By this point in your extensive preschool research, you’ve come across a lot of different philosophies and approaches. You’ve learned about Steiner and Montessori. Reggio Emilia and Forest Schools. Play-based and academic.

The world of preschools can be confusing! So what do we really mean when we say a play-based preschool? Is it all play, all the time? Does it actually set children up for success in kindergarten and beyond?

Every play-based preschool is a little different. Founders and teachers come from different backgrounds and bring their unique skills and insights to the table. But they all embrace the idea that play is a crucial part of child development.

Through free and structured play children explore their environment and develop key cognitive, social and emotional skills. A lot of play-based schools gamify more “academic” pursuits like reading, writing, and math to transform them into play.

The East Bay area offers a lot of fantastic play-based preschool options. We’ve picked out a few great ones for you to consider.



American French Preschool

1200 Holsapple Way, Brentwood, CA 94513

Learning a second language at a young age stimulates to brain development and exposes children to a completely different way of thinking. 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.

San Lorenzo

Little Butterfly Small School

Close to BayFair Bart Station (contact school for directions)

Small but sweet, Little Butterfly has everything a kid needs! From a sensory exploration center to a dramatic play area, your child will hone their creativity and the social and emotional skills they’ll need to explore the world. Little Butterfly Small School is a proud member of the Wonderschool network.

Oakland Hills

Skyline Preschool

12540 Skyline Blvd, Oakland, CA 94619

The Skyline team embraces the play-based philosophy of child development, providing a creative and stimulating environment where children can learn and discover through interaction. They foster the child’s natural curiosity and desire to ask questions and discover the world.


Mulberry Tree Preschool

1455 St. Mary’s Rd., Moraga, CA 94556

Every child grows and develops in a unique way. The team here supports them and encourages learning and development through a combination of play and structured activities. Children learn to solve problems and successfully interact with both peers and adults.


Linda Beach Cooperative Preschool

400 Highland Ave Piedmont, CA 94611

Linda Beach is a co-op play-based school built around the idea that a child learns best in a warm, age appropriate environment. If you want to be more involved in your child’s education, a co-op school is a perfect opportunity!

Choosing the perfect preschool is hard. If there’s anything we can do to help or if you feel that we’ve missed out on a great play-based preschool in the East Bay, send us an email at

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