Dandelion Cooperative 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 #: 
non-profit parent Parent co-op
(510) 526-1735
dandelion.enrollment [at] gmail.com
N. Berkeley on The Alameda
Maximum Capacity: 
Language(s) Spoken: 
Ages Served: 
35 months - 60 months

Parent Reviews

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My very strong-willed child has flourished in Dandelion's play-based, child-led program! Teachers Abby and Sonia are kind and compassionate and they truly respect the children and honor all the ways and needs of their development. They really focus on understanding each child and work with the parents to make time at school comfortable and enjoyable. The teachers are very intentional about their offerings for keeping the children's’ minds and bodies engaged while at school. The indoor and outdoor manipulative table materials change weekly- everything from a mountain of colorful puffballs to cloud dough to fake snow to water is offered. Both the indoor and outdoor spaces are charming, inviting, clean, and safe. My child looks forward to going to school every day- especially on yoga or music days! I have loved getting to know and befriend other families in the coop and I find the time commitment to be easily managed despite everything else I have going on. Dandelion is as good for the parents as it is for the children! 

Our family has spent 4 years at Dandelion between our two children and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Through attending this co-op you are getting so much more that just a preschool experience for your child. The experience is enriching for the whole family. It is a very sweet transition for the little ones to have their first school experience be at a parent cooperative. The space is incredible; it is very age appropriate, inviting and fun. The natural light and fresh air can’t be beat. The kids have the freedom to be indoors or out and to move through the space as they wish. My two kids have very different personalities and energy levels and they both love Dandelion. The teachers do a wonderful job of guiding the children through these important developmental years, emphasizing not only how to be kind and thoughtful, but also how to set boundaries. The monthly parent meetings have interesting and helpful content and also provide a nice opportunity to connect with other parents. The built in community is wonderful and the spring camping trip is a highlight of the program for our family. During parent participation days you get a window into your child’s school experience and it is so special to see your little ones launch and explore the world around them. The participation days and family jobs are well worth it when you see your children and family thrive at Dandelion. Our family commutes from North Oakland because the school is that special! We are in our final year and we will miss the school tremendously. In case anyone is concerned about elementary school, our older child’s transition to Kindergarten was seamless.

Our daughter is finishing up her first year here and we have really enjoyed the experience so far. The space is so homey and full of both exciting things to do as well as cozy corners where a kid can go to be alone with a book. The teachers are amazing, I have learned so much from watching them work and hearing them talk about the children.  I was a little worried about the logistics of participating in a cooperative, we don't live very close, we just had a new baby, and I'm not working so we're tight on cash. Everything worked out great, the community is very supportive and other families are quick to help out when you find yourself in a fix.  I was soon able to connect with others in my neighborhood to carpool, and swap baby-care during the hours I participate at the preschool, and there is financial aid available for families that need it.  Our daughter feels completely at home at Dandelion, I'm so happy that she's having this experience.  

My daughter started attending Dandelion last year and it has been great for both of us. I love the community of parents there and the teachers. Sonia and Abby are wonderful with the kids, so patient and kind and teaching them problem solving skills in the healthiest of ways.The areas for play are awesome both indoors and out. They have a pet snake and fish and not to mention the chickens! The arts activities, reading areas, music and yoga class and many of constantly rotating activities for the kids keep them so engaged. For a co-op the level of involvement is just the right amount, where you can really get to know some of the parents and still have enough time to get stuff done! I feel so lucky that we found this place and get to be part of this community. 

My 3 year old son just started at Dandelion this year and we could not be happier! The teachers and parents have helped tremendously with the transition. The community is supportive, knowledgeable and kind. My son is having a blast exploring all of the toys and activities available to him. The environment has a great flow and order to it, despite being chock full of stuff for the kids to do! I am especially impressed by the teachers, Abby and Sonia. They work hard to support every kid and make connections with them by being on their level and patiently guiding them. 

