Mama Bears Playcare

Pinole, CA

No longer in business

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

Home-Based Daycare/Preschool
DSS Facility License #: 
Carol Thompson
carol [at]
Maximum Capacity: 
Language(s) Spoken: 
Ages Served: 
0 months - 0 months
8:45am - 1:15pm
Additional Services & Features: 
Part-time available, Year-round, Sibling discount, Breakfast provided, Lunch provided, Snacks provided, Organic options, Vegetarian options, Special diet support, Cloth diapers accepted, Potty training support
About Our Program: 

After 18 wonderful years, we have closed the playcare. Please check out BPN, a fabulous resource, to find other great child care providers. I have moved on to college admissions advising and hope to see you all at in a few short years.

Parent Reviews

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We have been going to Mama Bears play care for over five years (3 years old to 8). Carol Thompson provides the most consistent high-quality, fun, and reliable child care we can find in the area. We love that the toys are Waldorf-inspired wood for the most part, and so much time is spent outdoors. Our child always comes home happy and joyful. She says of going to Mama Bears, "it's relaxing." Because of the variety of ages that attend, as one of the older children now, our child gets to be a "big helper". The younger kids are fawned over and the big kids feel (and are modeled by Carol) great responsibility toward them. There is a gecko and fish to feed, healthy snacks, and fun projects - our child recently brought home an elaborate castle ingeniously made with cardboard, sand, coffee, pasta and beads, which she herself calls "amazing!" With the recent heat wave, Carol has made a "water slide" in the Mama Bear's yard that has been immensely popular. Carol is very careful about children in her care wearing hats, sunscreen, and warming layers (when it's not a heat wave, that is). We couldn't ask for a more reassuring experience as parents - we highly recommend checking out Mama Bears.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Oct 2012

Re: Preschools in El Sobrante/ Richmond area?
Hi Lisa, I highly recommend Mama Bear's playcare in Pinole. For months we searched high and low from Crockett to Oakland for a place that was the right mix of activity, playfulness and family-feeling for our 2.5 year old daughter, and for awhile I couldn't believe I would find a place that met all our requirements within our geographic area. Turns out what I was looking for was right under my nose! What I love about Carol Thompson is she is both Waldorf and Montessori trained but not dogmatic - she hits that right note of what's perfect for growing minds, hearts and bodies. They do lots of outdoor play in nature, which was really important to us (not just a concrete back yard with plastic toys, which passes for acceptable in a lot of daycares). I was once there when Mama Bear's was getting a surprise county inspection, and as the inspector was leaving they said the food and ambiance were some of best they'd ever seen, and they see many places a day. Our daughter also needed some special accommodation due to being underweight, and Carol worked with us on that. She has many pets - fish, lizards, a guinea pig, friendly cats, and our daughter loves being able to hold the animals sometimes. I wish you luck in your search for a good fit where your active son feels safe and secure! Celia

Our son is happily enrolled at Mama Bears Playcare in Pinole, and we plan to enroll our younger child as well when he is a little older. It is an intimate and nurturing setting and Carol, the owner, is so great with the kids, while managing to be a good listener to us parents as well. If Pinole isn't too far north for you, you should definitely consider contacting Carol (her website is and taking a tour. Jennifer

There is a great preschool in Pinole! It is called Mama Bear's Playcare and the woman who runs it out of her home is Carol Thompson. Carol is one of the most gifted people I have ever known in working with children. She is kind, gentle, very knowledgable about child development & sings beautiful songs with the children every day! She has many fun activities & materials for the children, a wonderful daily routine and makes home cooked organic lunches & snacks! My son has been there over 2 yrs and my daughter will be starting soon! You can check out the website, and please email me with any questions! Good Luck! liz

Oct 2011

Our wonderful childcare provider, Carol Thompson, has openings for preschool age children. Carol has completed Waldorf Teacher training and holds a full teaching certificate in Montessori (AMS) Education, and her program reflects the best of both. More importantly, Carol has a warm, wonderful touch with children and teaches them in a holistic 'head, heart and hand' manner. She is calm, loving and provides a consistent play-based and imagination-rich environment, where children become accustomed to rhythms and routines. The children bake, sing, put on puppet shows and plays, feed the worms in the compost bin, play in her amazing back yard and so much more. She emphasizes social skills, emotional development and problem solving. Carol is easy going and fun loving, and always has great ideas to help us through rough patches at home. She provides bi- annual parent-teacher conferences too. I honestly could go on an on about how much we love Carol and her program. Please feel free to contact me or just call Carol. She will welcome you with open arms!

August 2011

Carol Thompson is doing exactly what she is meant to be doing in this world and that is caring for young children. She is one of the most skilled, warm, honest, respectful, kind, loving, intelligent and knowledgable caretakers I have ever had the privilege of knowing. It is because of her multitude of fine qualities that I took the leap and trusted her with my son. One of the best decisions ever! My son is always happy when I pick him up and often is asleep before we make it home from care. This is due to being full from his home cooked organic lunch and various other snacks and from being''played out''. He is excited to tell me about his day full of play with his dear friends, new discoveries made in nature, while gardening or taking a walk to the near by grove of trees aka the Enchanted Fairy Forest, which brings me to another huge selling point for us, the Waldorf and Montessori inspired aspects of this child care. I wish i could keep this small playcare a secret, but it must be shared! Hope to meet you there soon!

Nov 2010

Re: Preschool/Playschool in El Sobrante Area
I recommend Mama Bears Playcare in Pinole. Carol Thompson, the owner and director is a certified Waldorf and Montessori teacher. She is wonderful at providing a loving and caring environment for little ones to blossom. Organic snacks and lunches are served and often the children will help prepare the meals. There are pet guinea pigs to hold, and a gecko and fish to feed. The kids take walks to the ''fairy forest'' and play in the adorable yard or help with the gardening tasks of picking apples, raking leaves and planting flowers. You would be very happy here...give Carol a call! Carol Thompson 741-8336 or carolt [at] happy at mama bears

If you are looking for a loving, caring and nurturing environment, then Mama Bear's Playcare is the place to be! Carol Thompson, the director, is all of those things and more. She is an expert story teller and understands how to nurture a child's imagination. She is a certified Montessori instructor as well as a Waldorf trained instructor. She serves organic lunches and snacks,and almost all of the toys there are made of wood and other natural materials. I have two girls and we have been with Mama Bear's for 4 fabulous years now. Carol has also been a great resource for us with parenting advice. We couldn't be any happier. Because of Carol, our girls love art, singing and reading and they are immensely creative. I think every parent owes it to their child to at least check this place out! Pinole, CA 94564, 510-741-8336 By the way, I live in El Sobrante too and Mama Bear's is a convenient 5 minute commute. Louise

Sept 2009

It's difficult to summarize the extraordinary experience our family had with Mama Bears Playcare in Pinole (510-741-8336). Two children, five years, unfailing care, attention and love would be the short version. We could not have made a better decision than to send our children to Mama Bears. It's not a place you just drop your kids off and hope for the best. There is always a helpful, conscientious ear through the trials and adversities that come with raising small children. We could gush endlessly about the particulars of discovery, experience and friendship our children encountered there. Perhaps the simplest way to express the time our children spent at Mama Bears is that it was "family" Not in the cliche sort of way with all its attendant connotations of dysfunction or otherwise, but in a real idealized sense of the word. It is a place your children WANT to go, filled with people they (and you) WANT to see. Thoughtfulness, care, kindness, inspiration. Todd and Joanna

July 2009

I and my wife are parents who are currently using Mama Bear's Day Care in Pinole, CA. Our daughter started there when she was 2 and she is 4 now. Our son started going within the last year. It is a marvelous daycare that we would like to highly recommend. Carol Thompson, the careprovider is calm, patient, and loving. She greets kids with a smile in the morning and sends them home with a sweet song in the afternoon. Her Waldorf based play care nurtures creativity and imagination in our kids. The children are taught to respect one and other as well as Carol and her helpers. The teachings are more based on interaction, social skills, and creativity than on academics. The kids make their own pizza on Thursdays and bring organic vegetables to make Stone Soup on Fridays. Both our children have thrived under Carol's care. The daycare hours are M-F 8:45pm-1:15.There is easy access off of Highway 80 taking the Pinole Valley Rd Exit. Mama Bears Day Care can be reached 510 741 8336. dennis

April 2009

Re: Any Waldorf Preschools still open in Oakland / Berkeley?
hi, my child goes to a fabulous waldorf home daycare/preschool, in pinole CA. i can't say enough good things about it. it is simply made the biggest impact on me and my child. carol thompson, who is a certified waldorf and montessori teacher, has opened her heart and home to families and runs mama bear playcare. the kids help make the food, sing and dance, pick apples fresh from her tree to eat, plant, water the garden, go on a nature walk almost everyday to the ''fairy forest''. and all the families are under her enchanted spell of endless kindness and openness. she has that baby magnet that calms and makes a kid feel secure and comfortable. she sends us info on environmentally safe products and parent classes, and over time the families have gotten to become friends and our kids have playdates. it is a wonderful community. it is a small program and not over crowded. here is mama bear's phone number: 510 741-8336 here is a link to what other parent's have said about the program on Berkeley Parents Network. good luck beta

August 2008

Re: Pre-School/Toddler Program 2-3 mornings per week?
I HIGHLY recommend Mama Bear's Playcare in Pinole. It is in Carol Thompson's home. She is amazing. Our daughter just finished two years at Carol's and I could not have asked for a more wonderful place for her first day care experience. Carol is trained in both Waldorf and Montessori teaching. She serves all organic food. She has a great back yard area and the kids go on walks most days. She's in Pinole, on Emma DriveVjust up the hill off of Pinole Valley Road. I think she may have some openings. The program is from 8:45-1:15 and your child can go as many days as you want. It might be a little more expensive than some of the preschool's, but you definitely get what you pay for. The care the children get at Mama Bear's is unmatched, in my opinion. Carol is very knowledgeable on child development and helped us as parents too. Canmt say enough great things about her! Her number is 741-8336. jenny

June 2008

We would like to recommend Mama Bear's Playcare in Pinole. Carol Thompson has several openings for 2-5 year olds. Our son enjoyed his three years there immensely. Carol provides a calm, fun environment centered on play, routine, celebration of wonder, and emotional enrichment. Our son loved going to the Fairy Forest nearby, making pizza every Thursday (including grinding wheat berries for the flour), playing outdoors, and dressing up. Carol greets each child with warmth and a hug--she is an incredible caretaker, full of patience, love, and clever ideas to distract an impatient child. Contact: Carol Thompson 741-8336 or carolt [at]
Jenny T.

March 2008

Re: Preschool in Richmond/Pinole/El Cerrito/Albany
Our son is about to ''graduate'' from a remarkable little preschool in Pinole, called Mama Bears Playcare. I know they have one opening now, and will have more in the next few months when my son (along with 2 others) will move up to kindergarten. We have loved Mama Bears from the very beginning. It is a wonderful bridge from your own loving arms to kindergarten. We have found the director, Carol, to be a loving, calming, creative influence not only on the children, but in our journey as parents. The Waldorf-inspired program is more play based than academic - a good thing, in our book. The children do learn to socialize, share, sit in circle time, pay attention, and be respectful of each other, the toys, and the environment - all the ingredients that are necessary for a successful transition to kindergarten. But don't just take my word for it. Call Mama Bears at 510 741-8336 and ask for a few references - I bet they'll have a list of happy parents a mile long! Grateful Family

Dec 2007

Re: Need a part-time preschool/daycare
I saw your post and it brought back memories from our own search years ago. The best place to start is right where you are - Berkeley Parents! We found the perfect place for our family, Mamma Bears Playcare in Pinole.

We had looked for about 5 months before we found Mamma Bears. We really weren't as picky as it sounds, but every place we went just didn't feel right so we just keept on looking. The minute we walked into Mamma Bears, we knew it was the place for us.

The owner/teacher, Carol, was very warm and accommodating from our very first visit. Her place is beautiful, and full of great toys that our son went running to right away. We started at two days a week when my son was 2 1/2, and added one day in 3 months and another day in six months. The only time he cried was when it was time to leave!

