Little Owl Day School

Community Subscriber

Berkeley, CA

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

Home-Based Daycare/Preschool
DSS Facility License #
Sara Marina Mendez
littleowldayschool [at]
South Berkeley, between San Pablo Ave. and Sacramento Ave.
Maximum Capacity:
Language(s) Spoken:
Ages Served:
24 months - 60 months
Monthly Cost:
8:00am - 5:15pm
Additional Services & Features:
Pre-K program,
Sibling discount,
Lunch provided,
Snacks provided,
Organic options,
Vegetarian options,
Special diet support,
Potty training support
About the Program:

We have a play-based program premised on getting your little one socially ready for kindergarten.

Parent Reviews

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It is hard to describe just how remarkable Little Owl is. Martin and Sara have created a magical place filled with warmth and love. One day the kids are embarking on an adventure to Strawberry Creek, where they actually trek into the creek with water tubes to learn about gravity and they catch and hold crayfish (they always release them back). The next day they are climbing trees, baking pizzas, painting and crafting.They bring books to Dreamland playground and do story circle time and picnics there. My kids have brought home an egg carton transformed into a beach scene with real shells, lifesize owls, cardboard tube monsters and a Pete The Cat popsicle stick bookmarks. The kids love their creations and continue to play with them at home. The monthly google photo albums are a treasure– some of our favorite photos of our two boys are from their activities and adventures at Little Owl.

My son started at Little Owl in 2021 just after turning three years old and recently graduated to start Kindergarten. My younger one is in his second year there. During his time at Little Owl, my older son developed strong socioemotional skills that have helped him adjust to kindergarten, which is no small feat– he is a very anxious and sensitive child. Martin and Sara were patient with him and helped him find the coping skills he needed to adjust. They also instilled in him the importance of treating others well and allowed him to develop what we know will be lifelong friendships. The parents have a great community too. We frequently see each other outside of school and have even organized camping trips.

They also have a quite rigorous academic curriculum. By the time he graduated, he could do basic math, developed phonemic awareness and had strong fine motor skills.

Their lunch and snack menus are a work of art– I literally snap photos of the daily chalkboard menu posted in the window. Our picky eaters devoured tofu avocado bowls, beans and cauliflower, rainbow pasta, mango smoothies, and tons of organic fruits and veggies. Not to mention the kid-made pizza and sushi! I am eagerly awaiting the day they publish a cookbook.

The classes are small so there is a lot of individual attention. The older kids are the Barn Owls and the younger ones are the Snowy Owls. They adapt to the kids' needs and bring their interests to life-- they made a bug bingo board for my bug-loving three year old.

Both of my boys had some challenging phases, including transitioning from a nanny at home. My older son’s anxiety causes meltdowns early on, but Martin and Sara patiently figured out how to calm him and help him calm his body. They also worked closely with us to try things at home and have a quick and painless drop-off until he was walking in at drop-off time and not looking back because he was too excited for the day ahead. Our younger son struggled with controlling his feelings and went through a phase of throwing things and sometimes hitting other kids. Martin and Sara worked with him to help him process his feelings and remain calm, practice breathing and express himself verbally. Lately, in the monthly photo album, we’ve seen pictures of our 3 year old holding Martin and Sara’s one year-old daughter in his arms with a loving smile on his face– he has learned how to be gentle and kind to others. They are very good at helping kids get through tough times– their expertise and advice has been invaluable to us. We know how closely they work with kids and parents on transitions because we’ve been in tough situations several times with our boys.

We absolutely love Little Owl and can't recommend it highly enough. We even had the opportunity to send our youngest to TK this year, but we felt that the curriculum and outdoor adventures he would have at Little Owl are too special at such a formative time in his life so we wanted to keep him there another year before kindergarten. If you are reading this review and have the opportunity to send your kids to Little Owl, you should.

We just had our daughter complete Little Owl and we are very much looking forward to our younger child starting in the winter. Our family has found Little Owl and Sara and Martin to do as other parents mentioned just a wonderful job in helping our older child develop, prepare for kindergarten, and become a curious, kind, thoughtful and happy child. Sara and Martin are a perfect mix of having so many natural talents that make them great teachers - creative, enthusiastic, caring, responsible, prepared, but they themselves are also humble and ever learning, adding new activities, traditions, concepts and ideas to their repertoire. I was frequently amazed at their insights into my child's behavior, and I feel so lucky to have had my daughter taught and looked after by two individuals so interested in understanding her. Their empathy with kids is boundless.

I could say lots of nice things about the program, and they would all be true, but in trying to differentiate LO from other programs, beyond the unique character of the teachers, is the community and setting they provide. LO became a haven not just for our daughter, but for the parents and siblings. I have found that each preschool seems to cultivate a community around it, and some gel, and some don't. I found great sustenance in meeting the other parents, also drawn to this amazing home-based smaller program and feel that this just adds to the experience. Larger programs felt impersonal to me, and Sara and Martin, through the daily schedule and mixing and separate activities of the two classes- the snowy owls (younger kids) and barn owls (older kids) create beautiful group dynamics that cut out a lot of the cliques that form at other places. Not a guarantee, and I know life won't stay that contained, but I felt so lucky to have my child participate in such a community for this stage of her life.

February 2024 Update:

Our daughter was at Little Owl for two years and we could not have been happier (see 8/9/23 review above). We would prefer to not be writing this update, but no longer feel comfortable with what we wrote after what happened with our son. Six months after our daughter left Little Owl for kindergarten, our son started there at the age of 2.75 and was struggling with the transition to preschool from one-on-one care with a nanny. Rather than supporting him, as they did with our daughter (who had been in the same care arrangement prior to preschool), the teachers recommended that we not allow him to bring objects from home and that he start crying at home to be “wrapped up by 9:30.” On the fourth day, after 20 minutes at school, we were called because “he made himself throw up” and then told he should not come back- all of this after only three full days and no trial days (which we were advised against because the teachers stated they had spent enough time with him in the park prior to the start of school).

We then received an unprompted email stating that this outcome was the result of his “preschool readiness” and nothing the teachers could have done differently. We were made to feel his age-appropriate adjustment was abnormal and too disruptive to the environment. Of course, we were not there during the day, but what we observed was minimal effort to ease his transition, which was very different from our experience with our daughter. We are certain he was having challenging tantrums (we were called on the third day and heard him in the background) but also certain he was frightened because he had no caring adult to make him feel safe. When our son was retrieved on the fourth day, the teachers reiterated his challenging behavior in front of him. If their expression of frustration, anger, and blaming at that time was any indication of how they conducted themselves during the school day, it’s clear they exacerbated, rather than eased, his fear and anxiety around the adjustment to preschool from solo care.

Three weeks after this happened, we started our son at a different preschool (another home-based program of similar size) and he is struggling to adjust, but the difference, with the support of caring adults, is profound. We are also three days in and know that he is being looked after by adults who will love and care for him, even when he presents them with challenges, as toddlers often do. After two years of trusting the teachers at Little Owl and investing in them, their school community, and their growing family, it is heartbreaking for us to write this update. Perhaps Little Owl will go back to the school we knew and loved, but for our family, everything has changed and we do not think it is honest to leave what we previously wrote in place.

   I sent my daughter to Little Owl, and I continue to be so incredibly grateful that I did. The amount of support she received from this program continues to surprise me. My daughter arrived at kindergarten with both the academic and self-regulation skills necessary to learn. The play based curriculum meets the children where they are, while still pushing them to be little scholars. My daughter used to come home and tell me about the solar system, or tell me about me about the differences between turtles and tortoises. Beyond that, Sara and Martin were able to truly understand our daughter, and helped her when days were tough or when learning was hard. We trusted them during an impossible time, and my daughter flourished during a global pandemic. She learned how to climb, write all her letters, and that beets are actually really delicious (her words). This place is magic, and I am so glad we got to experience Little Owl Day School. 

