6 Tips for Choosing a High-Quality creche or Pre-school

Modern parents, many of us will agree that trying to choose that first school for your first born was not an easy task.

At the beginning of the search, you have many factors to consider: cost, close to home or close to work, Montessori, academic or other learning styles, a big school that has primary or just a small creche?

The options are many and if you allow it, the search can take a long time.

That’s why I have put together six tips to help you find that first child-care center for your child. Not just any center, but one that is high-quality.

Your money should be well spent (we pay a lot these days); your child should also be allowed to grow and thrive there. The early education experts are telling us that the first 5 years of a child’s life are so important and can shape a child’s future. It is worth choosing carefully!

If you choose a high-quality school and your child spends a few hours a day there, your child will be well on their way to building a solid foundation for their successful future.

A high-quality pre-school should offer:
1. Variety of play – pretend play, physical development activities, pretend play, game with rules, arts & crafts. Some of this play should be outside and unstructured play (the children choose what they want to play with and decide how they will play with the objects).
2. Opportunities to practice turn-taking, sharing and collaborating with their peers
3. Opportunities to practice self-care and tasks that encourage their independence
4. An environment that nurtures their language skills and grows their vocabulary
5. And I believe, care-givers should have a positive relationship with the children and it should be fun!

Parents should also have the peace of mind of knowing that your child is growing confident, is safe, learning, developing and happy.

Let’s look at the six tips to help you choose that high-quality crèche/preschool:

Look for play-based learning
Question: Does the teacher talk about play? Did the teacher emphasize that rather than teaching the children, the children will be playing?

I have to admit that I am biased on this one, as I co-run a play-focus mum & baby club – POPP Lagos. Still, the early education experts have done the research and I have seen the advantages for myself over the last 2 years, so I truly believe play is enough to provide learning for their age (0 – 5).

You may be thinking, what about Montessori? Montessori is not the same as pure play-based learning. I personally believe a good montessori pre-school will incorporate play and a good play-based center, and will incorporate some of that wonderfulness of Maria Montessori’s philosophy, too.

The opposite of play-based learning, is pure formal academics; picture a teacher at blackboard drilling abc, 1-100 into your child and telling them to repeat after them. It involves rote learning and many experts agree, it is not the best thing for a small child (or even an older child – but that’s a discussion for another day).

Even if child A, does learn to recite 1 – 100 earlier than child B through rote learning, it does not make him smarter than child B. Child B will go on to learn it at an older age. While child B is playing in the early years, he is gaining an understanding, he is exploring and practicing for, rather than just hearing and repeating the words he is told by teacher. Child B is also gaining enthusiasm and a love for learning.

Tips: The best tip is to observe the day care or pre-school in its normal state. What are the children doing? Also just ask straight up – what is a schedule for a typical day at the centre and listen to what is said for clues about academic learning or play.

Seek for examples of individualized learning
Question: Does the teacher talk about following each child’s interests and abilities, aside from their regular daily schedule for the children?

When you see two 30 month olds, what they can do cognitively (completing puzzles for example), speech wise and even their social interactions, will be different. One child might be quite talkative, telling stories, another might be able to identify 1 – 10 and love puzzles, but not yet speak in full sentences.The school/crèche carers should be aware of this and adapting materials and interactions with children, daily, based on what they know about each child.

Tips: You can ask what they do if your child doesn’t want to join a certain group activity. You want to hear clues that they would bring out something your child enjoys doing and let him/her do that instead. They should talk about it as though, it is something that happens regularly and they don’t consider ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ behaviour. If you see it in practice, while you are visiting – even better.

Is there time for free play?
Question: Are there times set aside in the day when the children get to choose what they play with? For how long?

During free play, children get to interact with each other freely and usually this is when they practice collaborating, sharing, waiting your turn. It’s also when they interact – which may just look like talking to or touching each other’s face, depending on the child’s age. Children are in control during free play and are able to act without instructions and may give you more clues as to what their interests are based on what materials they choose to play with.

Tips: Ask how long the children play outside in the playground for, everyday? Outside play is an important part of young children’s development and also constitutes free-play, since the children pick what they want to play on/with. You want to hear about different times in the day there is free play, both indoor or outdoors.