We found a dynamic mixture of what felt like ''Grandma's house'' with simple, yet imaginative toys, great projects, lots of outside time, cooking, gardening and plenty of free play. Our son quickly started doing puppet shows for us (little performances on his lap with just a scarf and a simple puppet), singing lovely little songs, and using table manners that we knew he didn't learn at home (even thanking us for preparing him dinner).

My husband is a grad of Cal, and I'm from England, so we were adamant that an academic environment was decidedly NOT for our son at such a young and tender age. And we ended up in the right place. He is now a joyful kindergartner with all the social skills of a much older child.

I know that since we were there the owner has even furthered her education around early childhood, and probably still presents interesting topics that helped us all with our parenting. We still give copies of articles she passed along to us to our friends that are new to parenthood. And we still stay in touch with a couple of the families we met there.

Some schools are just schools. But we found it to be much more than that. Happy parents, happy child

Nov 2007

Re: Waldorf Preschool in East Bay
I recommend Mama Bears Playcare in Pinole. My daughter (3 yrs 9 mos) has been there for the past year and it has been wonderful for her. It is a home-based preschool run by Carol Thompson, who has completed the Waldorf Teacher training and has her own two children at the East Bay Waldorf School. The environment is warm, gentle & creative, and the children love Carol. She has been a great resource for us as parents too. My daughter has really blossomed in the time she has been there - she comes home singing, making up stories and puppet shows, talking about all her friends. Some of that might have been true if she were at another school, but I feel like she's really had the space to come into her own at Mama Bears, to develop her creativity and imagination, and to be gently supported through her 3 year old (and new baby sister) issues.

The phone number is (510) 741-8336. And in case it makes a difference in your decision, Mama Bears is not far from the Pinole Valley Rd. exit on 80. We make the trip from El Cerrito and it takes less than 15 minutes. BTW, I found Mama Bears through BPN, so thank you BPN! Annemarie

March 2007

Re: Preschool in Hercules, Rodeo, Crockett areas
My daughter goes to a wonderful pre-school in Pinole. It is : Carol Thompson M A M A B E A R ' S P L A Y C A R E Waldorf-Inspired Playcare for the Young Child phone/fax: 510.741.8336 Carol is kind and patient with the children. She & her assistant never yell. They play outside, go for walks, make pizza, feed the guinea pigs & fish, do crafts, and eat organic food. She holds them when they cry or need a hug and sings songs. I feel so lucky to have found her. She comes highly recommended! Sincerely, Alison

Oct. 2006

Re: Looking for Preschools Pinole/ El Sobrante/Hercules
I **highly** recommend Mama Bear's Playcare in Pinole as an excellent nurturing hands-on and fun preschool for 2-5 year olds. Our high-energy, independent daughter thrived there for almost two years and we were sad, sad, sad to move on. Owner/teacher Carol Thompson is the best! Smart and warm, she knows just what each child needs to be happy and confident. The teacher:child ratio is excellent, with often three teachers to 12 children. My daughter loved circle time, where she learned loads of beautiful nature-themed and counting songs that she still sings today. Daily activities often include art, nature walks, dress-up and imaginative play. the school is ''waldorf-inspired'' with an emphasis on kindness and respect for creatures great and small and the kids help care for a menagerie of friendly critters. The food is healthful and organic. Another bonus, we met some really wonderful families that we continue to keep in touch with. Carol has openings since several children have moved out of the area or on to pre-k. Contact Carol Thompson, 510.741.8336 or contact me directly.

Re: Looking for Preschools Pinole/ El Sobrante/Hercules
There is a GREAT pre-school in Pinole! It is Mama Bear's PlayCare. It is Waldorf inspired and the owner is a certified Waldorf teacher. It is a wonderful place filled with gentleness, acceptance, creativity and the joy of discovery. They have all organice snacks and meals. The children have little aprons and rolling pins and can help to grind grain, and roll out their own pizza dough if they like ~ and they love it! There is a special rythym to each day and my son is always coming home with beautiful new songs he has learned. It is an exceptional experience for any family lucky enough to find it. Call:

      Carol Thompson at     Mama Bear's PlayCare     phone 510-741-8336 

Happy parent, Happy child

Sept. 2006

Our wonderful daycare/preschool has openings (Pinole)
I'd like to recommend our excellent Waldorf-inspired daycare, Mama Bear's Playcare. Our family fell in love with this little school from our first visit and I can't count how many times I was impressed by the way Carol, the teacher/owner, dealt with our high-energy 3-yr-old with gentle communication and positive reinforcement. Children are greeted in the morning with a fun activity (drawing, painting, clay) followed by outside play and a truly engaging circle time. The magical atmosphere has sparked our daughter's imagination. She comes home singing complicated songs involving counting and hand gestures. The food is organic and the children often help prepare meals. There are friendly creatures (guinea pigs, fish, cats, a gecko and a dove) and walks to the ''Fairy Forest'' when the weather is nice. There are too many nice touches to mention but it's the bond Carol and her well-chosen staff have forged with our child that makes it special Contact: Carol Thompson, Mama Bear's Playcare, 510.741.8336

June 2006

Re: Small preschool in El Sobrante area
We have loved our experience at Mama Bear's Playcare in Pinole. It is Waldorf based, and the children are treated in a kind, loving way. They do most activities from scratch, be it grinding grain to planting and harvesting carrots. The food is great - the director knows a lot about nutrition, and is very keen on organic food and whole grains. Although early academics is not stressed (the program is ''play-based'', if you will), it is a remarkable environment to have your child learn what they really need to know to move on to kindergarten - how to socialize, caring for others and the environment, how to sit still, how to wait your turn. There are a couple of children that are going on to kindergarten and a couple that are moving out of state, so there will be some rare openings. Call Carol Thompson (the director) at 741-8336
A REALLY Happy Parent

June 2006

I would like to highly recommend Mama Bears Playcare located in Pinole. My son started Mama Bears when he was 2 and 1/2 and is now 3 and 1/2. Mama Bears is owned and operated by an extremely intelligent, compassionate and experienced woman named Carol. She is educated in early childhood development and certified to teach Montessori and Waldorf. These philosophys of teaching are perfect for guiding and enriching a young child's learning experience. I am amazed at how much my son and myself have learned under Carol's care. She has an incredible humanistic approach to handling and connecting with each child as an individual. My son can't wait to go in the morning and I am so thankful he is able to be a part of their daily activities.
Contact info:

  Carol Thompson M A M A   B E A R ' S   P L A Y C A R E Waldorf-Inspired Playcare for the Young Child phone/fax: 510.741.8336 


Oct 2005

Mama Bears playcare in Pinole has been a wonderful place for my 2.5 year old son. When I drop him off in the morning, he is excited to be there and when I pick him up in the afternoon, he doesn't want to leave! Other parents see the same behaviors in their own children. The director, Carol Thompson, just received her Waldorf teaching certificate and holds a Montessori certificate as well. Carol will have few slots openning as a few of her clients are moving out of state. I completely trust Carol and her staff with the care of my child, so should you. Mama Bears Playcare (510) 741-8336

Sept 2005

I cannot say enough wonderful things about Mama Bear's Playcare in Pinole. I started out working in the playcare 2 mornings a week for director, Carol Thompson, about this time last year. Since then, the flow of money has turned the opposite direction, and I now find myself sending my own child to Mama Bear's three mornigns a week while I work from home! I completely trust Carol and her terrific staff with the care of my 2.5 year old son. Carol provides meals, circle time, free play and Waldorf/Montessori style care (no TV). You may contact Carol at 741-8336 if you are seeking the excellent and caring service she offers.

Re: Preschool for shy 2.5-year-old in Contra Costa area (Jan 2005)
I wanted to recommend Mama Bears Playcare in Pinole. My son went there and loved it, and while he's not the least bit shy, I can see that it would be a very nuturing, low-stress environment for someone who is. They do all kinds of wonderful creative things - lots of art projects, great field trips (like: to a local bakery, to the snow at Mt. Diablo, to a huge library book give-away where all the kids left with a bag of books they chose, to name just a few) and plenty of free-time, imaginative play. There's a really nice outdoor area, and the food is healthy and organic. Carol, the teacher/caregiver is a warm and caring person with training and experience. It's definitely worth checking out. skybluemamma