Play based drop in preschool/ TK

Hi Fellow Mamas,

My daughter is 4.5 and just stated a TK program through OUSD. After being there for a few weeks, I am looking to change to something that will be more play based, outdoors with the flexibility to drop in if possible or go just a few days a week.

This time is precious, I want her to still have a a very free, creative place to go. She will be in Kindergarten next year. If you know of any places like this please let me know.

Ever so kindly,


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My children loved the outdoor space and play focus at the New School of Berkeley.  I don't think they have a "drop-in" program but I believe they have openings for the oldest preschool group.

Hi Laura,

I highly recommend my kiddo's preschool Children's Community Center - it is a play based co-operative that offers indoor/outdoor play + the opportunity for a caregiver to participate 1 or more times a week. The main program is a morning program from 9a - 12:30p with the option to add additional time if you so chose/need. It's 5 days a week but you don't have to attend all 5 days if that doesn't work for your schedule. There are still 1 or 2 spots in the Backyard class. More info here:

Let me know if you have any questions!

Check out Beatie St preschool, they have a TK and could possibly have an opening.

A preschool that may fit what you're looking for that I highly recommend is Berkeley Hills Nursery School (BHNS). My 4.5 year old is in his second year and we all love it. His second year started on Tuesday and he's so happy to be back. They are entirely play based, and I would describe the experience as free, creative, loving, nurturing, and active. They are outside a large part of the time. They take "field trips" to walk around the neighborhood and even occasional trips to the UCB campus. They also get to play in the adjoining Grizzly Peak Park.

BHNS is not "drop in," so the tuition is for a 5-day per week program, but you can send your daughter for less time.

Like you, if my son were eligible for TK this year, I would opt to stick with BHNS so that he could have another year of his very young childhood in this special place. You can see reviews for this school on BPN.

Good luck!


Hi, we love our son's preschool - Sheffield Preschool in Berkeley, near Willard Park. I'm not sure about drop in (might be possible) but you can choose any number of days or half days per week. Most of the children go part time. It's very play-based and they spend hours outside in the beautiful backyard/play area every day. It's a small group of only ~10 children and I know they are looking for a few more for this coming year. The kids are mostly in the 3.5-4.5 range so your daughter would fit right in. Feel free to message me directly if that would be helpful.