Lastly, my family is really happy about joining this co-op preschool because we don’t have family in the area. We felt like we were raising our son in isolation these first three years. The parents and teachers at Dandelion have welcomed us with open arms. The participation required seems very manageable and has actually been quite fun. It’s been a really awesome experience so far!

Our two daughters attended Dandelion for two years each. Alas, they overlapped by one year so as a family we were only there for three years. I often said that I'd have more children just so we could return to Dandelion. It's such a wonderful little preschool which was so good for our family. For the first year, when children are 3, attendance is 3 days a week, either from 9-12 or extended hours 8:30-2. For the second year, children can attend for 3,4 or sometimes 5 days a week. For most of the morning children do whatever they like - play-dough table, art table, game table and outside always have one participating parent attending while the teachers roam. About an hour into the morning the younger children gather in one room with one teacher and the older children gather in another for stories, singing, maybe some discussion. This is followed by snack time, seated at 3 tables, and then back to play until second story/circle time close to 12. The balance of free play and structure is ideal. The space is wonderful - open, light, uncluttered but with many choices - a book loft, the climbing dome, house area, outside swing, garden and more. Sonia and Abby guide the children and the parents with so much skill, patience and kindness. They both have years of experience and a great deal of knowledge in early childhood education. I honestly cannot think of anything negative. Rather, for a family looking for a cooperative preschool with part-time attendance I cannot recommend Dandelion highly enough.

This is our family's last year at Dandelion and I write with a heavy heart. (For context, I love my children, but I'm not a nostalgic for the little years kind of person.) Dandelion has been the highlight of the toddler years for our family. My oldest daughter is now in second grade and her start at Dandelion played a large role in forming her into the little person she is today. My youngest daughter is now in her second year at Dandelion. Dandelion, again, has been huge in her development. The two teachers at Dandelion bring years of experience and wisdom - they are both very special people and cherished by the school community. The parents at Dandelion form a community that is more supportive, kind, and available than any other I have yet to find. They are a non blood family. The school space is divine for little ones. The monthly parent meetings are highly educational and would benefit all parents and their children. The co-op part of the school is a lot of work and the limited scheduling takes some coordinating, but both are well worth it! I do not hesitate in the least to recommend this school. I truly feel that this school was one of the best things that happened to us as parents and to our children as munchkins. (We tried another school for my youngest for a year before Dandelion and had no doubts after that we had to go back to Dandelion when she turned 3.) Dandelion is a very, very, very special place. I am so grateful to this school and all it has given our family!

My son is in his second of two years at Dandelion.  He loves it and we love it.  It's the kind of place where you walk in and it feels magical.  The outside space has two play structures, a garden, a lovely large tree, and three chickens.  Inside there is a fish tank and also a very sweet corn snake.  We feel very lucky to be part of the community.

We are in the last year of Dandelion for our family, my daughters 10 and 7 attended DNS and my son is in his second year, and reflecting back over the years we've been involved at this amazing school some special things stand out. The teachers Abby and Sonia are truly excellent early childhood educators, they are instinctive, skilled and guide not only the children, but the participating parents in living out a day at preschool to its very fullest. They create opportunities and environments for exploration and have a sense of calm about it all that helps everyone. The whole vibe of the preschool is very nostalgic for me, the little wooden chairs and braided rug, the old piano and lots of classic, timeless toys to play with. The school itself is multi-age and indoor/outdoor. So kids play and roam and have a very home-like experience all morning. The group times are split up by age, with first years with one teacher and second years with the other. The participating parents prepare the snack at this time and this is one of my favorite things about Dandelion-snack is shared family style at tables and is more like a meal. Being a part of a co-op is very rewarding and enriches those early years with a lot of support, shared life and comfort. It is work, but the lower tuition and the sensation of sharing the load with all the other families and the way that it is all organized and structured very fairly make it very do-able.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

