Preschools for Anxious or Shy Kids

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • Which preschool for anxious son?

    (3 replies)

    Hi everybody, 

    My 3y old was recently diagnosed with social anxiety. This manifests in a manner that he just seems super shy, he does not want to engage with other kids (because too anxious) and he just needs that extra encouragement from teachers. When he feels relaxed, he loves playing with others. But he might need the encouragement the day after.   Can anyone recommend a preschool in the Berkeley, Albany, El Cerrito/Kensington area that has experience with kids with social anxiety or maybe any other tips on what school would be a great fit? Do kids with social anxiety thrive more at schools with less or more structure? 

    Thanks in advance for your reply! 

    I think Albany Preschool for the child who is not outgoing.  my daughter is/was reserved ouside the house, and it was a wonderful fit for her.

    Just wanted to add I think 3 is a little young to be "diagnosed" with social anxiety. It can be a self fulfilling prophecy. Keep in mind kids can change in lots of ways and that's a pretty sticky label for such a youngster. While respecting his temperament,  don't assume that label is destiny.

    Hi there - it sounds like you have a pretty typical three year old - some are more outgoing than others, but the degree of shyness you describe is normal!  I only say that because I myself have a very shy toddler who over the course of the past year at their preschool absolutely blossomed. Still shy, still takes some time to warm up, still prefers to play alone over other kids, but much more engaged and stands up for themselves and asks for space when they need it. Pine Crest School has been great - not overly structured, lots of space to spread out and play, and gentle encouragement from teachers who really respect where the kids are at and teach them the language they need to express their needs/emotions. 

    Hi, my 16 year old daughter has social anxiety and exhibited it in preschool but was not diagnosed until much later. I think you are lucky to have the diagnosis now so you can help your child early with this. My child was definitely born with this tendency. We put her in the large, play-based preschool her brother thrived in and it wasn't a great fit. In hindsight, a smaller, more structured program would have been better. I found this out for sure last summer when she volunteered at her old school and at another, small preschool. Even at 15 she much preferred the small school which had way less space, fewer students and teachers, a more structured day with a clear schedule etc. You also want teachers who will work with your child and help him take small steps to get more comfortable. I would also encourage you to get parenting support from professionals who really understand anxiety, if or when you feel you need it. There are lots of "experts" around, including on these boards, but anxious kids need help learning to feel confident and it's easy to swing between overprotecting and pushing them too far. I've found really good therapists to be invaluable at times. All the best to you and your son.  

  • Hi, 

    My 3,5y old son was recently diagnosed with social anxiety. At home he is a very outgoing kid, that loves to play and basically do anything a 3y old does. At school he is shy and does not engage with peers. I’m looking for a preschool (Berkeley/Albany/El Cerrito) that has experience with kids with social anxiety or kids that have difficulties warming up. Any recommendations or suggestions are more than welcome. 


    Hi! We went with a co-op preschool, ECPC, which I realize not everyone can do. My daughter was absolutely terrified and spend the first several months glued to one particular teacher, who kindly and patiently waited for her to become comfortable with her friends and surroundings. The photos tell the whole story - in her first year class photo, she's standing off to the side, glaring at the camera; in her second-year class photo, she is front and center, sitting criss-cross applesauce with her gang of "jungle girrrrrls!" The nice thing about a co-op is that a parent can be on-site without being in the kid's face all the time. I'm very grateful that we had this opportunity. She's still shy! But she very bravely deals with it. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Preschool for shy child - No. Oakland/So. Berkeley

June 2016

We're likely needing to move our three year old son from his large play-based preschool (all 30-something kids are in one room and it's proving too much for him) to a school that's either smaller or has separate areas for smaller groups of kids.

I know it's late in the year to start this search, but would appreciate any suggestions of schools that are well-suited to children that take a little more time to warm up and aren't as comfortable in large groups.

Ideally location would be near Rockridge, Temescal, Piedmont Ave areas, but anywhere in the vicinity of North Oakland/So. Berkeley would work. Thank you.

All 3 of my children have attended Benvenue Children's House on Benvenue in Berkeley. It's a sweet, Montessori-based program with less than 12 kids. They dance, cook, play, sing, garden, have circle time, and leave super ready for kindergarten. Rosemary has been running the school for 30 years, and is sort of a local legend. She's not super tech savvy though, so it's best to call her directly at: 510- 333-3198. Emiliana

The Mulberry School is a wonderful, small, nurturing school. Our shy child spent a year watching from the sidelines in a larger preschool before finding a much better fit at Mulberry. The class size, teachers, and community environment make it feel safe and inclusive for shy kids and others alike. Shy kid's mom

Small Oakland Preschool for shy boy

Jan 2012

My 3 year old boy is in a large preschool, which I like for some reasons, but not crazy about the teachers or the lack of teacher stability. He started last April, and had a hard adjustment. Still today, he doesn't ever want to go, but doesn't fight it as much anymore.

He's extremely shy, and slow to warm, even compared to other 3 year olds. I'm interested in trying a small, maybe home-based preschool with more like 8-12 kids. He gets easily overwhelmed in large groups. That includes all classes we've tried (even when parents are there), music, soccer, gym, etc. He'd rather just stay home.

