Preschools with Good Outdoor Spaces

Parent Q&A

Berkeley/N. Oakland Preschool - Outdoorsy and Creative Jan 31, 2018 (13 responses below)
Preschool w/ animals, tools, and/or gardening Jul 26, 2017 (6 responses below)
Berkeley area preschool with good outdoor area Feb 6, 2017 (15 responses below)
  • I had hoped to just find a preschool close by and be done with it, but I've visited a few and none feel right. My son is 2 and we'll probably enroll him in the fall. He's very energetic and curious so I'd like to find a place that has a nice outdoor space where he can play, get a little dirty, and be creative since he gets less of that in our small home. We are less concerned about any specific educational philosophies, which is funny since I have a higher degree in educational philosophy and currently work in youth development. 

    Just hoping to get some recommendations of places where the teachers seem happy, and their kids are happy, thriving, and seem like they've throughly explored each day. I'm looking for places in North Oakland/Berkeley ideally. Thank you!

    Hello, it might be a little beyond your preferred area, but The Pine Crest School in Kensington sounds like a good match:

    Highly recommended, excellent teachers, lots of exploring nature outdoors and being creative.  My children have thrived with them.

    We loved My Own Montessori.  I felt exactly the way you did (i.e. less concerned with the philosophy, but wanted to get a good feel from the place) and the moment I walked in to visit M.O.M, I could tell that the children were happy and thriving.  It is right by Trader Joes off of College.  The children do wonderful art projects and do spend a fair amount of time in the outdoor space they have.  I can't recommend it enough.  

    Look at The Berkeley School campus on Francisco near Shattuck.

  • Hi - I would love any recommendations for play-based preschools for a 3-year old in the El Cerrito/Albany/Kensington/Berkeley area with lots of outdoor play and ideally some animals, gardening, and/or working with tools?  Thanks so much!

    Albany Preschool!!! Love that place. Two great play yards, and class pets when possible.

    Monteverde School has all of those things.

    I second Albany Preschool! It is a play-based preschool. I know they raised silk worms and praying mantises last year. There is a little garden area in one of the yards and water pumps the kids can play with. There's pretty much as much outdoor play as your child would like - rain or shine!

    Albany Preschool is a co-op so that is something to keep in mind. Family involvement differs between the morning and afternoon programs so families can pick what works best for them. 

  • Hi bpn community,

    As the most recent responses are now four years old, I was wondering whether anyone had any other preschools to recommend. We are looking for somewhere with good space for running around outside, digging, etc., in or near Berkeley. Our son will be 4 before next school year.

    (We've checked into El Cerrito co-op and Skytown, both of which have the kind of area we're looking for, but we will probably be waitlisted so are seeking other options.)


    Check out Step One School!

    Check out Duck's Nest's Berkeley campus. The yard is phenomenal, as is the rest of their program, facility, and staff. We're about to send our second child there, and are thrilled to bits.

    We just learned that Ducks Nest (which has amazing outdoor space and gardens) has a couple of openings for next year. Won't last long though. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Oakland preschools with great outdoor spaces?

April 2013

I know this has been asked in the past, but the recent responses are pretty Berkeley-centric. Wondering if anyone knows of any Oakland full-time preschools with excellent outdoor spaces and/or gardens, ideally in North Oakland. We know about Duck's Nest and Oakland Garden School; are there others? Thanks! Starting the search

I suggest you check out Daisy Child Development Center . We have a super active boy and outdoor space was important to our choice of preschool. They are a play based school with a progressive vibe. The main play structure was parent built and therefore unique. They have a garden and chickens. It is a larger school with four classes but the wonderful teachers make every child feel special. We loved everything about Daisy. Happy Daisy Parent

Looking for a Preschool with a Garden

July 2012

I am starting to look into preschools for Fall of 2013 for my daughter, who will be 3 in late September of 2013. She loves to be outside, looking at plants and flowers so I'd like to find her a preschool that has a garden and includes gardening in the curriculum. She is a mellow kid who is also a bit slow to warm, so I'd like to find a school with a small class size. We live in Elmwood but I'm willing to include schools in Rockridge, Albany and possibly El Cerrito as well as Berkeley. I'd prefer to send her part-time for the first year, so schools with a half-day or options for 2 or 3 days a week would be great. Thank you for any recommendations! Mom of a Nature Lover

Take a look at Sheffield Preschool . June Sheffield has been teaching for 30 years, her school is a gem, with a big beautiful yard of garden and play areas. There are only 12 children at a time in a very nurturing environment, and a play based curriculum. Happy Sheffield Mom

Ducks' Nest has 2 wonderful gardens -- one in the back by the older kids and one accross the street. The kids play and work in the garden a lot. It's a large preschool but is very very well run, most of the teachers are wonderful and the place is full of wonderment and and playtime fun. The admissions process, at least 4 years ago, was not as pleasant. They do get many applications. I have found that if you ask at the last minute they sometimes find they have an unexpected place. ruthe