April 2016

RE: Co-op or other affordable preschools

Dandelion Co-op! If you have the time to commit to a co-op, I can't think of a better preschoool experience. The teachers are warm and caring, the environment is beautiful with lots of outdoor space, and you get access to a wonderful extended community. Co-Op Fan

Nov 2014

My 4 1/2 year old daughter is in her second year at Dandelion Nursery School, and we have plans for our 1 1/2 year old daughter to follow in her footsteps. I cannot rave enough about the school - the incredible indoor and outdoor space, the thoughtful and enriching learning environment, the two talented teachers, and an engaged and supportive community of parents. This school has been great for us, but it would not work for everyone. The school is only open from 8:30-2:00, has limited summer session, and has participation and other work obligations for parents. (Although these co-op responsibilities are time consuming, they are also enriching for the parents.) Some families only have one working parent or when both parents work, one at least has a flexible schedule or extended family and/or other caregivers help out. My husband and I both work, and it is definitely a juggle for us. With that said, the lower tuition and all the other aspects of the school (previously described) make it well worth it. I am grateful for the school - for the foundation it is giving my daughter and for the support it has provided us as parents. Liz

May 2014

Re: Pros & Cons of Parent Co-ops
Our son attends a co-op preschool in Berkeley, Dandelion Nursery School, and we couldn't be happier there. Even absent the tuition savings (which are considerable), we would want our son to go to Dandelion -- the space is beautiful and full of opportunities for exploration, the teachers are warm and responsive, and we have joined a supportive, diverse, and interesting community. The time-commitment, however, is not negligible. In addition to volunteering at the school 2-3 times a month, we also have a family job that takes up 5-10 hours a month, and we are expected to be involved in various work days and fund raisers throughout the year. My spouse loves volunteering at the school, and the events are fun and worthwhile, but it can be a lot to juggle. If both my spouse and I worked full-time, I'm not sure we could make it work. In our case, though, there is no question that the co-op experience has been worth it. Happy co-oper

March 2012

We are considering Dandelion Preschool and would love to hear from any parents whose children attend or attended in recent years. I'd love to hear the pros and cons you have experienced. Specifically, I would love to hear about the atmosphere with all 24 children. Is it craziness, do the children get attention and guidance from the teachers. Is there any bullying and how is conflict resolved (meaning who handles it). What role does the parent play in the classroom in resolving issues with the child conflicts and do they participate in teaching on any level. Also, do you feel the school prepares the children enough for kindergarden. Are there any teacher led/directed activities or is it all just child directed play. Please feel free to share your thoughts on these or any other things you feel important to know.

The enriching experience my family had at Dandelion was the very best thing that could ever have happened for us. It's been said also that Dandelion kids adjust more easily transitioning into school. The concept of learning through play is simply the most beneficial environment for children. The play areas both indoors and outdoors are pleasant, comforting and safe. Participating parents provide supplies and keep watch over the various activity stations. During our generation, founders Bonnie & Sandra provided the guidance and kept the schedule flowing gracefully. And the kids spend time together in appropriate age groups, so they are steered gently toward the next step of entering kindergarten. The things I myself learned from Dandelion in terms of community, friends and family transformed my life and gave me a brilliant understanding of parenting. I highly recommend Dandelion Cooperative Preschool. Good Luck

Feb 2011

I noticed that there is only 1 review of Dandelion since 2005, and I wondered if anyone who recently has had a child attend there could give a review of how they liked it, pros and cons, how they chose it, or any other information for an interested mom. Many thanks! Searching for preschool

Hi, I am a current parent at Dandelion Co-op with my younger child, and my older child also attended Dandelion. The short answer is that we love it and will really miss the school and the community when we leave. I have learned so much as a parent at Dandelion, my older son was well-prepared to negotiate elementary school, and my younger son is currently thriving.

