Sprouts Preschool

Berkeley, 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 #
Molly Nettles
nettlespreschool [at] gmail.com
Maximum Capacity:
Language(s) Spoken:
Ages Served:
34 months - 60 months
Editors' Notes:

Nov 2022: BPN assumes this daycare has closed as the license is no longer active

Parent Reviews

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Our daughter has thrived at Sprouts for the last 2 years. The director, Molly, and the teachers are wonderful. They are all very experienced with young children and they know how to develop strong, supportive relationships with children and how to help foster bonds between peers. The school activities are engaging and stimulating -- our daughter regularly tells us about things that she learned at school from books, nature walks, or just conversations with her teachers. The kids spend plenty of time outside, whether playing in the yard or at the nearby park where they have gotten to know many of the local neighbors. I love the community and sense of camaraderie that Sprouts creates. It is exactly what we were looking for and my husband, daughter, and I are very satisfied with our Sprouts experience. Thanks to Sprouts I am confident that my daughter has the social and emotional skills she will need in kindergarten, not to mention a number of wonderful first friendships.

I would like to share how grateful we are for Sprouts Preschool, Molly, and her teachers. We’re really privileged to have this kind of learning environment for our son, who started January 2021 (after losing his prior preschool to the pandemic). I recognize a serious application of early childhood teaching experience amongst the teachers, in a warm and non-institutional setting. I first encountered Sprouts by accident, as they came to a park where my kids were playing - and I saw that this was the cohort and teaching staff I wanted for my family.

Hi BPN, my son has been attending preschool at Sprouts since the summer of 2020. Sprouts Preschool has been a lifeline for our family when our previous preschool shut down due to the pandemic. I was able to enroll him mid-year last year, ensuring that my son didn't miss out on critical socialization and development. Molly Nettles, the owner of the preschool, has done an amazing job keeping the kids safe while, at the same time, focusing on the students' well being. The other teachers are also similarly caring and responsive.
With air filters and masks for everyone, the school will be transitioning back to using their indoor spaces this fall. I am excited for my son to participate in their cooking programs, getting to play with the indoor toys and doing more art projects. Sprouts' curriculum focuses on different nature based themes every month and my son proudly tells me what he's learning every day that he comes home.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Aug 2014

Re: Preschool Recommends near Berkeley for 3 yr old
I highly recommend Sprouts on Hopkins. My son has been going there for a year and absolutely loves it. It's just 15 kids and has a wonderful, warm atmosphere, and I believe they have a spot available for fall if you act quickly. North Berkeley mom

April 2013

Hello fellow parents, We are looking at Sprouts Preschool and would love to hear from current and former families about your experiences. We took a tour and so we have a sense of the environment and the teachers. It seems like a warm and nurturing environment, and we like the smaller class size. The outside area is a little funky compared to other schools, such as the lush garden of Duck's Nest and the well-organized science and art area of Gay Austin, and we can't help but wonder about the lack of a web site presence. Any thoughts would be welcome. Thanks very much!

I have had the amazing good fortune to have sent all three of my children to Sprouts Preschool. There is such a sweetness to the environment and how lovingly the children are cared for and taught. While not stocked with the shiniest or newest outdoor toys or science lab, the outdoor space and small garden have always been more than sufficient to teach my children to love and respect nature. We still have plants in our yard from our many years at Sprouts that our boys tend to with the same reverence that they did as small children. The learning is done so organically as it is part of the process of play for the children.

However, the magic that is Sprouts isn't in the physical environment, but rather the incredible teachers Molly and Marie and the director Michelle Straka. They create an environment where the children learn to respect one another and learn to deal with conflict and situations in an positive manner. Michelle has been working with children for over 30 years and has taught many local preschool teachers as an early childhood education instructor. I have found her experience and wisdom invaluable as a parent.

I've never had a concern about the lack of a web presence for the school as my take on it is that the school has always been quite successful via word of mouth from happy families. In my experience, all the teachers are very accessible and communication via emails and face to face at the school have been great.

I really can't rave enough about Sprouts and am so sad that this is our last year there with our youngest son. My older boys have moved on to a Berkleley public school quite successfully as they had a solid beginning at Sprouts, finding wonder and joy in learning as well as having the social skills to work well with others.