Is the class size adequate? Are classroom materials adequate?
Question: How big the class is – is it spacious? How many children are in the class? How many are under the care of one teacher/carer? What kinds of materials are in the classroom?

In terms of how many adults are watching a child, the younger the children, the fewer the children to one teacher/carer should be. So for babies 0 -15months, you wouldn’t want to see more 4 children to one adult-carer, and there should be only maximum, 8-10 children in one room.

Tips: You want to see shelves or cupboards with different learning material and toys. Look for art materials, music instruments, puzzles, pretend play materials (dolls, dress up costumes, toy kitchen). Is the room bright, airy, and spacious enough for the kids to ‘spread out’ in? I personally do not like to see children watching TV – so, seeing a TV in the room would be a red flag for me.

Are you happy with the teacher’s style and knowledge?
Question: What is the teacher’s personality and behaviour as he/she interacts with other teachers and the children? Is the teacher responsive, warm? Are they using an understanding tone when a child does something different from what is expected? What about the teacher’s credentials and experience? Does he/she have knowledge of child development for the age of the children in their care?

Tips: I personally recommend talking to the teacher who will be in the classroom with your child and directing questions to that person, rather than a tour guide or head teacher, who may have all the ‘right’ answers.

The teacher is closer to the everyday happenings in the classroom and they will be in close interaction with your child. You can also get a feel for their English language skills (does it match what you expect for the school fees you’re paying?), and gauge whether there is warmth and passion for the job.

If you take your child with you when you visit the school, you can also observe how teacher talks to your child.

Are you comfortable with the school policies?
Question: how does the school handle discipline? Do they smack (it would be a ‘no no’ for many of us) or have a time out chair?

Tips: Ask for examples of when they use these methods and do they inform you the parent when an incident has occurred and discipline has been meted?

Ask about sharing policy. You should be looking for something that teaches the children to wait their turn but also respects that if a child has something first, they should be able to play with it for some time before they have to give it up.

Then other key ones: do they conduct fire drills or have a plan for that, how about security, how do they make sure your child stays safe/isn’t picked up by a stranger?

Now, you may not need to ask all these questions to know that a school is quality and right for you, but it is a question template you can keep in mind for your first school visit! Is it not better to set the bar high within your fees range, to help you make the right choice?

One last thing, what ultimately makes a school the right one for you, above any lists, is that you feel confident in the teachers’/carers’ abilities and there is transparency and openness in the schools communication with you. These two things may help you believe your young child will be comfortable, happy and thrive there.

Make you make your list of schools to visit, do add the schools your friends children go to and prestigious schools, but remember that they may not suit you and your family. You may be surprised at which school you end up loving in the end.

Parents, which of these points is most important for you; as in, I must see this at the school? Also, any other key considerations you would add for finding a quality school/crèche, from your experiences?

ps: this article was written by me, for BellaNaija.com and first published there. 

image by Demilade Roberts (IG: @demilader).

Labour Will Humble You | Marcy Birth Video Discussion

“Labour pain will humble you” – Marcy Dolapo Oni.

Sooo, I am very late to the party – the instagram clip on her page has 31k views, but I finally caught up with Marcy Dolapo Oni’s video series.

She is an actor, presenter and producer. I will always remember her from a fun & interactive play she acted in called “Iya -Ile(you can click this link, when you hover with your mouse it goes orange), back in 2009. The play was held in London but the vibe, the laughs and the audience dancing (yes they encouraged us), meant we were all transported back to Lagos. It was a great great night of fun.

Anyway, bringing it back to 2017. Marcy has shared a series of videos on her pregnancy and is now keeping us up-to-date on life as a new mum, starting with (you can click this link, when you hover with your mouse) baby’s birth video.

The video is from the heart, hella funny and has many moments mums would recognise! It reminded me of  some long forgotten details from my first born’s birth, I even took notes, lol.

I loved it so much I had an Instagram live video to talk about it. Don’t know if I’ll ever do one of those again *coversface, but I wanted to share the key points we discussed.



– I’m so passionate about POSITIVE birth experiences for all Mums.

-I feel like there’s still so much that comes as a surprise to us during the birth experience. It’s impossible to know everything but, the more we talk and share, the more we close that gap of lack of information!

