Seeking a Daycare or Preschool in Lamorinda
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Hi - I'm the mom of 2 (4 yo and 20 months) and will be moving to Lafayette soon from Oakland. I'm starting my daycare/preschool search and have read the postings in the bpn archives. I'm looking to see if anyone has more recent/additional information to share - either recommending a specific school/daycare or a concern. Thanks Soon to be Lafayette mom
We moved from Oakland to Lafayette in 2008 and have generally been happy with the move. Our previous preschool experiences were with Blue Skies in Oakland (previously AOCS), and then the Child Study Center at UC Berkeley. Both these programs were play-based developmental programs, which we have been very happy with. Our younger daughter has been at the Old Firehouse School in Lafayette, and we've been pleased with the program there. My only annoyance is that they offer a number of ''enrichment'' (music, Spanish, etc) classes for an extra charge that we weren't notified about prior to joining, and which were previously part of the regular curriculum offered to all students at Blue Skies and the Child Study Center. But overall we are happy with the program there and they offer more outdoor time than many of the preschools, and the teachers are great. I've also heard good things about the program at Child Day School, but we were concerned because the building is old cinder block construction and they've done no earthquake retrofitting. On the other hand, Lafayette is not near any major faults so it's probably not as big a risk as it would be in Berkeley. We also checked out some of the Montessori programs but didn't think they would be a good match for our very active kid. fellow transplant
Join Lamorinda Moms club (http://www.lamorindamoms.org/) -- there is tons of info in the archives about all the different options, and the large group of local moms is great about answering specific questions. They also have an annual pre-school fair every November.
Another resource is Contra County Childcare Referral- they are like Bananas, and will give you personalized recommendations based on your criteria. http://www.cocokids.org/
Feel free to contact me directly if you have questions- I am just now finishing up my pre-school search for Fall 2010. Jeanne
We are considering moving to Lafayette before the next school year starts so our two older children can go to a school there. In addition to them, we actually have three soon-to-be toddlers. I would like to know if anyone can recommend good preschools for our little ones. I prefer play-based school, but I am open to any kind/method of education. I am looking for a school which has warm, caring childcare providers who know what it is like to be kids. One thing is that,,, I would like to know whether the school takes multiples or not. I know some schools, to my surprise, have a policy to exclude twins and triplets, so I need to know I avoid such schools to begin with. I have tried to learn about preschools in Orinda, Lafayette, and Moraga, but first of all, I did not see many reviews of preschools, and secondly even if there are some, the reviews seem outdated. Any info. is appreciated. Thank you!
There are a significant number of preschools in Lafayette, Orinda, and Moraga, but wanted to encourage you to consider The Child Day Schools, which has 5 locations (each run largely independently, it appears), including Lafayette and Moraga. My son has been there over a year, and we are very happy with their program -- lots of fun activities, great teachers, nice kids. There are at least 2 sets of twins currently at Lafayette. Good luck!
Hi, This site doesn't have reviews, but it does provide you with a complete list of schools in the Lamorinda area: http://www.contracostapreschools.com/. It might at least help as you consider your options. Best of luck! JOJ
Good preschools in Lamorinda:
Moraga: Nurtury has more days available for 2 and 3 year olds than the traditional 2 mornings for 2-3 year olds and 3 days for 4 year olds Growing Tree has longer hours and more days available also. Mulberry Tree nurturing, structured but only does 2 mornings for 2-3 year olds and 3 days for 4 year olds Orinda: TOPS (The Orinda Pre-School)is a co-op. Child-directed. St. Marks St. Johns Good luck! Not familiar w/Lafayette preschools, sorry. And, I'm not sure abt policies regarding multiples either.
I am in the process of researching a few different preschools in the Lamorinda and am totally confused!! There isn't much info on the website about the schools I am looking at so I am hoping that there are parents out there that would tell me about their experience with the following schools (both the good ! p; the bad): TOPS (The Orinda School), Mulberry Tree, Growing Tree, and Fountainhead Montessori. I am also confused as to the pros and cons of the ''play-based'' vs ''academic-based'' schools. Frankly, they all look like play to me. I would appreciate any advice/recommendations about this issue. Which do you think is better and why? Does it really matter at this age? Thank You!! Confused
The best starting resource for Lamorinda preschools can be found at http://www.lamorindamomsclub.org. I believe Lamorinda residents do not have a large representation on the Berkeley Parents Network, so you aren't likely to get too many reponses to your request. Joining the Lamorinda Moms Club is probably the best way to find out about Lamorinda living. Good luck! Sherry
Our son attends the Growing Tree and we are very happy with it. His teachers are very warm and nurturing and genuinely seem to care about the kids - i.e it doesn't seem like just a job to them. I know someone with a child at Mulberry Tree and she is happy as well. I have heard some negative things about Fountainhead Montessori, and know of two families that took their sons out, but that was about 3 years ago, so things may have improved since then.
