Drop-in activities for toddlers in/around Berkeley?

We recently relocated to Berkeley from the UK with our 21-month old daughter. I work full-time and my partner is the primary caregiver, and though they enjoy the local parks we were hoping to find some affordable, drop-in play/activity groups where our daughter can interact with other toddlers. In our former home, churches and community centers often organized groups like this and charged a nominal fee for snacks, but I haven't encountered anything like this yet here in Berkeley. Any suggestions? 

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See https://www.cityofberkeley.info/uploadedFiles/Parks_Rec_Waterfront/Level... for City of Berkeley activities. 

There's also story time-type activities at the various local libraries. 

Oh, and this 510Families article has a bunch of ideas: https://www.510families.com/5-drop-activities-east-bay-10-or-less/ 

Try the Epworth playgroups, it’s in a church but not affiliated with any religious organization. https://www.epworthberkeley.org/epworth-playgroups-cvv8

Epworth Methodist Church in Berkeley offers playgroups.  They are wonderful!


Look at the city Parks and Rec department and the library in Berkeley and surrounding cities.

Parks & Rec has drop-in play groups called Wee Play that are free every day. Basically it’s just a bunch of toys in a big room, but it’s a good chance to socialize. They also have a free “Baby and Me” class that’s a little more structured but has a more limited schedule. Alameda also has a wee play program that costs a few dollars. Not sure about other cities.

Libraries have storytime multiple times a week - some of the readers are more enthusiastic than others, but a lot of them are excellent and have songs as well as books. There’s also usually playtime before and after with toys and other toddlers.

If you're open to going to Walnut Creek, ARF has a free monthly drop-in program that sounds like a great option for your daughter. Here are the details from ARF's website:

Animal Tales

Thursday, November 21

9:00 – 9:45am

Monthly on the third Thursday

Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF)

2890 Mitchell Dr, Walnut Creek, CA 94598, USA

Animal Tales is a free program for kids Pre-K and younger where your child can learn about the magic of animals and shelter life from a young age, forming a permanent love for animals.

Join us on the third Thursday of every month from 9 am to 9:45 am for an exciting morning of free play in the Learning Center's Vet Clinic and Pet Store, animal storybook time, and meet & greet with a member of ARF's canine outreach team, the Pet Hug Pack!

No registration necessary

Donations are always welcome, but not required for participation. Children must be supervised at all times - ARF staff is not responsible for supervising the children.

Check out the Kindergym at Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland. My toddler loves it!


Berkeley, Albany, and Oakland libraries all offer drop in music/reading classes - just check out their websites. My nanny loves the programs at the Mosswood Center in Oakland as well.

Sadly these are rare in the Bay Area as space is at a premium (community centers are filled with senior activities and most churches here are small buildings with fixed pews that don't have children's space).  Most of the local libraries have 20-30-min story times or music times, which are free and fun if you just need an outing to break up the day. 

Temple Beth El's Playgroups for Under-3s that are $10-12/each and happen weekdays and Sundays - https://tbaoakland.org/education/kindergym/kindergym-schedule-fees/

Gymboree is another option and if you go a few times per week for music + gym it can be economical to get the unlimited membership. 

I've heard mixed things about The RecRoom in South Berkeley - it's $75/mo and they have guided play in the kids area and parents can work from the space in the adult area.  It runs a couple mornings per week, and drop in is $10/day.  https://www.recroomkids.com/

Check out MCPC Toddler Playtime in north Oakland! It’s not drop in as it runs in sessions but I did it with both my kids and they loved it. You get full access to an amazing preschool space with other parents and kids including an optional snack and circle time facilitated by a teacher. We tried some city-run programs which were fine but MCPC is on a whole other level. I couldn’t recommend it more!

The Berkeley Y was a great resource when my daughter was a baby and toddler. We went several times per week. They have childwatch, a really cool kindergym, and back then they had a music circle. I still have friends and acquaintances from that scene.

There is a great inexpensive music class with "teacher Beth" at the Northbrae Community church (it's not affiliated with the church) on Wednesday mornings. 

Can't say enough about Dawn Margolin at Temple Beth Abraham - it is open to all faiths and really not a religious program at all, but a fun and easy drop in kindergym for toddlers. Songs and fun things for the little ones to do. It's really great and she charges per family rather than per child. She's really got a great sense of that age group and remembers names and is just so kind and sweet. Join up with her. I believe the drop ins are Wednesday and Thursday from 11:15-12pm for toddlers and Wednesday afternoons for three year olds (and almost three year olds) and their siblings. There are also other classes - even sometimes on Sundays. Check it out!