Bernice and Joe's Playschool

Oakland, CA

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Joseph & Bernice Humbert
(510) 638-3529
joe [at]
Mills College on Sunkist
Maximum Capacity: 
Language(s) Spoken: 
Ages Served: 
24 months - 60 months
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri

Parent Reviews

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Our daughter has gone here for a year and a half (she's 4 now).  Bernice & Joe have handed the school over to Anna, who is amazing, as are all the teachers.  There's an option to have your kid go to a gym class, a Spanish class, and a music class; our daughter loves Spanish and did enjoy gym for a bit.  Beautiful environment, very laid-back, very happy...super-fun and engaged experience.  Can't recommend enough.

Archived Reviews: 

Feb 2015

Hello Parents!!! I'm starting the search for a preschool/playschool for my daughter who will be 2 in a few months. We live relatively close to Bernice and Joes Playschool... So I'd love some reviews. The good and bad would be greatly appreciated!
We just started at Bernice and Joe's. Our son is 31/2 and attends part time and only in the mornings. Overall I have a sense that the school is grounded in the longevity of it's 3+ decades of establishment and that gives me an easy going feeling about it. The teachers are kind and attentive to the kids and communication with me about what is happening is clear and consistent. I'm happy with it being my son's first school experience. faye
My kids both went to Bernice and Joe's and loved it. The teachers are excellent and helped out tremendously with some difficult initial transitions. The outdoor space is fabulous (although I think they recently had to cut some trees down that provided shade). My kids loved the lunch, enjoyed the extra classes and always had a fun time. I personally liked the focus on play as a way to prepare for kindergarten (in the older children). The school was really interested in the social and emotional development of the kids rather than the academic (something I fully support). The freedom for the kids to move between rooms was also great as it gave some independent choice. I believe there is some transition from Joe (current owner/administrator) to Anna (current teacher). Anna is amazing and will make a great director. Not sure how fast this transition is going to happen--you might inquire. Overall, we miss Bernice and Joe's a lot! big B&J fan
I don't have children at Bernice & Joe Playschool, but a few of the children in our Lil' Kickers program attend and they love it! I've visited Bernice & Joe a few times and it's a lovely, creative environment. A bit of a tucked away gem, in my opinion. When I stopped by for a silent auction last year for which we had donated a gift certificate, I had the opportunity to meet Joe. He was very pleasant and welcoming. I haven't had the chance to speak with Bernice, but my correspondence with Joe has always been pleasant. I hope that this helps! Jenise

August 2014

I am writing to say that my son's Pre-school (pronounced Play-school) is an awesome place. Set in a home-like setting the school has been teaching their magic for over 30 years. My almost four year old son is thriving there. They call it a Play school because play is the work of the child, but our boy has learned more than I could imagine. Letter and Number recognition, how to write his name and read his friend's names, social skills, and all the words to a ton of kids' songs I've never heard. The setting is small and the teachers are dedicated to the community of kids as a whole. The kids are offered enrichment classes such as Spanish, music and movement. For us work-class parents the price is right and the program is flexible. I know that there are a few spots open for the fall, if you are looking. Bernice & Joe's Playschool (510) 638-3529

Feb 2013

Re: Any Oakland area preschools that serve lunch?
Hi busy mom! There are two preschools in my neighborhood that serve lunch... Bernice and Joes Playschool on Sunkist serve a vegetarian lunch. Took my son serveral months to get accustomed to it but he's really happy there now. Pumpkin Seed on Greenly is a great preschool too, they serve a seasonal meal with meat. Both are really great schools! If you are close to the Eastmont Hills check them out. Hope that helps and I hope you find what you are looking for .

April 2011

I am looking at Bernice & Joe Playschool as a possible program for my 4-year-old son next year and would like to hear about some recent experiences with the program. Are the staff stable or is there high turnover? How have you experienced the approach to discipline? Is there a balance of play and structure (too much chaos or rigidity)? What kinds of kids would recommend this program for? Thanks for offering your feedback! Neighborhood Mom

Hello, I am a very happy parent at Bernice and Joe's Playschool. My daughter has been attending since she was just short of three, and she loves it. (She's now 4.5). She goes full time, 5 days a week.

You asked: Are the staff stable or is there high turnover?

Staff is stable. The just let a new teacher's aide go, but only after 3-4 months of things not working out. She seemed nice. In my experience, staff have only left for maternity leave. The current staff is terrific -- we love Anna, teacher-Bernice, and the assistant Rebecca. And of course Joe and Bernice have been around for 31 years, which is real stability.

How have you experienced the approach to discipline?

If a kid does something wrong, they gently sit down and engage them in a dialogue. In the few cases where my daughter has done something wrong, they've talked to me about it. When another kid does something that involves my child, they tell me about it. What ever they do, it must be working because the kids all seem happy and like they all get along.

Is there a balance of play and structure (too much chaos or rigidity)?

I think so. Every morning, they have a different array of toys set out for the kids in the kitchen, often on a theme. They do projects, but not too many. My daughter is really into drawing so she brings home reams of paper, but other kids do what they want to (dress up, etc.). There are two circle times which are structured, but lots of time for play. And of course the outdoor space is peerless!

What kinds of kids would recommend this program for?

I think this is a good school for all sorts of kids. I've seen very shy kids and very outgoing kids do well. It really is a play based program, but my daughter is writing the names of most of her classmates and seems on the verge of reading, so it's definitely not limiting her learning.

In short, we are very happy. Joe and Bernice has fostered a community of happy parents and children. My daughter says she likes all of her friends, playing ''castle,'' painting, drawing and ''going green'' (which she explains to me is keeping our Earth healthy). Merrilee

Nov 2009

I am looking for a diverse preschool in East Oakland for my gender-variant child and our queer family. If necessary we could go farther from home, but I'd like to stay nearby if possible. I am only interested in play-based programs and programs where child/adult interactions are informed by the principles of positive discipline (generally). I really hope for a school where my child will learn a lot of Spanish. It's important to me that my child has lots of time to play with and explore the natural world and I can't imagine that a school with a TV would be right for us. I am interested in everything from co-ops to five-day programs, mostly I'm just looking for someplace that feels right where my little one can grow. Looking for the Moon and Stars

Check out Bernice & Joe Playschool, off 580 at Edwards. Seems to have all you're looking for (except maybe a lot of Spanish!). Debbie

My three kids are in a wonderful preschool in East Oakland - off Edwards. Bernice and Joe Preschool. It is completely play based. Loving and compassionate teachers, great atmosphere, and good community of parents. It's a very accepting school. The discipline is kind and understanding. I am constantly amazed at what my kids come home with. I have heard from lots of parents that their kids were well prepared for kindergarten. They have been in business for 25+ years. It is a home with an amazing backyard complete with a boat, space ship, garden, and play house. We are more than happy there. Happy preschool parent

Oct 2008

I am looking for more recent reviews of Bernice and Joe's Playschool. I really like the outdoor space. Are the teachers nurturing, well trained etc? I used to teach preschool myself and is hard to find a preschool that meets all my requirements. Any suggestions of other schools from teachers like myself would be greatly appreciated as well. want the best

Our 4.5 year old son has been at Bernice and Joe's Playschool for two years and our 2 yr old daughter is on the waiting list to begin as soon as possible). We have been very satisfied with the school overall. Bernice and Joe are loving teachers who really tune in to each individual child. There has been a lot of changes in teachers in the time we've been there and they are still looking for a director, but the two teachers who have been there the entire time are WONDERFUL and I like the new staff they have now as well. One thing I do like about the school is they seem to nip staffing problems in the bud, making sure that the teachers agree with their philosophy. I am amazed when I talk with other parents at more pricey schools because they seem all have their own unique set of problems. I think the low-key, shabby atmosphere of the place weeds out ''power parents'' so the parent community is approachable, fun, and easy-going. Our kids are thriving there. Discipline wise, I've had good experiences. I have a very energetic, spirited child and they have been good about telling me daily when we have behavior issues and we all work together to solve them. They do use timeouts but mostly their discipline is very gentle and loving. Sometimes, with my son, I think he might need MORE strict discipline, but we've managed to overcome some big hurdles. The school also provides Spanish, gymnastics and music once a week (outside teachers come in). Overall, we love our school and would recommend it but keep in mind that everyone is different. Proud B parent

Jan 2007

Re: Good preschools in Oakland
Check out Bernice and Joe Playschool (www.berniceandjoe- I think it has everything you are looking for. Our twins thrived there from age 2 to 5. Debbie

December 2006

Re: Preschool near Oakland Zoo/Mills/San Leandro While I do not personally have a child enrolled in this pre-school, I am a neighbor of Bernice & Joe, of Bernice & Joe's Playschool. I know their space. I can attest to their having the most amazing outdoor play space I have ever seen! They seem very loving & caring and the families who drop off seem very content. You may want to check them out online: They are located on Sunkist Drive, off 580 at Edwards Avenue. Good luck!

June 2006

Hi- I checked out Bernice & Joe Playschool in Oakland (off of 580's Edwards Ave) and I think it looks good for my son but would love any additional info on the school itself, teachers, program- whatever, good or bad, please! Thanks much

We did not have a good experience. It was our first preschool experience and I was won over by the great yard. Our two year old daughter didn't nap well and they wouldn't help teach her to or have another alternative for her at nap time. They would say ''she said NO to the teacher''... like that was some kind of a shocking statement from a two year old. At the end of her day when I was there to pick her up, Joe would go through a list of all her ''bad'' deeds right in front of her. And I wouldn't hear about anything positive. The last straw was that after 7 months there, I discovered that they didn't know my daughter could talk. This is a kid who was talking in 3 word sentences at a year old. iamis


Feb 2006

Recently we had a visit to Bernice and Joe's Playschool in Oakland. Wondering if anyone out there has feedback on the school? We thought it was lovely but would like to get some feedback from parents and kids who have attended the school. Thanks Beth


We had a great experience at Bernice & Joe's, but our twins ''graduated'' last year. The school has gone through big changes since then. . . the retirement of one of the founders (Bernice), hiring of a new director, and changes in teaching staff. That being said, the place is wonderful and has a great reputation for ''community.'' I would recommend talking to parents of children currently in the school. Ask Joe to give you phone numbers of members of the Parent Involvement Committee. Debbie


Jan. 2003

Re: Preschools for Vegetarian Children
Bernice and Joe Playschool is off 580 at Edwards and serves vegetarian lunch and snacks. They take kids ages 2 through 5. We have been very happy there. Debbie




My 2 1/2 year old twins go to a preschool part-time called Bernice & Joe Playschool. It is located off the Edwards Ave exit which is right off 580, not far from the exit to the Oakland Zoo. They offer part-time and full time. My children love it there! It's located in the owners former residence so the kids feel right at home. Rose



October 1998

I've had three kids at Bernice and Joe's Playschool -- my five year old, who just started kindergarten, and now my two-year-old twins. I really love it. The outdoor space is incomparable, the kids have a lot of choices and just enough structure to ease them into the world of school. (My oldest "graduated" with all the skills she needed for kindergarten -- in English and Spanish.) Best of all, the directors have really solid, progressive values. My experience is that kids feel safe, respected and free to be themselves, and parents feel a real sense of community and family. Melia


I had a son who went to Bernice and Joe's for nearly two years. He is not an easy kid, very active and bright, but Bernice and Joe had enormous difficulty with him and even more difficulty communicating with us. When we finally got Bernice to discuss with us the issues, she diagnosed our son over the phone as "hyperactive". When I asked her to elaborate and to tell us next steps she was unable to make either concrete suggestions or back up her phrasing. I picked him up one day and they had completely ostracized him from the rest of the group for meals. When I asked Bernice how often this happened she said "not often", which Bannana's who I had gone to for help and I concluded was pretty frequently. This form of punishment was never discussed with us. There are a number of occasions where it was clear he had been labelled as the bad kid and the source of all problems there. Although we cannot say if my son never will be diagnosed as ADHD, when we discussed this with pediatricians and the developemental pediatricians, they said it was almost never a diagnosis that they were willing to make on a three year old, and in their opinion was certainly not an accurate label for our child. Myriam


July 1997

Hi all. The playschool to which my almost-2-year-old daughter goes two mornings a week has some openings in the fall, so I thought I'd recommend them to you all...


The name of the place is Bernice and Joe's Playschool. They take toddlers (~2) to preschoolers. The place is just off 580, at the Edwards exit. The most striking thing about it is the beautiful grounds -- two big treed lots -- you would never know you were near a fairly busy street in Oakland. There's a big homemade rocketship, and a real boat, and a vegetable garden, etc. etc. Bernice and Joe are excellent with the kids. I won't go on here. Please give me a call or send me email if you'd like to know more. Or of course you can contact them directly, 638-3529. Tahani