I don't really have an opinion on the pros and cons of the ''play-based'' vs ''academic-based'' schools. We made our choice by visiting all the potential pre-schools and observing the teachers with the kids. Our decision was easy, as we instinctively knew which ones we liked and felt comfortable with, and which ones we didn't want to consider, even if we weren't able to articulate why.
The LaMorinda Moms Club also has a list of all/most of the preschools in the area, and lists members who are willing to serve as references who you can call and talk to. Not sure if you need to be a member to access the list, but check their website. You can also call me if you want more information, or can't access their preschool list, at 925-692-9773. Good luck with your search! Linda
I vaguely remember seeing your original posting, but thought I would reply if it could help(anyway).
I currently have one child in Mulberry Tree(2nd year there). I had another child in St. John's 18 month program, and I'm hoping we can get him into Growing Tree next year. I've looked at TOPs and Saklan Valley in addition to the above.
Mulberry Tree: Continues to be a wonderful experience for my child. He loves the teachers, the other kids, the program(play based but very structured), the math and science projects they do, and the wonderful outdoor space. The directors, Suzi and Mary Anne provide strong leadership, knowledgable and fabulous. They have created a warm, loving environment for the children. The downsides...days you can enroll your child are very limited - almost too limited. Either Tue/Thur for 2.8 yrs to 3.5 yrs old and MWF for 3.5-5.5 years old. Only the pre-k program is M-F and space is very limited. Pick-up and drop-off is from the car - you don't walk your child in to the school. Mainly this is due to the design of the drive-way loop and parking lot. You don't really get a chance to see the children inside, converse with other parents etc. on a daily basis. Overall, it's a nice, well run preschool. The kids are happy, the teachers are wonderful.
St. Johns: Also has another wonderful director, Carol. Teachers are great, the program is play based the kids seem happy, but something was not quite right about it. There are not as many of the kids art and things on the walls, the space is a bit bare, there are fewer manipulatives and toys for the kids compared to other pre-schools. I'm not sure if this is b/c they occupy space from the Greek Orthodox Church and they are not allowed to go wild with the decorations or not. It just seemed bare to me.
Growing Tree: Utterly, totally impressed with their directors, the teachers, the space, the stuff (manipulatives, toys, activities), the program(play based,structured) and the warmth of the atmosphere. I have tried for two years to get into this school for both my children but the waiting lists are LONG. I'm hoping my younger child will get in this Fall. The directors welcome anyone to drop in and observe the classrooms. If you like what you see try to immediately fill out and date an application (early fall for following year enrollment) or complete an application at the Lamorinda pre-school fair which is held in October. Best to get in at the 18 month level b/c the older classes are even harder to get in(attrition).
TOPs: located in the grounds of the Orinda Community Church near downtown Orinda. Great location. Co-op. Very limited days and hours. Very geared to stay at home moms. My friends who have children there love it, it wasn't quite my kind of pre- school.
St. Marks: located on Moraga Way in Orinda. Never looked at the program, but close friends rave about it. You may want to consider it.
Saklan Valley: Private school located in Moraga near the Moraga Country Club. Very nice campus for pre-k to 8th grade. Full day program 9-2pm M-F with extended day if needed. Great teachers, impressive philo. and well run. The classrooms are amazing - so much going on. My older son's Berkeley pre-school teacher is now a teacher at Saklan - and she is great! I would have sent my older son here, but simply could not afford the tuition ($11,000/year). I also loved the fact that it is one of the few preschools in the area that offers 9-2 M-F, which is SO HARD TO FIND in Lamorinda.
Old Firehouse: located in Lafayette near the downtown has always been highly recommended to me but the drive was too far from where I live. I've heard great things about this school.
