Berkeley Hills Nursery School

Community Subscriber

Berkeley, CA

To see Department of Social Services records on this facility, click on its DSS Facility License # below.

DSS Facility License #
Private non-profit preschool
(510) 849-1216
info [at]
Grizzly Peak/Shasta
Maximum Capacity:
Language(s) Spoken:
Ages Served:
33 months - 60 months
Monthly Cost:
9:00am - 3:00pm
Additional Services & Features:
Sibling discount,
Snacks provided,
Organic options,
Potty training support
About the Program:

Our small play-based nursery school program offers a nurturing, well-supervised environment in which teachers get to know each child as an individual. The children learn independence and are able to develop their social and emotional skills with experienced guidance through play. These skills, along with curriculum guided in part by the childrens' interest, prepare our students for success in elementary school. Our program also incorporates music, movement, and substantial outside play time every day.

Parent Reviews

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Our daughter is in her second year at Berkeley Hills Nursery School, and we feel so grateful she has been able to have such a wonderful preschool experience.  In our mind, the quality of the teachers makes BHNS stand apart.  The teachers treat the children with kindness, fairness, and do so much to help the children learn to interact with each other in socially-appropriate ways.  The teachers are all consistent in their guidance, and as a result the cohort of children understands expectations and thrives at the school.  There are so many fun activities for the children that span a diversity of subjects, from sensory art projects to science explorations to walking trips around the neighborhood for the older children.  Our daughter has relished her time at BHNS from the very beginning, and somewhat to our (selfish) chagrin, weekends are sometimes met with disappointment because preschool days are so beloved.  The facilities at BHNS are idyllic; the school has expansive outdoor play areas in the front and back, with many fun options for gross and fine motor exploration.  There are three rooms inside school, giving the children ample space.  The views of San Francisco Bay and the city add to the somewhat magical, treehouse feeling of the space.  Additionally, the back of the school is connected to a city park (with appropriate security for student safety) which allows children to play together after pickup, enhancing the sense of community.  Our daughter couldn’t be happier in preschool, and we are so glad to have found BHNS!

My son thrives at BHNS! He is in his second year and my other son will start in the Fall of 2024. We could not be happier with our preschool. Here are some things that make BHNS outstanding for our family:

Teachers with decades of experience: The teachers and the Director have 10 - 20+ years of experience. I trust them 100% as experts in their field to help nurture and develop my kids. One teacher even went to this school when she was a kid.

Small class size: My son does well with a smaller, more intimate group of friends that he has gotten to know very well.

Low student to teacher ratio: The teachers are very familiar with where my son excels and where he needs help with his development. They notice if he's having an "off day" and needs extra guidance.

The Director is top-notch and easy to work with: As an example, the Director persevered to secure a $250K grant to improve the buildings and play areas. She makes our "tasks" easy: applying was free and simple, she clearly communicated enrollment steps/forms, her emails are concise, and we have an easy app for payment, check-in/check-out, and photo sharing. She also plays with the kids and knows them well.

Activities are curated: The teachers set up play-based activities that get my son moving and learning. For example, today the kiddos moved through an obstacle course that helped them with balance, and fine and gross motor skills. They also do art, yoga, and walks in the neighborhood. I like that these activities are done as a group and with teacher leadership.

Strong parent community: We have coffee events and impromptu play-dates in the park next to the school. 

We are so happy to have found Berkeley Hills Nursery School!

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!


We feel so lucky to have found BHNS! This lovely school is run by truly passionate early childhood professionals. My son is currently in the Red Room (the younger cohort) and we plan to continue next year in the Blue Room.

BHNS cultures a community amongst the parents and it’s very fun for me to witness the community the kids have as well. While thoroughly play-based, my son has come home excited about writing his name, learning letters etc. Much of the day is spent outside, and the school makes almost daily trips to the park next door. It sounds like the Blue Room takes “field trips” even further afield.

We highly recommend BHNS!

Berkeley Hills Nursery School (BHNS) is a tremendous blessing for our family – the day to day operations influence my son’s development and ultimately his trajectory beyond the preschool experience.  After having gotten through infancy and toddlerhood in COVID lockdown, I wasn’t really sure how to approach socialization for my son.  I spent lock down talking to moms online in support groups, but otherwise had no peer in person support.  Entering the real world of social engagement was a challenge for all family members.  Luckily, we found BHNS! I had no idea how engaging my son would become and presently he is a very outgoing person, according to his teachers and the director.  I thought about leaving Berkeley Hills Nursery School early to send him to a TK program, but I changed my mind after further thought.  I wanted him to stay consistent on this path at BHNS as I valued his socio-behavioral direction and why fix something that wasn’t broken???  This is all so especially important in the wake of COVID isolation.  I highly recommend Berkeley Hills for their kind, supportive and knowledgeable guidance for first time parents.  Again, I can’t say enough about how consistent they are – I never feel like my son had an off day and he never feels glum after school.  He is energized after playing hard and he loves his friends, and he’s only 3 years old!


BHNS is a true hidden gem of a preschool! I actually only heard of it through a BPN announcement email and I’m so glad I did.

When I was initially looking for preschools, my priorities were a small play-based school, with great teachers, and no potty training required for the younger kiddos. BHNS fit the bill perfectly! My daughter is now in her second year at BHNS and loves it. The teachers are warm, caring, accommodating, and very experienced. The kids spend most of their time outdoors (weather permitting) where they have rotating toys and activities to play with. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with some of the hands-on things they do like helping to make easy snacks (eg. mini pizzas, apple muffins) or making their own play-doh. The school is also located right next to Grizzly Peak Park where the kids spend time as well. The older kids (4-5 year olds) go on multiple walks each week to neighboring parks, and occasionally have field trips to Tilden Park.

Kathleen, the school director, is fantastic! She provides excellent communication to parents, knows the kids as well as the teachers do, fosters the overall school community, and ably and capably handles any issues thrown her way. 

I highly recommend this school, and will be sad to leave when my daughter starts kindergarten later this year. 

My son attends Berkeley Hills Nursery School, and we’re very happy there. We chose this school because of its small size; warm, experienced teachers; enriching half-day curriculum; and idyllic setting. My son’s class (the Blue Room) has two teachers and about a dozen children ages 4-5; relating to peers just his age has been great and he and has made fast friends with everyone. My son loves spending most of his day outdoors, playing on the Blue Room’s dedicated playground terraced into the hillside. He especially likes the slide and the sandbox filled with shovels, and he always reports on the activities the teachers have arranged on the picnic table that day. The school gate opens directly onto a pocket park, where the kids eat lunch most days. Two regular activities take place in the park: field days, when the children do an obstacle course or other physical challenge (often with teamwork), and science days, which entail examining and recording things discovered in nature, such as a chrysalis or pinecone. The kids do yoga, practice writing, and take on special projects such as creating a self-portrait. My son very much looks forward to Sharing Day and he always tells us what letter of the alphabet and number they learned about during morning circle. The kids go on frequent field trips to nearby parks – La Loma, Crescent, and Remillard – and think it is very exciting to traverse the paths and stairs that pepper the Berkeley Hills.

Berkeley Hills Nursery School has a charming feel, tucked into the hills under the canopy of large trees and often blanketed in cozy morning fog. My son marches right in with confidence and speaks of his teachers and his classmates with great affection. It has been so wonderful to see him blossom and become more and more plucky and sociable and skillful. We highly recommend it.

My daughter joined the Blue Room at BHNS in the fall of 2021, after her previous preschool had to shut down as a result of Covid impacts and lease expiration. She was devastated about the change, but quickly found a wonderful home at Berkeley Hills Nursery School that allowed her to thrive in her last year before kindergarten. Our daughter loved the time spent in nature - especially the walking field trips, performing experiments at school, and many, many hours of play.

The most important reason I'd recommend BHNS is, of course, the teaching staff. Warm and well-educated, it is clear that the teaching staff cares deeply about providing an enriching and safe environment for the children to learn and grow. Other benefits including a very low student-to-teacher ratio, calm environment, excellent communication from the director Kathleen and great facilities help with these efforts. A tight-knit community of families formed around BHNS bonds, which was another unexpected positive. 

The only downsides are fairly short days and a hard-to-reach location if you don't live nearby. We truly loved it!

My daughter had to move around because of COVID and I couldn't be happier that I found BHNS. The director, Kathleen, and all of the teachers were intentional about supporting my child's transition into a new school and making new friends. She did remarkably well and was happier at this school than either of her two prior preschools. BHNS has strong COVID safety protocols and took every step to ensure the safety of all staff and families. Their quality of care and education is outstanding, as is their communication. This is a place where children are genuinely cared about and get to learn in a playful, joyous environment. My child thrived here; it is a wonderful preschool.

This preschool is amazing. My child moved around a bit due to COVID, but we feel so lucky to have found BHNS! The teachers and director Kathleen are very experienced, loving and intuitive about helping kids as well as guiding them. The classes are small and the teachers can quickly pivot to engage students in learning and activities as well as give careful supervision to keep (and teach) kids' to play nicely. My child picked up some less than desirable behaviors at previous schools and BHNS has been critical to help my child develop into the kind, considerate child we want to raise. My child was never bored and rapt with attention during circle time. Additionally they get lots of outdoor time and even field trips! The result is that kids are happy, loved, learning and so kind. My child loved coming to BHNS (vs hated a previous school) and we are so happy our younger child will get to develop in this loving, nurturing, experienced environment. Kathleen/teachers are very communicative both through sending photos of the day and what they did as well as if there are issues to sort out. The community is close as many kids love to play at Grizzly Peak Park at pickup time. We feel so lucky to have found this hidden gem!

BHNS takes COVID seriously and all the kids and teachers are well masked, mostly if not completely outdoors, and eat outside far apart from each other. There is testing every other week including a guardian. I know my child is at the most safe place to be during these strange times. 

My son attended BHNS for nearly an entire calendar year. I can’t imagine a better preschool. 
The teachers are extremely personable, down-to-earth, and easy to communicate with. Pictures of my kid at school as well as an outline of what was done that day was shared through an app every single day without fail. Any time I had a question, information to share or a concern, the director was incredibly prompt in her replies. I knew my kid was in the care of adults who really knew us as a family and truly care. 
The school is nestled in the Berkeley Hills, as the name suggests. The area is super quiet and is a perfect sanctuary for the kids. One of the school’s entrances is right in a cute little park that the school uses as a bonus space. It’s great for a little extra socializing after school, even I made a friend at BHNS! 
The school is strongly play-based but is not lacking in curriculum at all. My son didn’t have any writing or letters when he started and now I’m confident that he has a strong foundation going into kindergarten. 
The Covid precautions are also spectacular. Testing 2x a month and masks all the time. I really felt my kid was safe there on every possible level. 
I just can’t recommend this school enough, and I can’t wait to send my younger child there!

Our family is so grateful to have found Berkeley Hills Nursery School. We searched for a place that we could all feel at home, and we certainly found it. My daughter adores her teachers, fellow students, and the overall atmosphere of the school. She literally runs out the door every morning.

BHNS has such a great balance of free play and more structured projects. I love getting the daily reports everyday where I can see all the fun activities my daughter enjoys: yoga, making pizza, learning Spanish, creating books, self-portraits, etc.

The school’s director, Kathleen, does an amazing job keeping everything running smoothly, and we always feel very updated on our daughter’s progress. She has also made us feel very comfortable sending our daughter to school during COVID. The safety precautions they take are the best I’ve seen around for a preschool. The admissions process for the school was also quite low stress, which was a huge plus for our busy family.

BHNS has become like a second home for us, even in just the last few months. We feel very much a part of a warm community, which is a huge plus for us as a family that is new to Berkeley. I’m so grateful we found this wonderful gem of a school for our daughter.

The short version: Berkeley Hills Nursery School is a magical preschool run by warm, caring, super-experienced teachers and a wonderful director, Kathleen. They have a welcoming “campus,” nestled in the hills and surrounded by big trees. There’s so much for the kids to do on school grounds, and the teachers make use of all the wonderful public parks nearby. (The school is immediately adjacent to Grizzly Peak Park, with its slide, sand pit, and field for running and playing tag.) The parent community is laid-back and supportive. Our family adores this place.

The long version: My older child joined the “Blue Room” (for ages 4-5) at BHNS mid-year (in January 2019). We had just moved to the area AND had an infant – lots of transitions! The teachers in the Blue Room supported our older child through all of this—giving him the structure and compassion and warmth he needed. He absolutely loved his time at BHNS. Sadly, the school had to close for the pandemic in March of 2020, cutting his year short, but he was well-prepared for kindergarten the next year. 

Despite moving twenty minutes away in the interim, we decided to send our younger child to BHNS’s “Red Room” (for ages 3-4) this year. To us, the commute is worth it: the school has such a lovely, spacious outdoor area that the kids spend much of their time outside—a HUGE benefit in the pandemic. (When they’re inside—usually because of rain—they have a MERV HVAC filtration system going, as well as stand-alone air filters.) Our younger child now looks forward to school every day, and he’s absolutely blossomed in just a few months there. The Red Room always seems remarkably calm and happy, with teachers Nancy and Nisha and the children playing and sharing and singing and planting pumpkin seeds to watch them grow.

Dream preschool, hands down!  

My daughter has attended play-based Berkeley Hills Nursery School since September. She loves her teachers and her classmates. Their current group is small due to Covid. The kids are able to spend the majority of their day outside. My daughter is clearly energized from her time at the school each day.  She comes home with stories of the other children, games she's learned, and art she's working on. She's also learning how to take turns, how to share, etc. I also really appreciate the daily notes parents get about the things the kids did each day. (Pictures too!) The teachers are so caring and kind with each kiddo. And bonus: they provide healthy snacks and support with potty-training if needed. We plan on sending my son to BHNS when he is old enough as well. 

Berkeley Hills Nursery School is a dream! We toured quite a few preschools and as soon as we came here, we knew it was a perfect fit.  The teachers and the Director Kathleen are caring, kind, and all around amazing with our child.  Our son entered as a very shy 3.5 year old and is emerging as a confident 5 year old.  The play base learning is perfect for our son and we are so incredibly happy to have found this gem of a school.  They have taught him so much in terms of education and also invaluable lessons about creating relationships with his peers.  

Berkeley Hills is a hidden gem of a preschool. When we were first looking for a preschool for my son, I read an article that said something along the lines of, "judge a preschool by how the class is when you walk in. Are the kids all engaged in various activities, playing nicely and treating each other kindly? Look for that." This could not be more true at Berkeley Hills. The school is play based which is so important for these ages. The kid to teacher ratio is small and the teachers and directors are all wonderful. They seem to truly love their jobs and the kids and always seem happy to be there. My son just started kindergarten and the teachers did a really great job preparing him, despite everything being play-based. The kids get a lot of outside play time which is very important to us, and they have a lot of fun "extras" like music class, cooking, field trips, etc. We are on year 3 out of 5 sending our kids there and I have never once walked away from school not thinking they were in incredibly caring and nurturing hands, which at the end of the day is all you really want for your children.

BHNS has a lot to recommend. Caring and experienced teachers, who have the whole child in mind. An amazing outdoor space. Themed weeks to keep everything fresh. The school is safe, located on a quiet street near a tiny park, set on bedrock nestled up in the hills. For the family who has a flexible work schedule, and is able to drop off at 9am and pickup at 1 or 3pm, it's a no brainer. One friend said, and I think it's true: "If you want a well-balanced, socialized, kind child, send them to Berkeley Hills."

I think that they have limited space for Fall 2021. 

This school is wonderful. 

We first heard about Berkeley Hills Nursery School through the recommendation of our older son’s closing preschool, Gay Austin. When we visited the campus, we knew this was "the one." It’s a small campus with beautiful outdoor spaces with really fun play structures. The inside classrooms have plenty of toys well organized and a very fun and happy atmosphere. The teachers are experienced, smart, and warm. The director is wonderful, so responsive and communicative. She responds thoughtfully to emails, calls, etc. in a timely manner and I feel like we have a great relationship. 

When Covid hit and shut everything down, we found BHNS to be in line with our response of being extra cautious and protecting our kids and community. Upon reopening, they are everything we could have asked for. Weather permitting (which is all the time in the Bay Area) they are playing in their beautiful outdoor play areas, everyone is wearing a mask, teachers are vaccinated, and it’s a small cohort. Even with all these “restrictions” in place, my son has thrived and grown so much there. He LOVES going to school and is disappointed when the weekend rolls around. He has made dear friends and has gained a lot of confidence in art and trying new things. It’s truly a second home for him. The program is play based, keeping it very fun and imaginative, and the approach they take to discipline, praise, learning all aligns with our wishes for our son. Pandemic or not, I can’t more highly recommend Berkeley Hills Nursery School. We feel lucky to have found it.

We adore this school. Absolutely adore it. And so does our child. 

 When we visited Berkeley Hills, we were immediately struck by the lovely outdoor play spaces (the "castle," as our son calls it) and the warmly engaging classroom. But, really, a school is all about the people, and the people at Berkeley Hills make it the wonderful place it is. The teachers here are caring and creative. The depth and breadth of their experience is evident in the classroom they maintain, which manages to be both a lively and a peaceful place. When I've volunteered at the school, I've watched them handle all the usual challenges (conflicts between children, children drifting away from their projects, etc.) with warmth and aplomb. They clearly have in mind each child's strengths and challenges, and as a result, they seem to know precisely how and when to intervene with guidance and encouragement. They give the children enough structure to feel secure and enough space to become absorbed in that essential developmental "work," play. This is a place where curiosity flourishes and friendships blossom.  It's no surprise, then, that our son has thrived at Berkeley Hills. He started at the school mid-way through last year, when we had just moved across the country AND had a new baby. Needless to say, he was dealing with a lot of transitions all at once. I was apprehensive about how he would settle in. But with the support of the teachers and the school's director, Kathleen, he navigated the transition with ease. He has become a confident and competent classroom citizen, as well as a caring friend to others, and he looks forward to school every day. Meanwhile, Kathleen and the teachers have helped us feel supported and informed as parents.  Over the summer, we moved up to north El Cerrito from Berkeley, but there was no question in our minds that our son would be staying at Berkeley Hills. It's just that a wonderful community, and we're grateful to be a part of it! Our son will be well-prepared for kindergarten in the fall, but we will be sad to leave Berkeley Hills! 

I am a parent of two kids, both currently enrolled at Berkeley Hills Nursery School. We are a family of educators, and after an arduous two year search for the perfect early childhood program for our kids, I found Kathleen, and her incredible team at Berkeley Hills :). 

At the program level, every aspect of BHNS is intentional and child-centered. Children are nurtured through facilitated relationship building, play, art, science, cooking, imagination, motor and life skills. They honor the outdoors, and facilitate so many beautiful experiences that connect children to nature. Each child's unique interests are seen, and expanded on through teacher facilitated inquiry. The love for reading and storytelling is a core part of this program as well, and the teachers are masterful at celebrating the diversity of the world and every student through literature. 

The teaching staff are the heart of this incredible place. Each teacher is an expert in their craft, understanding the unique needs of each child and how to best honor them as individuals and as a larger community, and challenge them appropriately. Along with their intellectual expertise is a true love for teaching and learning alongside their young people. I have worked in many school settings, and have not met a kinder, more responsive, and intuitive teaching team.  

One of the more intangible pieces to this magical place, is seeing joy radiate from not only my kids, but all of their classmates, when I walk through the gate at the end of the day to bring them home.The BHNS team honors and celebrates all families, and we are so proud to be one of them. I am grateful every day that I found Berkeley Hills Nursery School :)!

Berkeley Hills Nursery School will always hold a special place in our hearts. Our son, now a confident, well-balanced Kindergartener, started as a shy child in the Red Room, and recently graduated from the Blue Room. Our daughter also spent a wonderful year in the Red Room. The school has a well-balaced curriculum, with play being an integral part of the day. They have grown academically--learning how to from words and sentences, basic reading and writing, having fun with numbers--but most importantly socially. They have learned one of the most important skills--how to make a friend and be a friend.

Every teacher in the school is amazing. They are doing what they do just for the love of it. They are attentive to every child, and makes an effort of keeping the parents involved in their child's development. The size of the school was one of the most attractive features. The classrooms are split by age and development, which helps a child be surrounded with peers and get prepared for Kindergarten. 

Both classrooms are filled with natural light and the play structures are adorable. The Grizzly Peak Park is also a nice benefit of the location. The Blue Room class went on regular field trips along the Berkeley Paths, which were always a hit with the children. 

