Preschool & Childcare Guide
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.
Rose Blossom Nursery School
6401 Freedom Blvd, Aptos
Preschool, TK, & Kindergarten for boys and girls. Rose Blossom is outstanding in teaching social and academic skills in a safe, peaceful, and enriching environment. Phonics/reading, writing, math, science, social studies, and creative drama integrated with music, art, and games, organized into a daily schedule with monthly themes. Circle time, group and individualized instruction, free play, and conflict resolution. Rose Blossom is an NVC-based school. See https://www.cnvc.org. Beautiful country setting, large play yard. See website www.roseblossom.org for introductory video. Call Sharon Rose, Director for tour and registration info.
Nurturing, experienced Montessori guide classically trained in Europe joyfully bringing the world to the child. Invest in your child’s future during the most formative years nurturing his & her growing independence reaching their fullest potential. New Montessori materials of practical life, sensorial, language, mathematics, geometry, geography, culture, the arts, music and dramatic play! Two 3 hour sessions, each followed by 1.5 hour picnic, play and exploration to Robin’s Park Nature Trail, Triangle Park, playground and La Selva Beach all within a block or two! $1100 per month, $50 per day for 5 full days per week is the best value available!
Santa Cruz Montessori, Ages 18 months – 15 years
Main Campus (Primary and Elementary)
6230 Soquel Drive, Aptos
Winston Campus (Young Children’s Community and Jr. High)
244 Cabrillo College Drive, Soquel
831.476.1646, Enrollment: ext. 12
Santa Cruz Montessori is a non-profit, independent school founded in 1964 serving children ages 18 months to 15 years. Our programs include the arts, sciences, mathematics, literature, language, social studies and music. Our beautiful Montessori classrooms are designed to engage all of the child’s senses and create a life-long love of learning. 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.
Capitola and Soquel
Rocking Horse Ranch Preschool
4134 Fairway Dr, Soquel
Rocking Horse Ranch is a play-based preschool located on 3 beautiful acres in sunny Soquel. We are open from 9-5:30 and offer morning, afternoon, and full day sessions. Our outdoor space offers lots of room to explore, including our gardens and many different kinds of animals. Come visit us!
Soquel Parent Education Nursery School
397 Old San Jose Road
Soquel PENS celebrating 69-70 years
Soquel PENS provides a high-quality preschool experience for children ages 2.5 to 5 while simultaneously providing parent education. Both children and parents are provided a rich learning environment to explore, question, gain information, observe, discuss, develop friendships and establish a place of acceptance within our community. Parent’s develop skills in supporting their child’s school success in the years ahead and gain invaluable skills in establishing life-long healthy family relationships. Our school’s teaching philosophy is based in open, creative, child-driven exploration of curriculum materials in art, science, cooking, literacy, numbers, and physical skills balanced with structured participation in group and snack time. This is all guided by veteran teachers well trained in the arts of child development, communication and parenting skills, and human psychology. Soquel PENS is a part of Watsonville/Aptos/Santa Cruz/Adult School under the Pajaro Valley Unified School District.
Tara Redwood School
5810 Prescott Road, Soquel
Tara Redwood School offers enrollment from preschool to elementary grades and a curriculum that nurtures the innate positive qualities within each child. It is a model school for the international program, Creating Compassionate Cultures (CCC) and incorporates the Montessori pedagogy. Our theme-oriented, interdisciplinary program includes play, art, science, nature exploration, and social studies while cultivating empathy, mindfulness and social-emotional skills. We offer mixed-ages, small size, and open classroom settings for children 24 months to 5 years old. Situated in 108 acres of forest and sunny open spaces, the Redwood Campus is located just 5 minutes from Soquel Village.
CCP serves children ages 2.3 years to entry into kindergarten 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.
Good Shepherd Catholic School, located in Santa Cruz, offers two child-centered preschool programs; a preschool program for children between age two and nine months and three years of age potty trained and a pre-kindergarten program for children four and five years of age. Full-time and part-time enrollment opportunities are available Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. in both programs. Spanish, art, music, science, and religion are taught as part of the school’s integrated curriculum. Both programs offer developmentally appropriate language arts and math instruction, including hands-on lessons in the school’s Life Lab. Students in the pre-kindergarten program are given priority registration for the school’s outstanding kindergarten program. For more information, ask for Good Shepherd’s Preschool Director, Mrs. Kristen Barkman.
