Nanny or nursery? Finding childcare in Dubai

November 20, 2018




With many Dubai households having two people that contribute financially, finding a childcare solution that works for the family is something of a priority when the baby arrives.


The nanny vs nursery discussion is one to have with your partner, and it’s essential to weight up the benefits and potential drawbacks of both before deciding, not least because both options are expensive. On the emotional side, as a mother returning to work you need to feel confident in the person or people looking after your little one.


So how to find your Mary Poppins or the perfect place? Read on…


What’s right for you?

There are many factors to consider: do you have space in your home for live-in help? Is there a reputable nursery nearby or close to work, and if not are you able to take the time to drive to one? What makes more financial sense? Would you get jealous of a nanny spending time with your child? Will a nursery offer the timings you need, including holidays? Only you can answer these.


Finding a nanny

As with most things in Dubai, word of mouth is the best way to find some help. Ask around your friends and colleagues, post on Facebook and keep your eyes and ears open for families leaving, who are looking to find a family for their nanny.


You may need to interview several women to find the someone who will work happily within your home – a lot will come down to personality, as well as experience, plus similar expectations in terms of work and salary. The rule of thumb seems to be that live-out help is paid more – approximately AED500 per month – to cover costs of accommodation. Salary will depend on experience and duties, with those who can drive commanding more. Different nationalities have different minimum salaries so check with their embassy.


There is the option of hiring through an agency by looking through CVs or videos before conducting phone interviews (the agency will charge upwards of AED6,000 for their services), or from a family that is already in the UAE. Either way, they will be on your sponsorship and you will sign a two-year contract, pay a deposit of AED 3,000, and around AED5,000 each year for her employment visa, plus charges for registration, medical checks and Emirates ID. You also need to provide health insurance, and for peace of mind send your helper on a first-aid course.


In 2017 a new law was passed to ensure that domestic helpers are provided with 30 days of paid annual leave, a return ticket to their home country every two years, a day off each week, and 12 hours of rest per day, to include eight hours of consecutive rest. They also have the right to retain their own personal documents such as passports.


What to ask

Everyone’s requirements will differ, but these questions should help when you start interviewing potential help


  • What is your current visa situation?
  • When does your passport expire?
  • Why are you leaving your current job?
  • What do you like and dislike about the job?
  • How much experience do you have?
  • How long have you worked with your previous families? Ask for references.
  • How old are the children you have cared for?
  • Are you married and have children yourself?
  • Do you have any dependents (eg elderly parents) in your homecountry?
  • Do you have any family in the UAE?
  • Do you like pets? This is only relevant if you have animals, of course!
  • Are you qualified in first aid? It might be useful to ask what she would do in 
a specific situation, like if your child started choking.
  • Do you do any additional part-time work? Remember that this is illegal.
  • What dishes do you like to cook? Can you follow a recipe?
  • What is your day-to-day routine like?
  • Do you have any allergies or medical conditions?


Finding a nursery


Forget any ideas you might have about nurseries being sad, tired places in village halls; some nurseries in Dubai boast amazing facilities from mud kitchens and swimming pools to organic veggie patches and the latest technology.

As ever, asking friends for recommendations is a great start, but there’s no substitute for visiting as many as possible for a tour and to meet the teachers. You’ll need to decide on your budget, and if the location that works best for you and what hours you’re looking for as there’s a huge range, from just offering mornings to full days. Some offer food as part of the fee, so look for that if it would save you a packed lunch-related headache each morning.

Nurseries don’t tend to be as over-subscribed as schools, and you should start looking around six months before your child’s first term starts.


What to ask


  • What hours do you offer? Is there scope for flexibility?
  • What is the curriculum?
  • What ages are welcome?
  • Is FS1 available?
  • How is the day structured?
  • Are meals provided, or what is sent by parents?
  • Is there a waiting list?
  • Do you offer childcare during holidays? Or camps at extra cost?
  • How many staff are in the room and what’s the staff:child ratio?
  • What are their qualifications?
  • What security measures are in place at the nursery? What about first aid and a nurse on-site?
  • What is the illness policy?
  • How do you help children settle in?
  • Which schools do you have a relationship with?
  • Do you offer sibling discount?
  • Are there any after-hour activities or clubs?


Whether you decide to go with a nanny, who can play one-on-one with your baby, make meals throughout the day, keep an eye on nap times and discuss everything in-depth with you, or a nursery, where they will be socialised with other children outside of the home, the most important factor is trust. You need to be confident that you’re leaving your child in the best possible hands, so don’t compromise.


This article first appeared in Time Out Kids.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *