Picking a preschool can be a daunting task. We are fortunate in the South Bay to have tons of amazing options for our kids – but the sheer number of choices can quickly become overwhelming. Before you visit any schools, do some homework first – our PRESCHOOL 101 article can guide you through the questions to ask yourself (and the schools when you tour!) to make your decision easier. Once you’re ready to see what’s out there, we’ve put together this helpful overview of the best and brightest preschools – with valuable insights and facts about each one.
To make comparisons easier, for this guide we have generally limited the schools to those which start at preschool age (2 or 3) as opposed to those that also have a daycare/infant care option. We have also limited the scope to those specifically in the Beach Cities – Manhattan, Hermosa and Redonodo.
Remember as you review our list that choosing the best school for your child is a very personal decision. For virtually all of the schools we discuss below, we have a first hand account from families who absolutely LOVED them (and there will always be people that it wasn’t the right fit for). It’s all about finding the right one for YOUR family, and we hope this guide helps!
Happy Hunting, Preschool Moms!
American Martyrs Preschool – Affiliated with American Martyrs Catholic Church & School; play-based with classes that are mixed age groups (3-4 yr olds); only half day options – a new 8 AM-1PM option was added this past fall; Vibrant outdoor area. Apply early in the Fall, as spots do fill up, and priority is given to parishoners.
CHALK Manhattan Beach – Part of a larger network of CHALK preschools across the country; on-site My Gym program for students; One of the most expensive options and more academic-based.
Circle Of Love – Affiliated with First Lutheran Church; Full day program with after care starting at age 2 ½, through TK; More academic-based than some, with a focus on Kindergarten readiness; Teachers are known to be very loving, nurturing, and caring; Outdoor space is limited to a small concrete yard.
Creative Kids – Classes start as young as 18 months; Clean and organized with a great outdoor space; Teachers have a reputation for being warm and nurturing; School borders Sepulveda, but no outdoor area is exposed to the busy street.
Del Sol – Classes offered from 2.5 yrs through Kindergarten at this progressive Reggio-inspired program grounded in the 8 Cs of 21st Century Learning Skills: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Character, Compassion, Conflict Resolution, Citizenship.
Journey of Faith – Affiliated with Journey of Faith Church; Full day program starting at age 2; Playground borders busy Artesia Blvd and most of the school is located in one large room, broken into classes with cubbies; Very long waitlist.
Magic Rainbow – Full day and half day options for ages 2-6, including Kindergarten; Emphasis on Kindergarten readiness; Lots of extra curricular and field trip options, but for an added fee.
Manhattan Academy – The only school in the area that starts serving children as young as infancy in the traditional Montessori Method; Program continues all the way through 5th Grade; Campus borders Manhattan Beach Blvd.
Manhattan Beach Preschool – Affiliated with the Manhattan Beach Unified School District; Full and half day options starting at age 2; One of the most affordable options; Extremely long waitlist – best to apply when your child is born/very young; 2s program is very small and generally only available to siblings of current students. Your best chance of getting in – lots of follow up with the staff in the winter & spring before your child is hoping to attend.
Manhattan Beach Nursery School – An indoor/outdoor, play-based co-op school; The school has a liberal, child-led philosophy, with adults’ roles focused more on supporting children in their choices as opposed to facilitation of activities/learning.
Montessori School of Manhattan Beach – Traditional Montessori-based education with two campuses; One of the most expensive options, with schedule 5 days/week; There is typically a long waitlist; Large, beautiful outdoor space with a pool (swim lessons are now included in tuition!) and a newly launched Spanish dual immersion classroom.
Shalem Preschool – Brand new Hebrew school in its first year open; Affiliated with Congregation Tikvat Jacob Beth Torah; Incorporates music class, physical education and a rooftop garden; Full and half day options.
South Bay Family Tree – Co-op school with classes starting starting from birth (eg – 3 year old class you can work 2 days and leave your child for 1); Great outdoor space located at Pacific Elementary; Have exciting guest speakers and field trips; The teachers are noted for offering great advice and being warm and welcoming.
Trinity Lutheran – Affiliated with Trinity Lutheran church; Play based with an excellent new preschool director who has gone to great lengths to innovate the school and is very hands on with students and teachers; Full & half day options starting at 2 years; Parental volunteering is required and like all other faith-based schools, enrollment priority is given to parishioners.
