Call it choosing a college for toddlers—picking a preschool is no easier than choosing a college for your teen—except that you probably have to travel less. How far is the school from me? Does it lead to a good kindergarten? Are diapers acceptable? Should my child be doing more classroom learning or is it time to play and socialize? How’s the food? Is there food? What is the cost? Are the teachers cool? Will my child like it? We’ve got a place for you to start looking at the range of schools in Santa Cruz, and the prognosis is good. There is a huge variety of preschools here, from ones that have kids playing out in the woods and farmland to those that have them ready to read. We’ve got schools offering mindfulness, creativity and academics. Take a look through the guide and start heading to their open houses to get a feel for which you prefer.
Coastal Community Preschool
Lic. #444408854 & Lic.#444415615
900 High Street, Santa Cruz
Coastal Community Preschool (CCP) serves children ages 2 through 5 years with a safe, stimulating, and caring learning atmosphere. We have a curriculum that encourages development at each child’s own pace. Among our program highlights, we offer flexible year-round schedules, a highly experienced teaching staff, and a bright, secure Westside location overlooking Monterey Bay. We also offer an after-school program for TK-1st grade. Join us as we continue working with parents and caregivers to raise a community of strong, confident, and happy children.
Community Bridges Early Education Division
Community Based Universal Preschool
• Fairgrounds: 2667 East Lake Avenue, Watsonville
• Vista Verde: 1936 Freedom Boulevard, Freedom
• Sycamore Street: 121 Sycamore Street, Santa Cruz
• Nuevo Dia: 135 Leibrandt Avenue, Santa Cruz
• Redwood Mountain: 7103 Highway 9, Felton
• Highlands Park: 8500 Highway 9, Ben Lomond
Providing FREE (California State Preschool Program) & tuition-based early education, from the redwood mountains in the San Lorenzo Valley to the vibrant fields of Watsonville. We serve infants through TK with the guidance of highly experienced, bilingual/bicultural staff who understand the importance of play and social emotional learning as the key foundation for academic success and ignite a love of lifelong learning. We honor the rich cultural backgrounds that have given Santa Cruz County its historical place as a changemaking community, with core values to provide access to quality early care and learning to create empowered futures. Together we’re better.
“They are helping my daughter with her growth and development. She is always learning new things.”
~ A parent in the Early Education Division
Community Bridges Highlands Park Early Education Center
8500 Highway 9, Ben Lomond
Nestled in the magnificent redwoods and adjacent to the San Lorenzo River, our center serves infants through TK. Built from the foundational dreams of local early childhood legends, we extend our vision with an emphasis on the importance of play, equity and social emotional learning as key foundations for academic skill and the development of a lifelong love of learning. As the only Quality Counts program in SLV, we are dedicated to providing a safe and nurturing space to ensure access to outstanding early learning opportunities for all. Like the redwoods that surround, we invite you to stand tall and thrive with us!
“I feel lucky to receive such warm, nurturing care for my son. Staff are flexible and accommodating to our needs and schedule. Center is always clean.”
~ A current parent at Highlands Park Early Education Center
Discovery Preschool and Family Center
4 Santa Cruz locations:
2800 Porter St. Soquel,
818 N. Branciforte Ave. Santa Cruz,
208 Rankin St. Santa Cruz
The Farm (private address)
Discovery’s mission is to bring families and educators together to enrich a child’s early development and education. Our highly educated staff takes the Reggio Emilia philosophy to inspire learning, curiosity, and discovery to make preschool fun and fulfilling for everyone involved.
“All of the teachers and administrative staff are friendly, creative, and nurturing. We are grateful to all of them for helping us to build a great foundation for our child’s education and life skills.”
~ Discovery Parent
Live Oak School District- Child Development
Del Mar Lic #444400352
Green Acres Lic #444403585
Live Oak Lic #440710379
984-5 Bostwick Lane, Santa Cruz
losd.ca (click on departments and then Extended Learning)
The Live Oak School District- Child Development Program offers families a Free or Low Cost Quality State-Funded Preschool program for 3-4-year-olds at the Del Mar, Green Acres and Live Oak Elementary School sites. We provide morning (8:45-11:45) and afternoon (12:45-3:45) preschool classes. We now offer a Full Day & year round program at one of the centers (7:30-4:30pm). The State’s new higher-income guidelines allow so many more families to qualify. You may come by our office or call us to begin the process for enrollment. If space is still available we enroll year-round.