Please consider El Cerrito Preschool Co-op on Moeser Lane in El Cerrito. We are certified as a Schoolyard Wildlife Habitat Garden by the National Wildlife Federation. Here's a little bit more about our garden: ECPC is a play based preschool for children 3 -5 years old. We offer morning and afternoon programs in a relaxed, supportive and culturally diverse environment. We have an experienced, caring and professional staff with a low turnover rate. Our preschool has operated as a parent cooperative since 1940. While our professional teaching staff runs the program, member families own the school and are responsible for administration and maintenance. This helps keep tuition low and allows parents to be fully involved in their child's education. It also serves to build a strong sense of community among the families in the school. If you would like more information about enrollment, please email: enrollment [at] Lia

You should visit Berkeley Rose School in North Berkeley/Gourmet Ghetto neighborhood. Their website is: We are in the midst of putting in a wonderful garden right outside the classroom in our new, permanent location on Cedar and Walnut. Berkeley Rose is a waldorf-inspired (seeking certification) preschool through 2nd grade school. The school will be growing a grade a year. My 4 1/2 year old twins attended the preschool last year and will be doing another year of preschool before kindergarten. I didn't know much about the Waldorf philosophy but have learned a lot and really believe in all of it! There are 2, 3, 4, and 5 day options for preschoolers and the regular time is half-day (8:30 - 12:30 with an option to attend the afternoon program if desired). I think Waldorf is a good fit for every child - they learn how to play, use their imagination, tell stories, sing songs, be outside, work with nature. Berkeley Rose is also lucky to have a wonderful preschool assistant teacher who is also the school's garden teacher, Willow Summer. She previously started and ran City Slicker Farms, an urban farm in Oakland. She is wonderful with both children and plants. There are several parents who drive from quite far away (Orinda, Lafayette, El Sobrante) to attend the school! A happy Berkeley Rose parent seh

Cedar Creek Montessori School on Sacramento and Cedar has a lovely little garden and a strong nature studies program. All around, it's a wonderful preschool! Check it out (even though I think you might get tired of the commute from Elmwood). They offer part-time and full-time. Tea ceremony, weekly bread-making, nature walks...we really love that school! Mom to 2 Cedar Creek grads

Preschools that have the most quality outdoor time?

Sept 2011

I have seen positive feedback for daycare / pre-school / school settings that have lots of high-quality outside play, but --which environment has the *most* outdoor time in grassy, muddy, animal and plant-filled nature?-- We are looking for a ''kinder forest'' sort of environment ( for our 2.5 year old. It seems that Oakland Garden School and Cottage in the Woods are both candidates, but we would also like immersion in Chinese, Portuguese or other languages besides English. We're hoping to find a program where true nature and exposure to culture and language come together. We live in Pinole but are willing to consider anywhere in the larger Bay Area. Thanks for your feedback. Nature and Language Family

No school can compare with Waldorf schools for quality outdoor time for kids. If you are looking for pre-k and kindergarten, please contact Diana Mei at < href=rose.html>Rose Kindergarten , in El Sobrante. She was a long term teacher at East Bay Waldorf and opened her own school a few years ago. Our boys have and still attend her school. Much of the time is spent outdoors, rain or shine, playing and gardening. She has bees, chickens and I think is planning on alpacas. She is an amazing teacher and her school is wonderful. If you are looking for 1st grade and beyond, visit the East Bay Waldorf School in El Sobrante. Diana Mei, Rose Kindergarten, (510) 223-8309, rosekindergarten [at] Maria

You should take a tour of Duck's Nest Preschool in Berkeley [on 4th St. near Gilman]. It's hard to imagine a more comprehensive, attractive, and integrated outdoor program. happy nature/animal lovin' parent

Preschool with great outside space?

April 2011

I love our home-based daycare, but it just doesn't have any outside space and I'd love for my little one to be able to run around outdoors during the day. Does anyone have recommendations for a 1) full-day preschool, 2) that takes two-year-olds, 3) ideally in the Lake Merritt / Fruitvale / Glenview / Piedmont area that 4) has some safe space attached where my child can run around outside? -Loving the sun

Recommendations received:

Preschool for very energetic 2 year old son

June 2002

In searching for a preschool for our VERY energetic soon-to-be-2-year-old son, we've come to feel that the playground is one of the top considerations. We're looking specifically for a preschool with a playground that:

- has a LARGE outdoor area
- offers free and total accessibility all day long (kids can wander in and out as they choose)
- has both good shade and good sun -- in other words an all-weather play area (well, except for rain or storms!)
- has solid high fences for security and privacy
- has natural features -- trees, grass, flowers, birds ...
- is in a quiet, peaceful setting -- not right next to a busy road, freeway, train-track, etc.

Can anyone make a recommendation based just on this criteria? We realize that a place this good may not even exist, but -- we hope! Thanks! Colleen

Recommendations received: