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A new and capable day-care and nursery facility has opened in Lamai – Smart Start.

A new and capable day-care and nursery facility has opened in Lamai – Smart Start.

A generation ago, it didn’t really matter. After all, most people who came here were visitors. But now it’s important. There are many westerners living on the island, either full time or part time. And lots of people means lots of children. The age-groupings have altered, too. At one time, it was mainly older folks with grown up children who’d moved away from home. But now, there are thousands coming away from Europe, particularly out of Russia. They’re younger and more active – and so are their kids.


Take a look on Google - you might be surprised. I have to confess that, until I began to research the subject, I didn’t realise just how many crèche and day-care facilities are now on the island. It poses the question: what do parents look for when they need to leave their young child at a crèche? Is it mere convenience – simply the closest place to where they are? Is it about cost? Perhaps it’s the level of dedication of the staff, or what the facilities are like. And this brings me to the subject of this story, a day-care centre that scores on all these points. It’s new. The name is Smart Start Day Care and Learning Center. And it’s in Lamai.


It’s easy enough to find: it’s not far up the hill from the landmark of the IT Complex, right next to SCL International School, down the quiet little side road to the left. And when I say ‘quiet’, I mean it! It’s a tranquil little cul-de-sac, with only perhaps half a dozen large bungalows spaced out along one side. In fact, when you see the premises, you’ll be impressed by how perfect everything is. There’s a large and shady outside play area in front, screened by tall shrubs, with a sand pit, a Wendy house, a big colourful caterpillar tunnel and a romping pen that’s sometimes filled with small plastic balls. The whole downstairs of the building is dedicated to the nursery, with separate living accommodation on the floor above.


It’s just right. But this is no accident. In fact, it took Elena Korostylova, the owner and teacher, four non-stop months of driving around the island, sometimes seeing three potential venues in one day, to finally find it. “I must have seen more than a hundred places,” she told me, “in the end I lost count. Every one that looked promising had some kind of fatal flaw in one way or another – either in the middle of nowhere, or with no safe outside area, or on a busy road, or too small, or needing too much converting. But when I saw this place, 

A new and capable day-care and nursery facility has opened in Lamai – Smart Start.

right away I could see the potential. Like all the other houses around, it opened directly onto a broad side road, but I grassed the front and planted a screen of shrubs. The house is quite big and modern, with spacious airy rooms and lots of natural light. And there’s exactly enough rooms downstairs – it’s almost as if it were purpose-made!”


It’s actually very impressive. Between the lawn and the inner house there’s a sheltered terrace with a seating area for parents, and a nice soft spongy rubber floor for the younger children to crawl or play on. Going inside the house, there’s a big day area that’s an indoor playroom, again with soft spongy flooring, plus nests of cushions, and with a small kitchen to one side. But what is striking is the schoolroom, complete with tiny dinky desks and chairs, and a big whiteboard. And, on the other side of the playroom is the sleeping room with tiny soft beds that will sleep eight or nine toddlers. Everything’s sparklingly clean and very bright and modern.


“I ensure that there is a maximum of four children to each adult,” Elena continued. “There are two of us working here, myself and Galina, whose 5-year old keeps my own son cheerfully occupied – my son, Ricard, is 15 months now. We have attracted a number of Russianspeaking parents, but I want to stress that we are very much multi-lingual. I spent eight years teaching in America, and so the words and phrases we use with the children are in both English and Russian, and the songs and rhymes in both languages, too. We live in a multicultural society and need to share our diverse cultures and traditions.”


“My outlook and attitude is straightforward – there is nothing I will not do to satisfy the parents. Their child is the most important thing to them,so if it’s just two hours a day, or irregular times like in the evenings, or if their child has a special diet or a special need, I’ll oblige. I have to consider the balance of the needs of the children and requirements of their parents, and I am sympathetic to all requirements or requests. As far as the activities are concerned, it’s not all just play. We stress language skills, and expression and development through art, singing, music and dancing, although the very youngest children have different programs. We’ll accept any young child as long as they are weaned – those in diapers are not a problem at all.”


Smart Start Day Care and Learning Center is open six days a week, excluding Sundays, and runs two separate shifts, from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm, and the second from 4:00 pm until 8:00 pm, with two meals being included on each shift. Elena immediately impresses with her humour and energy, and comes across as an attentive and compassionate person – it’s not surprising that the philosophy here is centred very much on development and learning, rather than simply providing a baby-minding service.


 Rob De Wet


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