Please feel free to email me if you have any questions about Sprouts, it really is a magical, wonderful place! Marina

I can't say enough wonderful things about Sprouts. I first learned about Sprouts because it's where my niece (who is now a successful 5th grader at Prospect Sierra) went. Both my sister and brother-in-law are educators so I trusted their ''instincts''. Nevertheless, I visited several preschools in the El Cerrito/Albany/Berkeley areas ''just to make sure''. Even though I was impressed by some of the outdoor play areas at some of the other schools, Sprouts offered a special and unique warmth. I was also very drawn to the generous teacher:sprout ratio. My son has always had a nanny so we were concerned about his transition to a school environment. The transition was seamless. When we visited the school for the first time (and my son was only 2 1/2 at the time), he immediately started to play with one of the teachers who then encouraged play with other, older children. And after we visited several of the other, larger schools, Sprouts was the one school that he remembered. To this day, he looks forward to going to school (so much so he makes his little brother a little jealous).. and isn't that really what's important at this age? To ENJOY school? Within a month, my son's vocabulary/language exploded. He has since learned about ''community'', how to ''share'', ''cooperate'', be more empathic, and be apologetic/forgiving. He's three years old. Realistically, in 10 or 20 years, he probably won't remember if there was a high-tech state-of-the-art play structure at his preschool.. but (given my niece's experiences as well) I trust that these life lessons for building community, autonomy, confidence, and character will act as a strong foundation that will stay with him forever. Happy Sprouts Mom

I have four children and my youngest is now attending Sprouts. The older three children attended co-op preschools, but with our last we were ready for a different type of experience. Sprouts is a wonderful preschool - its small, nurturing environment and play-based approach has been a perfect fit for our daughter. Although the outside play space is not large, the children attending the preschool are not so big themselves (!) and with only 12 present at one time, the space is more than enough. In addition, the children go to the library, for walks in the neighborhood, and have a regular music teacher visit. The teachers are amazing and we did not experience any transition problems with our daughter. In addition to Sprouts being such a warm, caring place for your child to begin their social education, Sprouts is also a year round program, with flexible schedule - children can attend from 2 to 5 mornings a week (8.30-1pm) with after care to 3 if needed and the fees are affordable. These are other considerations that you may also want to take into account when comparing it to other preschools with newer facilities and toys. Good luck with your search, there are so many preschools out there, but from our experience we can only highly recommend Sprouts as a preschool. A current Sprouts parent

We sent both of our kids to Sprouts and were completely happy there. It is a small comforting and inspiring place with wonderful teacher/leaders. We all became a family with the greater Sprouts community and we still cherish those memories. Michelle and Molly are outstanding people and extremely gentle and caring with the children. Every other teacher that we encountered there was well loved by all the children. Gardening, art, story time at the library and a visit from a fire engine and fire fighters. We were unconcerned with the lack of web presence. It is a place for our children to grow and learn through contact with loving people. It is a small community and has mostly grown through word of mouth.

I can't say enough good things about Sprouts. If you are looking for more technology or internet presence, it might not be the right fit for your family. Sprouted two

I can't begin to say enough about Michelle, Molly and the entire Sprouts community. Our middle child has had rapidly deteriorating eyesight and is likely to go legally blind. We relocated to the Bay Area very anxious about the school environment we choose for our spatially sensitive and very quiet child. A friend of ours referred us to Sprouts and it was the best choice we ever made. Things started out slowly - our daughter was in Sprouts for over six months before she was comfortable enough to say a word - but with the nurturing provided by the teachers, parents and fellow students of Sprouts, our baby bloomed! I am so proud to say that two years later, our daughter is reading, jumping off of play structures, and (dare I say it) even a little bossy. It has been a great journey. JA

Aug 2012

Sprouts is a wonderful home based preschool. The three teachers are very loving and attentive to the children. The director of the program, Michelle, has a very calming effect on the kids.. She was very caring toward my son who is one that takes a long time to come out of his shell. But she and the other teachers were able to encourage him to take part in the fun. My son's favorite part of the day was art time. The kids are able to explore their creativity whether it is in the morning when there is more free play or when it is circle time and they are pretending they are at the circus. They plant and sing and laugh. It is an experience any child would be lucky to have. The phone number for Sprouts is 510-559-9459.

Feb 2012

We liked our visit to Sprouts but we are hoping to get a little more feedback from parents. The reviews on Sprouts on the archives is a little dated (2009) and I am wondering if any current parents or parents of recent grads might comment on their experience there? -looking for the right place

Sprouts is a nurturing, wonderful preschool! I have 2 daughters, one currently in her second year at Sprouts and a second grader who thrived there. Michelle, Molly, and Marie provide just the right amount of structure to foster the perfect environment of learning through play and exploration. My daughter comes home with stories each day about friends, special projects in art and cooking, songs, and stories she has read. Sprouts also has amazing guest teachers in dance and ceramics. Please feel free to contact me with any other questions. Liz

Sprouts preschool is a wonderful small play based school! I have had 2 kids in sprouts. One graduate and one current. We have all been extremely happy with our experience. My older son has a strong sense on connection with his old preschool and loves to go back to visit and be a big kid helper. My current sprout loves going to school. Michelle, the director, is an amazing , warm and kind person with a wealth of experience. For years the staff was the same three women. This past year, due to unexpected illness, that has changed. However, with one new teacher (1 of 3) woking with and under Michelle the program has continued to be a wonderful place to be. The instructors are a true asset to the program. My sole complaint is that, as a part time working parent, after care hours are not long enough. Despite this, I have chosen to stay and have not thought about changing schools. Naomi