My older child's teachers were Bonnie Hester and Sandra Easley who retired recently after 30+ years at Dandelion, leaving some very big (and wonderful) shoes to fill. My younger child has the new director/teacher Abby Pletcher and new teacher Sonia Rawal, and we are extremely happy with them both as teachers and as part of the co-op community. They continue to provide the play-based, developmental curriculum, thoughtfully chosen materials and activities, skillful experience dealing with young children's social/emotional development, and have also added their own unique perspectives to Dandelion.

My experience at Dandelion is that it is rarely chaotic, but is full of active and engaged children freely choosing what they'd like to do both indoors and out. The inside space is open and expansive with plenty of places for block building, dramatic play, playdough and art, or reading books in our new loft. The yard is where the children ride bikes, swing on the tire swing, dig, play at the cool water table, garden, play house in the little red house, etc. The only down side is that because we are a small co-op (about 35 families), we generally don't have a lot of openings each year. Thanks for giving me a chance to rave about Dandelion! Dandelion fan

March 2010

We are a multi-cultural two mom family who would like to see more lgbt and families of color in our co-op community. One of our teachers is part of a two mom family and there is a fair amount of cultural, economic and age diversity. Our experience at Dandelion has been positive - we have felt welcomed and are enjoying the other parents and we'd love to welcome other lgbt and families of color. We'd be happy to talk with prospective families with questions about the school. carmels-mom

January 2005

We are curently looking at two cooperative preschool programs for our daughter to begin fall 2005. The two are Dandelion in Berkeley and Albany Preschool. We would appreciate hearing from parents who have sent their kids to either school in the past few years. What have been your experiences either positive or negative? Any advice would be helpful. Robin

Hi - we are considering Dandelion co-op in Berkeley for next fall. Our daughter, generally on the quieter side, will be 3 1/2. There are a few old recs, but I'd love to hear from anybody who has been there recently. thanks!

We are a current family at Dandelion. We chose it because of the idyllic setting. It's everything a kid could want. Free time to explore inside or outside, build, paint, read, dress up. And, the most caring teachers! Bonnie and Sandra really get what goes on in a kid's head.

Co-ops, in general, I think offer a much more intimate experience. You get a community of dedicated people who want their kids to have a warm and caring experience that involves parents, not just a hired staff. You, as an adult, get to know the other kids and their parents in more than just a ''Hi, good morning'' way.

But, it is a lot of work. Most co-ops have family jobs, clean-up sessions and meetings. Make sure that you are willing and able to put in the time required to do your part at the school. It is a lot different than just writing a check for tuition once-a-month! But, the rewards of the co-op community more than outweigh the extra time you put into it. A Dandelion Parent

My daughter is in her second year at Dandelion and I think it is a great school. Alina was the second youngest kid when she started last year (2.9 years), but the school has so many different things to engage kids of all levels and interests that it was never an issue. She spent the first several months just experiencing the materials - painting on a whim, doing manipulatives, poking at play dough, making art projects, doing cooking projects, and looking at the science table. She really didn't even venture outside much or into the block room until later. Those were the areas where the older, louder, more rambunctious kids played mostly, and the areas where I tended not to work on my participation days, but now she loves the tire swing more than anything and builds cool block structures. She started making connections with other children after a few months, and became part of a threesome of girls that ruled the dress up area. It was great to be a part of her learning to interact and play in different ways and with different people. She still is shy around louder kids and boys, but I like how the teachers noticed that and are encouraging her to see that she has a lot in common with them as well.

I have to say that the co-op thing has been a valuable learning experience for me as a first time parent. I learn a lot from the parent meetings where we go over childhood development issues, and also from the daily wrap-up meetings on participation days. I work almost full-time, and I think I am in the minority there, but we make the time commitment work. The benefits of a co-op outweigh the challenges for me and for what I think is the best environment for my daughter. I haven't been as able to participate in the play dates and larger sense of parent community as I would like to, but I am on the board now (in my second year) and I really like being part of that and having the scrip job, which helps raise money for the school. Other benefits are the teachers, Bonnie and Sandra, and the fact that having 4 parents there every day makes a great adult:kid ratio. There is a premium placed on not intervening or disrupting play, but in providing materials, ensuring safety, and helping resolve conflicts when necessary. I am amazed at the growth I have seen in many of the kids, and at the nurturing and patience I see time and time again in the culture of the school. That's my $.02. I can't compare this experience to other schools, co-op or not, I just know that I think this is a really good school. Good luck in your search! Dandelion Parent, Janine