Lastly, the community! Our entire family has built friendships that we cherish. We will always be grateful for the warmth, kindness and friendships our family has received at BHNS. 

I sent both my kids to BHNS. They learned basic counting, the alphabet and how to write their names. Loved it there!

We're a family of 5 and have tried just about every pre-school in the Berkeley area over the years. We feel unlucky we didn't try BHNS until our last one - it was our favorite! Here's what we loved: 

First and foremost, the staff, when combined with the overall small size of the school, is absolutely spectacular. They got to know our little one so well - check ins with the teachers were as frequent as we'd like, and were always detailed, patient, and showed a deep understanding of the specific needs and personality of our child. And moreover - what we really always want - is to truly feel that the teachers our kids spend so much time with truly value and care for who they are - this school exudes LOVE!

The size of the school overall was a little mentioned selling point. Since they don't have that many students enrolled, this place really feels like home after only a short while of getting to know everyone. Year in and year out, what a lovely community they foster.  

The campus itself is adorable. Tucked away in the Berkeley hills (aptly named), the school campus is intertwined with a perfectly manageable park, and the campus itself is well maintained, ample and interesting inside and out. We also LOVED that many of the toys are seemingly meticulously maintained older toys - sturdy, wholesome toys from the past that are brand new to the kids. A lot of thought and care goes into maintaining all of the materials. 

And while it is a play based curriculum, we felt like our child got the best sort of positive exposure to letters, sounds, and the beginnings of reading and writing. We loved how they let the child take the lead on their learning and always found a way to integrate the active learners! Read alouds were by far the best part of our child’s days sometimes-learning about kindness, empathy, emotions through multicultural diverse literature thoughtfully handpicked by the staff. Berkeley Hills Nursery is such a well kept secret-but it deserves to be shared because the time there is such a precious gift for your little one.

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

We have been driving our boys from Alameda to Berkeley Hills Nursery School for 3 years now, and aside from occasionally wishing, at 7:00 a.m. that we owned a helicopter, couldn't be happier with the decision. My sensitive older son is now in Kindergarten, and he flourished while at BHNS. His imagination was nurtured as was his social/emotional development, and he left in perfect shape for Kindergarten. He has a true curiosity and love of learning which was sparked during his years at BHNS. What more could you hope for a child entering elementary school? My youngest is now finishing his first year (in the Red Room) and his very different personality has also blossomed under the loving and incredibly experienced guidance of the teachers and director. The teachers know each child's strengths and are in constant contact with parents. I feel strongly that a child's first school experience can influence greatly their future happiness and success, and BHNS has been a rock-solid foundation and stepping stone into the world of primary education. The program has a play based, Reggio Emilia-inspired curriculum and is a developmentally appropriate balance of play and learning without too much pressure on the latter. Absolutely worth the commute!!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Feb 2015

BHNS is the most amazing place! I have one child who finished and another there now, and I don't have enough good things to say about our experience. Both of my children(with very different personalities) have thrived there. When I was looking at preschools a parent at BHNS told me it was ''like walking in to a big hug'' and that's really how it feels without being schmaltzy.

The teachers are kind, patient, loving and fun. Yet they also calmly guide the children to be independent and capable little people. As if all this wasn't enough the parent community is also wonderful. I have made many lifelong friends amongst the parents-something so rare as we get older.

When my son went to kindergarten with a few other BHNS kids his new teachers remarked at how they were a particularly kind and considerate group. Somehow the school is able to foster such camaraderie and kindness amongst these 3-5 year olds. It really is wonderful to see.

In short, it's just a wonderful place! Oh, and their music teacher is awesome!! Big Fan of BHNS!

May 2014


My family is just ending 3 years with our daughters at Berkeley Hills Nursery School. I am generally one to complain about everything, but not about this place. The quality of the teachers - all the teachers - is outstanding. One thing I love about them is that they lean more towards intelligent than sweet. Not that they aren't perfectly kind to the children, but they back it up with years of experience, education, and savvy. Always willing to help with new behaviours that your little ones may throw at you. Nice shady play-yards, and being adjacent to one of the small city parks means that it's easy to become part of the parent community. You don't have to leave at closing time - you can hang out in the park. We avoided hours of TV doing this. A well-run pre-K education, even while being play-based, my daughters learned beginning reading, spelling, writing, and math skills, and of course great socialization skills! I'm gonna miss this place. anon

Jan 2013

My wife and I looked at a number of preschools for our son - the number of options in our area is pretty overwhelming, and it was a stressful experience - but after we visited Berkeley Hills, she summed it up perfectly: ''This is exactly what preschool should be.'' That is, a warm and welcoming place filled with loving teachers, happy kids, myriad opportunities for learning, and plenty of play, play, PLAY!

Unlike many other play-based preschools we visited, where it sometimes felt like the inmates were running the asylum, there's a well-ordered calmness to Berkeley Hills that brings a healthy balance and structure to the freedom and exuberance of the kids' play. The classroom is always tidy and well-organized, and kids quickly learn routines that foster self-reliance and help their mornings run like clockwork. The teachers have fantastic new projects for the kids every day, and many of their activities focus on seasonal themes (as I write this in January, the kids have just completed their exploration of penguins, which involved many penguin-oriented art projects and books). It's a great balance of structured activities and free time that allows the kids to explore their own interests and develop friendships.

So halfway through our son's year in the Red Room, we couldn't be happier. He's a shy kid and something of a homebody, but he can't wait to get out the door to school in the morning, and he comes home happy and energized every single day. He has bonded like crazy with his teachers, and I am particularly grateful to them for their calm and loving handling of the mild separation anxiety he had in the early weeks of school (they were especially reassuring with me as well, and I probably needed it more than him!).

Berkeley Hills also manages to attract really great families - fun kids who have become close friends to our son, and great parents we have really enjoyed getting to know. It's a wonderful community, and we encourage any prospective parents to contact Terry and come by for a visit. Berkeley Hills Dad

Nov 2012

After seeing a few posts on BPN from parents looking for an excellent, warm, play-based preschool for their children, I felt compelled to put in a plug for Berkeley Hills Nursery School.

We moved to the Bay Area this summer, so finding a good match for our soon to be 3 year-old was a definite concern of mine. I was so pleased to find Berkeley Hills - and even happier that they were glad to accept my two year-old to the program (pre-potty training and all!).

Well, three months in and I feel like we have found a surrogate extended family down here. The teachers are insightful, well-versed in child development, and most importantly LOVE our child. He is greeted with hugs and enthusiasm when we arrive every morning. The day is filled with regularly scheduled activities like circle time, stories, and lunch, as well as creative activities the teachers (and even parents) come up with to support what the kids are currently interested in. When I come to pick up my child in the afternoon, I always hear a funny or touching story about something he did that day. Literally every day for the first three weeks of school, he would walk out at the end of the day declaring ''Mom, school was great!'' And this is a child who had previously never been away from me more than a few hours at a time.

Other things I love about Berkeley Hills: parent involvement is welcomed and encouraged, but not to an extent that demands too much of mom and dad's precious time. The community of parents is wonderful and quite social. The days/hours are flexible if you sometimes need a little extra time. Honestly, I just can't say enough positive things about the school. If you are looking for a supportive, close-knit community for your child next fall, please check out Berkeley Hills Nursery School. You won't be disappointed. Happy BHNS parent

Feb 2012

I would like to encourage anyone in need of a Pre-k or 3-4 year old program for their child to look into Berkeley Hills Nursery School! Both of my children have flourished there. Every morning they eagerly ask if it's ''a school day.''

The teachers have created a warm, nurturing environment that my children have always felt extremely comfortable in since day one. The atmosphere is upbeat and fun, with numerous activities to satisfy all the children's interests.

The teachers more than adequately prepared my oldest child for kindergarten. Important kindergarten readiness skills were cleverly woven into their everyday activities. The children learn to focus and listen during circle time and work out various social dilemmas during group discussions.

This has been an extremely happy place for my entire family. The sense of community is great, and we've made connections that will last a lifetime. Happy Parent

Feb 2012

Dear Parents,

I am pleased to let you know that Berkeley Hills Nursery School has openings this fall for children who will be 4 years old by September 2012.

I am the father of 2 kids who went through Berkeley Hills, the second of whom will finish this summer.

We could not be happier with our experience here. The teachers are extremely dedicated to their mission and seem to be constantly adding to their skills in providing a well-rounded play-based experience for all the children in their care. Our children could not wait for each school day to begin and bolted out the door to get there.

Our oldest child is in now in 1st grade. Her experience at Berkeley Hills Nursery School more than prepared her for elementary school. Her transition was seamless and she entered kindergarten confident, ready to learn and better prepared than most of her classmates.

I strongly encourage you to consider Berkeley Hills Nursery School. Visit their classes, speak to the teachers and any of the parents.

I could go on and on but feel free to contact me with any questions. Jay

Oct 2010

Re: Pre-K going horribly for almost 5 year old boy
Just wanted to put in a good word for Berkeley Hills Nursery School. I know from personal experience that this school works with children and families to meet the needs of each child. There are current openings in the 4-5 year old room. The program in play based and very aware of the energy that 4-5 year old boys (and girls!) have. The teachers' approach to the children is very hands on and they quite successfully engage the children in play, allow for creative exploration, and redirect behavior in a loving, yet firm manner. Check it might be perfect for your son! Happy BHNS Parent

August 2010

Re: Preschool in North Oakland or surroundings?
Have you discovered Berkeley Hills Nursery School? (1161 Sterling Ave., Berkeley;; (510) 849-1216). We've had one child there the last 2 years and another entering this fall. We have loved every day there, as has our older child! The directors are fantastic, the teachers enthusiastic and the parent community supportive and fun. We highly recommend Berkeley Hills Nursery School and strongly encourage you to contact them. BHNS Fan