At Holy Cross Preschool we offer engaging preschool and pre-kindergarten programs that support children’s social, emotional, physical, cognitive and spiritual development. The curriculum stretches children’s imaginations through culturally-rich and developmentally-appropriate learning experiences that are offered within a balanced environment of play and academics. Other program highlights include Spanish, Life Lab, Physical Education and themed project days, all of which form a program that educates the whole child. Flexible part-time and full-time schedules are available between 7:30am-5:30pm Monday through Friday. To learn more about Holy Cross Preschool and schedule a personal tour, please call (831) 423-4447.
Come join us at Mrs. Bus Stop Preschool! Your child will experience the joy of making new friends as they explore, learn, and grow together. Our relaxed setting naturally promotes a sense of community and the well-being of every child. Ages 2-5 years. Hours: 7:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. Flexible schedules.
Nature’s Nursery School is a Waldorf influenced outdoor morning program for children ages 2.5 – 5 years old M – Th. We will spend our mornings exploring local parks where the imagination is the limit. Organic snacks and lunch are provided. With over 25 years of teaching experience, Laurie Dodt is a trained Waldorf early childhood teacher and she has completed the Professional Puppetry Training Course offered through Juniper Tree Puppets. Laurie is devoted to creating a sense of wonder and awe through storytelling, movement, singing, speech, and art. Enroll your child where they will be nurtured in nature. Space is limited.
Natural Bridges Children’s Center
255 Swift St, Santa Cruz
Natural Bridges Children’s Center is an inquiry and play-based preschool located on the beautiful Westside of Santa Cruz. We are honored to have been voted ‘Best Preschool in Santa Cruz’ by the Reader’s Choice Awards two years in a row! Our teachers are trained in mindfulness education, positive discipline, and are skilled at developing curriculum based on current education brain-research. NBCC is a farm-to-table, all organic campus. Our enrichments include Spanish, yoga, and life lab. Our wonderful team provides support for individual learning styles, and we also offer child development education for parents. Give us a call to schedule a tour at 831.429.NBCC
Santa Cruz City Schools
133 Mission Street, Suite 100
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 429-3410 x 215
Santa Cruz City Schools Transitional Kindergarten (TK) and Kindergarten (K) Enrollment for the 2020-21 School Year begins February 18, 2020. To be eligible for TK, your child must be turning 5 years old between September 2 through December 2. To be eligible for K enrollment, your child must be 5 years old on or before September 1 of the year in which the student enters kindergarten. http://sccs.net/parents___students/enrolling Please register at your local school or contact us We love our schools: Bay View Bobcats, DeLaveaga Dragons, Gault Dolphins, Monarch Butterflies, and Westlake Wildcats!“Engaging students’ hearts and minds – every student, every day.”
Santa Cruz Parent Education Nursery School
411 Roxas Street, Santa Cruz 831.425.4495
A Community Treasure Since 1975. Santa Cruz Parent Education Nursery School (SCPENS), is a parent participation preschool which serves children from 1 to 5 years of age.
Santa Cruz PENS celebrating 42-43 years
SCPENS provides affordable, high-quality toddler and preschool programs. A parent education co-op preschool, SCPENS offers an opportunity for parents to develop their parenting skills and meet other families in a supportive environment. Children and their parents participate in a developmental toddler or preschool program emphasizing children’s expression, ideas and creativity. The instructors provide training in child development and effective parenting techniques via seminars, observation and discussion. Positive guidance and problem-solving strategies are emphasized. SCPENS is a part of Watsonville/Aptos/Santa Cruz Adult Schools and the Pajaro Valley Unified School District.
We offer both a Preschool and Parent-Child program. Our Parent-Child program is a wonderful way to introduce the young child to the classroom experience and for parents to learn more about the rich developmental approach of Waldorf education. Classes are offered in Fall and Winter. Children may begin Preschool at age 2 1/2 and are nurtured in a warm, beautiful and loving home-like environment. Children engage in meaningful life activities like baking, cooking, garden- ing, cleaning and of course, playing. Amidst stories, puppet shows and singing daily, the children spend a wealth of time outdoors, playing imaginatively under the big trees.
