Affordable Preschools

Parent Q&A

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  • Affordable pre-school?

    Apr 3, 2024

    Hi there,

    I’m looking for affordable pre-schools, preferably 1400 and under. Are there any good preschools out there? Home based are fine too!

    My kids went to Hopkins Child Development Center (pre-school) after visiting/speaking to majority of preschools in Berkeley and Albany. I paid less than $1000, daily meals were included. Both school districts of Albany and Berkeley run their own preschools, I mean  Child Development Centers. Information is online: . Applications are free, but there is a waiting list. Albany has one site and Berkeley has 3. There were 2 field trips: one inside Berkeley and one outside Berkeley. There were weekly enrichment classes-PE and speech development. My youngest child is in 3rd grade, things might have changed...

    I don't know your location, but if you're looking in Berkeley, my child's preschool offers tuition assistance. It also happens to be an incredible place, the teachers are wonderful, and it's play based. It's called Monteverde, and is located in the Elwood district on College.

    Children's Community Center (CCC) has a unique equity tuition model where families can select the tuition "bucket" or rate that fits their budget. We love it at CCC and highly recommend! Not sure of your child's age, but the school has a few openings for 4 year olds for the Fall. 

    Have you looked into co-ops? There’s a parent involvement piece which can be tricky depending on your time resources but also lovely. We are at mcpc in Montclair and love it: mcp

    Reply now  »
  • Affordable Daycare

    Apr 10, 2022

    Hello, like everyone else, I'm looking for more affordable daycare for my 2.5 year-old that's not going to break the bank. She is attending Montessori in Emeryville presently, but I'm looking for something with similar focus/attention and without the price tag - other options essentially. I live in Oakland but willing to travel a little if necessary. Any recommendations?

    gratefully, scott

    You didn’t mention what you’re paying and “affordable” is a relative term! I’d check out bananas for recommendations. They list prices (which can be hard to find)! 

    Hi Scott, I sympathize with your desire to find a less expensive preschool for your little daughter. Daycare/preschool is just unbelievably expensive. It's rare to find full time care for less than $1,800 a month. That said, to find something more affordable, your best bet is to look away from the bigger preschools and instead seek a home daycare or preschool, and specifically, in Oakland. Schools in Berkeley and Albany cost more. It will be harder to find an in-home with a Montessori model, but some are more structured than others. Home daycares/preschools often don't have websites, but you can get a pretty good list from Bananas in Oakland, and also, you can do pretty well searching on the Berkeley Parents Network site. Good luck!

    We recently started at Grace Children's Academy on the Oakland/Emeryville border and are very happy. It’s play based and the kids have lots of art and sensory activity time. It’s not Montessori, but I think at this age the best thing for them is to play and be a kid without rigorous structure (just my two cents, I know there are varying degrees of Montessori styles).

    As for budget, it depends on if your child is potty trained and what hours/days you need but it should be under 2k regardless. 

    Contra Costa College has an Early Learning Center with much cheaper prices for childcare (could be around $900/month). It is a bit far from Oakland though. I would've put my kids in this center, but they follow the colleges policies on COVID so were closed for much of the lockdown in 2020/2021. I visited several times and were always impressed with the staff; their assistants are often students-in-training and they are very up-to-date with their early childhood education research. They are probably taking a waitlist for Fall 2022 now, so I'd definitely go to the Contra Costa College website and give them a call. Another option would be El Nuevo Mundo in Richmond, a Spanish/English preschool. It was maybe around $1100/month in 2019. The only downside to this one was that they required the child be potty-trained, which ours wasn't. Not sure if this is still the case, but you can always call and ask.

    Hello, it's a bit hard to answer your question without knowing what you mean by affordable, which is relative.  Perhaps you could share what you are currently paying and/or what you would like to pay.  In home daycares are generally less expensive than daycare "centers" or preschools.  They may not have websites.  You can look at licensed child care options here  You should do an advanced search to find places that have a child 2 or older enrolled to filter out the infant daycare places.

  • Hi! I was just admitted to a graduate program at UC Berkeley and now am facing the daunting task of finding a hidden gem of a preschool/nursery school for my daughter to begin at the end of August.

    I’m looking for a play-based, child/centered program that offers ample outdoor time (Reggio Emilia inspired or project based/emergent curriculum would be a plus) that also offers sliding scale tuition or scholarships. 

    I applied to be added to the waitlist at Aquatic Park School, and contacted the director of BHNS, but BHNS stopped providing scholarships because of pandemic related cut backs. Nothing against head start programs, but I’m hoping to find a site with a lower teacher to child ratio and play-based is a must. 

    Any advice is appreciated. Thank you! 

    UC offers grants for graduate school parents specifically to help meet this need, and also has several on-site preschool programs that offer subsidized tuition for grad students, assuming you meet the income requirements. I'd start there. Duck's Nest in West Berkeley might also be a good match for what you're looking for, and offers some financial aid. Adult-to-child ratios are set by the state, and most preschools in the area staff pretty close to the state limits (1:8 for centers/schools or 1:12 for home-based programs). So I wouldn't assume you will get a lower ratio in private vs. public programs, though of course you'll find a much wider ranger of program philosophies. Congratulations!

    We were very happy with Albany Preschool! It’s a co-op so the rates were much better, but you do have to do participation hours. Definitely other Cal grad student parents while we were there :) it’s play based/Reggio Emilia

    Hey there! 

    I agree with the previous post about looking into on-site preschool programs with the UC. If not, try the Berkeley School's Early Childhood program. We met quite a few UC families when our child attended preschool for two years at the ECC. They offer a Montessori, Reggio Emilia, play-based program. Lots of hands-on, getting dirty, exploratory learning. The children spend most of their time outside. The teachers are warm and are very intuitive to their little student's needs. Every day our child came home happy and excited to tell us what they did at the ECC. I cannot brag about this preschool enough. Unfortunately, they do not offer scholarships, but they offer tuition assistance so that it may be worth a try?

    I would try for Duck's Nest in Berkeley on 4th Street. It's definitely a play-based, emergent-curriculum format, and it's a wonderful campus and community with caring, dedicated teachers. They offer financial aid (need-based): you have to apply and the application asks for pay stubs, tax returns, etc. We received financial aid for 3 years there. Good luck! I really can't recommend DN highly enough. 

    Hi! Please check into Step One in Berkeley! They are a great play-based school and they offer scholarships. Good luck!

    hello! My daughter goes to Child Education Center, and there are families there with some subsidy!

    Blue Skies for Children in Oakland has offered financial aid in the past.  Hopefully they're still able to do that.  It's a great, play-based program.

    As a former UC student parent, I know the grants help but don't stretch that far. It is not play-based, but Nia House really helped me out when I was in grad school and location is perfect. Congratulations and you've got this! 

  • Part time (affordable?) preK

    Jun 14, 2021

    We were at Griffin preschool pre-pandemic but it sadly didn’t make it and closed down last year. We’re now on the hunt for a preK program that has part time (we’re thinking 2-3 half days) that would be under $1000 per month. So far it seems like places are trying to discourage part time students because the costs is almost the same as full time students. The one place we have found is Sheffield Preschool. I would love any feedback on Sheffield or recommendations for schools in North Oakland or South Berkeley that are allowing affordable part time options. Thank you!

    Are you open to a co-op preschool? Sequoia Nursery School is a great, part-time, affordable option. I know several other co-ops offer part-time childcare and are typically very reasonably priced.

    You might want to look into public preschools.

    Berkeley USD runs 3 (Hopkins, Franklin, and one more) of them (called "child development center"), Albany USD has 1. I do not know about Oakland.

    Application is free. I sent my both sons to Hopkins (in Berkeley) and I believe they are second to none. The teachers are very well paid (they are employees of a school district) compared to regular preschool teachers. The tuition includes school lunch (we still packed ours). They have enrichment classes like gardening, PE, language development (theater-like performance). They go on field trips on a school bus (part of the school district): on inside Berkeley and one outside Berkeley.

    I have toured Sheffield and also our good family friends send their two kids there. Her kids are very happy there and my friend is impressed with the creative projects her children bring home. June the teacher is very warm and easy-going. Her backyard is a children's dream (maybe mine too). It has a large wooden structure and theres a ton of fun outdoor toys. I am looking for a part-time preschool as well and we will most likely send our son here as well. (Our only reason for the delay is that we are considering moving to another part of Berkeley.) Otherwise I would have registered with Sheffield by now. It's a great place!

    Hi, Both of my kids have participated in many programs at Kids N Dance over the past decade and they have all been fabulous. The teachers are dedicated and the programs are fun, flexible, and affordable. Their new PAKS program for in Oakland, for pre-K and K, has flexibility for part-time attendance and cost. If you search PAKS Kids n Dance, it will come up and you can read all about it and/or contact them for more info. 

    The Lake School is play-based and very emotionally sensitive, we've had a wonderful experience there so far with our shy and strong-willed 4yr old. They run a 4/5 day program from 8:30-11:30, with options for after care until 2:30. They handled Covid tremendously and we were able to attend all of last year with no health incidents whatsoever. It is almost entirely play focused, and our son brings home amazing arts and crafts projects, stories about pretend play, and has all sorts of other adventures there. Tutition is <$1k per month.

  • I could use some advice about affordable preschools and day cares. We would enroll my daughter in August when she will be 20 months. We live in Richmond, but are willing to drive to El Cerrito, Albany, or even Berkeley since that is where I work. One big consideration is cost, as we are expecting twins in the fall and are looking for an affordable option that we could potentially put all 3 kids in down the line. I've checked the archives and am wondering if anyone has any more updated recommendations. Thanks! 

    We love our daycare in El Cerrito, Kid's House. I think Inga will have openings by the fall. She takes up to 6 kids but they have to be walking (like 1y/o+.) The oldest kid there now is 4 and will be turning 5 this summer and starting school in the Fall.

    Try stepping stone in El Cerrito.…

    We know a family there who loves it and believe it's affordable.  It's a smaller home base preschool. 

    We really liked Lil Bears in the Richmond Hills and they are very affordable.  We had our son there until he was 3.  They may have moved to a home in El Sobrante (not sure about that) but it's definitely worth checking out.  Email Randy at rbh813 [at] (rbh813[at]gmail[dot]com).  You can let her know Yvette recommended you!

    My daughter attended Little Inti in El Cerrito (near EC Plaza BART) through 2019. It's a home-based daycare/preschool, very affordable relative to most others. I know that some of our beloved teachers moved on and since COVID started it has just been the owner looking after a small group but she's been in business for many years and I expect she will expand again as things open up. The kids were well-cared for and well fed, went on field trips, had weekly music with an outside teacher and all things considered it was a very relaxed, flexible environment. 

    I truly can't recommend Kunga Daycare more highly.  I'm not sure what the status is for their current openings, but Tseyang is an absolutely wonderful care-provider (we've been with her for 3 years and are looking forward to many more for kiddo #2 who's on the way).  Kunga Daycare is very reasonably priced. 

    Look no further than Semillas Preschool in Richmond!  This preschool is very affordable and it’s a gem of a school. The teachers are so loving and supportive; my under-two year old had no problem adjusting to being there full-time. It is a magical place for a child and feels very much like an extension of family. 

    The school has been in Oakland and they are in the process of relocating to Richmond near the Art Center. They have previously always been fully enrolled and it has not been easy to get a placement. But because they are moving to a new location and are establishing themselves in Richmond, they do have a few openings for fall. You can reach the founder Elisa Pasquini at semillaschool [at]

    I would very highly recommend Semillas preschool in Richmond. My daughter attended 3 years at Semillas when it was in Rockridge (from age 2-5 yrs), but Semillas is now moving to Richmond and we are very sad to lose this gem from our neighborhood. I can't speak more highly of the teachers Elisa and her mother, Paula, who offered the most loving and warm place for our daughter to play and learn - every morning our daughter ran from our arms into the warm embrace of a teacher. The atmosphere is fun, nurturing and play-based and focuses on social emotional learning. You can reach Elisa at: semillaschool [at] (semillaschool[at]gmail[dot]com)  

    Tseyang who was an amazing nanny for our oldest child (now 9) has a home daycare in Richmond on the El Cerrito border called Kunga Tseyang day care.  She is amazing and baby/kid whisperer.  Her in-home day care set up is very sweet too.  I can't recommend her enough.  Good luck with your search!

    This was over 18 years ago, but El Cerrito Preschool co op was really nice for many reasons... I think the 

    price was less also, but what stood out for me was that the parents were involved and volunteered ... 

    we had healthier foods and less toxic cleaning products for that reason.  

    Semillas Childrens School is incredible. Our older son went there (he's 7 now) and still refers to it as his favorite school, and our younger son (3.5) looks forward to going every day. The director Elisa and her mom Paula, who is a lead teacher there, are lifelong early childhood educators and are incredibly, warm, knowledgeable, and expert in terms of what children need at different stages of growth. The learning environment they've created helps kids learn independence, collaboration, kindness, and enables kids to follow and grow their own curiosity. We've been part of the Semillas community for nearly 5 years now and it has been amazing to be part of it for our whole family. Can't say enough positive things about Semillas—and now they're moving to Richmond for this fall (from North Oakland)!

    We loved our daycare provider, Dolkar. She is warm, loving and truly cares about your kiddo. She is in El Cerrito a block or so from El Cerrito Plaza BART station.

    We have our children at Lara's Daycare in Richmond We LOVE Lara's, and have been with her for just under 2 years. At the moment she has a waiting list, but a few children are leaving this summer for preschool, so still might have some openings coming up.

  • I am having a hard time finding a *reasonably priced* preschool in or around El Cerrito that runs on an academic year rather than year-round schedule. My husband and I teach, and so we spend the summer road-tripping, camping and caring for elderly parents back east. We have found a few promising places, but so far they are all year-round. The thought of paying thousands of dollars for the 10+ weeks that we are gone for the summer seems somehow absurd.

    I realize that many parents work year-round and appreciate the ability to have a stable placement for their children throughout, but I imagine that there are others in a similar position to us that have found accommodations.

    Thanks for any leads.

    We LOVE Casa Cerrito, the city-run preschool.  They give an option to change your schedule over the summer, and tell them you plan to have your child back full-time in the fall.  Last year we reduced preschool to half-time for a few weeks and then went back up in the fall.  They do say there's no guarantee you'll get your full-time spot back if another kiddo comes full-time in the summer and wants to stay, but I think they try to make it work, and they're more affordable than most other preschools around.  The down side is that their hours are 9am-5pm, no extended care available, so if you can't make those dropoff/pickup times work with your work schedule it can be pretty challenging.

    Good luck!

    My son went to a preschool in Berkeley, run by BUSD 2015-2016. I paid less than $800 M-F 9-3. I know that they have groups run on academic year and also groups for a longer day (these are very hard to get into). I was happy with the public preschool. I visited or spoke to ALL preschools in Berkeley-Albany-Kensigtin area. This was my top choice. My other son will start at the same school (they are called childhood development center, not preschool) in August. The downsides are that children must be fully potty-trained and if you are late 3 times to pick up your child-you are out! The had a weekly library, garden, PE, and theatre performances. Lunches are included in the price. Also they had two field-trips on a school bus. Firefighters visited them on a fire truck and dental hygienists did to teach them how to brush their teeth. I felt that my son, who is now in second grade, was  perfectly prepared for school. There are 3 sites: Franklin, Hopkins (we went there), and another one. Information is on BUSD website.


