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Preschools for High Energy & Spirited Kids

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Preschools & Daycare > Preschools for High Energy & Spirited Kids


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Best Preschool for an Easily Overstimulated Boy

Oct 2012

My energetic 3 year old boy is having trouble in his preschool and I'm trying to figure out how to help him. Whether it's due to being around more than 20 kids or the variety of activities at his disposal, he gets overstimulated and has a hard time controlling himself or using words to interact with other kids. When alone, with adults, or in a small group, he is calmer and able to control himself better. In trying to look at the world from his eyes, I can see how his current school must feel like being in Las Vegas!

My main goal is to find a preschool environment that works for him. I imagine that I'm not the first parent with these issues and would appreciate some advice on good, small preschools for easily overstimulated and active boys. While names of schools would be great, I would also love to hear about the key factors that ended up working for you - size, amount of structure, teacher's familiarity with handling these issues, etc. I live in North Berkeley and work full time, so those are also important factors. Thanks for your help! concerned mother


I highly recommend The Room to Grow, in upper Rockridge. It may be a bit far for you in North Berkeley, but I encourage you to check it out. My son, now in kindergarten, had many of the same issues at age 3 as you describe - especially the difference in behavior in a large group of kids versus one-on-one with an adult. In fact, he started at another preschool and after three months it was obvious he was having trouble. I found RTG and made the change. The teachers at The Room to Grow encourage child led activities, allow for each child to be an individual while at the same time teaching the kids how to play and work together. What really helped my son was that in the afternoons and on Fridays, it was a much smaller group. I needed full time care, but about half the kids are there part time Mon through Thurs 9-3pm. The afternoons and Fridays are generally more mellow times. Don't be put off by the somewhat small outdoor space. they use the space very well, and my son did better with a more confined area. The teachers are right there with the kids. the have a garden, great loft area, wonderful art teacher, cooking, etc. They embrace all kids and don't back away from boys with big energy. Give them a call at 655-0300. Valerie
Your son sounds a lot like mine. Our first preschool, a play-based school, was a terrible fit for him. He's very outgoing and I thought that this kind of environment would be perfect, but it was way too overwhelming and he was miserable (and getting in trouble). After 6 months, we moved him to a Montessori school, and he loved it. The Montessori school was so much calmer, but also allowed the kids more freedom to do what they wanted, when they wanted to. That being said, I made sure to select a Montessori school where he could work with other kids - some of them are a lot more strict than others. He still had plenty of time to run around outside, and when he was inside, he worked with friends on whatever he was interested in. There was so much less chaos, he was able to relax and be himself. There are many different styles of preschools, so you may want to check out some different types to see for yourself what might suit him best. I think it's very kid-specific. Good luck!
I'm going to start with the typical ''I could have written your post'' reply, but I'll now cut to the important stuff. What we found to help - and help a lot - was more structure and routine. We thought that since our son had tons of energy that a ''play-based'' environment would be best, allowing him to blow out all that energy. Instead, and it took us an embarrassingly long time to realize this, the ''ready-set-go'' hours-long completely free play caused him to be anxious and resulted in an increase in confrontational behavior as he sought limits.

His new school is completely all-play but there's a schedule (inside/outside) and predictability that appeases his need for routine. The staff discretely oversees the free play, redirecting play from oppositional to cooperative w/o directing the play itself and has an expectation of social behavior to which our son responds. They encourage involvement with projects instead of just offering the materials. The staff is consistent, kind, patient, plentiful (which makes a huge difference) and diverse in personality, gender and background. The class size is the same as the other school, in fact the overall school population is much greater. We've seen a big difference/improvement in our son's behavior with his peers and with us. Hope this helps a bit! My kid too!


Preschool for VERY ACTIVE and energetic boy?

Aug 2012

I'm looking for a preschool near rockridge or South Berkeley that can handle and enjoys very active boys- possibly a school that has some male teachers? Also, are there schools that don't require the afternoon nap? I'm finding my kid doesnt want to sleep until almost 9:30 when he takes a nap. Thanks! tired mama


You should take a look at Step One. It is located in the Berkeley Hills and has a reputation of being hard to get into (they don't interview or look for a ''certain'' kid) but I have heard people put an application in after first learning they are pregnant! I didn't do that and happened to get offered a spot. They have a fair number of male teachers and they don't require kids to nap. My son doesn't nap and I didn't like the idea of having him stay late to stare at walls on a cot! They are very good with active kids. Once you take a tour and see their outside space you will see quite clearly that they let kids be kids (and even enjoy the active ones!) Good luck with your search! Been There and Found That

