Preschool Poll: And the Winner is...

Here's our second contest in our new "Readers' Choice" series. Poll votes, reviews and comments below this piece all factored into our selection, which was announced Friday. Click "Keep me posted" for an email update on future polls.

UPDATE, March 9: After tallying the poll votes, the comments on Albany Patch and reader reviews, we have a winner!

Even more importantly, many of you shared reviews and experiences about the range of preschool programs in town, which hopefully will help parents make informed decisions about programs in the future. 

Childcare co-op came out on top, with 55 votes, and another eight reviews and comments. One parent described it as "a great learning environment," and others said it's "a great way to get to know the community" and that "Being part of a cooperative preschool truly provides parents with the foundation and opportunity to be involved in their child's education." 

received the next highest response, with 25 votes and one new review, lauding the school's ample outdoor time, high-quality teachers and opportunities for kids to work in the school garden, as well as its affordability and regular attention to art.

was next on the list, with 16 votes and three new reviews. Parents said they love the school for its "Loving teachers, low-key nurturing environment, lots of enrichment opportunities like Spanish and baking, and crafts galore." Parents said their kids absolutely love the program: "The teachers are wonderful and the kids have so much fun!"

We also heard other great reviews about a small Albany program called Shimmy Shimmy, which we hadn't formerly known about. Details in the comments below. 

Next week, our Readers' Choice poll will focus on St. Patrick's Day.


Here's our second contest in our new . Poll votes, stars and reviews, and comments below this piece all will factor in to our selection, to be announced Friday. Click "Keep me posted" below for an email update.

(Miss last week's winner in the sandwich category? .)

Click on the links above to rate a business on its Patch Places listing. You can even leave a review.

Scroll down to take the poll.

If there is another beloved Albany preschool we missed, start a write-in campaign in the comments section below. In the event of a tie, we will break it based on the comments, so please explain your choice.

The poll opens at 5 a.m. Monday and closes at 9 a.m. Friday. Come back later that day for the results.

(Because our poll is not scientific, it is not the sole consideration in choosing a winner. The winner will be determined by the Patch editor, based on poll results, comments and reviews on Patch Places. Please vote only once per survey.)

If you'd like to recommend a preschool nearby, you can vote on El Cerrito Patch or Berkeley Patch.

