Seeking small, diverse preschool for 3yo

I am looking for a play-based preschool for an active 3-yr old boy in the Albany/Berkeley/El Cerrito/Oakland area.

Ideally this preschool would:

1.  have a student body of kids from diverse economic, racial, ethnic, family structure backgrounds

2.  have no more than 24 kiddos

3.  have indoor and outdoor play and lots of freedom to move between the two

4.  have a curriculum supporting independence, inclusion, kindness, and empathy

Is there such a place that checks all or at least most of these boxes?

Parent Replies

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This description is Woolly Mammoth Preschool to a T! Our daughter loves WM and it checks all the boxes. 

We've had a good experience with Little Elephant Too! in Berkeley -- seems to check all your boxes. We chose it specifically because we wanted a smaller school environment for our little one. There's a little less than 20 kids, mixed age, and the bigger ones help the little ones. There's both the great indoor classroom with a lot of interesting Montessori toys and a large outdoor space. Many parents come from outside the United States and several have come into the classroom to share traditions and stories from their home countries. We're grateful to have been part of the community for two years, since our kiddo was 2.5. And he loves it!

Here is my quasi-regular plug for the home-based daycare/preschool we sent our kids to: Sunflowers Daycare in Rockridge. They also run Orkidz in Albany, which is bigger. Good outdoor space, great activities (weekly yoga, music, nature walks, etc), excellent homemade food, and very diverse group of kids with nice parents. The family who runs it takes it VERY seriously and really want the best for the kids. We are finally leaving after having been there for almost four years! A bunch of kids are leaving for TK at the end of summer so they will likely have a few spots (only 12 kids total).


We are VERY happy at Monteverde, in South Berkeley that checks most of your boxes. I think there are more than 24 kids, but not all the kids are there all days. They have a play based curriculum with anti-racist/anti-bias built in. They are also great with helping children figure out socio-emotional learning. My child has become so much more empathetic and aware of others since she joined less than a year ago. The space is wonderful, and children have free reign to figure out where they want to go and how they want to play. And the teachers are absolutely incredible. They are so warm and welcoming! And also great at facilitating the million little arguments that happen between toddlers :)  

We have been very happy with Child Education Center in Berkeley ( They have a diverse student body, and, while they have more than 24 kids total, class sizes are small. Our 2 1/2-year-old son is in a class with 8-10. It is largely child-led and they spend a ton of time outside - both on their grounds and also on neighborhood walks twice a week. There is art, yoga, gardening, etc. Our active son has thrived and learned so much, and we see the results at home with his increasing independence, kindness, and unprompted empathy. I am happy to answer any questions you might have as you consider what is best for you and your family.