I have 2 children who graduated from Dandelion and 1 there currently -- it is an AMAZING place!!! The teachers (Bonnie and Sandra) have been there since their own children were preschoolers and - most importantly - they love and pour themselves into each child. They recognize and work with every child's individual strengths and weaknesses, they get to know the entire family, they are always available to talk or give their expert advice on parenting. By volunteering, you as a parent get to know the other children and families and gain a deep appreciation of your own child and his/her needs and personality. We've been involved with coop preschooling for over 10 years and there is no better coop preschool in this area than Dandelion. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Marguerita

Dandelion Coop nursery school is an amazing and very special place. The community is lovingly led by a director/teacher (Bonnie Hester) and a teacher (Sandra Easley), each of whom have been with the school for at least 25 years, beginning as parents with children in the school. Together they have created a program and an environment which nurtures children's curiosity, sense of wonder, and individual needs. It is a play- based curriculum allowing children to play indoors or outdoors with a full range of toys and equipment designed and presented especially for the 3-5 set. Art materials are available all the time and a special art project is presented daily. The coop runs with the two teachers and 4 parents with 24 kids daily. It is a 9am-12pm program with extended care beginning at 8 and lasting until 2 daily. Families work in the classroom about 2 days per month if your child goes 2x/week, 3 days per month if your child goes 3x/week, etc. Also families each have a school job, such as gardening, maintenance, bunny-care, laundering, supply-shopping, etc. I have 2 boys, one in kindergarten who did 2 years at Dandelion and one currently in his first of two years at Dandelion. They're fairly different and I feel incredibly lucky to have found this school and think it is the perfect place for our familiy - indeed that seems to be what everyone says. I love being involved in my child's first experience in school and I am continuing to learn so much from the other parents and the teachers about kids and raising them. Dandelion is a magical place full of thriving children and devoted parents all led by experienced, loving and active teachers. I recommend it highly. It's the greatest! Sharon

Our soon-to-be-five-year-old is enjoying his second year at Dandelion and he and the rest of his family love, love, love it there! If we had no limits to our family budget, we would still go there. The Director and Teacher have about half a century of experience between them of nurturing and facilitating the growth of young children. Their own children's childhoods were enriched by going to Dandelion. They have genuine love, care and presence for the preschoolers. Both of them are intelligent, articulate, earnest, gentle, patient, creative and fun. The whole family feels welcome. Parents grow to become better parents from observing Bonnie's and Sandra's interactions and relationships with the children. We also learn from them directly as they share their wisdom, insights and experiences at monthly meetings. Both are active in professional development. They help youngsters and their parents celebrate growth and achievement as well as encourage us through challenges. There's a beautiful new playgound and the rooms of the school are big, clean, well-lit and airy. Art supplies, musical instruments, large motor toys, building implements, small motor activities, dramatic play items, writing center materials, science table experiments, etc. are abundant, attractive and accessible. A snake, rabbit, group of fish, collection of walking stick insects and silkworms are some of the permanent classroom residents. Children are able to go about their business of enjoying their childhoods. Through PLAY, the Dandelion children develop their talents in and exposures to social skills, problem-solving, pre-reading, pre-writing, pre-math, science, social studies, music, art and more. The community of families there is a warm, helpful and dedicated one. Again, we love it there! It's complete--the only thing missing is your child and your family! (We almost want to have more children just so that we can extend our tenure there)! Alicia