Weiqun March 05, 2012 at 02:13 PM
This is my daughter's second year at the Creative Play Center. We really love the school. There are a lot of activities in school and lots of field trips. One of my daughter's favorite activity is dressing up. One day she said to a teacher that she wished there could be a Belle's dress. The teacher said they used to have one and they would try to get a new one. Well, in about a week, her dream came true. My daughter also loves the gym class and music class. In a couple of weeks, there will be a father's day lunch. The kids are making special presents and food for their dad. My daughter tells me she could not tell me what the special presents and food are because it is a secret. So I really look forward to finding out the secret. Last year, they had a mother's day lunch.
Lisa March 05, 2012 at 02:39 PM
One thing every parent contemplating a child care facility (either home based or a center): don't just trust recommendations! Go to the facility file in licensing (1515 Clay Street - you can also call) and do a tour of the place.
Emilie Raguso March 06, 2012 at 02:24 PM
That's a great tip!
Rakiya Witwer March 06, 2012 at 05:37 PM
This is my son's second year at Albany preschool and we absolutely love it. It's a great learning environment. Its a play based school, the teachers are very hands on and the fact that its a co-op makes it easy for parents to be a part of their kids education. The other great thing is that Albany preschool is a nut free school and other allergies are are also treated equally.The parents and the teachers work well together because we all have a common goal of giving the children a great learning environment. Albany preschool is very ethnically diverse. It's a little international community in the heart of Albany. Everyone is encouraged to share special family traditions and language. Overall we have been very happy with our experience at the school and our son is so excited to be there every time and he is thriving in a wonderful environment.
Jenny Blattner March 07, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Albany preschool gets my vote. FabulOus school for my two kids and a great community. Feel like I know half of Albany now.
Karen Sorensen March 07, 2012 at 02:34 AM
I feel the same as Jenny. Albany Preschool is a great way to get to know the community.
Marcia M. U. March 07, 2012 at 02:50 AM
I think it is an inappropriate sort of contest. If you put counting votes aside,just asking for parents' experience about the preschool in which their child is enrolled results in predictable responses, but is not inappropriate. Schools, and the parents who tout them, that focus on PR are packaging an image that may or may not reflect the spectrum of strengths and weaknesses of the school. A contest like this is far too "Rah Rah Team Members" for any serious educator or caretaker who loves their profession. Marcia
Joy Knott March 07, 2012 at 07:55 PM
I think we're lucky in Albany to have many choices for our young ones. The very best way to get a feel for the school is to visit, meet the teachers, and the families so you can decide what's best for your family and your child. For our family, we found that the co-op model really worked for us so Albany Preschool was our choice. We're happy to say that we chose a play-based co-op, one that we can walk to, and one that our kids really thrived in.
Sarah Anderson March 07, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Bright Star is a lovely, cheerful, well-run school where my child is blossoming and thriving. Sarah
Emilie Raguso March 08, 2012 at 05:11 AM
I hear you Marcia! It does encourage folks to comment and add more information here and in our directory about what they like (or other info) about the place they have access with. It also serves to get local businesses more involved and allows us to connect with them, so there are a number of benefits that result, even if the format may not be ideal.
corrie winnacker March 08, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Albany Preschool is a wonderful school for our family! Being part of a cooperative preschool truly provides parents with the foundation and opportunity to be involved in their child's education. My kids love APS and we have loved becoming part of such a terrific community. If you believe in play based learning you will LOVE APS!
Theresa March 08, 2012 at 07:52 PM
In response to the person who commented about the inappropriateness of asking parents who currently have their kids in preschool to comment on it, I would say probably the most honest answers you're going to get are from parents who have already left a school. For instance my son attended two area preschools and I would not hesitate to give a very negative review to the Alameda school and a raving positive review to the Albany one (Shimmy Shimmy Co-op). Because we moved three times in a short period I've actually been a participant in four cooperative preschools, so I have a lot to compare it to. Shimmy had all of the things I was looking for in a school: a teacher who effortlessly guided my son to appropriate behavior in his first social experiences, play-based learning that focused on creative thinking and exposure to arts, and a bonus for me, great sense of community created by the parents who were also attracted to the first qualities.
Emilie Raguso March 08, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Thanks for mentioning Shimmy Shimmy. I don't think we have them in our directory. Do they have a website where I could see some of their contact information?
Alicia Suarez March 09, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Shimmy Shimmy Co-co op, has been the most wonderful place for my daughter. The play based environment that allows her to be self directed, has given her a love of school!
Kara Hammond March 09, 2012 at 07:56 AM
Emilie: You can read about Shimmy Shimmy Co Co Op here: http://www.savvysource.com/preschools/ca/albany/shimmy-shimmy-co-co-op It has been a great place for our daughter as well. She is forming her first friendships here and is learning how to negotiate play with others. Her self confindence is growing every week. The teacher is wonderful at directing a positive, creative, fun, play-based day. The co op is serendipitous. Each participating family makes it a richer experience. One parent is now teaching music. The more we put into the co op, the better it gets! It's a wonderful environment (indoors and outside) for preschoolers.
Caroline Jou Armitage March 09, 2012 at 03:32 PM
My son loves Shimmy Shimmy Co Co-op! Sometimes, he even requests to go there on the weekends (when it's closed!). The teacher is excellent at directing energy towards fun, interesting activities (often tailored to the child) in the most gentle, nurturing way possible. The days I work there are filled with joy and harmony -- all the kids play so beautifully together as a result of the teacher's gentle instruction on healthy social behavior. And the play-based environment allows the children to follow their own interests at their own pace. One child may be playing a pre-reading game while another is outside on the climbing structure. An art project may be going on during an informal storytime. Kids may be discovering salamanders under the rocks outside while others may be doing a writing activity indoors. I love the flow of the day -- where the children's rhythms and interests determine their activities. And this freedom helps the children's independence and self-confidence grow and grow. We're in love with Shimmy.
Laurian Rhodes March 09, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Ditto on the above comments about Shimmy Shimmy! It's a play based, loosely structured 'curriculum' wise, where the kids have the run of a great big back yard space for climbing, playing in sand, searching for salamanders, sliding, water play, driving cars around and more. The teacher really understands kids and they learn to gain some independence, but rely on the structure. My older son loved it and my youngest is doing great now, too. We highly recommend it!
Emilie Raguso March 10, 2012 at 12:23 AM
The responses have been tallied... and the winner is....
Eric Stephens March 10, 2012 at 04:11 AM
Thanks, we're going through the hunting and selection process right now.
Jon Meyers March 12, 2012 at 03:58 AM
Let's also keep in mind other fine programs that are near by. For example, JCC of the East Bay (North Berkeley) was a terrific preschool for us.
Emilie Raguso March 13, 2012 at 04:55 AM
Thanks for adding this, Jon!


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