Good preschool for my active 3.5 years old

Nov 2011

I am looking for a good preschool for my 3.5 years old boy. He is active. I am looking for really good teachers who are patient and are very caring and know how to deal with every child. I am looking for something around Albany. thank you Mom


Please try Ocean View Montessori in El Cerrito. Our athletic active spirited yet sensitive son has thrived there and blossomed academically!!! It helps that it is a small school, it has been around for decades with the founder still very active in the school. There are multiple opportunities for the children to refresh themselves with outdoor activity balanced with academics and the development of social skills. Proud parent
My son was very active at that age. We thought the New School on Bonita near Cedar in Berkeley would have been a perfect fit, but they didn't have a space for him. Lots of outdoor space and animals. Our daughter went to the Berkeley JCC Preschool (jcceb.org) and we thought it would have been a good fit for our son. There were lots of very active boys in her class. I would look for a developmental preschool that doesn't expect kids to sit quietly if they don't want to. Male teachers may also be a plus--on the whole, they seem to understand that boy energy better than female teachers. -Been there, unfortunately didn't do that.

Nurturing preschool for very active son

Jan. 2011

We have a son who is about to turn 4 and is in a preschool that isn't really a good fit. So, we're looking for one that is.

The two main qualities that I'm looking for are 1) attention to developing social skills, and 2) lots of active play, preferably outdoors. Regarding #1, our boy can be a bit shy. He wants to make friends, but just needs a facilitation of the process of developing relationships. Regarding #2, he is VERY active. Our current preschool only has 30-45 minutes outside and very little of the indoor time is physically active play. Our son has a lot of wiggles he needs to get out.

We live in North Oakland, but work in East Oakland/Fruitvale. So anything in either play or in between would work well for us. Thanks for any suggestions you can give us! -- a dad


Try the Room to Grow Preschool on Broadway in Rockridge/Temescal. The outdoor space is on the small side but is available for kids' play almost the whole day. Much care and attention is paid to socialization skills as well. - active kid sympathizer
It's not in Oakland, but you might want to consider The Berkeley School's preschool program. My son (who sounds a lot like your son) is in the elementary school there, and it's been terrific! Lots of play-based learning in the younger grades, lots of attention to social skills, and lots of activity. The teachers really pay attention to what each child needs. In the elementary school active kids are allowed to take a lap around the yard (in a non-punitive way), and I'm sure they have something similar in the preschool. Good luck! D
We changed preschools in order to find a better fit for our high energy child. We couldn't be happier. Check out Daisy Child Development Center, in Oakland, across 580 from Mills. The teachers are great at seeing each child's gifts and recognizing that each child has challenges and that it is their job to assist the child. It is a play-based program and has lots of room for kids to be kids. Great playground, too. http://www.daisycdc.com/ mama of high energy kid

Preschool for spirited 2-year-old daughter

Jan. 2003

I am hoping to enroll my daughter in preschool in the fall, when she turns two. I have visited a few schools and gotten recommendations from friends, so I've narrowed down my choices to four: Hearts Leap (I loved the program), Duck's Nest (two blocks from our house), the JCC (lots of her friends go there), and the New School (highly recommended by a friend). Each school seems to have advantages and disadvantages, so I'm hoping the knowledgable parents on this list can help me make up my mind. Specifically, I want to hear from parents with what nowadays are called 'spirited' children who have had recent positive or negative experiences at these schools. I have read the recommendations of each school on the site, but since the right preschool for each child is the one that best suits his or her temperment, I'm looking for something more specific in the area of fit for spirited kids. My little one is very verbal, independent and bright, and also incredibly determined, emotional, opinionated, and tests limits as much as possible (it seems like all these traits go together.) She has a short attention span, and while she responds well to some structure and routine, she has a hard time staying engaged for long periods of time. We are looking for a school that will encourage her curiosity and autonomy, offer lots of imaginary play, music and art, but also provide positive direction for her less socially acceptable behaviors. We follow a 'positive discipline' approach if that helps, and I like schools that encourage kids to problem solve when behavior issues arise. Finally and optionally, I'd love her to get some more practice with American Sign Language (we sign a bit with her at home.) Whew! This is a tall order, and I can't wait to hear what folks have to say. Please feel free to email me personally or post. Thanks in advance, Kelly

Recommendations received:

  • Heart's Leap
  • Hug A Bug Preschool
  • Mustard Seed Preschool
  • New School
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    this page was last updated: Oct 31, 2012


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