I have sent both of my girls to Little Owl and I can honestly say that it was the best possible experience for our whole family. Sara and Martin treat the children like family and take do everything they can to ensure that Little Owl will be a nurturing and safe environment. My first-grader still loves to go back to pick up her sister and see Sara and Martin. Over the years my kids have taught me about bugs, the solar system, birds, dinosaurs and so many other topics they've learned about. They keep the kids physically active with frequent trips to local parks. They have several small pets that the kids love to interact with. The kids are involved with cooking and help make pizza, sweet potato fries, and pesto. They've been great about getting my kids to try lots of different foods. It has been so helpful that they provide lunch and snacks, which the kids eat together at the table. Furthermore, even though my daughter has severe allergies, Sara and Martin were completely accommodating.

Once again, I cannot recommend Little Owl enough. We will be so sad to leave them, we wish we could move Little Owl with us.

Little Owl has a special place in our hearts! Our 4.5 year old son looks forward to school every morning thanks to the wonderful, enriching, and caring environment Sara and Martin have built. Our son comes back at the end of his school day with a big smile on his face, stories to share, a sense of confidence, and fun friendships. To him, Little Owl is really a home away from home. Sara and Martin genuinely have the best needs of the children at heart. Every week the children learn and perform art, letter/number recognition, reading, music, building, crafts, and outdoor activities. On the logistics front:- lunches and snacks are extremely healthy. - the parent community receives a daily email describing what the children have done/learned during the day so we can continue the conversations at home. - ad hoc individual communication is also extremely fluid with both Martin and Sara.  I could not ask for a better daycare for my son and we couldn't be happier with our experience with Little Owl.  I wholeheartedly recommend Little Owl.  Rebecca

My sister first told me about Little Owl.  Her kids went there and she had nothing but a stream of sweet stories and deep gratitude for Martin and Sara.  However, what sold me was the first time I met them.  We ran into them at an event.  The way my sisters kids responded to them, made me tear up.  Martin and Sara were clearly loved.  To have "villagers" in your child's life like that is priceless.  My son started at Little Owl soon after and that feeling I got about them from my first encounter never faded.  My son was there for three years. In that time, my respect for Martin and Sara only increased.  

I was deeply impressed with there teaching style and the way they stayed with a theme for a whole month.  My son especially loved space and the ocean.  I remember the day he came home (3yrs old) and he could tell me the names of all the planets and there position from the sun. He even made a paper model of how the earth spins and rotates around the sun. 

We also loved their healthy food choices, how they incorporated Spanish into their daily routines, the daily emails about the day, their study of life cycles in the classroom, their level of preparation each day and their calm and loving manner.

 I second everything that has been said on this page.  Little Owl is truly a gem.  

Where do I start?  

 Our family loves Little Owl!  Sara and Martin did a fantastic job getting our little guy ready for kindergarten and life.  The fantastic teacher to child ratio allows them to address the needs of the children in the different age groups.  By the time our child entered kindergarten he was able to count very well (over 100, by ones, twos, fives and tens), do basic math, recognize each letter of the alphabet well, sound out words, and write simple sentences with help.  Sara and Martin did crafts and painting with the kids every day.  Our son came home with beautiful art projects that he was proud of, that we loved, and some now adorn the walls of our home.  He was able to explore many aspects of the world around him including space, the ocean, insects, community helpers, and much more.  In addition to the educational aspect, Sara and Martin provided a safe environment for the children and promoted numerous healthy life skills:

  • healthy eating (they provide a home cooked meal for lunch every day and multiple snacks)
  • communal eating and basic food preparation (kids help make pizzas some days and it gets them interested in knowing where their food comes from and how it's made)
  • conflict resolution (they worked with the older children to help them resolve their issues instead of doing it for them all the time)
  • physical health (lots of outside time)

Our son loved his time at Little Owl and we can't wait for our next one to attend in a couple years!