-If you are informed, you can be confident asking questions and being an advocate for yourself (alongside your birth partners).  That just means speaking up clearly about your wishes and being part of the decision-making process alongside the medical team (within reason, obviously).

Oh, and I’m about to do it again, myself – woo hoo.


Right, lets get into.

If you haven’t yet, watch the video, and then run back here to read the points below:

We talked about:

Reasons why one might need to be induced:

  1. Big baby /diabetic mum
  2. Overdue 42 weeks or more
  3. Carrying twins
  4. Bleeding at late stage in pregnancy
  5. Fears about baby not growing/small baby
  6. Pre-eclampsia
  7. High blood pressure.

And below are typical Induction steps (I didn’t actually cover this in the discussion):

  1. Usually you start with a sweep – literarily put their fingers in your cervix and move around between the membrane and your uterus.
  2. ,Then the give you the prostaglandin pessary (goes inside you) or gel
  3. Then they might break your waters if they haven’t broken yet – ‘rupturing your membranes’.
  4. Then they may give you the syntocinon drip to speed things up if contractions slow, or you’re not dilating. The contractions from the drip can be very strong.

Usually if you start with the sweep, they send you home to then see if your body responds to it and starts contracting by itself. If it doesn’t you might go back into hospital and then be given the pessary or gel. Experiences vary based on whether they send you home after you get the pessary or not – I guess if you are a few cm’s dilated, the ward isn’t too full or  you live far, you may be allowed to stay.

Induction and c-section link

Now,  lots of people (medical staff included) accept that if you are induced, you may find yourself, I don’t want to say fast-tracked, but you may end up having a c-section. I think it’s because you’re forcing the body to expel baby. If the body was already getting ready, your induction may be a ‘success’ – vaginal birth, but if your body wasn’t ready at all, it may not respond as well to the drugs and you may need to get an emergency c-section.

When I was told an induction was likely for me, the first time round, I immediately started going on long walks – 1hour plus. I got the sweep, and continued on my walks. I wanted to jump start my body getting ready as much as possible, before we got to the hospital and drugs stage. I don’t know if it helped, but I had started getting some very early labour signs – contractions that started while I was sleeping, but in the morning of the induction day, they had stopped. I was about 2cm dilated when I got the pessary.

I think if I were in that position, I would do the same again. Try to get things going naturally before going in for the pessary or gel.

Baby’s size and position

I feel like every pregnant woman, who is hoping for a natural birth, should be reminded before labour that there are so many factors that need to be aligned to get that vaginal birth. Baby’s position and condition and mums condition too. If Mums pelvis is small in relation to size of baby, mums pelvis is shaped differently to the norm, baby is breech, baby’s hand is up by head, baby poos in the womb, baby’s heart rate slows – any one of these could signal change of plan from vaginal to CS.

So have a birth plan, hold on to it, but let your mind be open to – healthy mum, healthy baby being the goal. It then allows you to adjust your expectations should anything unexpected arise on labour day.

Theatre experience

Now I knew exactly what that experience was like of going from labouring in a quiet-ish room with dimmed lights to a room that is bright, lights everywhere and full of people. It is scary. And I wish they would take 2 minutes to tell a Mum to prepare herself before they wheel her into the theatre. I understand in the grand scheme, if its an emergency, there’s no time for that, but I feel these little snippets of information can be big enough to change a woman’s perspective on her birth experience from ‘wo-wo’ or negative to positive. And all it took was a little heads -up here and there.

Pain relief options

I never tried the tens machine so I can’t speak on that. It’s four electrodes fastened to your back and they send low voltage currents into your skin, stimulating endorphins to make you feel good and preventing you from feeling the pain being sent to your brain from your womb.

I had to agree with Marcy that gas & air is ‘for the birds’ aka rubbish, aka a scam, aka does.not.work. I noticed that there seemed to be a technique to using it – you have to suck deeply. I found that whole sucking  process, annoying for the fact that you got almost nothing in return for that effort, by way of actual pain relief. All the while contractions are hitting you. Hitting you with almost no breaks in between, usually if you got induced.

I have no experience with pethidine so I can’t speak on it. It is a pain killer which is injected into your thigh. It takes about 20 minutes to kick in, but let’s you relax and sleep.