Spring Hill Preschool knows your child is one of a kind. Our play-based learning builds deep understanding, creative expression and social emotional growth. With a 6:1 child/teacher ratio, children are guided through practicing empathy and learning to navigate the complexity of social interactions. Spanish is spoken daily, and staff expertise in literacy provides a strong foundation for reading and writing. There is indoor and outdoor play daily and regular visits to the school garden. Children also have music every week, and time in the school library. Individual tours available weekly. Please contact Spring Hill to schedule your tour: 831-427-2641 www.springhillschool.org [email protected]
A mixed-age, play-based program on the west side of Santa Cruz, with infant and toddler care for ages six months to two years, and a hybrid Waldorf inspired, nature-based Preschool curriculum. Organic meals provided, full or part-time. Private tours offered weekly.
Westside Parent Education Nursery School
1231 Bay St. Santa Cruz est 831.429.3995
Westside PENS celebrating 47-48 years
WPENS is located on the Westside on the Bay View Elementary campus. Preschoolers and their parents play, learn and grow together. This exceptional preschool program brings out children’s ideas and creativity. Adults develop their parenting skills and build friendships with other families. Thrive in a supportive environment at this much-loved parent co-op, a part of the Santa Cruz community since 1970. Its award-winning teachers inspire a passion for learning. Westside Parent Education Nursery School was the 2016 Santa Cruz Sentinel’s Readers’ Choice for Best Preschool! WPENS is a part of Watsonville/Aptos/Santa Cruz/Adult School under the Pajaro Valley Unified School District.
Coast Redwoods Montessori provides infant, toddler and preschool learning environments utilizing Montessori principles of education. Our curriculum includes language, math, science, culture, geography, courtesy, practical life, art and music. Our convenient location includes a 7000 square foot yard with a park quality climbing structure and garden. We offer programs for children 6 months through 6 years old.
San Lorenzo Valley
Quail Hollow Montessori offers an excellent, individualized learning experience for your child with a solid foundation in both academic and social skills in a beautiful, neighborhood setting. Our goal is to help children blossom into self-confident, compassionate, inquisitive, and respectful individuals with a life-long love of learning.
Our Montessori-based program provides a loving, safe and stimulating learning environment where children, three to six 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 355-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.
Pajaro Valley Child Development
With over 50 years of service, PVUSD offers quality early care and education through a variety of programs. Half day state preschools classes can be found across the district with a focus on school readiness and social-emotional development. Child Development also provides full-day state preschool services in both centers and family childcare homes to income-eligible families working or school. We are here to help you and your child become life long learners! Call us to find out how to enroll.
Learning to swim is a new and exciting experience for children. For the past 35 years Adventure Sports has taught over 25,000 children to swim in a positive, warm environment. Our instructors strive to develop a trusting special relationship with each child, encouraging them in a gentle, but firm manner to stretch their limits as their abilities grow. The Adventure Sports swim program seeks to provides a high quality and individual accomplishment through small group lessons. We want your potential swimmers to have confidence in the water. In the end, this means technique, safety, and happy smiles for everyone.
Celebrating nearly 17 years years and over 130 musicals in Santa Cruz County. We offer training in the performing arts for Tiny Tots (3-5), Tots (6-10), Youth (10-16), Teens (13-19) and Adults. Don’t miss our final fall production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” performing February 7th-15th, 2020. Also our Spring Season – upcoming classes and musicals include; “Peter Pan Jr.”, for our Tots age group and “Newsies the Musical” hot off Broadway, for our Youth group. There’s a role for everyone and everyone will leave with skills that they didn’t have when they arrived. Come be a part of the magic… and give the gift of performing arts to your child. We are located in downtown Santa Cruz and at our mid-town location in Soquel Village. Check out our website for additional summer classes and productions for Tiny Tots, Tots, Youth & Teens.
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 GUISE10 for 10% off any subscription length (renews at standard rate). Expires 12/31/2020
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 http://triplep.first5scc.org or www.facebook.com/triplepscc
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!
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.
Discover your family’s rhythm! Make music an exciting & enriching part of your child’s life. In our weekly classes, babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and the grownups who love them come together for 45 minutes of fun-filled, learning-filled, bonding-filled family time. You’ll have so much fun singing, dancing, playing, and laughing that you may not realize just how much learning is taking place.