Mount Madonna School
491 Summit Rd, Watsonville
From the redwood and oak forest to views of the Monterey Bay, Mount Madonna School’s (MMS) natural environment inspires learning, play and social-emotional wellness in students preschool through grade 12. The Montessori-influenced preschool features a low child-to-teacher ratio and dedicated teachers who nurture children’s love of learning, self-confidence and independence. At Mount Madonna School, we focus on developing kindness and respect towards ourselves and others. This, combined with our 380-acre outdoor classroom, invites and empowers children to fully engage in their education. By including abundant time for imaginative free play, children are inspired in all areas of their development.
Pacific Preschool at Pacific Elementary School in Davenport
50 Ocean St, Davenport
Pacific Preschool is a child- and family-centered program for ages 3-5, focusing on screen-free outside activities – social development, gardening, creative play, practical skills, art, music, problem-solving, and pre-K skills. Morning program with extended care or TK option in the afternoons; flexible 3-, 4-, or 5-day schedules. FREE tuition for income-qualified families. Highly experienced and bilingual staff. Nutritious breakfast and lunch prepared from scratch daily. Beautiful 10-minute drive from Santa Cruz. Preschoolers have priority for enrollment in Pacific Elementary School – start your child at a small public school with quality programs and a close, diverse community from around the county!
Rocking Horse Ranch Preschool
4134 Fairway Dr, Soquel
We offer morning, afternoon, and full-day sessions. Our three beautiful acres offer room to explore, including swings, slides, trees to climb, a ninja course, zipline, bike track and a giant sandbox! Kids also enjoy our farm animals and grazing on food from our organic garden and orchards.
Santa Cruz City Schools
Here at the start of a great adventure, students need belonging, encouragement & room to explore. In TK/K at Santa Cruz City Schools, students are given a play-centric, social and curiosity-driven welcome into education to help them develop a lifelong love of learning. Our students enjoy hands-on learning, from growing and cooking in our Life Lab garden to exploring computer science in off-screen algorithms; they are nurtured with individualized educational supports, and the guidance of our licensed counselors. We offer a supportive environment where students discover the height of their potential as learners and as human beings
Santa Cruz Montessori
Ages 18 months – 14 years
Main Campus (Primary and Elementary)
6230 Soquel Drive, Aptos
Winston Campus (Young Children’s
Community and Jr. High)
244 Cabrillo College Drive, Soquel
Established in 1964, Santa Cruz Montessori is a non-profit school serving children 18 months to 14 years. Our beautiful classrooms and outdoor environments engage the children’s senses as they learn. Based on a deep understanding of child through adolescent development, our programs meet the interests and needs of our students, engaging and challenging them to do their best. We offer a supportive community of learners and an exciting Montessori curriculum including humanities, math, sciences, and arts. Our mission: as a Montessori learning community, we inspire life-long learning and a more peaceful world by nurturing the natural development of the whole child.
Santa Cruz Waldorf Preschool
Our Preschool is based on the principle that true learning takes place out of self-initiated activities. The teachers maintain safe spaces for indoor and outdoor play and provide opportunities for hands-on learning of new skills based on the understanding that young children learn primarily through imitation. The children engage in exploration of the natural world, and are gently guided toward development of social tools. Rather than focus on academics, the program centers on learning basic real world skills and emotional self regulation. Each day includes circle time and story time, as well as meals prepared together.
3055 Porter Gulch Road, Aptos
Come experience our thriving, nurturing, play-based program that features an emergent, anti-bias curriculum tailored to your children’s passions and interests! Simcha (meaning “joy” in Hebrew) Preschool is known for its dedicated and knowledgeable teachers who foster children’s social emotional skills, independence, and creative ideas. Everyone loves our beautiful outdoor and indoor facilities. Thank you for voting us Best Preschool Runner Up in 2023! Full-day and half-day schedules, low child/teacher ratios, and 3, 4 or 5-day schedules are offered for children ages 2-5. Ask about our TK/K classroom! Welcoming to all, we are proud of our over 40-year tradition of sharing Jewish values. Come join our Simcha Preschool family! Open year-round, 7:30am-5:20pm. Call 831-479-3449 or email Director Caitlin Clancy at [email protected] to learn more!
Tara Redwood School
Preschool to Elementary
5810 Prescott Road, CA. Soquel
Tara Redwood School curriculum is a blend of Montessori and Creating Compassionate Cultures (CCC). We have a global focus that follows an original framework known as the 7 Steps to Knowledge, Strength and Compassion developed over 30 years. Our curriculum for the preschool years primarily focuses on how to be a ‘good friend’ by supporting the development of the students’ emotional intelligence through mindfulness, discussion, and practice in real life situations. We value the importance of daily outdoor learning experience and the children visit the Redwood Campus at Land of Medicine Buddha, located in the Soquel forest, just minutes from Soquel Village. The Preschool Campus is in a sunny and convenient location in Soquel. Preschool–Ages 24 MO–4YRS.
Alison K. Jackson, DDS
7545 Soquel Dr, Aptos
We are seeing NEW PATIENTS! Dr. Jackson provides comprehensive dentistry in a caring environment for children of all ages. We are preventive-dentistry oriented and very thorough in our evaluations and consultations. Our office provides individualized care for your child’s specific needs. We have a 24-hour emergency service available for all of our patients.
Dientes Community Dental Care
1830 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz
1500 Capitola Road, Santa Cruz
100 Pioneer Street, Suite D, Santa Cruz
1430 Freedom Blvd., Suite C, Watsonville
Dientes Community Dental Care is a full-service dental provider located throughout Santa Cruz County. We practice whole family dentistry including children, adults, and seniors and our patients are cared for by experienced pediatric and general dentists. As a non-profit dental service, our focus is on high-quality, affordable dental services, including exams, x-rays, fillings, sealants, and root canals. We accept Medi-Cal and we have affordable sliding scale fees for uninsured patients. We offer bi-lingual services. Se habla Español! Dientes, providing dignity through dentistry for over 30 years.
First 5 Santa Cruz County
First 5 Santa Cruz County promotes the healthy development of children from birth to age 5. Parents and caregivers of newborns can contact First 5 to receive a free “Kit for New Parents” with parenting videos, children’s books, information on caring for babies and local resources. First 5 also offers parenting support through the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, a world-renowned program that strengthens families by building positive relationships. To find Triple P classes or quick tips, visit triplep.first5scc.org or facebook.
Jim Booth Swim School
Be a water wonder! Lessons for all ages! From our Little Otters swim class for parents and their babies to our adult beginner class. The whole family can splash together at Jim Booth Swim School. Little Otters is a gentle introduction to our 94-degree indoor pool that will make you confident that you are guiding your infant to a happy water experience. Our lessons emphasize quality swimming in an exciting class taught by our caring, well-qualified teachers. Developmental swim team and advanced swim lessons will be offered at our outdoor pool located in Watsonville at Toadal fitness. The whole family can swim at Jim Booth Swim School!
3910 Portola Drive, Suite 2, Santa Cruz
June Bug’s Gym is a place where your child can experience a fun-filled adventure in movement. We have a caring, respectful, and supportive staff that encourages every child in their growth of large motor skills and gymnastics along with social, emotional, and cognitive development. Our goals for our students are to help them feel control and empowerment in their bodies, to build self-esteem through success, to open up imaginations, and to feel confidence and joy in their exploration of movement.
Music Together/MusicalMe, Inc.
Locations throughout Santa Cruz and
Santa Clara County
Offering Music Together®: A research-based music enrichment program for children birth to age 5, and the grownups who love them. This program enhances children’s learning in multiple domains (mentally, physically, socially, etc.), increases family engagement and richly adds to each family’s “toolbox”. Siblings are welcome, especially infants who may attend free if they are 8 months or under. We offer classes both outdoors and indoors. Contact us today to try a free class and bring the joy of music into your family’s life.
Santa Cruz Gymnastics Center
2750 Soquel Ave # B, Santa Cruz, CA 95062
At Santa Cruz Gymnastics Center our mission is to build a community of people that all support each other’s growth, learning, safety and development through our love of gymnastics and fun. From preschool to competitive programs, kids will learn skills such as rolls, handstands, and cartwheels. We also focus on age-appropriate school readiness skills such as waiting in line, sharing, taking turns, and color/number/shape recognition. We know that every child can benefit from gymnastics, physically, emotionally and cognitively so we offer something for everyone. Check out our website for more information and class registration!