    I don’t have a specific place recommendation in El Cerrito but my husband and I are both teachers too. When our son was in preschool, we had a year round preschool. However the preschool worked with us so our son could go part time instead of full during the summer. It saved us some money and it was actually nice to be able to take him sometimes and get a break, although we were out of town a lot.

    I’m not sure if our school was just particularly flexible, but it is worth asking wherever you go. That school has since changed owners and is entirely different now.

    We moved out to Pinole and our last preschool WAS on an academic schedule and was fantastic: La Casita Bilingue in old town Pinole. If you happen to work this direction I highly recommend.

    My daughter is at the Berkeley Rose Waldorf School preschool, and we love it. They are on an academic schedule and have spaces available for next year. I'm sure someone could arrange a tour if you call.

    Gay Austin school in Berkeley. Both my kids went there and loved it. Not year-round, not cheap but cheaper than many other schools we looked at, and was only a 7-minute drive from our house in El Cerrito.

    Check out Sunshine Playschool in El Sobrante.  They are year round, but many teachers' children attend and they seem flexible with taking summers off without losing your spot.  Good luck!

    It’s not nearby but I beleive the Mills Children’s School in Oakland uses an academic year schedule (they have a summer program but you have to pay and enroll separately). They accept kids as young as 6mo. 

  • I'm looking for a diverse, affordable childcare center or daycare for my 16-month-old in Oakland/Berkeley. I'm not invested in any particular pedagogy, so long as there's lots of play and exploration - especially outdoors - and positive communication practices. St. John's in Berkeley is along the lines of what I'm interested in, but it's more than I can afford and I'm concerned about the racial diversity for my son.

    It might be a bit of a haul for you, but, our boys have been at Chatham Preschool on Redwood Road since they were 16 weeks old and we love it. I know they have some openings in their 2 year old class right now so, could be a great time to check it out.

    They get tons of outdoor time on the huge play ground, and its a very diverse community.  It's also the best deal in town from a cost perspective, and they provide lunch/snacks; amazing!

  • We are moving to the SF bay area and need daycare/preschool/childcare recommendations for our 2 year old in the South/Downtown Berkeley area! We will be living near the Ashby BART station in South Berkeley and commuting to SF which could take an hour each way so we need somewhere that is open atleast 10 hours and our budget is less than 2k. We would love personal recommendations from parents who have children at these daycares.

    Thank you so much in advance!

    Hi there,

    I'd like to recommend It's All about Me daycare which is on Woolsey Street about 3 blocks from the Ashby BART. Their hours are 8am-6pm. You might be able to make arrangements for a longer day, not sure. Our son has been there the past 2.5 years. Although he is moving on to the preschool that his sister attended, we have been really, really happy with his care situation over the last 2 years. Developmentally appropriate, warm, safe, fun, and enriching. Darlene (the operator) and Viney (the other caregiver) are a wonderful balance of influences for young kids. They are diligent, thoughtful, and dedicated. It's also been an incredible value. I don't know what their rates are now, but we've been paying about 1K/month. Darlene Percoats can be reached at 510 914 3300. 

    Our son is moving on to Via Nova which is also very close to Ashby. I recommend it highly though it barely scrapes below the 2K mark for incoming 2 year olds and I believe they are currently full. Perhaps it's worth inquiring in case a spot opens up. 

    We are many years past childcare, but had an excelllent experience with Aquatic Park School.  The same leadership is in place.  It meets your budget and time requirements.  It's on the way between Ashby BART and SF, on Heinz near 7th St.  (This also happens to be close to Berkeley Bowl, one of the best supermarkets around.)

    APS is often full-up, but it's worth checking out, as openings do happen.

    I'd recommend Alma's Children garden, but they are 8-5. You might be able to work something out with Alma. I believe she has an opening. Let me know if you want more details. I also live near Ashby Bart, and it's a 4-min drive. 

    I have friends who are excited to start at Via Nova this week, which is right at the BART station.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Inexpensive school near Berkeley for my 2 year old?

Nov 2015

I am looking for a school near Berkeley for my 2 year old, that isn’t too expensive and is good and trustworthy. Please let me know if there are some with openings. Thank you. -Valdete

My son goes to Berkeley USD preschool and we all love it. There is no residency requirement. There are 3 preschools, officially called Berkeley Child Development Centers (CDC). They provide enrichment programs almost daily: gym class, library class, garden class, literacy class. There is also lunch provided, no volunteer requirements, and two field trips included

Franklin Preschool
Maura Blanco, Secretary
1460 Eighth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710
Hopkins Early Childhood
Maria Elena Romo, Secretary
1810 Hopkins Street, Berkeley, CA 94702
King Child Development Center
Margo Wilson, Secretary
1939 Ward Street, Berkeley, CA 94703
Victoria Hritonenko vicka17 [at]

Hi - Check out Benvenue Children's House in Berkeley. You can call the director, Rosemary DeSerio, at 510-333-3198. I think they might have an opening. My 3 yr old son goes there now, and it's terrific. Emiliana

I always happy to recommend The Model School in south Berkeley. It's inexpensive compared to other preschools in the area and they offer a very flexible schedule. My kid thrived there and has gone on to have a very successful elementary school experience. Model School fan

Subsidized Pre-School besides Headstart?

Aug 2014

Hi-- My son is two-years-old. I have just started thinking about preschool. The process of finding the right one is overwhelming to me. I am a single-mother on a fixed income. We would qualify for financial assistance. I am looking for a school that is diverse & welcoming to alternative family structures (i.e. single-parent). I would love to start him this fall, part-time (3 days a week). Do all preschools offer financial assistance? Any recommendations on specific subsidized preschool programs? Are we too late to enter this fall? Next fall? Are there bilingual programs? I am looking for information on schools outside of Early Headstart/Headstart. Anonymous

It's too late for this fall, but for fall 2015, look at Monteverde in Berkeley. They offer financial assistance, and they are extremely welcoming to all kinds of families. In my daughter's class there are queer families, adoptive families, co-parenting/divorced families and single parents - of all ethnicities and income levels. Beyond that, Monteverde is a truly wonderful school, run by a group of sensitive, dedicated, thoughtful human beings. We have been thrilled with our experience there from start to finish. They do tours in the fall, and applications are usually due in December, so you could check it out pretty soon, if you want. Monteverde mom

Bananas in Oakland can help you with preschool subsidies. Good luck with your search!

FT Preschool near El Cerrito under 1000/mo

Feb 2014

We need to start looking for a preschool for our daughter and I have no idea where to start What is more important though we have a tight budget and I am hoping to find a place that would cost about the same what we pay now for a daycare, which is around $1000 a month for full time. I am wondering if it is even possible to find a preschool with such rates in El Cerrito area.I will really appreciate your input and any suggestions. Thank you much! On tight budget

Casa Cerrito (run by the city of El Cerrito) is probably very close to that price for full time (we go part time and pay around $8/hr, so I'm not sure). The basic hours are 9-5 but I believe there is a before-care and after-care option - ask at the Rec Dept or at the site (adjacent to the community center). It is not fancy but seems to work just fine for its kids.

