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
900 High Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Coastal Community Preschool (CCP) serves children ages 2.3 years 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 West side location overlooking the Monterey Bay. 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 Programs:
• 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.
Community Bridges Early Education Division
“They are helping my daughter with her growth and development. She is always learning new things.”
-From 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!
Community Bridges Early Education Center
“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.”
– From a current parent at Highlands Park Early Education Center
Holy Cross Preschool
170 High St # A, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
For nearly 25 years, Holy Cross Preschool has educated children in the heart of Santa Cruz. Our school is located in a spacious, scenic and secure location, and our play-based program enables children ages 2-5 to develop strong social and emotional skills which fosters a love of learning, develops creativity and promotes self-expression. Our nurturing environment respects each child as an individual and fosters spiritual, educational, and physical development in accordance with individual needs and talents. Our whole-child education includes language arts, science, art, math, and physical education, and programs are separate (preschool and pre-kindergarten) to ensure that they are developmentally appropriate. Full-time and part-time schedules are available.
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 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 to approximately 110 children districtwide, 186 days per year plus a 4 week summer session. 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. We are following all Covid-19 safety guidance.
Mount Madonna School
491 Summit Rd, Mount Madonna
Our Montessori and play-based program provides a loving, safe, and stimulating learning environment where children, three to five years old, are encouraged to develop at their own pace. We strive to nurture a child’s innate sense of trust, goodness, and wonder. At Mount Madonna School, we focus on developing kindness and respect towards ourselves and others. We offer a developmentally appropriate indoor environment fostering curiosity, confidence, and creativity in all aspects of the learning process. This, combined with our 375-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.
Natural Bridges Children’s Center
255 Swift St, Santa Cruz
Natural Bridges Children’s Center is a child-centered, play & inquiry-based program founded in brain research & neuroscience. Our caring NBCC teachers are degreed early childhood educators who are passionate about their work and understand the importance of how strong connections and daily intentional teaching relate to children’s successful transition into kindergarten and to their academic success. Every day is filled with fun conversations, lengthy play, and engaged learning. Children deepen their understanding of themselves and of others and acquire social skills that will help them in life. It is NBCC’s mission to ‘Inspire Children’s Learning~Create Community~Build Bridges.’ Come check out the magic! Call to schedule your tour @ 831.429.NBCC! We look forward to talking to you.
Natural Bridges Children’s Center
My son has spent 3 blissful years at NBCC. He walked into school a nervous and shy toddler but has blossomed into a social, creative, and active boy thanks to their program.
-From a 2022 Family, Caroline Healy
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 outside activities – gardening, creative play, social development, practical skills, art, and pre-K skills. 4-hour morning program, extended care or TK option in the afternoons. Flexible 3-, 4-, or 5-day schedules. FREE tuition for income-qualified families. Highly experienced staff and bilingual aides. Fresh, nutritious breakfast and lunch daily. Excellent COVID safety record. 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 School, PreK-8
2190 Empire Grade, Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz Waldorf School nurtures the whole human being in every individual, cultivating the capacity of head, heart, and hands. We offer a rich and balanced curriculum in which intellectual and artistic development are both vital and fully integrated. Specialty teachers work alongside class teachers to provide students with diverse experiences in language, movement, music, arts, games, and gardening. Our magical, rural campus is nestled in the redwoods above USCS. Our community is warm and joyful. We are committed to protecting childhood, supporting each individual, respecting nature and all life. Santa Cruz Waldorf School cultivates self-directed, empathetic, and free-thinking individuals with the courage and capacities to serve an ever-evolving humanity.
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. Fully vaccinated against Covid-19, full-day and half-day schedules, low child/teacher ratios, and 3, 4 or 5-day schedules are offered for children ages 2-6. Ask about our K/1 class while we still have space! 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, 7:30 am-5:20 pm. Call 831-479-3449 or email Director Caitlin Clancy at [email protected] to learn more!
Tara Redwood School
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.
Child Development Resource Center
Santa Cruz County Office of Education, 400 Encinal Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Finding the right care for your child is one of the most important decisions your family can make. The Child Development Resource Center, a program of the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, is a free, one-stop source for local families seeking early education options. Child care referral specialists can answer questions and connect you with licensed programs to meet your family’s needs. The CDRC maintains the only up-to-date list of child care and early education programs in Santa Cruz County.
