Berkeley Hills Nursery School

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
berkhillsschool [at]
Grizzly Peak/Shasta
Maximum Capacity: 
Language(s) Spoken: 
Ages Served: 
33 months - 60 months
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri

Parent Reviews

Parents, Sign in to post a review on this page.

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!!

My child is about to complete her second year in the Red Room at Berkeley Hills Nursery School and it's been such a wonderful, warm experience. As the other reviews mention, BHNS is devoted to playing, exploring and fostering creativity. Every week focuses on a fun theme from bugs and dragons to colors and counting. Located in the Hills (we live in the flats) it is worth the extra 10 minute drive every morning to the beautiful, almost forest-like location in the trees. The teachers are extremely loving, fun and gentle. Because of her Fall birthday, my daughter repeated this year in the Red Room to join her school year. Despite our initial anxieties over repeating the year and finding it boring, she has continued to thrive, develop new skills (writing, early reading) and have fun with new friends. The Blue Room (for 5-6 year olds) is slightly more structured like a TK class with a play-based plan to prepare them for kindergarten. As other parents mention, the best part about BHNS is the amazing community. We are a tight knit group that supports one another. As a result, you feel motivated to become involved and actively engaged in your child's learning experience as well as that of their peers. Our youngest will start BHNS in a few years and we are looking forward to the next generation!

My children have spent a total of almost six years at BHNS, and I can honestly say that our family has been more and more impressed by this school with each year. BHNS offer a rare combination of structure and happiness. The teachers are hugely experienced but still enthusiastic, committed, and attentive to each child's unique personality and needs. I have never walked into any classroom, at any time, when the children were not happily engaged with each other and with a wide variety of interesting games, art supplies, books or projects. Over the years, different families have graduated and new ones have joined, but somehow the core feeling of the community has remained consistently strong. This is a school that elicits a lot of loyalty, because so many kids - including ones who have been unhappy elsewhere - have thrived here. It is a special place.

My daughter is in her first year at BHNS, and we are so happy we decided to send her there. The school is nestled up in the wooded hills with an amazing view of the bay. You really feel like you're in a tree fort up there. The teachers and director are outstanding and the play-based curriculum is the perfect balance: lots of creative freedom yet they also are actively preparing the kids for kindergarten.
As an added bonus they help with potty training! Can't recommend highly enough!!

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