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.
Coast Redwoods Montessori
255B Mt. Hermon Rd., Scotts Valley
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.
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.
Holy Cross Preschool
170 High St # A, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
For more than 20 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 provided according to age (preschool and pre-kindergarten). Full-time and part-time schedules are available.
Little Acorns Montessori
1215 Chanticleer Ave., Santa Cruz
Little Acorns Montessori provides a warm and caring environment, encouraging children to develop self-confidence and social and academic skills. We have a beautiful corner lot in Live Oak. Our Montessori trained teachers provide a unique, individualized learning program for children 6 months through 6 years old.
Live Oak School District-
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 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 (8:30-11:30) and afternoon (12:30-3:30) 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.
Quail Hollow Montessori
187 Laurel Dr., Felton
Voted “Best preschool in 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.
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 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!
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.
Tara Redwood School
5810 Prescott Road, CA. Soquel
Tara Redwood School offers children a strong academic foundation, rich in the sciences, emotional intelligence, and the arts. Our global curriculum is a blend of Montessori and Creating Compassionate Cultures (CCC), a framework known as the 7 Steps to Knowledge, Strength, and Compassion developed at the school for more than 30 years. The CCC pedagogy provides a unique approach that nurtures the children’s innate positive qualities through critical thinking and contemplative practices, empowering them to have a positive impact on the world through their thoughts and actions. Our integrated approach to learning has a strong focus on environmental studies and exploration of the natural world. Our classrooms extend into the outdoors and our playground is 108 acres of redwood forest and creeks in Soquel. Young Children program ages 20 months to 3 years, Preschool ages 3-5 years.
Alison K. Jackson, DDS
7545 Soquel Dr, Aptos
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.
Child Development Resource Center
Santa Cruz County Office of Education, 400 Encinal Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
At the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, the Child Development Resource Center is dedicated to helping families find a suitable child care match or preschool program. Our bilingual services supply a variety of resources for families. We also offer many supports for preschool teachers and child care providers. Utilizing our referral database which contains all licensed preschools and child care programs in Santa Cruz County, we can work up a free listing based on your family’s needs. Contact us today and get the support you need as you choose a preschool or child care program.
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
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.
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.
Mountain Music School
(Formerly known as B Sharp)
216-A Mt. Herman Rd, Scotts Valley
(831)201-9605 (text or call)
Now at Mountain Music School! KiddyKeys is a fresh and innovative approach to teaching piano and music exploration to young children. This engaging preschool program focuses on piano, teaching music concepts and appreciation to young children ages 3 and 4. The perfect step into regular piano classes or music enrichment!
Spanish Nature Club
Spanish Nature Club is a nature-based program that offers an opportunity for all children, to play, learn, and bond with the natural world and with others, while getting immersed in the Spanish Language. (No prior Spanish experience is necessary.)
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 Museum of Natural History
1305 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz
Preschoolers and their families get their hands-on nature at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History! Kids can learn and explore the outdoors together through free Family Fun events, and get their hands dirty while learning about native plants at Saturdays in the Soil every 3rd Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. The Museum’s interactive exhibits engage visitors of all ages in learning about Santa Cruz, from shore to mountain summit, and admission for kids is always FREE! Visit santacruzmuseum.org to learn more.
Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History
This was one of the highlights of the year for (my child). Play and socializing is so important for children (and adults) and I am very grateful that she had this opportunity.
– Nature Explorers Camp Parent
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