Berkeley area preschool with good outdoor area

Hi bpn community,

As the most recent responses are now four years old, I was wondering whether anyone had any other preschools to recommend. We are looking for somewhere with good space for running around outside, digging, etc., in or near Berkeley. Our son will be 4 before next school year.

(We've checked into El Cerrito co-op and Skytown, both of which have the kind of area we're looking for, but we will probably be waitlisted so are seeking other options.)


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Check out Step One School!

Check out Duck's Nest's Berkeley campus. The yard is phenomenal, as is the rest of their program, facility, and staff. We're about to send our second child there, and are thrilled to bits.

We just learned that Ducks Nest (which has amazing outdoor space and gardens) has a couple of openings for next year. Won't last long though. 

UC Berkeley's pre-schools are open to the public; you don't have to be affiliated with the University to attend.  The Harold Jones Child Study Center has two outstanding facilities, enormous outdoor play areas, structures, sand boxes and outdoor playthings.  Unless the weather is inclement, most activities take place outside.  Look into the Early Childhood Education Program on the UCB web site.

Also, Step One pre-school on Spruce in Berkeley has an excellent outdoor area.

We love Kensington Nursery School.My daughter went there and now my grand daughter is there.They have two large play yards and it is great!

It sounds like Albany Preschool might be a good option for you! My son goes there currently and I heard they still have openings for next year. There are two outside yards for the kids to play in rain or shine. One yard has a playground with bikes and trikes. The other yard has a giant sandbox with swings, shovels, balls, water tables and planter boxes. Albany Preschool is a co-op preschool and I participate in the mornings typically in one of the yards. The kids decide what they want to do. Us adults just make sure no one gets hurt and help the kids get out the items they want to play with. Last week I went on a worm hunt (We found four.), was served "lunch" of sandy soup and helped dig trenches around the lake in the sandbox and set "bridges" for the kids to cross the trenches. I recommend you take a tour and check out the Albany Preschool Facebook page. The Facebook page has pictures of some of the kids' activities during the day.

Sequioa pre-school in Oakland has a very large outdoor area that is surrounded by lots of trees.  It is a free play co-op and allows the children to spend as much time outdoors as they'd like.

Hi! Check out Magnolia Children's School, on Sacramento near the corner of Parker. Our 3 year old has been there for almost 6 months now and we are so happy. It's a pretty big yard, with room to run and play. There is a garden which the kids get to help in, and two chickens which they get to help feed and take care of. Definitely space to dig, get dirty and wet, etc!

There's often a water table available for play on warmer days, and they let kiddos play in the rain if it's ok with a parent, you send extra changes of clothes, etc. My son LOVES digging and playing in the rain... one of his current favorite things to do is "make soup" in the rain with wood chips and dirt in one of the big buckets. Or play in the water table... in the rain... basically lol, I can often measure how happy of a day he's had by how many clean, dry changes of clothes he's been through that day. ;)

Anyway, give Laura a call. There are reviews here on BPN both for Magnolia and for Woolsey Children's School (the school's name from its former location) from many happy parents, and I'll definitely add my name to the list. Laura and all the teachers are so kind and good with the kids, they're totally on top of positive behavior reinforcement and childhood development, and I feel like the daily schedule is a very good mixture of *lots* of play time outside, with inside play spaces available too, sprinkled with awesome teacher led activities (Art! Music! Yoga!). I could keep going. I feel very lucky that we got a space and plan to be there until our little one is ready for K. I'm not sure what kind of availability she has left for next "school year" (they follow the Berkeley Unified calendar), so you may want to call soon.

I hope you find what you are looking for! Lots of great preschools around here. Good luck.

ECPC still has a few spaces open in their afternoon program! We had two kids go through there and we loved it. It's not too late ;-)

Children's Community Center has an amazing outdoor space. If you liked the vibe at ECPC, you'll love Children's Community Center too. At this time of year, it's wait lists everywhere, so do not be deterred by that news. The dust will settle by summer and you'll eventually get in almost everywhere for fall. 

Albany Preschool! Two outdoor yards and TONS of activities for the kids.  My daughter comes home with dirty clothes everyday from being outside all day!  The children get to choose where and what they want to do!  It's a play- based affordable pre-school coop! I highly recommend it! Teachers are wonderful, interactive and caring too.  

Hearts Leap in Berkeley's Elmwood neighborhood has a fantastic, woodsy outdoor area with lots of space for digging and running around. Our active son loves the Hearts Leap yard and would probably spend his entire day outside if given the chance (and they give them a lot of outdoor time!). The play structure is great for climbing, there are also monkey bars, a "house" structure, a tree swing, a vegetable garden, lots of shovels, hoops, balls, trucks, and other toys to play with imaginatively. This is a very special school (the inside too!) - highly recommended.

Sheffield Preschool on Stuart St. in Berkeley has a fabulous and very creative yard (complete with pirate ship, if I remember correctly).

Berkeley Hills Nursery School has very nice shady outdoor spaces, and adjoins a tiny, underused city park, which they spill over into frequently.