Well, that's what I know and have experienced. I moved here from Berkeley where we went to great preschool(Hearts Leap), and before that I researched over 17 different schools for my first son(you know the first child syndrome - the school has to be the right one!) so I've seen a LOT of preschools in the last four years!! A Lamorinda Mom
We are looking to enroll our two-year-old daughter in preschool this fall in Lafayette. We'd love to hear any feedback on the schools there, especially Diablo Valley Montessori, Old Firehouse School and Child Day School. The reviews in the archive are a little old. Janice
I've heard good things about Diablo Valley Montessori, but I have no personal experience. My daughter goes to Garden Gate Montessori (http://www.gardengatemontessori.com), which is in Walnut Creek, but quite close to the Lafayetter border. A few children at the school come from Lafayette, and I could put you in touch with them if you like. Jaime
hello, i've heard great things about diablo valley montessori. i did visit the school and the teachers seemed very experienced and caring. and each child seemed very well tended to. although, i decided that a montessori preschool was not appropriate for my first child. i did visit old firehouse school and was not very impressed with the cleanliness of the facility, inside or out. however, a friend of a friend swears by the school and greatly appreciates how your child's caregiver remains the same for the 2 or 3 years they are in the program. go visit and talk with the teachers and the directors of the programs, you will know which school is a good fit for you and your child. researched every school in lafayette
My son has a fall birthday and may not be ready for our school district's kindergarten class this fall. He also has some developmental delays that he is receiving special services for. His current preschool is fine, but I am feeling uncertain about their program for 4-5 year olds and am looking for a ''developmental'' kindergarten for 4-5 year olds in the Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Walnut Creek or Pleasant Hill areas. I would like for him to be in a small class in an environment that respects and appreciates individual differences and also has a pre-academic focus. Any suggestions? Thanks! Pre school mom
i have searched the website for information regarding lamorinda schools, but have further questions. our family will be relocating to the lamorinda area this summer. we are in search of a local preschool for our son who will be 3 years old in the fall. it's most likely we will settle down in lafayette or walnut creek. i would love to hear either personal experiences or what you have heard about (ie reputation) of child day school in lafayette, white pony preschool in lafayette or growing tree preschool in moraga.
i am seeking a half day, play based program whose director is well trained and well spoken in child development and child psychology. and i would like to know that this knowledge is passed on to staff (despite turnover) who will be working with the children. i am seeking a nurturing school that prioritizes socialization and feelings vs. academics. additionally, i would love to hear about experiences you may have had in programs where there are children leaving at various times of the day. have you found this to be disruptive to the kids in any way? i plan to send my son to school from 9-12, and some of these programs provide care in the afternoon until 2pm or 5pm for the preschoolers.
Have you contacted the LaMorinda Mother's Club? They have great resources for this, including phone numbers of parents who have agreed to be personal references for the school. Anon.
I am beginning the search for a new daycare/preschool for my son as he will outgrow his when he is 2. I require full time care (min 7:30am - 5:30 pm), and though I love the idea of a coop, won't be able to participate. I have been surprised at how few options I feel I have. If anyone can recommend their school in the Lamorinda area, I would love to hear it (I am looking for next august). In the meantime, I have been looking at St. John's Preschool in Orinda, and a Child's Day School in Lafayette. I have read the past recommendations, but they are slightly dated, and none mention what ''High-scope'' teaching method is -- which is what CDS advertises. Also, because it is a chain of schools, how does that impact the local program. St John's seems to offer hot lunches, which would be a treat. I can't tell from the literature about CDS. I will go visit after the holidays. Finally, there is another one ''happy smiles'' maybe, that I seem to not find out much about, near Acalanes High School, that I would like to know more about. Thanks! Shahana
The Lamorinda Moms Club maintains a database of preschools in the Lamorinda area. The January issue of their newsletter has a copy of this list, and we have some copies at The Nurture Center in Lafayette, that you can stop by to pick up (3399 Mt. Diablo Blvd.).
The full-time care schools in Lamorinda are: Old Firehouse School (Lafayette), Montessori schools in Lafayette and Moraga, Creative Playhouse (Moraga), Saklan School (Moraga), plus the ones you mentioned.
Happy Times is now called Kids Into Speaking Spanish - Spanish Immersion school in Orinda. It looks like they also offer full- time care.
''High Scope'' is based on the research of Jean Piaget, who believed children learn thru play and in a certain sequential order. These schools let students of mixed ages choose from a wide variety of activities. Sherry
March 2002 We are thinking of moving to Moraga. My son is 3.5 years old. I really appreciate if you could let me know your experiences with preschools in Moraga (pros and cons). Thank you very much for your helps.
Hi. I live in Moraga, and have had kids at Fountainhead Montessori and Bright Beginnings Christian pre-school. I can give you more information if you are interested.
