Seeking a Preschool for 18-24 month old

Parent Q&A

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  • I am new to this and would love to hear your recommendations for best daycares in Berkeley. I am already looking at Step One and Bright Horizons. My daughter is 19 months now. Thanks 

    Hard to say without knowing what you think "best" means. You should check out the Aquatic Park School. 

    We sent both of our kids to Hearts Leap, which is part of the International Child Resource Institute. There are two schools and they have several sister schools. It's one of the higher priced preschools, but the environment is nurturing and loving and the teachers are excellent. 

    I highly recommend Step One. Super warm environment for the kids and community for the parents. I can’t say enough good things about the teachers. Anthony is the older brother everyone wishes they had. 

    I highly recommend Monteverde School, a play-based school, located  in the Elmwood area. It’s a warm, nurturing school, with kind and talented teachers. It also multicultural and they incorporate an anti- bias curriculum. They also provide partial scholarships. My son thrive there as a student. 

    We love Monteverde! They are Reggio Emilio based, a fantastic philosophy that involves respecting and trusting children with their innate abilities. They support curiosity, exploration, conflict resolution while supporting and meeting every child in their own growth stage. We moved to east bay from San Francisco, and I was researching Reggio Emilia schools here in east bay. We loved the place as soon as we saw it. Kristen (the director) was so good at listening and really answering all my questions! We could not be happier with our choice. Our child who is in her second year there now, has developed so much positive emotional growth. We feel so lucky and blessed to have her there, be surrounded by intelligent and caring teachers. We have a second toddler who are hoping that will start next year as well at Monteverde! 

    As a parent of a spirited/wild child, I feel so grateful every time I speak with the teachers regarding to the challenges we might be facing at home. They always use such positive language around some of those commonly taken negative behaviors. Such as; Bossy child is a child that who shows great leadership skills..etc. It's amazing how important all these little things add up to shape our and their perspectives on themselves.  It's a place I believe everyone accepted and loved "just the way they are" while teaching them how to accept one another.

    I sometimes secretly wish I could have gone there as a child myself. Fun and loving place. They should be having an open house soon for applications Fall 2019! I would check their website to watch out for that:

    Good luck on your search! 

    We love Wawasi and want everyone in the Berkeley/Albany community to know how excellent it is. You will not find an atmosphere as personal, or a team as genuinely devoted to your child's happiness, as Wawasi provides. In the one year our son was at Wawasi full-time (age 1 to age 2), he thrived emotionally, cognitively and socially, and even absorbed a lot of Spanish even though he is still on the cusp of speaking in sentences. They are not a "child care provider"--they are a loving community. As a Wawasi parent, you will feel your child is a part of their family. From the quality of the food served every day to the idyllic backyard garden, from the comfortable play and rest spaces, to the activities and projects: a yoga instructor! a harpist! Songs and dances to celebrate the seasons and holidays. Wawasi is a Spanish-immersion program, but as a non-Spanish speaking family ourselves, we never felt alienated by the Spanish orientation. The team is fully bilingual. Art projects for even the youngest children were a constant part of the program. Every day had a clear program of activities, and were thematically linked to one another. Wawasi's unique spirit is a function of its talented, ever devoted, and creative leader Roxy, a Peruvian woman whose joy in life and children is infectious. We were blessed to have her 20-year old daughter on the team, whose energy and temperament were exemplary. She has also employed other members of her family, a younger daughter and niece. We've thought so highly of her team that we continue to call on her niece for babysitting, because our son's attachment to her is still so strong after more than six months apart. Yureny and Leide are also incredibly strong, capable, kind and joyous members of the team. The whole team is youthful, flexible and resilient. She is also completely professional, completely trustworthy in all matters financial. The facility is safe and the block is calm and easy to park on. We were broken up when we left, and only left because we moved too far away to make it practical. We love the parents we met and will always hold Wawasi close to our hearts. For that reason, I urge you to check them out. Though their services are totally reasonably priced, a bargain really, Wawasi's team are the highest quality people you could want caring for your children, modelling behavior for them, and teaching them how to manage their own emotions, they reemotionally big-hearted and even-keeled. Wawasi is a true gem. Look no further.