Look at Montessori Learning Center on Schmidt Lane in the direction of the El Cerrito Recycling Center. My daughter went there 10 years ago, so I don't know the exact cost, but it was less expensive than others in the area. We liked the school very much, she attended from age 20 months until 5.5 years old. Local Mom

I haven't found a full time preschool in EC that is under $1000 a month, but if you are willing to go to Richmond there are some. La Petite Academy, which I believe has two Richmond locations, is about $200 a week for Preschool. The City of El Cerrito has a Preschool program called Casa Cerrito, but I think you can only do it 9am-5pm, if that schedule would work for you I think it would also be under $1000 a month. There are many Preschools that offer part time that would be under $1000 a month, but if you want full time, your options are limited. EC Mom


Looking for a pre-school for low-income family

Feb 2014

I need help or advice on where to start looking for a pre-school for my 3 year old daughter who is still in the process of potty training. I am a single mother and really need to know where to look or apply . Im currently in school and we are a low income family so I cant afford a private pre-school. We live in West oakland area closer to emeryville and alameda. Does anyone know of any pre-schools. I really need help because my daughter begs me to go to school and I am trying my best to at home to show her letters and reading as well as her colors. Please help! any advice from any parents would help!

You could look into Head Start programs and Oakland Unified's preschool programs to see if you meet the income eligibility guidelines. Bananas may also have ideas for you. anon


Looking for an affordable preschool/daycare

Feb 2014

I am looking for an affordable preschool/daycare. My son will be four in September of this year. My daughter will be 17 months. My husband and I both work full time but cannot afford more than 1200 a month for daycare/preschool for both kids. Is there such a place that offers great day care and preschool but is affordable? Wishful thinking probably. Erika

Montessori Learning Center on Schmidt in el cerrito. My son attended from 8-5, 4 days a week which cost approx $700 per month. Depending on your drop off/pick up time, could be cheaper. May be discounts for siblings/2 kids. He loved the class, instruction, pre k work, had attended for about 2 1/2 years. Worth checking out. Montessori fan


Co-op or affordable preschool

July 2013

We had to leave our preschool suddenly. Any tips about a co-op or otherwise affordable school still accepting admissions? Thank you! Jessica

Hi Jessica,

I don't know if you've found a place yet, but I would highly recommend the School on the Hill : with Rich Sugerman. My son is going to his preschool.

His school was founded on the idea of providing very high quality service (He's a teacher with 30 years of experience and a Master's degree) at an affordable price. I've been extremely happy with his pricing compared to the other places we looked into in the Berkeley area. He's priced for his mission of serving low-income families and operates on a sliding scale, based on your income.

He absolutely loves kids. I can see it with how he interacts with my son and how he talks about why he started his preschool. He takes a lot of joy in seeing my son explore and learn about the world. He is a really good guy.

I know he has openings currently. He is easy to work with and not pretentious like a lot of other places in town.

Good luck, Cheryl


Looking for an affordable FT program for a 2.7

Feb 2013

Hello all, I have been looking low and high for a preschool for my son for September 2013.Now, I have unfortunately a lot of things going against me ! He will be 2.7 in September, I am a single mum with a FT job so I need care from 8 to 5pm, and it has to be $1000/month or similar (with financial aid maybe ?). Every school I look at range from 2600/month (insane) to 1600 (doable with 2 income, not on a Teacher's aid salary). I would prefer a program that offers a lot of outdoor time as my son is really active but I'll take what I can ! I would appreciate any suggestion. Virginie. Berkeley/Emeryville/Oakland/Albany

If you can drive to El Cerrito, check out Montessori Learning Center. Hours are 7:30-6, and tuition is $950 a month, plus a small materials fee once a year ($175 this year). We're really happy there. Happy parent of MLC student

Albany Children's Center , the preschool run by the Albany School District is very affordable, just a little over $1k/month (I think) and runs working-parent hours.

2010 - 2012 Recommendations


Affordable Preschool in Albany/El Cerrito/Richmond

August 2012

We are looking for a recommendation for a small, home based preschool that is affordable, strong academics (preK math, reading, writing) not just play, small teacher/student ratio, willing to work with a very active, busy toddler who needs some redirection at times. a Dad

I highly recommend the Creative Play Center in Albany as an affordable and enriching preschool! We just finished the first week of the school year and the children are so happy and excited for what's to come! The teachers have all been there for many years and they provide a very warm, safe and fun environment with lots of opportunities to learn and grow. The school takes many educational field trips and has vans equipped with child safety seats. My child has been in the preschool for a year now and every morning he asks me ''do I get to go to school today?'' He lets out a very disappointed moan if I say that it is the weekend and the school is closed. That in itself has been an endorsement for the school. CPC also offers after school care for preschool through elementary school kids. There are currently just a few open spots for the 2012-2013 school year. This preschool is a hidden gem in Albany! happy CPC parent


Affordable pre-K program in Oakland

July 2012

Hi BPNers, Can anyone recommend an affordable pre-K program in Oakland (our daughter's birthday won't make the new CA kindergarten cutoff)? Some of the ones I've seen previously recommended on BPN are just way out of our budget. We live in Maxwell Park so we would be willing to go to San Leandro as well. I know that OUSD is going to offer pre-K programs at some of their schools, but are looking for other options as well. Or, alternatively, would anyone recommend an affordable larger preschool that could serve a similar purpose? Our daughter goes to a very small preschool right now, and I wonder if finding a larger one with more kids and a little more structure could also be an alternative for easing the transition.

Our son thrived at the East Bay Academy , a bilingual Chinese preschool that is off the radar maybe because of its location, in an unpretty section of Eastlake. We paid under $600 a month for full time care including meals. It was an academic rather than play centered preschool but our bright boy really enjoyed it and learned a lot. Lisa from Oakland

Our three girls have been at Tudorka Tots (East Hills site off Redwood Road) for the past two years and have been very happy. TT has pre-K at the main site and is recruiting kids to start up another pre-K at East Hills. They currently serve infant through toddler. The teachers are great and the facility is nice. Food is provided and the rates are reasonable. Highly recommend that you (and anyone else) look into TT and recommend the East Hills site and staff in particular. Dan


Looking for affordable preschool in Berkeley

May 2012

Hi, I am looking for affordable preschool for my 4 year old son. At present he is going to CASA cerrito in El Cerrito for 4 half days. I am having a hard time at drop-off and pickup because I started a new studio in Berkeley and it's hard to concentrate on work. Looking for an affordable Preschool near Berkeley. Thank you in advance for your advice. -nas

Hello - We're currently at Children's Community Center (CCC), a parent teacher co-op in North Berkeley. It's been an affordable option with a great community, and a chance to really get involved in your child's school life. Each family works one morning in the classroom alongside professional teachers (8:45-12:45) and has an admin job that helps the school run with a low overhead. We have teachers who have been here for over 20 years. Monthly tuition is around $490 something for the 5 day 9-12:30 program. PM hours (12:30-3:30 or 12:30-5:30) are at $7/hour now. Scholarships are available for those with financial need. Call the message line for our tour parents to get in touch with you if you're interested in the 4-5's class for next year (4 by 9/1/12). i think there might still be spaces. 510-528-6975. Robin

Have you look at Montessori Family School's Preschool? They are located right in N. Berkeley and offer a flexible schedule. -Anon

Hi, We have some financial assistance available at the JCC East Bay Preschool. Read my comments in the reply above for "Berkeley preschool with openings for Fall 2012". Please call to schedule a tour of our wonderful school! 510/848-0237 x122. Thanks, Ruth


Fulltime preschool for $1000/month?