There are quite a few pre-schools in Moraga, and I hear good things about all of them. You probably need to be more specific about the days/times you want, philosphy, etc. As you might expect, many of them have waiting lists.
You should check with the Lamorinda Moms Club (www.lamorindamomsclub.org). They maintain a preschool list of about 30 schools in Lamorinda. I don't know if you have to be a member to get access to the list or not, but you can check. Sherry
If you aren't already a member, I would strongly suggest you join the Lamorinda Mom's Club. They are on the web at http://www.lamorindamomsclub.org/. They have an annual preschool fair that is very good. They also publish (for members) a comprehensive list of preschools in the Lamorinda area. The list includes contact information of the parents in the club whose children currently go to those schools so you can contact them personally with your questions. Good luck! Lori
Does anyone have any recommendations for preschools in the Lamorinda area. Our son will be two and a half this coming fall. Thanks for your help Vivien
If you join, or have joined, Lamorinda Mom's Club (925.941.4714) you can get a copy of their preschool list, which has most of the preschools in the area, basic information on each, and a club member who has agreed to act as a reference whom you can contact with questions. Good luck! claire
I live in Orinda and have 2 boys, ages 5 and 3. My boys went/go to preschool in Moraga, at Growing Tree Preschool, and to Peppermint Playhouse in Orinda. When my oldest was 2 I looked into nearby options and found the following
TOPS - the Orinda preschool Although I'd heard mostly good word of mouth about this one (one exception), hours weren't long enough for me and I didn't have the time for parent participation as it's a co-op.
Fountainhead Montessori easy access to the freeway and longer hours. I have a friend whose kids went here and she loved it. The day I visited the 2 year old classroom I didn't like it. Perhaps I was there on a bad day. Perhaps the staff has changed.
Seedlings (at the Lafayette/Orinda Presbyterian Church?) - Too far away from me, but I have several friends who send their kids here and love it. I don't know what their hours are.
St Mark's - preschool hours, extended daycare not long enough. I liked it and have heard many good things about it, but the hours wouldn't work for me.
St John's - daycare hours, but I wasn't thrilled when I visited (3 years ago, now). Some neighbors of mine sent their kids there 6-8 years ago and were happy with it.
One school my kids went/go to part-time (915-245) is Peppermint Playhouse, which I absolutely love. A woman, Chris Phelps, runs it out of her house in Orinda. She has 3 year olds on Friday, 4 year olds Tues and Thurs. 12 kids each day, one assistant working with her. It's wonderful. I wish she could clone herself and start up an 8-6 daycare everyday. Her number is 925-376-7342. I rearranged my work schedule for this one, depending on what days my kids went.
Growing Tree has extended hours available, 8-5, a nice site, and good staff. Some of the classes are a bit big, but we've been happy with it overall.
The Lamorinda Moms' Club put out a preschool list with info on all the area preschools. I picked up one of their newsletters one day and came across it. You can reach them at 925-941-4714.
Good Luck in your search! -Kathy
I highly recommend Lafayette Nursery School on First Street. It is a parent led cooperative.
The schools philosophy is based on learning through play. Time is structured by activities - free play (activities are laid out for children to choose from including a music session), circle time, snacktime, outside play. The ratio is 1 adult to 4 children. The 2 directors plus 4 parents every session.
The Director, Nancy Parry has taught at the school for 19 years. She and the co director Kim are both very experienced, kind, calm and exceedingly sensible people.
We are attending the school in a 2 year old program run by the Accalanes Adult Center. This is a once a week program for children attending with parent/caregiver. It gives you an introduction to the school and it's directors. Big plus is that many of the children attending then go on to the pre school program so your child gets the benefit of the same teahers, friends and classroom. LNS is enrolling now for the Fall. You can book a tour of the school by calling Peggy on (925) 210 1747. Vivienne
I have had my son at a few of the local preschools, and my second is at another one. We started my son at First Steps in Lafayette, and although I had only positive references from other parents, our experience was terrible. It may have been his teacher (the infant teacher is wonderful!), but since then I have spoken to a few others who found it to be basically glorified baby-sitting. We moved him to Diablo Valley Montessori, which is considered a very good school, and he did well there for over a year in their toddler program. Their preschool, however, has a large class size, a high ratio, and very high expectations of the kids' abilities to manage themselves. He was deemed "not a Montessori kid" and we were encouraged to find another program for him. I'm not sure, but I think a "Montessori" kid can eat lunch in an orderly fashion without crawling under the table, is willing to lie quietly for an hour at naptime even if he isn't tired, doesn't demand a lot of the teacher's attention, and is completely independent in the bathroom.
Next we moved him to the Child Day School in Lafayette, and we have been thrilled with the place! He has been there about about 16 months and he has thrived there. The teachers and the director are very nurturing, really focus on the kids' developmental needs, are flexible in response to the family's needs and in their approach to the kids (called "child-centered"). I can't recommend it highly enough. It doesn't jump out at you when you visit it, because it's not very fancy, but it is a wonderful, wonderful program.
My toddler is at Old Firehouse School (Child Day School is only 2 and up), and that is another very good program. They are based on a "primary caregiver" model, so your child stays with the same teacher from infancy to kindergarten (assuming the teacher doesn't leave). They reward tenure by giving the teachers a large bonus for staying under "their kids" reach kindergarten. You have to pay for full-time care, though, so it doesn't make sense if you only want part-time. He loves it there, and I know other parents who have also been very happy with it. Both Old Firehouse and Child Day Schoolgo up to Kindergarten and they also have an after-school program for Lafayette Elementary kids. Meri
Three years ago, I sent my 2-year old daughter to a nice program two days per week at St. Stephen's in Orinda. It's one of the few in the area that takes kids that young. Karen Patera in the director. It's very low-key, and while it is run under the church's auspices, it is not heavily religious, aside from a prayer of thanks that they say before snack time. For my kids as they got older, Merriewood, on the Burton Valley campus, worked very well for us. They have a great staff that is very devoted to children's development. Doreen, Karen, Dale, and Laura were all great teachers. Diane and Bonnie are great leaders, as was the former director, Gretchen (who is still on the Alamo campus). They have a fun science teacher, Chris. They are also ardent proponents of frequent hand washing, and we rarely got sick during the five years we were there. --MW Mary
Does anyone have any recommendations for pre-schools in Orinda? I have checked out past recommendations on the UCB Parents Web Site and they are quite dated. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Emily
You just missed the Lamorinda Moms Club preschool fair which had alot of info...word of mouth is that The Orinda Preschool (TOPS) is quite good and also the one at St. Stephens church, which I believe is secular. Sharon
My daughter went to TOPS - the Orinda Preschool which is a cooperative in Orinda. Nice school, very nice director Trish Carella. Lots of families from Oakland, Berkeley as well as Orinda. Very nurturing environment, with lots of extra curricular activities- music fair every year. Also they have a science teacher with organized activities for the children dependent upon their age. My daughter also went to the Montessori in Orinda for 1 1/2 years. A little more rigid and structured of an environment. I have also heard nice things about St. John's preschool
I have heard very good things about the Learning Tree in Moraga. That's not Orinda, but I think they are worth looking into. Their hours were a bit too limited for us. We have our 2 year old daughter at Morning Star in Walnut Creek. We really like them. If you like a Montessori program, Diablo Valley Montessori in Lafayette has a good rep also. Les
My daughter, age 7 years, attended the summer camp at the Jewish Community Center. Again all of us were very happy with the experience she had last summer. I do not know about the preschool program, but I image it is of the same good quality. David
We may be needing full-time infant care in the Walnut Creek/Lamorinda area by about mid-February. I checked the website and didn't find any recent information (and not much for this area in any case). If anyone has any current recommendations on infant care in this area, I'd be very grateful. Thanks so much.
First Steps in Lafayette/Walnut Creek, around the corner from Acalanes High School, offers full time infant care. My daughter is 19 months and has been going full time to First Steps since she was 3 months old. The center accepts newborn to age two and I would certainly recommend their infant program. As is common to all day care centers, the teacher turnover has been high in the past. But the teachers in the infant room have been the same since Natalie started. And the current staff in all of the classes is very good and stable right now. Call and ask for Charlotte, the Director. 925.933.6283 Rachel
I recently did a daycare search for my four month old daughter in the Lamorinda area. I called the Contra Costa Child Care Council and they refered me to in home day care providers in my area. These are licensed providers that take anywhere from 6-12 children. I interviewed several and finally settled on one in Lafayette. They all run about 200-225/week for full time care. Most take infants and they don't seem to be particularly picky about the age. The facilities vary quite a bit so it is good to visit several. As for full fledged day care centers there aren't many in lamorinda. The one I did visit, The Old Firehouse School, is incredibly expensive and doesn't really take infants. The others don't offer full time infant care. As for the Walnut Creek area, I can't comment. I hope this helps. Ana