This is our second year at Dandelion and we could not be happier. My son was also very shy starting pre-school. The teachers are pros at helping the new kids feel comfortable. I still feel so lucky every morning that i drop him off at Dandelion. a Dandelion mom

I recently told a friend that our family has two magical gifts right now: our financial advisor and Dandelion Nursery School. Our daughter, also 3 1/2 and on the quieter side, started this fall, and we LOVE Dandelion! Bonnie and Sandra are so grounded, knowledgeable, experienced, calm, and generous. They give the kids time, and space, and then at just the right moments, they just sort of appear and with this amazing grace and ease, they nudge children forward, and help kids learn to navigate through their own individual challenges. Dandelion's kids aren't being ''taught'' and instructed from the outside. (As an educator, I can tell you, there will be more than enough of that to come.) I believe our children are being given what all kids need more of: the space to discover and develop their own sense of self, and their own interests.

I'm also better parent thanks to Bonnie and Sandra. Through their amazing modeling, participation day wrap-up sessions, monthly parent meetings, and impromptu help, they guide the parents with just as much wisdom and grace as they do our kids. Other wonderful things about Dandelion: the other families, the other kids, the genuine community, and the opportunity to participate with and learn from one another.

Dandelion is one of Berkeley's best kept secrets. I didn't know it from the brief walk-through. It was really a leap of faith one of the best I've ever taken. Melissa

October 2003

Re: Co-ops with more hours
Dandelion Nursery School is a co-op that allows up to 5 days a week from 9 to 12 with the option of starting at 8:30 and extended care until 2 for an extra charge. My daughter is in her second year there, and it's absolutely wonderful. Maria Jan 2002

Regarding Preschool for child with developmental delays
A friend with a daughter who has down syndrome looked very extensively found that Dandelion Coop were very good dealing with delays and warmly welcoming to her.

October 1999

RE: Montclair Schools
The other pre-school that I was impressed by is a co-operative in Berkeley called Dandelion (I realize that this is quite a commute for a Montclair parent, but...). The teachers have been there for a long long time and they are so wonderful and knowledgeable! I chose this school for my daughter and she is thriving. Parents participate daily, and there is a wonderful feeling of community with all of the families. The telephone number is 526-1735. When you walk into this old building, you will find very happy and busy kids! Thomas

April 1997

My son's preschool, Dandelion Coop, has openings for Fall 1997 for kids who will be 3.5 and older by September. Dandelion is located near Solano and The Alameda in Berkeley. David has been there for two years, and it is a wonderful school. The two teachers there have been teaching together at Dandelion for more than 15 years, and are really caring and intelligent women. The head teacher is doing graduate work in Early Childhood Education. Usually, Dandelion is full by now (for the following year), but this year due to an accident of demographics (lots of kids are going to Kindergarten), there are some spaces for older kids. Lindsay

Just wanted to agree with Lindsay and put in a word of support for Dandelion Coop. Both my kids went there and loved it. (I was involved there for 5 years in a row.) It won't work for families with two full-time working parents (unless there is a care-taker in the afternoon) because their regular program ends at 12:00 (12:30?) and "extended hours" end at 2:00. BUT - if you are a parent who works part-time and you would like to be involved in your child's pre-school world, this place is GREAT. (I'll bet the teachers have been there more than 15 years since I remember hearing that years ago.)

Dandelion was not only a good school - for our family it became a community of friends that has lasted...going on 10 years since we started there. My daughter was fortunate to have five of her Dandelion friends move on with her to Jefferson School and she is still BEST friends with all of them. (And as a result I am still close to their moms.) My son still wanted to "be at Dandelion" until the end of 1st grade.

This is a great opportunity for anyone with a 4 yr. old needing a part-time preschool. Most preschools (such as the Child Study Center) primarily accept children between about 2.9 - 3.9 and then they attend 2 years. So "almost 4 year olds" are often only accepted if one of those children leaves before the second year. As a result, it is often hard to find a preschool spot for children who are 4, or almost 4 yrs. Randice