Ocean View Academy – A great “under the radar” program with full & half day options for ages 2-6; Classes offer Music Rhapsody and gymnastics (for an added fee); Parents receive daily email recaps including pictures; Combination of play and structured activities.
Our Lady of Guadalupe – Affiliated with Our Lady of Guadalupe Church; Beautiful ocean views and breezes; Known for its warm, welcoming environment and small class sizes; Competitive pricing for full day program; Outdoor space is limited to a small concrete yard.
Beach Cities Child Development Center – Academic-based school starting at age 18 months; Some parents express challenges with the school’s leadership, but teachers are generally well liked; The facility clean but a bit dated, and outdoor space is limited to a large concrete area.
My Esculita – Spanish immersion school for ages 3-6; Available 1-5 days a week with unique timing (longer than half day, shorter than full); Parents love the daily email and how quickly kids pick up on the language; School also offers camps and drop in classes.
Peninsula Montessori – Locations in Redondo Beach & Palos Verdes; Like the other Montessori options, tuition is one of the highest among local school options, and the only available schedule is 5 days a week; Classes start at 18 months through 12 years (Elementary levels only offered at PV campus); Preschool teachers get high marks, especially in preparing students academically for elementary school.
Sand Tot’s – Popular play-based co-op school; Classes start at age 2 and include a “Red Shirt” class for kids not quite ready to progress to Kindergarten; Parent participation is not limited to working in classrooms, there are other duties available based on your skills and interest; Parents working in classes cannot bring siblings, and children are also not permitted on tours, which can be difficult if you’re a SAHM, since the tours are only on weekday mornings.
Seeds of Joy Village – Based in Wilderness Park, it feels like you are miles outside the city; Half day only options for ages 3-6; There is a parent and me class option before traditional preschool which the school recommends so you can learn their philosophy.
St James Catholic Preschool – Faith-based school with a great outdoor space, including a chicken coop, sand area and butterfly garden. Classes start at 2 yrs, but must be potty trained; Students do a lot of worksheets and use timers in preparation for future test taking; One side borders PCH, and lack of security (a wooden door that anyone can open right into the play yard) may deter some parents.
Sunflower Preschool – Half and full day options for 2-5 year olds; One of the more affordable options with lots of flexibility on schedule; Mix of play and academic-based concepts; Teachers and administration get high marks from parents for being attentive and nurturing.
Tuvia School of Temple Menorah – Popular with both Jewish and non-Jewish families; Classes for 2-4 year olds with flexibility on schedule; Parents give high marks to the school for level of communication and how much children are learning; Parent committee helps foster a sense of community.
Valor Christian Academy – Faith & academic based, this school is the one on our list that you child can attend the longest – from infancy through 8th grade; Drop-in care is also offered on an hourly basis for ages 2-5, which is a cool option if you’re not looking to commit to a year long program; Teachers in the infant & toddler room get high marks from parents.
Village Children’s Center – A co-op school affiliated with the Riviera United Methodist Church with full and half day options for ages 2-5; Less religion incorporated than some of the other faith based schools, though students do attend weekly chapel; Mix of play and academic-based learning.
Yak Academy – Play-based Spanish immersion school with goal of preparing students to test into Spanish-immersion school programs; Classes start at 2 years, with full day options for 3-Kingergarten; Enrichment classes offered outside of school in Spanish, French, Hindi and Mandarin.
El Segundo Spotlight
Beach Cities Montessori – Opening for the first time this past Fall and now enrolling for it’s second year ever. A fresh new option in the traditional Montessori method which has received high marks from parents after it’s first year.
Palos Verdes Spotlight
Town and Country Nursery School – A half day only option located in a beautiful setting close to the ocean; Unique “never do for a child what they can do for themselves” philosophy, with a heavy emphasis on play and nature and a low student/teacher ratio; The indoor/outdoor classroom setting is appealing, but lack of security (compared to many other schools with heavily guarded gates) may be a deterrent for some parents.
If you like Journey of Faith……make sure to also check out Trinity Lutheran and Circle of Love
If you like Manhattan Beach Montessori……make sure to also check out Manhattan Academy, Peninsula Montessori and Beach Cities Montessori
If you like My Esculita……make sure to also check out Yak Academy
If you like Tuvia School of Temple Menorah……make sure to also check out Shalem Preschool
If you like Sand Tots Nursery School……make sure to also check out Manhattan Beach Nursery School and South Bay Family Tree