    My daughter has been in the UCB Early Childhood Education Program, which has 5 different centers, for over 2 years. She's 2 1/2 years old now. We were in the infant and toddler rooms at the Dwight Way center, and recently migrated to Clark Kerr for the older toddler program. We had a few rough patches in terms of staff turnover at Dwight, but I've always been happy with the quality of care and the modern facilities there. The Clark Kerr center is in an older building, but has fantastic access to outdoors space. There's a 1:4 teacher-student ratio, plus lots of extra support from student assistants who are terrific with little kids. But the program has a long waitlist, and we just started our school year.

    I also checked out St. John, which seems to be great at providing individualized care, including transitioning between rooms when the child is ready instead of on a fixed schedule. I almost moved my daughter there except that she was pretty settled into the UCB program by the time a slot opened up.

  • Our daughter is currently in a nanny share that will end in Sept when the other boy starts preschool. At this point, we hope to find a toddler/preschool program that accepts kids under 2yrs (she will be 20 months) that does half day programming, ideally 3 mornings a week. Ideally, the school would be in Oakland, but we may be able to swing other locations. We would like a play-based setting. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated! 

    Children's Workshop Oakland should be able to accept your daughter if there is space.

  • Hello, 

    I am seeking childcare options for my son who is currently 12 months old but Im hoping to enroll him somewhere by the time he is 18 months. 

    Can anyone recommend a daycare or home based daycare that they really like and takes this age with different scheduling options? 

    Thank you in advance!

    We loved Thousand Oaks Child Care with Celia Roe and recommend it highly.  It is a play-based home day care, and our son really thrived there from about 18months old until it was time for preschool when he turned 3.  Celia is so experienced, loving, compassionate, and competent with the children.  Her space is beautiful, laid out in a Montessori style with lots of toys and activities accessible on the shelves for children to choose from.   There are large mats that provide the opportunity for active play.  The toys are mostly made of natural materials, and there are not many electronic toys or plastic.  I love the food culture she models for the children.  She has an outdoor space where the children learn about gardening and actually get to eat the food she grows!  She prepares meals with organic and local ingredients, and emphasizes sitting down at the table together to enjoy meals.  The children spend the days in free play, or reading, listening to music, taking walks, or enjoying the gravel pit and water table Celia sets out on good weather days.  Our son learned to socialize with other kids and still loves to play with his good friend from Celia's.  He remembers Celia and speaks fondly of her.

  • Hello all, 

    My wife and I feel our kid will soon be ready to begin preschool and have begun a search for one that accepts children at 18 months old. We live on the Berkeley/Oakland border and would prefer a preschool close to us. We are also open to these areas: San Leandro, San Lorenzo, El Cerrito, El Sobrante. 

    Really, it is all about the right program. Our kid is showing signs of being slightly ahead in reading comprehension and linguistic skills. 

    Any help is appreciated! 

    Morty Diamond 

    Check out UC Berkeley's Early Childhood Education Program. It is outstanding. You don't have to be a UC Berkeley employee to apply.

  • Do you have a preschool you love that enrolls toddlers at 18 months? Please let me know! We are looking in the Berkeley/Oakland/Albany area. We plan on enrolling our very active son in a preschool when he is 18 months old. We haven't figured out what "style" of teaching we prefer yet. But we just wanted to see what our options are and if anyone has positive recommendations. Thanks! 

    I am looking forward to seeing the responses you get. We are looking at a few daycares/preschools for our 12 month old who I think would thrive in a more active situation then her current nanny share. 

    The Model School in south Berkeley (near Whole Foods) takes them that young. He would start in the toddler room, then move to the Pre-K room when he's potty-trained.  The Model School is one of the most reasonably priced preschools around and they offer very flexible scheduling.  The teachers are loving and they take field trips during the summer.  My daughter had a great year there (then went on to kindergarten).

    I highly recommend The Model School in Berkeley. Both of my kids went there (one starting at 21 months, the other starting at 4 months). They take kids from 3 months to 5 years old, separated into age-group classrooms. The teachers are wonderful. There is also a very active and welcoming parents group.

    The Baby Academy in Oakland! We love it there. Our baby is in the infant room but they also have a toddler/preschool room. 

    Highly recommend Children's Workshop Oakland in Lake Merrit/ Cleaveland Heights area.

    This might be outside your area, but Keystone Montessori in El Cerrito takes 18 month olds. My kids loved it there! It's a great community with lovely committed teachers. Both my kids grew so much there. The Sandpipers class (18 months to 2.5 years) have their own classroom and outdoor area and a very low teacher to student ratio. There are two additional classrooms (2.5 to 4 year olds and 4-6 years old) so we found that there was a really nice progression as the kids grew.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Preschool for 18-month old

Oct 2011

I am looking for a preschool for my son when he is 18 months old. He's currently 7 months old, but loves to play with kids. I was going to wait until his 2nd birthday to enroll him, but I am considering doing so earlier. We are on the waitlist for two excellent preschools, but both start at 2 years of age. Do you know of any preschools that are worth looking into and start at 18 months? I'm open to part-time or full-time possibilities. Mom of active baby

Our daughter (19 months) is at St. Johns Daycare on College Ave at Garber. We LOVE it there! They start with teeny tinies, then move to the ''Wobbly'' room at around 18 months. And then there is a bigger room for the 3-5 year olds. There are tons of activities (from art, to books, to outdoor play, to songs and music, etc.) and the whole atmosphere is very relaxed, loving and fun. She has also been learning things that I never would have thought to teach her at home. Their website is: a parent

Both of my children (now 3 and 5) started attending Grand Lake Montessori shortly after they turned 2. However, they take 18 month olds and I would've gladly put them in there had the timing been right (and space had been available). I love the school -- it's an incredibly nurturning environment and my children have both thrived there. They've learned to be such independent and compassionate children, with such great manners and habits. My daughter was very tentative in starting preschool, but quickly felt at home in the toddler class. The teachers are extraordinary at GLM: I've had great respect for all of the ones my children have had and still have, and most of them have been at the school for many years. The parent community is also wonderful and very welcoming. I feel very lucky that my children have had this experience and although paying for preschool is no fun, GLM has been worth every single penny when I think about how well-spent my childrens' time has been there. Huge Fan of GLM.

Preschool Option for 18-month Old

June 2011

Our daughter will be 18 months old in January and we'd love to find a preschool in Berkeley she can attend a couple of days a week. Any suggestions? Most preschools don't start taking kids until they are 2 or 3 - and she's definitely going to be ready by Jan. Thanks for any advice. John

Our daughter was ready for more social interaction at 18 months as well. We started at Skytown ,, May 2010. Skytown is a play based preschool co-op in Kensington that has a toddler program. They teach the Reggio Emilia approach. We have also taken advantage of their extended day program, until 3 pm, when naps got later & later.

We are about to transition to the preschool room and are looking forward to a relatively smooth move because our daughter knows the room, students, parents and teachers so well. I believe they do monthly tours for prospective families. Lots of options for buyout if co-op hours are not best for your family. Ruth

Toddler-to-Preschool program for 18-month old

April 2010

Please help me find a toddler program (with transition to preschool) for my 18 month old daughter in the Oakland/San Leandro/Hayward/Castro valley area. I have been trying unsuccessfully for 4 months now, and I'm becoming increasingly distraught. What I am looking for is:

1. Center based- not in-home. 2. Not Montessori. 3. Not religious. 4. Play based with structure. 5. Clean, clean, clean. 6. Low staff turn over. 7. Modern facility with spacious indoor and outdoor areas. 8. Minimum of 3 full days of care per week (7:30-5:30)

Blue skies is full... Mills College Children's School is full... is that all there is? I would also be willing to travel farther if necessary. Thank you so much for your suggestions and advice. I really need some help soon- I'm losing all hope. anon

For an Oakland play-based pre-school that is structured and caring, I'd recommenend Chatham School . The Redwood Road campus is spacious (opening more space in the fall too) with library room, music room, role-playing area, a ''circle-time'' area and a lunch area. Ourdoors is either concrete or big sand-box area, but they have toys, balls, bikes, and plenty of space. Lunch is provided, and is varied. Cost is reasonable, and I believe there are 3, 4, and 5 day options.

The staff is great, the director maybe a bit scattered, but they care about the kids. They accommodate infants, toddlers, and pre-school kids, and my son has made some great friends. Note that Chatham also has a lower campus next to Redwood Heights Elementary, but I am not familar with that facility. anon

Sorry missed the original post so not sure where you're looking geographically, but the Mustard Seed Preschool in Berkeley (near Monterey Market) takes kids starting at 18 months old, and my son has thrived there for the last year. It's a program with both structure and play, teachers are wonderfully caring and very involved, and facilities are great. It's not a small school (about 50 kids total) but the youngest class has no more than 10 kids (usually 8) and 2 teachers which is a good ratio. We have been very happy with our experience there. Mustard Seed fan