What’s the difference between a play-based and an academic style preschool? Which one is better for you and your child? In a lot of cases, the difference really isn’t that substantial.

Multiple studies show that children learn best through play. Play-based preschools integrate concepts from science, math, socialization, and languages into everyday structured activities like circle or story time while still giving children time for free play. Similarly, successful academic style preschools allow time for free play in between learning activities.

Why is free play so important? In his essay for Psychology Today, Peter Gray sums it up.

“(Play) is a means by which children develop their physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and moral capacities. It is a means of creating and preserving friendships. It also provides a state of mind that, in adults as well as children, is uniquely suited for high-level reasoning, insightful problem solving, and all sorts of creative endeavors.”

Only you can decide what the best fit for you and your child is. If you are looking for some fantastic play-based preschools in Contra Costa County, we’ve put together a list for you.



American French Preschool

1200 Holsapple Way, Brentwood, CA 94513

Want your child to learn a language the fun way? This French immersion school helps children learn and develop through play. The team embraces the “whole child” approach and supports every kid on their unique journey of developing the key skills they’ll need in life. American French Preschool is a proud member of the Wonderschool network.

Pleasant Hill

Creative Play Center

2323 Pleasant Hill Rd, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523

This co-op preschool, as the name suggests, encourages children to learn about and explore their environment through free play. Each activity supports your child’s social, intellectual, emotional and physical development.


Walnut Country Preschool

4498 Lawson Ct, Concord, CA 94521

Preschool is the start of your child’s experience with education and everything it has to offer. The team of Walnut Country Preschool does everything they can to make it a good one! They help children develop social and cognitive skills and prepare them for success in kindergarten.

Pixie Play School

1797 Ayers Rd Concord, CA 94521

This play-based, co-op school combines indoor and outdoor activities that help children develop key skills. The team even organizes field days where kids get to experience the world outside of preschool.

Walnut Creek

Community Arts Preschool

1395 Civic Dr, Walnut Creek, CA 94596

This play-based, art-integrated preschool draws on the Reggio Emilia practices. Your child can join a group of their peers or a mix-aged group with kids ranging from 2-4 years. All of the activities promote social, emotional, physical and intellectual development.

Kid Time Inc.

200 Mayhew Way, Walnut Creek, CA 94597

Nestled on a half acre property with plenty of space to be outside and enjoy the California climate, this preschool encourages children to explore and develop key skills through play and interaction.

Pied Piper

2263 Whyte Park Ave, Walnut Creek, CA 94595

With a combination of scheduled activities like circle time and story time alongside free play, the team at Pied Piper will help your child develop the skills they need for kindergarten and future schooling in a warm, caring environment.

Kids Kastle Child Care

Dee Ct And Geary Rd, Walnut Creek, CA 94597

Your child will spend happy days learning about the world through arts and crafts, music, dance, outdoor adventures, free play, gardening and other fun activities. One thing is for sure: they won’t be bored at Kids Kastle Child Care!


Ana Segalini Home Preschool

205 Crest Ave, Alamo, CA 94507

Looking for a play-based preschool with low student-to-teacher ratios and great organic snacks? The team at Ana Segalini Home Preschool provides a supportive, caring environment where children develop key skills at their own pace.


Michael Lane Preschool

682 Michael Ln, Lafayette, CA 94549

Here children develop key skills through supervised play. Every child is nurtured and encouraged to move at their own pace. The team focuses on creating positive experiences and helping children grow socially, emotionally and academically.

Choosing the perfect preschool is hard. If there’s anything we can do to help or if you feel that we’ve missed out a great play-based preschool in Contra Costa County, send us an email at hello@wonderschool.com

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