Epidural experience & after effects

The epidural segment Marcy covered was again ‘the truth’. That part where they’re giving you the injection and you have to lie still, back arched, feels a bit scary and almost impossible. You’re being told to be very still, but you’re in active labour, you’re contracting so your body is feeling all the aches and they make you want to move. I was told some women just ask to have the epidural from early onset of labour and I guess I can understand that choice!

I remember holding and squeezing the Anaesthetist’s hand and she sternly tells me, do not hold my hand please. I thought she was rude. Later my friend explained that I would want the hand of the person who is sticking a needle in my spine to be as fully functioning and pain free as possible. Ah, point taken.

Side effects of epidural as it wears off include shivering and itching – both of which I suffered. It also works for 93% of people but you could be in that 7% it does not work for. Some people report tingling in one side of their body for life. I remember feeling some strange tingles, but they passed days/weeks after birth.

I was saying that when you think about all that is entailed with the epidural, you might hesitate to go for it, but it feels so nice to have it! You go from I’m in so much pain, to being like, goodnight and going for a sleep. The relief is amazing.

First reaction

Seeing your baby for the first time just makes it so worth it. Whether it was a CS or vaginal birth, that feeling is indescribable!

Birth advocacy 

I wish for every woman to to know her options and have a say in her birth experience. I also believe ‘healthy mum, healthy baby’, should be the number one goal and kept in mind for all those who have a detailed/elaborate birth plan! Finally,  you can use the BRAN – U model when making medical decisions. For big and difficult medical decision put forward by the medical team, Mum and Dad can ask themselves the questions below before committing to a decision:

B – what are the benefits?

R – what are the risks?

A – what are the alternatives?

N – what if we do nothing, is this an option?

U – how quickly do we need to make a decision, is it urgent?

The bran model was devised by Dr Sarah J Buckely. I added the U part as I believe it’s worth considering too. Maybe even the first question to ask!

The conversation is still up on Instagram along with comments from Mums, if you want to see.

Mums, I would love to hear what stood out for you personally, from watching the birth video. Anything you don’t agree with, completely agreed with/found yourself nodding to?  Are there parts you didn’t really understand? Please share your views below.

A Natural & Intimate Engagement Shoot – I Love this!


I love looking at images of engagement shoots, and I love these photos, but first I wanted to share a few thoughts on the Nigerian wedding scene in general.

The wedding industry in Nigeria continues to grow from strength to strength. Florists, wedding planners, bridal shower organisers, shower props designers, make-up artists (or MUAs, as they’re often called), wedding invitation experts, made-in-nigeria bridal outfitters, aso-oke makers and photographers – I could go on.

If you need your make-up done tomorrow the price is N10,000, if you need your make-up for your wedding day done, also tomorrow, the price multiplies to N250,000.

I still do not understand how that works, but I admire those benefitting. To be fair, the same goes for weddings abroad too – the price multiplies once it becomes clear the service is for a wedding.  The Nigerian wedding industry has spurred so many supporting businesses and I always joke that I’m yet to find my wedding hustle because it seems to be a money maker for many players, too! I don’t know how true that is – do you think just a small handful are benefitting or a great number?

Anyway, engagement shoots are one of the popular images of weddings we see on social media and online, in general. Couples are getting more and more creative with the themes, too – 100 points to the underwater shoot couples. Pre-wedding shoots are a trend that’s here to stay, it looks like.

I think there’s something special about engagement shoots. I like the calm, the love, the hope and the promise of companionship and togetherness that radiates!

I particularly like it when they are stripped down to simple background, simple clothes and plenty of focus on the love and chemistry between the couple.

I bookmarked this engagement/pre-wedding shoot back in 2012, and even though we opted not to do a pre-wedding shoot, it is still one of my favourites, today. What do you guys think? I know some of you may be eyeing up her hair, but for a naturalista like me, the fullness is goals, lol.

More pictures below.


pre-wedding shoot


Did you have or do you plan to have an engagement shoot before your wedding day? What was the theme?   Please share links or Instagram hashtags of shoots you’ve seen and loved, I would love to see.


ps: the couple were real, but not engaged (at the time, anyway). They posed for a photography workshop.

pss: newly wed? check out this analysis of marriage.

(Photos by Jose Villa for OnceWed).