May 2009

Hi, We are considering sending our child to the Sprouts school on Hopkins and I am wondering if there are some parents out there who would be willing to share their Sprouts experience (good or bad) with us. I looked into archives but the reviews of the school are pretty dated. Thank you so much in advance. Hannah

I highly recommend Sprouts as a wonderful play-based preschool. It is staffed by enthusiastic and deeply caring people who have a genuine love for children. The atmosphere is intimate and attends to needs of individual personalities. Through various teaching units, the teachers engage and excite the children to discover the world around them. I've had two kids in Sprouts and when my toddler is old enough, she'll go there too. Michelle Straka is the director: 510-559-9459 Connie

Sprouts is a fantastic place. The teachers/director are loving warm and amazing people. There is no turn over in staff. I think that speaks volumes for the place. The kids are the first priority. The place is low key and has been a great place for my childs first schooling experience. My child is extremely happy at sprouts. I wish i could go to spouts. sprouts fan!

Hi! I wanted to respond to your query about Sprouts preschool. My daughter will be entering her 2nd year at Sprouts this fall, and we are absolutely thrilled with the school! It's difficult to think of a single criticism. The teachers have lots of experience and are extremely committed to the school and to the children. The overall tone and style of the school is set by its director, Michelle Straka, who has a mellow, child-celebrating style that is informed by many years of experience with children.

''Caring,'' ''attentive,'' and ''nurturing'' are the strongest words I would use to describe this school. My daughter is there 5 days a week, in extended care 9-3 four days a week, so I wanted to choose a school that really felt like a second family. I have never felt that she's exhausted or worn out at the end of the day. I feel 100% taken care of by Sprouts. I also trust them completely.

I've seen the teachers in some tough situations with children who had a very hard time separating from their parents. The teachers were completely calm and handled everything in a loving, but neutral way.

This is a play-based program - it's not an academic program. I could see it being a poor match for a child who is ready for a more school-like day with sit-down lessons. The day at Sprouts includes lots of supervised social time with other children, playing and dressup, daily art projects, outdoor play, gardening, looking at bugs and things like that, and lots of singing and reading time, plus weekly special dance & yoga classes & visits to the library.

Lastly, this school is year-round, which was a BIG plus for us. They recognize the needs of working parents, and take very few holidays. (much fewer than the elementary school my son attends, for example). Oh, another thing is that the expectation of parent participation is only come-as-you-wish. Parents are welcome to participate in the classroom, but fundraising and other volunteering is not expected. Which is great when you're a parent with lots of other commitments!

I feel hugely grateful and fortunate that we found Sprouts. My advice is, if you were lucky enough to get a spot there, you should jump on it. Sprouts is a gem!

Feel free to email me if you have any questions. gradiva-at-gmail.com Happy Sprouts Mama

Our son is a current ''Sproutie'' and we can't begin to say enough great things about the school and its teachers. Sprouts was our son's first experience being away from us, so needless to say, it was a big transition for all of us. The teachers really guided us through this process - they were extremely nurturing to him (and to us), and called us daily for the first week or so after we dropped him off to reassure us that he was doing OK and was playing happily. Our son now loves school and skips down the block as we near Sprouts ready to start his school day. The teachers, Michelle, Molly, and Suzanne are just about the the most amazing people you could ever meet - they are enthusiastic and genuine, and their creativity is evident in all the fun activities that make up the school day. They also do so much to foster a sense of community - throughout the year they have taken time out of their weekends and evenings to plan family Sprout activities such as breakfast playdates and kindergarten discussion night. In addition, the teachers are accessible and always ready to chat; they have really been a source of stability for our son during some major changes over the last year (arrival of baby sister, job change) Our son is now finishing his last year at Sprouts and we are confident that he is well prepared for kindergarten, but so sad to be leaving Sprouts. Best wishes to you. Please feel free to email if you have more specific questions. deb

Sprouts has been a wonderful experience for my daughter over the last 2 years. She has had gentle, warm, and most of all incredibly patient teachers at Sprouts to nurture her social skills and love of learning. The program is play-based, with just the right amount of structure to help the kids learn the routines and attend to the day's activities: free play greeting time, snack, circle time with stories, singing, signing, movement, creative projects, outside play, gardening, lunch, more stories, then a happy transition to home. We love Sprouts! Liz

Our son attended Sprouts in 2003-05. Our daughter is currently enrolled. We researched many schools before deciding on Sprouts the first time. Our experience with our older child was so good that the choice of Sprouts for our second child was immediate.