August 2010

Re: Preschool in North Oakland or surroundings?
Hi! My son, who recently turned 4, has been attending Berkeley Hills Nursery School for the past year and we love it. The 3 teachers in each of 2 classrooms are very good--engaged, caring, and experienced. The program is balanced between free play and structured projects, which become more elaborate in the 4- and 5-year-old classroom, and what we've especially appreciated is the social development. The teachers are excellent at facilitating the interactions between the kids, teaching them how to get along and work things out, and making their behavior expectations clear. The kids seem so nice and well-adjusted, and I really do chalk a lot of it up to how the teachers handle the classes. It's a charming little school, not too big, and the play yard for the 4- and 5-year olds has a really neat structure built into the hillside! They happen to have some openings in the 4-and-5-year-old room for fall, because a bunch of the kids from last year are staying in the younger kids' room as they are not turning 4 in time to move up. School goes from 9-1, but on Tues, Wed & Thurs you can do extra hours (''cozy time'') till 3 pm, and on Monday afternoons the 4- and 5-year-olds go to their own class at Lawrence Hall of Science. The school is next door to a cute little park where parents and kids tend to hang out after school, so it's easy to get to know the other families. Check out their website and give them a call! Happy BHNS parent

Sept 2009

Re: Play based pre-school for 2.9 year old
I can highly recommend Berkeley Hills Nursery School ( We were very impressed with our child's play-based development in the Red Room (ages 2.9-4) and are even more thrilled by the progress we see in the Blue Room (ages 4-5). The directors, Terry and Franca, are very experienced and their staff is excellent. I encourage you to contact the school, pay a visit and talk with some of the parents whose children are in or have been in this wonderful pre-school. Happy, happy BHNS parent

March 2009

Has anyone had a child recently attend Berkeley Hills Nursery School (BHNS)? Likes and dislikes? Did you look at other programs? Did your child attend public or private school after BHNS? Are alumni/enrolled families satisfied with their experiences there? Would you recommend the school? -Thank you

My son is in his last of three years at BHNS and we have loved the school. The teachers are caring and loving. The curriculumm is engaging. The music teacher that comes in is very good and my son and his classmates all go to Lawrence Hall of Science for classes after school on Monday. My son loves the Blue Room playground. The community that BHNS fosters is wonderful. We will cherish our friends we have made and continue our friendships once we leave the school. I can highly recommend BHNS. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. -Jennifer

We feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to send both our kids to Berkeley Hills Nursery School. I highly recommend it! Of course, we looked at ALL pre- schools (from that catalog) and finally settled on BHNS because 'it just felt right'. It is a two year program with little ones starting in the ''red room'', where my son is now, and then moving to the ''blue room''. The co-directors, Terry and Franca are a wonderful pair, bringing decades of pre-school experience with playful curiosity and exploration to integrate innovative ideas. I can't say enough good things about ALL the teachers! They each have their unique & wonderful personality, and all are loving, nurturing, fun, consistent, and provide a safe, caring environment for the kids. What is great about the program is that there is some structure and lots of free play, allowing the kids to explore all sorts of arts medium, dress up play, building projects, cooking, while introducing routine & personal responsibility. The teachers also do an extraordinary job of fostering positive social behavior among the students. I've had feedback from teachers at Elementary schools who have said how well adjusted and prepared for Kindergarten the children from BHNS are. Parents are invited to participate as they like and the parent community is amazingly supportive with lots of gatherings to foster community. The after-care (called Cozy) that extends to 3:00 is very popular with lovely, consistent after-school teachers. The physical environment is refreshing with clean air, filtered by the stately oak trees surrounding the property. As you can see, I highly recommend BHNS!

Where do kids go? Children go on to both private and public schools. We are in the Berkeley public schools, others in Albany, Orinda, etc. Good luck! js

Our daughter is the Red Room at BHNS and we are thrilled. This was our first choice so I can not offer a comparison to other schools, but we are confident that it is an excellent fit for us. The teachers are attentive and positive and we've seen a great deal of growth in our daughter. She looks forward to school each day. I would definitely recommend BHNS and wish you all the best in your search. BHNS dad

Our son has been at Berkeley Hills for the past 3 years and we just love it. The teachers and directors are wonderful offering a nurturing and exciting environment in which to grow. The Red Room provides a great and safe place to establish strong socialization skills and readies them for the Blue Room and all the dynamic things they do there to prepare for kindergarten. The sense of community is very strong and the school and parents work very hard at keeping it that way (although you certainly can choose how much, or little, you get involved). If I had to say what the one thing that sets BHNS apart from all other nursery schools, I would say the incredible teachers. They are so dedicated to the development of your child, and making their experience rich in every way, I honestly feel so lucky to have found it for my son. The second would be the community of parents.

Maybe this simple exchange I had today with a first year parent will shed some light. I gave a talk at the first orientation meeting at the beginning of the school year. I started this talk out by saying (with a smile, being both serious and silly) kCongratulations, you just chose the best nursery school in the worldm. This parent told me she thought kWell thatms a bit presumptuousm. But today she told me she totally gets how come I said it, because that is exactly how she now feels. BHNS parent and lovin' it

I wanted to share our family's wonderful experience with Berkeley Hills Nursery School. My 1st son has a late November birthday, so I was on the line of whether or not to start him in pre-school when he was 2 years old. When we found BHNS any doubt was put to rest. The school has a small cozy feel to it. All of the teachers have truly helped him really come into his own. The school is divided into two classrooms, the 'Red Room' & the 'Blue Room'. The classrooms are well equipped with everything a child needs to have fun, express themselves and make friends all while learning is taking place. The teachers have also helped us as parents. They are always there for us to ask advise about everything from behavior questions to fantastic help with potty training. I have also truly enjoyed all of the families we have met thru BHNS. It is a very eclectic, fun and involved school community. I am sure we have made some life-long friends at the school. I joke that between my 2 boys, we will be a 5 year family, but I have really enjoyed my time so far and am looking forward to the next few years as well. Berkeley Hills Nursery School is located off of Grizzly Peak Blvd., near the Shasta entrance. They have a website and the phone number is 510- 849-1216. Terry and Franca are the school directors. If you are looking for a preschool that is truly a nurturing environment, I strongly suggest you take a look at BHNS. Signed: Betsy F.

March 2007

If you are considering Berkeley Hill Nursery School as a choice for your pre-schooler, I think you will be very happy. My 3 1/2 year old son has been going since September and just loves it. He loves his teachers very much and has grown tremendously since attending. He comes home excited every day and tells us what they played with or learned in school. Lately they have been learning about maps and it is so cute to hear how much fun he has had and how much he has absorbed. The teachers have BHNS have a wealth of knowledge and experience. They teach the children through play, art, music and conversations. They let the children's interest guide them in what subjects they do next.

As a parent I love how BHNS fosters community. We have parent socials to get to know each other better. We have had pot lucks, Mom's nights out and coffee socials. Because you gained this new community of friends, you feel comfortable leaving your child for play dates. When you switch off which family takes the kids, you get yourself some extra free time! All in all it has been a wonderful experience for the whole family and I can highly recommend BHNS. jennifer

Feb 2006

We are considering Berkeley Hills Nursery School and wondered if anyone has any current opinions and information about it. deborah

We are into our second year at Berkeley Hills Nursery School and have been very happy. My daugher has thrived there. The teachers are wonderful and the parent community is great. It's a little different than most preschools in that it runs on a 10 month schedule and is not set up really for full-time working parents. It's fairly expensive but I think it's worth it. The children seem truly happy and are having fun. The teachers have been there for a very long time and have a great rapport with the children. It's a play-based curriculum and they get into more pre-K stuff with the older children. The kids are all kind to one another and treat each other with respect. I believe the socialization aspect of this preschool is a big success. Good luck in your search. BHNS parent

My child was a student at BHNS for two years. There are many wonderful things about the school although I have criticisms as well. It obviously depends what you are looking for. The second year, The Blue Room, was much better for us and our child, in every way. The teachers seemed more engaged, the projects and activities more energized, there were fewer silly rules (fo r the parents as to what the kids could wear, how to pack their lunch, etc) and there is more space for the kids. The schedule is difficult if both parents work (maximum day to 3:00 4x/week and until 1pm on Friday) and lots of vacation. I think the kids are happy. We wish we got more feedback. Our child liked it there, made friends and was more than prepared for kindergarten. We just didn't find the Red Room that inspiring. There are new teachers for the afternoon program (1-3pm) that people adore. Many people however love the school in general. Good luck. Anon.


June 2002


Re: Preschools with good playgrounds
I was pretty impressed with Berkeley Hills Nursery school--they have an interesting set-up regarding the outdoor area. One area is on multiple and safe levels. Another area is flat with slides, swings, bouncy, springy things. And, a sweet little park abuts the school on one side. It is located in the North Berkeley hills, kind of a trek but a wonderful school nonetheless. marquezfan


July 2000

To the mother (and others) interested in Berkeley Hills Nursery School - we've been there for the last five years with our two daughters, and recommend it highly to those parents whose work schedule or other childcare arrangements can accommodate a traditional nursery school (rather than full time day care) schedule of 9 to 1:00 or 9 to 3:00. The 2-1/2 year old sibling can go to the "Red Room" as little as three days or as many as 5 days a week. The 4-1/2 year old can go to the "Blue Room", which only accepts 5 day a week kids. Last I heard, both rooms are full for next year, but it doesn't hurt to check. The directors, Liz and Terry, have 20 years of experience, and they and the similarly experienced, loving, thoughtful teachers run a child-centered developmental program which has been a dream come true. It's a very calm, caring, nurturing environment. Children learn to get along with each other, play cooperatively and imaginatively. Call 849-1216 for more information. Natasha



April 1999

I have an idea for a pre-k program for the unique and spirited 4 year old. Talk to Terry Gillan at Berkeley Hills Nursery School. They went the extra distance for my son a couple of years ago, who is incredibly charming and very likable, and also has a serious case of adhd and some quirky learning issues. I suggest you be very up front with Terry, and tell her you got her name from an alum in her class of '97. Good Luck! GB



April 1997

Wanted to put in a plug for our daughter's preschool, Berkeley Hills Nursery School. It is located off Shasta, below Grizzly Peak, in a pleasant woodsy neighborhood. There are two classes, the "Red Room" for 2-1/2 to 4 year olds, and the "Blue Room" for 4 to 5 year olds. Each classroom has 15 to 20 kids, with three teachers. The approach is developmental, the atmosphere is cozy, calm, and nurturing, and they strike the right balance (for us) between structured activities and creative play. The regular hours are 9 to 1 Monday to Friday, with the option of an earlier drop-off and extended care until 3 p.m. Cost is not as high as Step One, but in the mid to high range. The approach to fund-raising is low-key, people are friendly, the kids are great. Natasha