Any recs. for a pre-school in Oakland, preferably Redwood/Laurel/Fruitvale area, but willing to travel further. I know of one small one, but they are booked this year and next. Also, we need a school that allows part time (3 full days/week). Thanks in advance! Shy boy's Mama

Bloomers in Glenview, run by Carolyn Carpenter. You can find her listed in the BPN website. A small preschool, home-based, super nice and kind, intelligent owner. Nice outdoor area. We went there for about 2 years, about 2 years ago. Only full days, but you can go for 3 days a week. Joanne

Beatie Street Preschool and Kindergarten is the way to go. 15 kids. very experienced teachers. Very progressive. Funky space. Judy knows what she's doing. This is not just a school, or even a community, it's a kind of a family. I live in the Laurel and would prefer not to have to go down Park Blvd in the morning, but it is worth it. Contact me if you'd like. Michele

Preschool for slow-to-warm child

Nov 2011

Hello, I am starting to research preschool schools for my 2 year old. And, I would love a school that is either a Montessori based or a school that has a dedicated Spanish class or instruction. However, my child is extremely slow to warm with some anxiety. We are working on this area and hoping preschool interaction will help. I have been advised to find a school that doesn't combine ages (i.e. 2-5yr olds) in the same class room. Any recommendations or suggestions on schools would be appreciated. Jennifer

I know that you are looking for a Montessori based, or Spanish immersion type, preschool... however, if you're interested in other options, try the Child Education Center in Berkeley.

My 4 year old, as well as my almost 2 year old, both started out in the Infant Room. We've been around for quite some time, and have seen lots of children come through the doors at CEC. What's amazing is that each child, even the ones with slow-to-warm up temperaments, seem able to connect with at least one teacher in each classroom. All the teachers are very warm, nurturing, and open. What's great is that there are 5 separate classrooms: Infants, Toddlers, Twos, Preschool, and Pre-K, but at some point during the day, different groups of kids get to interact w/ each other. I love that my 4 year old and 2 year old get to play together during outside time, and that each teacher knows each child. It makes for a great extended family feeling. Sherry

Montessori Family School in Berkeley is a wonderful choice for a slow to warm child. We have been there for over a year, and the mix of ages in the preschool program has been great for my son. Now that he's 4 - he started at 3 and a half and was one of the younger kids when he first started - he's helping the younger kids settle in, with lots of love and support from his teachers. It's a really cool phenomenon, and MFS is dedicated to making sure that the mixed-age Montessori model really work for all the kids. Alegria

The Renaissance School (TRS) enrolls students at the age of 2 in its pre-primary program which is a ''single age'' classroom where children remain until they are socially and developmentally ready to transition into the primary multi-age classroom (typically 3-6 years old). My oldest daughter remained in pre-primary until after she was 3 years old, because she simply needed more time while my youngest daughter transitioned to primary earlier because she was ready. Every child is different and the school takes an individualized approach to learning; many schools say this, but this one walks its talk. I couldn't think of a better place for a slow to warm child to blossom over time and for you as parent to have access to a phenomenal faculty of teachers and learning resources to support in that process. The language (Spanish and French), music, arts, and classroom learning curriculum are phenomenal and integrated with one and other to provide a holistic learning approach. Definitely go on a tour and speak with Leslie Hites the Head of School to learn more. Very satisfied parent at TRS - Ashley

Preschool for shy 2.5-year-old in Contra Costa area

Jan 2005

Hi, We are looking for a recommendation for a pre-school for our 2.5 year old daughter. She is extremely shy and would not talk outside her house (for example, her previous nanny could not draw her into a conversation for over 6 months). Our daughter is being raised in a tri-lingual environment (Russian, Chinese, English). We would ideally like a recommendation of a pre-school which would foster the languages, in El Sobrante, Richmond, Pinole, or Orinda area. Thank you! Olga

Reviews received:

Seeking smaller preschool for shy 3 1/2 year old

November 2003

I have a 3 1/2 year old daughter who is quite shy. When she's warmed-up, she's very talkative and social, but she's usually very withdrawn in new situations, particularly with lots of noise and people. When we go to parks, she's afraid to go on play structures with other kids, and when we are in novel social situations, she'll mainly want to sit on my lap. I had her in a large preschool that was too overwhelming for her, and recently took her out, because she seemed so sad and withdrawn there. I'm looking for a smaller, more managable setting that would work better for a shy child.

Recommendations received:

Other advice received:

I also have a shy (slow-to-warm)3.5 year old girl and am looking for similar preschool. I am thinking that small class size is one very important feature, but haven't found any that feel right yet. Would love to talk more with you about this, maybe even have a playdate for our shy 3.5 year olds and any others out there. Please email me if this interests you. We live in North Oaklnd/Rockridge area. Feeling like Flypaper Mama

There is a woman whose name is Wviebka (pronounced veeb-ka) Larson and she has a small day care in her home. She is absolutely wonderful. The only glitch, that may be a problem for you, is that she is a waldorf teacher. If that is something you are not interested in, it won't work. If you want more info, please feel free to call me: 848-6138 my name is maryclare

This sounds soooo much like my 3 1/2 y/o daughter. I also looked into small preschools, but decided to stay with the one we are in because she is happy there and having spent a morning with her there, she seemed to be doing OK. I would love to talk to you more and give you the info I found on smaller preschools if you'd like.

Related page: Small preschools