March 2012

Fellow parents, Could you recommend and affordable preschool in the South or West Berkeley/North Oakland area? I'm looking for a preschool for my three year old, and am having trouble finding something we can afford. Our family is not low income but can't afford the $16,000/year schools. I'm looking for full time around $1,000 per month. I'm finding it surprising that preschool would be more expensive than infant care! Could be Montessori or other style, would love Spanish speaking if possible. Thank you, -just making it financially

You could try Kidsland on Dwight Way. They are a home-based, Spanish immersion program, in your price range. They accept kids of all ages, and offer preschool curriculum for the ''older'' kids. Call Mara at 510/861-7973. Another mom who can't afford steep preschool tuition


Affordable pre-school that's not a co-op?

Feb 2012

My husband and I are looking for a pre-school for our daughter for the fall (she'll be 3 1/2 then). I've looked through the archives but am getting overwhelmed trying to find something that will meet our needs! Hopefully some of you out there can help

To start, we need someplace very affordable, as our budget is reeeally tight--we could probably swing up to $350/month, maybe a little more, although less would be great. It would be for part-time care, 2-3 mornings a week. We live in North Oakland, and are hoping to stay fairly local (Oakland/Berkeley/Emeryville).

I'm also really hoping to find someplace racially and economically diverse. I'm leaning toward a play-based philosophy, but am open to other approaches.

So far the only pre-schools I've found in our price range are co-ops, but we have another baby on the way who we'd have to find care for, which would probably offset the savings of a co-op...Plus my husband and I both work, and the parent responsibilities of a co-op, although wonderful in theory, seem like they would just be too much for us given our circumstances.

So is there anyone out there who has found a wonderful part-time, affordable, diverse non-co-op pre-school??

thanks! Christina

This may not quite work for you right now..but the Albany Children's Center is a wonderful public preschool (it's run by the Albany School District) on Albany Hill. It is not a co-op, but there are some parent participation expectations of 15 hours per YEAR per family. They only offer full-time, and the non-subsidized tuition is $990, but subsidies are available for families who qualify. Since we pay full tuition, I don't know the details about that. The director, Susan Stevenson, is very helpful and approachable, so she could tell you more.

The teachers are very good; they have a lot of experience, and since they are district employees, they have good benefits compared to many preschool teachers. That means little turn-over. Also, since the school offers subsidized tuition and accepts students from outside the district, there is a tremendous amount of diversity. Out of the 24 kids in my daughter's class, there are 10-12 languages spoken!

We looked at various private preschools in the area, but ultimately chose ACC because of convenience (location and hours) and the quality of the teachers.

I did not look into the public preschools in Berkeley, but that may be an option, too. Hope that helps. Teri

For an absolutely amazing, affordable preschool, consider Montessori Family School on Hearst and Scenic in Berkeley. The head teachers have been in the field for 30 years, the ratios are really good and the individualized attention to each child is astounding. The school was originally founded in 1980 by a couple of single moms who needed an affordable place to send their kids for a truly excellent education in life and academic skills. So, by comparison to Bay Area standards, and given the quality, its a bargain. They also have an excellent scholarship program. Laura

Our son loved going to East Bay Academy when we lived in Oakland. It's in a not-so-great area of East Lake but it's very clean and well organized, plus they serve the kids lunch. We paid under $600 for fulltime preschool (9am-4pm). El Cerrito Mama


Daycare/Preschools in Oakland -NOW - Sliding Scale

Oct 2011

Hi, I am a single working Mom, looking for a Daycare/Preschool for both my 23 month-old son, and 4 year-old daughter asap. I work very close to Lake Merritt and would love for the both of them to be close. My dilemma has been finding a place for both of them that isn't in upwards of $1,400.00 total. I would be considered middle class on paper but my salary supports the three of us with little to no assistance. I have looked for good, f/t care that would work with me based on my salary; I don't qualify for any breaks and a lot of grants and scholarships, I'm finding are for elementary aged children. I am in need of suggestion, ideas or any information that would fit my needs. Thanks so much Working Single Parent

Our child recently started attending Snow White Preschool on MacArthur near Broadway (right by Oakland Kaiser), which is not far from Lake Merritt. So far our experience there has been fine and my child seems to like it. I think full time tuition is about $800/month per kid and that includes lunch and snacks. I don't think you'll find a preschool for less than this unless you are eligible for financial aid. They are open 7:30-5:30, and they take kids from 18 months on. I'm pretty sure they have openings right now. Parent


Preschool that has scholarship funds available?

August 2011

Although I have found several wonderful seeming schools that have openings, they have all allotted their financial aid/scholarships for the year already. (If they offer it at all)

Does anyone have a recommendation of a wonderful school in the North Oakland/piedmont/temescal/rockridge/grand lake area that has openings for a three year old boy and still has scholarships/aid available??? I am willing to help with meals, cleaning, classroom stuff, etc ...

I feel like I'm hitting a wall here. Any advice is appreciated!! And just to put it all out there, I think the furthest we could stretch ourselves would be $300/$400 a month for three full days of care. (and believe me, that is a stretch!!) Oakland mom

If you can't find a place with a scholarship, consider finding an ongoing parent co-op. Some are more expensive than others, and some are more academic than ours ever managed to be. But the price was right. Ours ran about $300 a month per family. We got 4 full days of care per week, plus 1 full day a week that the parent provides care for everyone. It worked really well. The $ paid for the ''nanny'' who was the one constant, while the parents and location changed daily. We used to advertise for new folks through Bananas, this newsletter and word of ask around. Ours wasn't ''school'' - it was free-play, arts and crafts, tag (lots of tag), trains, being read to, etc., etc., fun - despite this my son was definitely ready for elementary school. Another plus was that I learned how to deal with more than one kid at a time...and developed a nice group of friends to boot. Good luck with your search! Momba

Maybe not hopeless. You're putting it out there, and hopefully someone can come through for you. Have you checked out Step One Preschool in the Berkeley Hills? I know it's not in your target area, but it's a great school with a scholarship program. Even if their money is allotted, it couldn't hurt to get on the waiting list. Go on a tour and talk to Stacey, the assistant director. dawn

My son goes to Oakland Garden School ( and I know they were looking for someone (not sure if they already found someone or not) to be the office admin as the one they had moved away. She was a parent with two kids at the school and she was pretty full time there. I don't know what the arrangement was exactly but it's possible it could offset your tuition completely if you could make a significant commitment. Contact Tae at director [at] if interested. katie

Hi, I had a similar problem with my son last year. Save him and yourself the trauma of a rigid ''learning'' environment, and find a good play-based school.

If you are willing to travel to Albany, Albany Preschool meets your requirements and is an absolutely amazing school that restored our faith in the preschool system. They are just over the border from Berkeley, and a half block from both bus and bike path (Ohlone Greenway). Another possibility is the Model School on Prince St off of Telegraph: I've heard good things about Peter Pan Co-op in Oakland: Growing Circles near the Piedmont area: And, Griffin Nursery School in N. Oakland. You might also try: Tots around Town in Berkeley offers both free and low-cost part-time care. More of a playgroup but great teachers:

Good luck! Melissa


Low income preschool for 27 month boy

August 2010

I find myself desperately searching for last minute preschool openings for my 26 month old son. The catch? We're broke. Can anyone recommend some great schools that offer financial aid options? I mean real aid here. We make waaaaaaaaaaay below the (laughable) $75,000 that most places consider financially needy :)Does the city of Oakland offer anything for kids this young? We need something 3 days a week (MWF) full days (9am-5pm) - we are flexible on times. My son is very bright, adores being around older kids, has an amazing vocabulary. and is potty trained. I could use any advice! Thanks! I'm also more than open to a co-op as long as they offered a long enough day.

Do you know about Head Start? It is for low income 3-5 year olds. Here is the website for the YMCA/Head Start program for Berk/Albany/Emeryville: The Berkeley Unified school district runs pre-schools for low income kids. Not sure how to get this info for Oakland but you could try googling for it. Hope that helps ginger


2007 - 2009 Recommendations


How in the world can we afford preschool?

July 2009

Hello fellow BPN folks, As for many of us, our finances and circumstances have changed quite drastically since my son has been born. He turns 3 in August '09, and I have gone OVER and OVER on how in the world we can afford preschool. My son is currently part-time at an in-home daycare while I actively seek employment. We barely survive off of my unemployment and my husband's hourly wage - we can't afford $700/month for 3 1/2 days!!

What are my options? I'm looking into Oakland Head Start which, quite honestly, is frustrating. We do not qualify. We wouldn't qualify if it was just me, collecting unemployment. We also wouldn't qualify if we relied on my husband's $15/hour wage and I did not collect unemployment. I'm going to apply, but I already know the answer, unless someone has had a different experience. I've been told to get ''creative'' on my application, but I certainly don't feel comfortable doing that? Maybe I'm a sucker.

Any suggestions? Is there a place you love that is affordable? I'd love to know anyone's experiences with this...are you going through this as well?? I live in the Oakland Dimond district if that helps. Thanks for reading. feeling helpless

Have you considered Peter Pan Co-op in Oakland? We had friends who loved it there. I just checked their website ( and their tuition is $215-230 for 2-5 mornings/week and the afternoon (from 12-2:45) is $20 more per day. Hope that helps. On a budget too

I have had the same concerns as you are having and have also tried to find information on pre-schools (including whether I need to sign my daughter up for one - put her on a waiting list - she is now 16 months old). I was given some advice which was useful - I was told to look into ''co-ops'' - arrangements where the parents and children go and I believe they are run by a group of parents in some cases. I was also told to consider part time pre-schools for 1.5 days a week.

I have not reached the point where I am panicking yet as my daughter is not yet two, but I did ask some questions, and these were the answers that I received. I have not yet put my daughter on a waiting list anywhere (as we are also hoping to move to a new location as well), so don't know the answer regarding how available these options are. However, I do see messages all the time on BPN stating that certain schools have openings.

I hope this is helpful. I would also be interested to know if you find some useful information. Thanks. vicky

check out Little Sprouts Preschool in the Fruitvale district of Oakland. 2626 E16th St, Oakland, 510-533-5667, It's very affordable, somewhere around $450 for 3 days/week, and as a small preschool, can offer lots of individualized care for your child. It's a part of New Hope Covenant Church,, but whatever your faith, it's comforting to know that your kids are in a place where they are loved. I've had three kids go through the preschool, and I'm very thankful for the social, emotional, and yes, even academic development. My kids have been very well prepared for kindergarten and beyond. Contact Director/Teacher Thea for more info, 533-5667.

It's definitely a rough time out there for many of us trying to juggle childcare, unemployment, jobseeking, mortgage/rent, and our sanity. You are most definitely not alone! I just wanted to point out that preschool will actually often work out to cost you less than daycare. For instance I pay just under $700 a month for 3 full days a week of preschool. Preschools with a 5 half day option usually charge a similar fee to the 3 full days schedule, if half days work better for you. When you are paying for inhome daycare you are paying for a smaller, more intimate setting, but as your son gets older he probably doesn't need that so much anymore, and will be happy in a larger setting which is going to be cheaper for you. So I know it's a struggle to pay what you are paying now, but just wanted you to know that if you can manage to keep paying a similar amount, you may well be able to get more hours out of that monthly check, which will equal more time for you to jobseek. Start looking around and getting on waiting lists if necessary, and good luck! -- in the same boat


Full-time preschools for less than $1000/month?

June 2009

Do they even exist in the Bay Area?? I'm finding that most preschools that are full-time (7:30am - 6pm) are OVER $1000 and this breaks my heart. We can maybe-probably do it, but of course with the economy and all (job security?), we're just nervous to commit to a preschool that takes that big of a chunk out of our paychecks when it can go towards savings (for even, god forbid, a really rainy day and one of us gets laid off?). We have another kiddo on the way due this fall too, so we really feel like we should be more on the conservative side. But I have to confess that most of the preschools we've looked at that are within our budget (under $1000) did not knock our socks off. Most of them just felt like daycare extension (lots of playing around in the backyard play structure) but $$ more. My daughter gets plenty of that at daycare! I'd like to find one that has a little more structure than just play all day. Can anyone recommend a preschool that they LOVE and is not $1000+? has to be full time, M-F. Oakland/Berkeley areas. Me or husband being a stay-at-home is not an option for us. Thanks a million, ~On a budget but don't want to shortchange daughter

We were in the same situation as you. The only preschool I found that was structured and under $1000 and worked with our hours was Smiles in Montclair. It is not much under $1000 (860), but every bit counts. Meredith

We love our son's preschool, the Child Education Center in Berkeley. Going five full- time days (7:45 am to 5:45 pm) costs about $931 for kids three and up. It's play-based, but they do a lot to get kids ready for kindergarten, like having them learn to write the alphabet numbers, and their names. They also have weekly dance, music and capoeira classes. On Fridays, the kids take the bus to UC Village for gymnastics. There are optional swimming classes in the summer, and they go to the Julia Morgan center to see a ballet once or twice a year. There is usually a Christmas field trip, too. If you visit soon, please note that right now the preschool and preK classes are in transition (one teacher leaving and one on leave for a month). Our son has thrived there and our daughter will start there soon. Andi

My daughter attended one of those ''over $1,000 per month'' preschools. It was by far our best investment, by far. We cleaned the school, published the newsletter, did gardening and washed laundry several times per week for the school to pay for it. We both worked full time in addition to this. And, it was worth every weed, every machine load of laundry, every push of a vaccum cleaner.

Check out Rising Star Montessori School in Alameda - We are also expecting our second child in the fall and will probably send our 2-year-old to the Cottage Campus, closer to the Webster Street end of Alameda. The full-time (7am-6pm) cost is around $1,000. Jean

Check out Skyline Preschool in Oakland. We've paid under $900 the past two years. I believe it's going up to $900 this Fall. This is for full-time, 7:00 am - 6:00 pm, five days a week. The teachers are fabulous! The program covers all subject areas. There's a dance teacher that comes every week. My daughter comes home with lots of artwork and details of various projects and information she learned. My daughter is more than ready for kindergarten this Fall. Skyline Preschool parent

Hi there! I have an excellent school for you to check out. Wee Lil People , which is right near Park blvd. I found this school when I sat on the thesis commitee of the creator and owner of the school. Her dream was to provide a school that offered excellent education and affordability. The school offers academics along with Spanish and performing arts. They have 4-5 big performances a year celebrating cinco de mayo to Christmas. The school is run by very strong intelligent black women who will love your child as their own. My son left after kindergarten and was reading, writing and doing mathmatics at 1-2nd grade levels along with having a good basic level understanding of Spanish. The school is underneath a church and doesn't have all the fancy bells n whistles but it makes up for it in love, education and culture. Good Luck diversewc

Hello, My son attended the Rising Star Montessori School in Alameda (pre-K) and the fees for M-F + extended care are $1032. (M-F $857 + full rate extended care 7-8:30 AM and 3-6 PM is $175). If you use only 3 hours in either the AM or PM it's $125. It's slightly over your limit of $1000 but well worth the extra cost. The website is: Rising Star Montessori School (2 campuses: Main and the Children's Cottage both in Alameda) Main Office Phone: 510-865-4536 Fax: 510-865-4538 1421 High St. Alameda, CA 94501 It's a great school and he learned so much. We're sending the baby there this Fall. The head preschool teacher, Ms. Robyn has been with the school for 20 years! Send me an email if you have any questions. sinbadandme

I would highly like to recommend Chatham School. I know it has gotten bad reviews here in the past, but my children have all gone (and sitll going) there and they love it. I believe it's less than $1,000 including hot lunches and long schedule (7:30- 6:00), I have 2 currently attending, so with sibling discount is a bit less than $2,000. My oldest has done great academically and socially in Kindergarten after attending Chatham. She has also remained friends with her friends from pre-school. There is usually a waiting list, but I do not know what the status is for next year. Good luck- anon

My daughter goes to El Nuevo Mundo in Richmond. It costs $35 a day which comes to about $700 a month - it ranges from $565 to $770 depending on how weekends and holidays land.