Little Owl is a magical, wonderful place.  My daughter started in January, and it has been so great for her.  Sara and Martin are amazing with the kids, and the days are filled with fun learning and lots of activity.  They do themed units every month and tie all the activities into the theme, which makes it really exciting for my daughter and easy for me to support at home.  There is an excellent blend of reading, art, creative pretend play, outdoor activity, dance parties, and basically anything you would want your child exposed to every single day. They grow seeds, hatch praying mantises, watch tadpoles grow into frogs.  They feed the kids healthy meals that they provide, which is such a burden off of me.  They send a summary email every day giving highlights of the day, so I can talk about my child's day with her on the way home.  They are also really responsive to texts, and send out fun photos of the kids at play every month or so.  My daughter loves Sara and Martin and loves going to Little Owl every day.  I cannot say enough great things about it.  She is learning so much and thriving.  I am really grateful that she is able to attend, and would recommend them to anyone enthusiastically.

Our daughter loved her time at Little Owl over the last year and half (2014 - 2015). Sara and Martin not only care for their group of children, but they listen to them carefully, and continuously teach them not only behavioral habits, but also basic forms of kindergarten skills (counting, simple math, etc.). They also teach some Spanish along the way. The atmosphere they create in their space is warm, loving and home-like. We could not have felt more comfortable letting our daughter spend time at Little Owl, and she loved every minute of it.
Sara and Martin find ways to keep the children interested by constantly creating/finding new games, new places to visit, and new avenues for learning. The food they provide is outstanding, and it's a nice touch that the kids are exposed to caring for small animals on site as well.
For us parents, they occasionally offer a date night, where the kids stay late and watch a movie. And they could not have been more accommodating to us when emergencies or scheduling oddities arose.
Overall, I rate Little Owl with the top scores possible. We were so lucky to find them when we did.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Sept 2014

We have been at Little Owl for over 2 years and a half, and it was the best decision we made. Sara and Martin are very caring and understanding of children and families. They offer a great bilingual, English & Spanish, environment with plenty of activities, games and toys to keep children engaged throughout the day.

I am still surprised when my twins come home with something new that I know we didn't teach them at home, and it makes us feel great to know that the are learning so much at Little Owl. Sara and Martin are always buying new things that they know the children will enjoy and maintain their house very clean and organized. They are also very proactive in doing enhancements at home to make a better environment for the children.

Little Owl Day School also offers very healthy and nutritious breakfast, two snacks and a lunch. Many of their vegetable are harvested from their back yard and the children are part of the whole process. They also have little pets that the children are able to care for as well (turtles, bunnies, and fishes).

They take the children to the parks around and to visit Sara's mom day home which has a beautiful backyard. They also offer a Movie Night event where the children stay after hours for a fun night with yummy food, movies and friends while the parents can enjoy a night out.

Lastly, I will say that we wouldn't have done it without Sara and Martin and we are very lucky to have found them. If you are looking for a great place for your child this is it, look no more!!! Jennifer

Oct 2012

Little Owl Day School is a beautiful daycare in S. Berkeley where my son thrived under the loving guidance of owners Sara and Martin. They are calm, kind, positive and skillful people with boundless energy. Every day is filled with engaging activities including gardening, nature, science and art projects, water play, music, reading, etc. as well as outdoor play in a huge yard shared with Sunshine Daycare. It's small (6 children), but when they play outdoors with Sunshine the kids can interact in a larger group setting.

Other things that make Little Owl great:
- Hours: open 7:30am to 5:30pm
- Whole food breakfast, lunch and am & pm snacks are served daily, and Sara and Martin are very conscientious about food quality.Much of it is organic with many veggies grown in their garden with the kids.
- Parent communication: They were very available to talk with me about my child's progress and worked very skillfully and supportively to help my son
- Bunnies and turtles
- Beautiful photos taken monthly & sent to parents

We were super sad to say goodbye when we moved cross country. My two year old son loved this place and still talks about it months after our move. Sara told me they'll be moving to a bigger spot and accepting more children soon. Check them out at