Sprouts is a play-based school. If you believe in academics formally starting at age 3 or 4, Sprouts is not for you. If, like us, you believe formal schooling can and should start in elementary school, then Sprouts is our top recommendation. As attractive as several Montessori schools were, they felt too formal and structured for us. On the other hand, we visited several schools where we felt there was an overly relaxed, ''anything-goes'' style that also did not suit us. In other words, I don't believe a child needs to learn to sit at a table for one consecutive hour at age 3. But I also don't like to see a child run around the yard barefoot in cold rainy winter weather wearing just a T-shirt. We saw both examples during our visits of Berkeley preschools and that did not suit us.

Sprouts felt right for us immediately. It is organized without being formal, relaxed but with boundaries and purpose. They have circle-time, book reading, music and dance, ceramics, the occasional field-trip - and of course free play. Our younger child is happy to be there every single day. Our older child (now 8) loves to return for visits to his teachers. And here lies Sprouts' strength: the three wonderful teachers and their support staff. Michelle, Suzanne and Molly are warm, loving persons that provide a family away from home for our children. At the same time they are sensible, experienced teachers who deliver knowledge, manners and morals for our children to grow, learn and socialize. It is not only reassuring to have our children in their care: we actually feel privileged seeing them flourish in the nurturing environment of Sprouts.

I hope this sharing of our experience helps. -Simone

I highly recommend Sprouts preschool. My son is finishing his second year there, and he has had a wonderful, fun time there. The teachers are highly experienced, relaxed, caring and loving with the children, and clearly love their jobs. Their approach is play-based, but there is some structure to the days such as circle time, projects, outdoor time, visiting the library for story, dance and other activities. I feel there is just the right balance of stimulating the children's thinking and learning skills and allowing the children to develop their own interests. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any other questions. -Kate

June 2005

Re: Nurturing Preschool for 3 year olds
You should look at Sprouts (N.Berkeley on Hopkins Street)(559- 9459) which is incredibly nurturing. It does have kids from 2.5 to 5 (generally, 3-5) but the teachers are exceptional and it is very warm. My daughter started at three, after a 'failed' Montessori experience. She has really flourished at Sprouts. It is small (12-14 kids to two teachers)and is in a converted house. The teachers (there are three) are wonderful - ! ;I enjoy talking with them and I trust their insights. Sprouts is play-based but has some structure. I like that it has an emphasis on art (the director, Michelle, teaches art education classes for ECE classes). I'm not sure what openings they have for the fall but we have to leave the end of June (because of a summer kindergarten program) and I think that there is one child that is moving. You should call to see if there are any openings. It is a wonderful place and has been great for my child who is extremely shy and uncomfortable in almost all social situation. berkomax

February 2003

Re: Intimate, warm preschool with fewer than 20 kids
Try Sprouts Preschool in North Berkeley. I just toured it last week. They are giving tours this month. It is in a home and has a very warm friendly atmosphere. There are only 14 kids. The director and the two teachers assistants were very nice. Call them right away. Their number is 559-9459. They are located at 1910 Hopkins Street. Another small preschool is McGees Farm, (12 kids). It is a cooperative preschool located in Berkeley on 2214-1/2 Grant Street. Their number is 849-3593. Good luck! Laurey


My son attends Sprouts preschool in North Berkeley, across from the North Berkeley Branch Library. A space for a 4-year old boy has become available, due to the last minute change of plans of one of the new incoming families. This preschool is usually filled months in advance and has long waiting lists. There just happen to be no 4-year old boys on the waiting list, so a space in this excellent preschool has become available immediately.

The school occupies the bottom floor of a brown shingle house and has a large back play area. School hours are from 8:30 to 1:00, M-F, with optional aftercare from 1:00-3:00. It is also possible to go less than 5 days a week. There are 10-14 students present at any one time, ages 3 and 4 (and some late 2's), with two highly experienced teachers.

The teachers in this preschool are exceptional-Michelle Straka the Director has been teaching preschool for over 25 years. Suzanne and Lucie, the other two teachers, have taught at the school for 7 and 12 years, respectively. This low teacher turnover speaks volumes. All three teachers are extremely professional, loving, respectful and skilled. Their love of children and delight in being around them shows in all that they do. They are devoted.

The emphasis at Sprouts is on creating a caring space wherein the child can stretch and grow socially and emotionally, with the belief that the self confident, socially secure child will be academically unstoppable. Academics are of considerable but secondary importance. Michelle, the director, teaches other early childhood teachers about the use of music in the curriculum and is expert in this area. Last year they hatched chicks with the children. They have a garden, a worm bin, etc. It is a stimulating place.

Michelle is hoping to find a *relatively calm* 4-year old boy to fill the vacant space. (No, it is not a place with a lot of overly energetic children--there is currently a very nice balance of temperaments and Michelle is hoping to maintain that.)