It is bilingual and they have an extensive list of activities including art, science projects, field trips, circle time, organized and free play and performances for special occasions. The teachers seem well treated and content there and all really like working with the kids.

The neighborhood is pretty dodgey but I've never had a problem picking up and dropping off. The school itself is set back from the street and behind solid gates. I urge you to go in a ask around. Spend a couple hours following one of the teachers around and talk with the director, Sylvana. They do not start kids mid-year so you will probably have to wait until fall, but I think this place is well worth it. ilona

We are very happy at the bilingual (English-Chinese) East Bay Academy in Oakland. A few caveats -- it's in a not-beautiful section of the Eastlake area, and the teachers speak in heavily accented English. But the good far outweighs the bad. Our son (almost 4) is very bright and verbal, and he's been absolutely thriving there. Meals are provided, which means you don't have to spend time fussing over his lunch every morning; and the teachers are very warm and supportive. About 75% of the families who go there are Chinese (we're not Chinese, by the way). Since he's over age 3, we pay $560 per month. Younger kids are slightly more expensive. This is fulltime, 5 days a week. Feel free to email me if you want more info. Lisa

What you need is a pricey preschool that offers financial aid. Grand Lake Montessori is a great school and offers financial aid that might bring the price down to under $1000. There are others too. It is probably too late for this fall, but apply for fall 2010. anon

My son attends the Montessori Children's House of Hayward. Hayward may be a drive for you, but it is located just off the 92 exit from the Nimitz/880 freeway. The tuition last year was 635.00, which included before and after care from 7:30-5:30. From 9-3 the kids have Montessori work that prepares them for Kindergarten, including phonics, numbers, shapes, colors, science and arts/crafts. So, contrary to what the other poster stated, beggars can be choosers. There are quality preschools in the Bay Area if you hunt for it. Good luck!! anon

Affordable preschool in Albany or El Cerrito?

June 2009

I've got twins and am looking for a preschool opportunity for them that we can afford. Given that we will paying for x 2, most schools are out of our budget, including Skytown, El Cerrito Co-op Preschool, etc. Right now we are on the waiting list for the Albany Co-op Preschool which is the max that our budget allows (about $270 each for 3 mornings a week). I would be fine with just 2 mornings a week, a co-op, home based, whatever. They are really showing signs of being ready to go to school and I would like them to have this pre-kindergarten experience. Thank you! anon

Hello... I have been a single mom of twins since they were ten months old... Today they graduated from kindergarten and I am so proud... They got their first school setting experience at Balboa Head Start .. It is located just two blocks off of San Pablo Avenue at Madison... landmarks are Big 5 sporting goods and derweinersnitzal hot dogs... If I remember the address is 1001 South 57th Street... officially this is in Richmond.. They loved it.. and even started out in separate classrooms... they adjusted better than I did... hahahah... They are through the county and will work with your income and ability to pay...If you want more info feel free to write back... I hope this helps... Good Luck!!! joann

My sons attend a wonderful preschool that happens to be extremely affordable. It is called Noah's Ark Preschool and it is located in Richmond, on 37th between Barrett and Roosevelt. I live in El Cerrito and is only a mile from my house. I believe that three mornings a week 9-noon is $225/month.

The school is going to be on a short break next week (June 15-19) but will be back in session June 23. Feel free to give them a call on Tu-Wed-Thurs between 9 and 12 at 235-8989. I am not sure if they have any openings for the fall but it's worth a try. Noah's Ark is a little neighborhood gem with incredibly wonderful, experienced, caring teachers. Good luck! Happy Noah's Ark mom

I believe Little Red Wagon in El Cerrito has part time availability. ( I can highly recommend the new teacher who will be starting the new preschool room at Little Red Wagon daycare in El Cerrito. I haven't been to the school site itself, so I can only speak to Tew (pronounced Tay-u) - she is magic! Both my son and daughter have loved her. She is an exceptional preschool teacher who engages the kids in all sorts of wonderful explorations of the world around them. I only wish Little Red Wagon was not so far away or we would follow her there, but what good luck for anyone living in El Cerrito or Albany. If you want to know any more about Tew as a care provider feel free to email me, I would be happy to share all the lovely things about this very special teacher. Natalie

A Preschool $650 or less -Ber-Oak-El Cerrito

March 2009

I am looking for a preschool for my son who in September will be 3.10 months. Ideally it would be $650 or less for at least 3 full days or 5 half days. We live in South Berkeley, but I am willing to travel up to 20 minutes(in any direction) for reasonable tuition and a school that fits for my son. I know that some of the schools on the outskirts tend to be just as good and more reasonable than my hood(rockridge/ Elmwood) I also know that it's late in the game for a lot of places. Ive actually been looking since Dec. for my younger son, and have now realized that we just cannot afford the schools around us and the one that he is in. I NEED to find something for my older son, and will put my younger son somewhere if we can afford it, but he doesnt need the stimulation as my older son does. Currently he is in a play based school, but I also like developmental, and Emilia Reggio schools and am open to Montessori as well as long as it isnt super strict and rigid as I dont think thats a good fit for my son. I dont prefer(because of how young my kids are) a co-op but am definitely open to it, if it means my son has a place where he fits that we can afford. Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer. **I realize that their is a plethera of info on preschools in the digest, however some is not current- and Im hoping to hear from someone who actually knows of a GREAT PLACE WITH OPENINGS. Thanks so much! lily

If you are willing to travel to Lafayette, Seedlings Preschool is an excellent preschool for the money. It is through Lafayette Orinda Presbyterian Church, but you do not have to be a member for your child to attend. Call them soon, as they do give preference to current families. They also have a DK class for young 5s. I live in Oakland and it takes me under 15 minutes to get there. mom of a Seedlings Kindergartner

My daughter attends Skytown Preschool in Kensington. We love it there. She is actually in the Toddler program which is 18 months - 3 years old and then there is the Preschool program which is 3 - 5 or whenever your child will start Kindergarten. Skytown is a Co Op, but you do have the option of buying out of participation. The regular programs are from 9am - 1pm, but you can do early drop-off and an afternoon program. Potentially the day could be as long as 8am-3pm. It is a play based school with low ratios (1:3 for toddlers and 1:4 for preschoolers). My daughter loves the teachers and the friends that she has made there. You can go to the website to determine exactly what your tuition would be Good luck! Anon

Inexpensive Preschool for 2 yr old in Berk/Oak

Jan 2009

I am looking for a preschool for my son who will be 2.3 by the September cut off. Do you know of one that you LOVE?!! It does not have to be super structured, but I would like more of a preschool feel than just childcare. I would like something where he can go at least 2-3 days a week( 1/2 day OK), more if it's affordable. He is very social, and inquisitive and would really thrive with other little ones. I am not sure I am interested in a co op at this time(but am open to suggestions from parents who are involved in one, as I may not have the time to be there each week. I am looking for something in the Berkeley area, or in Oakland, hopefully not much further than Montclair or Rockridge though, as my older sons school is already 15 minutes in the other direction from my house(almost in Albany) I cannot put my younger son in my older son's school as he is not old enough yet. lily

My son has been going to Claremont Day Nursery in Kensington since last September, and absolutely loves it. Their rates are pretty reasonable ranging from $620 part-time to $1075 full-time, they serve a hot lunch as well as two snacks during the day, and their hours (7am-6pm) is very conducive to working parents. The teacher turnover rate is very low and even though the children are split up into age-based classrooms, all the teachers and caregivers know every child in the school. They follow a play-based preschool program and we are very happy with our son's progress and development here. Please feel free to contact me if you need more information.

Subsidized preschools in Bay Area?

March 2008

Help! I'm planning to relocate to the Bay Area from Southern California in June and will be seeking preschool placement for my 3-year-old starting in June or September. I'm horrified by the posts I've read -- sounds like applying to preschool is worse than the college app process!

Currently my daughter attends a 5-day-a-week income-eligible program. For my income level it's free to us, and the program, though not perfect, is pretty great. Does anything comparable exist in the Bay Area? And if so, do we have any hope of finding a spot for the summer or fall? The posts make it sound quite bleak. Any leads would be most appreciated. 
Wondering if we shouldn't move

I have to second the post for the Albany Children's Center in the UC Village (see the post below). I have one kid there now and one who attended for 2 years. Both kids really enjoy/ed the school. It's sliding scale and part of the Head Start program (which means you get lots of bonuses - including free dental/eye and ear check-ups each year and programs like brushing your teeth after lunch! - I never did that in pre-school.) The student population is mainly from the UC Village, meaning the children of UC graduate students - from all over the world.

The facilities are not the new and shiny but the rooms are full of wonderful art and all have big windows, there is a large yard with lots of swings and sand and room to ride trikes fast. You won't find a Zen fountain around but there's a small library building in the yard (built in the shape of a train) and lots of dedicated teachers, many who have been there for 20 years. And the director Susan is WONDERFUL - a smart, engaged leader and a real advocate.

Do get on the wait-list early (like now). Albany residents get preference, and here's the trick - if you can start your child during the summer you'll have a good chance to get in because that's when the students graduate and start leaving .We started both our kids in July/August.

Joanne does all the administrative work and has been there forever. Be kind and thoughtful to her and she'll watch your back. She really helped us navigate the system when my husband and I were really struggling financially. We pay full-fee now and wouldn't go anywhere else. Good luck, it's a great school!
mom of happy healthy well- cared for kiddos

2004 - 2006 Recommendations

Does quality go down with price?

March 2006

My daughter is a touch over 2 1/2 and potty trained. She is in daycare currently but really needs to move on to a preschool. I have looked in the archives for some info to help me pick one but a lot of the data is old, unfortunately! I have called a few of the places listed but some are full. Since I am a single mom and my daughter is bi-racial, I was wondering if anyone knew of scholarship possibilities for us? My daughter is very bright and needs to be challenged a bit more than she is in her daycare situation. I am not opposed to a co-op and if anyone has updated information on those that would also be appreciated. My schedule does have some flexibility so I can participate one morning a week. I would be interested in her attending a preschool 4 or 5 days per week, all day. If I do not qualify for a scholorship, I would need to go with the absolute cheapest. I have no idea how much the quality goes down with the price, if at all. Thanks for your help. These sorts of decisions are very overwhelming and I am always thinking if I make the ''wrong'' choice it will have a significant effect on the rest of her school days! I need some help.

I know it can be so overwhelming looking for a preschool for your little one!

On the bright side, for the situation you described you are in, quality does NOT neccessarily go down with the price! My oldest daughter was in one of the 'exclusive' and expensive and often mentioned preschools and had a great, really great first year there (lots of stimulation and activities, it's true,) and fantastic teachers, and a BAD, REALLY bad second year, with a lot of intensive, oldest children, and a burnt out teacher who simply did NOT deal with interpersonal issues(!!!) and an unresponsive administration!

My second child, a boy, went to Nelly's bilingual class at the FREE(!) BUSD preschool 'Franklin State' on 8th street, and he had two GREAT years! (You in fact need to be low income to qualify, which I was at the time as I had a new baby and worked very little). It's only three hours though, but really great, a nice amount of Latin culture (dancing, pinatas, Spanish, lots of Latin families); however, I would NOT recommend many of the other classrooms at Franklin State, from what I saw. My last one now goes to a (?) middle or low priced situation, and it is GREAT!!! Great ratio, owner SUPER committed and caring and smart with children; less stimulation which is fine for this child, very caring. (Called Maria Chairez daycare, next to Centro VIDA.) So, there you go!

Also, I've found that the well-known schools are often expensive and fill up fast, but there are great, not well known places that can for you in! quality before price

Part-time affordable non-coop?

January 2005

I'm in the process of searching for a preschool for our child who will be 3 this summer. I've looked at NPN book and BPN recommendations list, but I have a lot of mixed feelings about the whole search.

First, some schools feel so snooty and don't call back or make you feel priviliged to actually tour the place or don't allow kids on the tour(I don't get that). I just didn't expect this kind of uppity environment or the level of competitiveness to get ''in'' to some of these schools.

Second, we are a single income family of four, and I was not prepared for the cost. We are just keeping our heads above water financially, so even finding an extra $200/month won't be easy. I was expecting about $5-7/hour for a non coop. This doesn't have to prepare my kids for Harvard, just give them some socializing and learning and creative play that we can't give them in a home setting.

Third, I am looking for one that is not a coop. I would like to be involved by doing work on weekends or some other job besides classroom participation. Our child has a younger sibling, and we don't have any family in the area to watch the baby. If I pay someone to watch the baby, then the savings we realize by doing a coop is lost on paying for childcare for the baby. I know we could trade off childcare with another family, but I'm not a big fan of watching other's kids.

So, bottom line, is there a non coop(or a coop where we could opt out of classrooom participation) where a 3 yr old could go 2 or 3 mornings a week for about $5-7/hr or $200-350/month in the Berkeley/Albany/Kensington/El Cerrito/Richmond area? or am I living in a world that just doesn't exist anymore? Sign me as Surprised and Confused


Affordable Pre-school for Toddler

Jan. 2004

We are looking for a pre-school for our 2 year old that is under $700/month full time. I live in San Pablo and work in Berkeley so the school could be located in San Pablo, Richmond, El Cerrito, Albany or Berkeley. I am going to visit the Montessori Community School in El Cerrito. Are there others that anyone can think of that are in my price range? Appreciative Mom


2003 & Earlier

Sliding scale preschool?

July 2003

hi i am looking for a good preschool thats close to berkeley. my job hours are 9.30-6.30 and saturdays 10-4 and i am worried about childcare (i am a single mom).he has to leave the present school since i will no longer be a student. I want a small school where he can form bonds and the emphasise is on nurturing and lots of love and affection and open till 7pm at least. i have heard that some private schools are priced on a sliding scale? thanks mary


Preschools that give scholarships

Dec 2002

Hello, I would like to know if there are any programs/scholarships that pay part or all of the cost for children in preschool? Thank you, em


Beth Sholom Preschool scholarship program for Jewish kids

Other advice:

When I was checking out pre-schools, I discovered Pacific Academy in Richmond (pre-school to high school) works with an outside organization for scholarships. I think Step One has diversity scholarships. I also found that some schools were willing to negotiate on tuition, so check the yellow pages and call around.