Best and Most Affordable Preschools In The Bay Area

May 18, 2012 6:00 AM

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 nursery Best and Most Affordable Preschools In The Bay Area

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Slippery Fish Co-Op Pre-Preschool & Preschool
999 Brotherhood Way
San Francisco, CA 94132
(415) 585-5300

Price: $150 to $555 per month (See fee schedule here)
Click here for hours

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.

the bing institute Best and Most Affordable Preschools In The Bay Area

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Bing Nursery/Bing Institute
Stanford University
850 Escondido Road
Stanford, California 94305
(650) 723-4865

Click here for programs/rates
Click here for program hours

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.

Related: Best Outdoor Activities In The Bay Area

preschool teacher with students Best and Most Affordable Preschools In The Bay Area

Photo Credit: ThinkStock

West Berkeley YMCA Head Start Preschool
2009 10th Street
Berkeley, CA   94710
(510) 848-9092
(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
(408) 866-2105

Price: from $114 per month to $450 per month
Click here for tuition details
Click here for hours

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 preschool Best and Most Affordable Preschools In The Bay Area

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Marinwood Preschool
Marinwood Community Center
775 Miller Creek Rd.
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 479-0775

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.

Related: Best Places to Volunteer With Your Kids in San Francisco

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

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