Finding a preschool that provides the best culture, convenience, quality and cost can be grueling for Bay-area parents. San Francisco is blessed with a wide-ranging selection of affordable preschools, but the top five offer the best and brightest programs every parent will love.
Slippery Fish Co-Op Pre-Preschool & Preschool
999 Brotherhood Way
San Francisco, CA 94132
Parents love this co-op style preschool for its warmth and affordability and because its learning style is both developmental and relationship based. By having all families volunteer in the classroom and on the administrative side, the program keeps costs in check while building strong bonds between families. One special aspect of this little gem is that it is organically San Franciscan: Formed by four Portrero Hill families, it grew from a play group to a baby sitting exchange and then, with a First Five grant, into a larger program.
Bing Nursery/Bing Institute
850 Escondido Road
Stanford, California 94305
Count on Stanford to create a preschool open to the community, nationally recognized and worth the drive from anywhere in the Bay area. The school provides a model educational environment for young children, offers a laboratory setting for research in child development, and teaches students about children through first-hand experience in the classroom. The tuition is high, though not outrageous by community standards, and the school offers need-based financial aid, making excellence obtainable for all.
West Berkeley YMCA Head Start Preschool
2009 10th Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
(several locations in East Bay)
Click here for pricing/application
Hours: Mon to Fri – 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Berkeley’s rich history of educational leadership sets high community standards that the YMCA of Central Bay Area upholds and exceeds in its Head Start preschool program. The Y operates several preschool venues in the East Bay and all are operated to Y-standards, which means they are committed to youth development, healthy living and involving the family in developing children who learn to be strong, caring, responsible students and adults. In this case, it’s true that sometimes the best can’t be bought. All Head Start programs are free to qualifying families.
Campbell Recreation Pre-School at the Campbell Community Center
Campbell Community Center
1 W. Campbell Ave
Campbell, CA 95008
Campbell may be humble and small, but this South Bay city is home to both the famed French Culinary Institute and a little city-run preschool that has parents throughout Silicon Valley vying for the wait list. Of course, the schools have nothing but geography in common, but maybe, just maybe, something special is cooking up at the preschool. Whatever its recipe for success, it works, and children ages 3 to 6 seem to thrive in this nurturing, play-based environment. The curriculum emphasizes academic readiness, developmental learning and developing of social skills.
Marinwood Community Center
775 Miller Creek Rd.
San Rafael, CA 94903
Price: $290 per month for three days a week/$385 per month for four days a week
Click here for hours
There really can be affordability in Marin County, and without sacrifice of standards. Here at Marinwood Preschool, classes for children ages 2 to 5 are small in nature, and incorporate play-based learning with the philosophy that children should constantly learn and create. Older children receive additional stimulation, but all classes are treated to science, arts and crafts, music, and outdoor adventures.
Marketing communications professional Amy Rabinovitz is a Bay Area writer who has lived in Marin County, San Francisco and now resides in Silicon Valley where, for 15 years, she has been a digital and social media marketer. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.