Dientes Community Dental Care
Main Clinic: 1830 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz 831.464.5409
Live Oak: 1500 Capitola Road, Santa Cruz 831.276.7010
Beach Flats: 302 Riverside Ave, Santa Cruz 831.464.5411
Watsonville: 1430 Freedom Blvd., Suite C, Watsonville 831.621.2560
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 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 orfacebook.com/triplepscc
Santa Cruz County
415 683 0675
Thriving sprouts: Play based Therapy for Young Children. Thriving Sprouts provides individualized curriculum, interventions and services for each child and family using a multidisciplinary approach. One on one support is provided in the home or within the community. Services include behavioral intervention, educational support, social emotional development and parent advocacy.
Santa Cruz Community Health
Downtown Santa Cruz
250 Locust Street, Santa Cruz
Live Oak Health Center
1510 Capitola Rd, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Mountain Health Center
9500 Central Ave., Ben Lomond
Santa Cruz Community Health’s mission is to improve the health of our patients and the community and advocate the feminist goals of social, political, and economic equality. Driven by a 48-year commitment to health care as a human right, we are a leading nonprofit provider of high-quality, affordable and comprehensive health services in English and Spanish to all ages (including newborns, toddlers, children and teens), gender identities, ethnicities, abilities and sexual orientations, regardless of their ability to pay. We are your affordable neighborhood health clinic with locations in Downtown Santa Cruz, Ben Lomond and a new site in Live Oak. Make an appointment today: 831.427.3500.
Walnut Avenue Family & Women’s Center, Early Education Center
Adventure Sports Swim
303 Potrero Street #15, Santa Cruz
For the past 35 years, our instructors have strived to develop a special relationship with each child, encouraging them to stretch their limits as their abilities grow. Our swim program seeks to provide high quality and individual accomplishment in each lesson. In the end, this means technique, safety, and smiles for everyone.
Looking for activities to do with your kids at home? Have a kid that always wants to help in the kitchen or curl up on your lap to hear a good book? Love getting packages? The Bookakery has just the thing: Bookakery Boxes, a monthly subscription box for kids aimed towards fostering a love of reading and baking. Each Bookakery Box comes with a hardback picture book, kid-friendly recipe card, baking item and activity, all based around a theme of the month. Order yours today! Use code GUISC10 for 10% off any subscription length (renews at standard rate). Expires 12/31/2023
Boulder Creek Recreation & Park District
13333 Middleton Ave in Boulder Creek
The Little Explorers program is for ages 18mo-4.5 yrs old. We offer flexible schedules for families Monday-Friday 8am-12pm. Watch as your child shines while learning letter and number recognition, participating in hands on science experiments and daily art projects. Creating community through people, parks and play!
Jim Booth Swim School
Harvey West pool in Santa Cruz and Watsonville
Be a water wonder! From our Little Otters swim class for parents and their babies to Aquaphobics, our adult beginner class, the whole family splashes together at Jim Booth swim school. Little Otters is a gentle introduction to our 94-degree pools that will make you confident that you are guiding your infant to a happy water experience. Our group lessons emphasize quality swimming in an exciting class taught by our caring, well-qualified teachers. 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 B Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Gymnastics
We at Santa Cruz Gymnastics Center understand how important physical movement is in developing a healthy brain in children. Healthy brain development leads to proficiency in learning and overall confidence to lead a successful life. Our gymnastics instructors take pride in offering gymnastics training packed with a lot of fun in every class! Each lesson offers a wide range of sensory integration activities through the usage of our gymnastics equipment on the floor, bars, balance beam, vault, and trampolines. We offer a range of classes from preschool to competitive teams. Check our website to see what is available for your child today.
Santa Cruz Public Libraries
224 Church St., Santa Cruz
Singing songs, saying rhymes, telling stories, and playing with your child are all great ways to build their literacy skills. Visit the Santa Cruz Public Libraries for free, fun, and educational programs for your little ones. Find a book to share with your child or check out one of the online resources. And, for older kids, take advantage of the free drop-in homework help sessions. SCPL is your partner in early literacy and beyond. Visit us at one of our branch libraries today!