the “W” position: when a child sits with their knees bent and tucked under them in a ‘W” configuration. However, from a physiological and developmental perspective, it is something that we should be aware of.


Children often prefer to sit in this way because it creates a wider support basis and greater stability of the hips and torso. This helps seated children balance better when playing, reaching out or moving. So what is the problem, then? Actually the issue with “W sitting” is that it decreases the need for “trunk control”; the ability children have to shift their weight and ultimately impairs “trunk rotation”. Trunk rotation is vital for stretching movements when reaching to grasp or catch objects with one or both hands, for actions that require balance such as skipping, as well as midline crossing crossing arms from one side to another. Midline crossing is necessary for developing hand preference/dominance necessary for advanced level skills such as handwriting and reading.

Habitually sitting in the “W” position may also impact the way muscles of the hips and legs develop (shortening and tightening); often leading to children who are pigeon-toed or walk on their toes.

As educators, it is important to take note of children who prefer to sit in this potion as it may be the tell-tale sign of other underlying issues; children with hyper-mobility of the joints and sensory processing disorder. It may also indicate the retention of developmental reflexes such as the Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR) - a transitional reflex which helps children move on from the stage of lying on the floor to crawling or the tonic labyrinthine reflex related to balance, muscle tone and proprioception. Reflexes such as these which remain unintegrated may manifest in later childhood as poor posture, poor muscle tone, difficulty in sitting still, challenges with reading and writing, poor hand/eye coordination, focusing on a task and vision disorders.

Naturally, it is easier to correct the “W” sitting position before it becomes habitual. Together, parents and school should be aware of it and encourage children to sit in alternate positions: side sitting, long sitting or cross-legged sitting.

The role of nursery should be so much more than just a play area to socialise. Good nurseries in Dubai will have teachers with an experienced and sensitive eye who will be able to pick up and communicate physical nuances that need to be addressed consistently so that nursery and the home environment can create a strong support network. For more information regarding unintegrated reflexes please refer to Kinesiology Dubai's Website or alternatively contact the office.

Ice Cube Painting

Discussion: What happens to the ice when we paint with it? What happens to the water when put in the freezer? How does the ice feel? 

Activity words: wet, melting, cold, freezing, very cold, frozen, hard….
Remember to make the activity fun, and encourage the children in their creativity.

Preparations: Each teacher must make her own ice cubes.    

  1. Fill a jug (1 liter) with water and add half a bottle of food colouring or paint. You may want to do more than one colour.
  2. Fill the ice cube trays and place in the freezer overnight. You may want to add popsicle sticks.            


  1. Place a piece of paper in front of each child and then give them each an ice cube.
  2. They will see how cold it is to hold and then the excitement of what they can create as the ice-cube melts on their pieces of paper.
  3. Encourage the children to move the ice cube around their piece of paper, creating patterns and shapes.
  4. Allow to dry!

Cleaning products and toxicity

I couldn’t help but laugh the other day as I was watching a commercial about a cleaning liquid. A beautiful young mummy, perfectly dressed and coiffed enthusiastically cleans her kitchen. With a mop in her hand, and a bottle of neon green, improved-formula anti-bacterial detergent in the other, she glides her mop on the kitchen floor. A glistening streak of germ free-cleanliness instantly appears transforming her dull kitchen into a wonderland of cascading blooms and rays of sunshine. Her floor is radiant; her smile is radiant and her little ones, observing gleefully, radiate health and good nature. She is a domestic goddess, crowned by her good choice in detergents. She is the champion of her family’s well-being and happiness through her floral-scented wisdom. She is the mother that we all strive to be…We’ve all seen the commercials, time and time again. Yet, what are they really telling us?

The messages are clear: chemical detergents are our allies in keeping our families healthy and successful. We can elevate our status from average mother to wonderful mother by how clean and sterile our homes are. Supermarket shelves are packed with hundreds of bottles of detergents that promise us health. Why then are we seeing an “allergy and autoimmune epidemic” in developed societies? If our homes are so clean, why are we getting so sick? Think of it: by cleaning and sanitising our homes through chemicals we are effectively creating sterile environments where good microbes which stimulate our immune systems are eradicated while also loading our indoor environment with toxic fumes and residues. This is where our children live, eat, sleep and play…every day. We are effectively achieving the opposite of what we set out to do.

The other day, I was reading about the “Hygiene Hypothesis” which in measure explains that the increase in asthma and autoimmune diseases may be due to sterile home environments that do not offer enough diversity in germs needed to stimulate and educate developing immune systems. Studies within certain farming communities in the Unites States reveal some startling results. Living very traditional ways of life, they shun the comforts and products of developed societies. They are daily exposed to animals and live a very natural life that is close to the land. Interestingly, they have dramatically lower incidents of asthma and autoimmune diseases within their communities.

As a nursery in Dubai with so many children present we have to make sure that the environment is clean but not sterile. Kid’s Island and Cocoon nursery are eco-friendly where the importance of cleanliness is obvious. Clean environments, whether school or home, should not mean sterile chemical zones but ones where the environment, children, parents and staff members are respected. The use of ENJO microfibers, “Baby Air” air purifiers, pure soap and essential oils have been our mainstay for years now and part of our core values and ethos. Come see us in the office for more ideas of chemical-free cleaning.

Does starting Nursery mean that children will constantly fall sick?

With an eyebrow raised in worry comes the question I always wait for: “Will my child get sick when she starts nursery?” It is one of the things we get asked by mums who are starting nursery and one of those questions that they know the answer to but still ask anyway. The answer I always give is: “Yes. Generally children who start nursery for the first time will get sick; it is unavoidable and part of strengthening their developing immune systems”. As nonchalant as I try to be, mummies are always particularly worried especially after the dramatic and woeful stories of weeks of illness they hear from their friends and acquaintances. Yet, as unavoidable as this is, the nursery can make a difference. I can hear you ask how?

Well, it is true that nursery children fall sick during their nursery years, but a nursery environment with a solid cleaning routine and a robust Infection Control Policy will minimise children’s absences due to illness. With so many children present, hygiene is vital. Here at the nursery, for example, we have 3 levels of cleanliness: every classroom is fitted with the “Baby Air” air purifier which helps to minimise mould and bacterial particles. Classrooms are cleaned 3 times daily with special attention given to toys, surfaces and floors. More intense cleaning is done on Saturdays, when mats and toys are washed, sanitised and left in the sun. Floors are scrubbed and surfaces are cleaned and sanitised with eco-friendly, non-toxic products. Our wonderful ladies around the nursery have a very comprehensive cleaning routine which they enthusiastically adhere to. Additionally, our AC’s are cleaned and biologically sanitised by Saniservice.

Parallel to this, the nursery has a strict Infection Control Policy which has been drawn to protect the health and safety of everyone who circulates within its walls. Ultimately, the cleanliness routine, the use of non-toxic cleaning products and a carefully implemented Infection Control policy will benefit the children of the nursery by minimising repeated infections. In this way, children’s absences due to illness are reduced.

Kid’s Island and Cocoon nursery are eco-conscience nurseries where the importance of cleanliness is obvious. Clean environments, whether school or home, should not mean sterile chemical zones but ones where the environment, children, parents and staff members are respected. The use of ENJO microfibers, pure soap, bio-sanitiser and essential oils has been our mainstay for years now and part of our values and ethos. Come see us in the office for more ideas of chemical-free cleaning.