We can help your child grow into a confident music-maker while also tapping into all the developmental benefits that music brings. As you discover fun ways to play with music and rhythms both & out of class, you’ll be supporting your child’s music-learning and overall development. Classes are offered throughout the year, with a new song collection each season.
Contact us today and bring the joy of music into your family’s life.
We at Santa Cruz Gymnastics Center understand how important physical movement is to develop a healthy brain in children. Healthy brain development leads to proficiency in learning and overall confidence to lead a successful life. Our fun and friendly gymnastics instructors take pride in offering meaningful movement experiences packed with a lot of fun to your children in every class. Each lesson offers a wide range of sensory integration activities through the usage of our gymnastics equipment and props such as trampolines, balance beams, parallel bars, ladders, slides, a huge foam pit, tunnels, balls, hoops and much more! Music and movement are incorporated to ensure a well-rounded movement experience. We offer a wide range of classes and special activities to the new walking toddlers through kindergarten age girls and boys. Check out our website to see what is available for your children today.
Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History
1305 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz
The Museum of Natural History is the perfect destination for little explorers! Preschoolers love to learn from our interactive exhibits. Climb on a life-sized grey whale, get your hands wet with sea stars in our intertidal touch pool, listen to the buzz of live honeybees, grind up acorns in a real mortar and pestle, examine nature specimens in a microscope and get up close with the native animals of Santa Cruz County.
The Santa Cruz Public Libraries deliver information, education, enrichment and inspiration through a network of neighborhood library branches, a web-based digital library, a Bookmobile and community-based programs. Preschool programs include Storytime, Family Crafts, Toddler Time, Cuéntame un Cuento (Spanish Storytime), Discover & Go passes, and Read to Me Kits.
This is the place for education and resources about autism, ADHD, and sensory processing disorder. Preschool is the age where sensory issues start impacting your child’s life, so it’s important to have the right resources on hand. As a community, we tackle your child’s everyday sensory challenges, from creating sensory strategies to finding treatment services. Diana is a licensed and registered occupational therapist who specializes in pediatric sensory issues. You can read her sensory tips, find products, and get a free Sensory Toolbox guide at https://thesensorytoolbox.com/
Healthcare Providers for Preschoolers
7545 Soquel Dr, Aptos
Dr. Jackson and her staff love children and are specially trained to put them at ease. We teach your children the proper way to take care of their teeth and, just as important, they learn that going to the dentist can be fun. We provide comprehensive dentistry in a caring environment for children of all ages. We are preventive-dentistry oriented and very thorough in our evaluations and consultations. We have a pediatric anesthesiologist on our premises and are able to treat special, challenging children safely and comfortably under a general anesthesia. We have a 24-hour emergency service available for all of our patients.
Dientes Community Dental Care
1830 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz, (near Toys R Us)
1430 Freedom Blvd., Suite C, Watsonville
Dientes Community Dental Care is a full-service dental clinic with offices in Santa Cruz and Watsonville. We practice whole family dentistry including kids, adults and seniors; but children hold a special place in our heart – half of our patients are kids. In our Santa Cruz clinic, we have a dedicated pediatric wing where Dientes’ dentists excel at making parents and children comfortable and offering preventive education with each visit. As a non-profit dental clinic, our focus is on high-quality, low-cost dental services, including exams, x-rays, fillings, sealants and root canals. We accept Medi-Cal and have affordable rates for uninsured patients. We offer bi-lingual services – Se habla Español!
Santa Cruz County Oral Health Program
The Santa Cruz County Oral Health Program in collaboration with local community partners invite you to view our website focusing on the importance of having your child see a dentist when they receive their first tooth or when they have their first birthday. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association agree: children should see a dentist by the time they get their first tooth or celebrate their first birthday. Healthy baby teeth lead to healthy adult teeth, and a healthy smile helps kids feel good so they can focus in school, eat healthy foods, and feel confident.
This is by no means a complete list of all the Child Care and Preschool Programs in Santa Cruz County. GUiSC is not responsible for any errors or omissions, nor does inclusion in this listing constitute our endorsement of a program. Listings were written by each organization and GUiSC has not confirmed the accuracy of the information provided.