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Hello Families, I would love to hear any feedback you have about Willow Street School House in El Cerrito (near the EC Plaza BART station). They just recently won ''2011 Best Child-Care Center'' from Parents' Press Magazine. I also heard that they just started a new pre-K program. If you have any experience with Willow Street School House, I'd love to hear from you! S
An aspect that was important for us (besides the wonderful learning and creative play environment) was their willingness to actively support a parent in potty training. When I was potty training my toddler they completely supported my method and continued with it at daycare so that my toddler did not receive any mixed signals about potty training. They do this for all toddlers who are being potty trained and are very aware of the individual child's needs.
We do not have any family living in the USA, so it was important for us to find a daycare that provided a homely & gentle atmosphere, with children that we could substitute for the "cousins" that our little one would miss out seeing on a regular basis. The teachers at Willow Street are truly inspirational and I am so glad that both my child and I are having this amazing learning experience with them. I have even gleaned some good parenting skills and conflict resolution tips from them.
You can contact the owner Diana Bickham at (510) 525-2305 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Very happy WSSH parent.
Re: Preschools near a BART station
Hi! I can recommend a wonderful, creative, and child-centered preschool program, Willow Street Schoolhouse. It's literally a 2 minute walk from the El Cerrito Plaza Bart station and it is a nationally accredited family home childcare program (that's a really big deal!) My daughter is now 4 and attends there 4 days a week, and we have been exceptionally happy there. The owner is Diana, and I think she has had the program for nearly 20 years. They have a wonderful, solid staff including a teacher, Helen, for 8 or 9 years and 2 male teachers, a Japanese teacher and teenage ''helpers'' who are previous students that come back to help out in the afternoons. You could not ask for a more loving program, and the activities they do are all due to the children's interests and are often taken from ''seed to harvest,'' so-to-speak. As a former preschool teacher turned speech-language pathology student, I could see the failings of other programs, and I viewed more than a dozen. Willow Street hooked me because it is very family and community-oriented, and the children are listened to and attended to, individually. Our family has adopted many of the ''lines'' they use at Willow Street, when talking to the children. The way they handle difficult behaviors is simple and leaves the self-esteem of the child intact, if not boosted. I encourage you to take a tour and see how wonderful their space is. It is simple, but inviting, and the children are all flourishing... what more could a parent ask, right? Please email me if you have specific questions. The phone number is (510) 525-2305. Dawn
Re: Part-time affordable non-coop?
I researched El Cerrito area preschools extensively last fall, and have a couple of ideas for schools you can check out. One is Diana Bickham's Willow Street Schoolhouse, near EC BART. Diana is warm, calm and wonderful with the kids, and has flexibility especially if you're looking for part-time hours. I don't remember her exact rates, but I think they are within your price range. Diana is not snooty at all! Our daughter was scheduled to start there last year, but then we needed to start her in preschool sooner, but we were sorry she wasn't able to go to Diana's. There are positive recommendations for both of these schools in the archives. Good luck in your search! Gayle
I just wanted to add my two cents about Willow Street. My daughter has been there for about a year and a half, since she was about 15 months old. I have only positive things to say about the place. The caretakers, to a person, are gentle, kind, and loving. My daughter has had a wonderful time there and feels safe and loved. The feeding program has been wonderful.Diana and her staff are flexible and suppportive. But most of all, Willow Street has encouraged a sense of family and community that I am now realizing is very rare. Diana, Helen, Robbie, Esther, and Kathleen all give of themeselves tremendously and it is reflected in the loving relationship the children have with each other. Kate
We are looking for a small play-based preschool in the El Cerrito area for our daughter who will be 2.8 years in the Fall. We really like the Willow Street Schoolhouse, and will be visiting Pickles in Albany soon. We read the archives on both programs, but are looking for more recent views. We would love to hear from anyone who has experience with either program, how your child liked the program, your relations with the teachers, etc. Thanks a lot!
Re: Afterschool care for Harding Kindergartener
Check out Willow Street Schoolhouse/Daycare which is located on Willow Street in El Cerrito. I know that in past years the owner has picked-up kids at Harding either on foot or in a large van and the parents that have used her really like this arrangement. I also hear that her daycare is great. I do not know the phone number but I believe she is listed on the network. Liz
Willow Street School House now has a couple of openings. It
is a family based daycare for the children between 1 year
old and 4 year old and is located on the corner of Willow
St. and Richmond St. close to the El Cerrito Plaza Bart
station. The school takes no more than 12 children and there
are several part-time and full-time caring teachers. My son
started going there when he was 10 months old and he really
loves there. The director Diana Bickham does not stress much
on the academics; however, she give excellent opportunities
to children to experience many different things in life.
Besides regular outdoor play, they occasionally go to the
farmer's market, visit parks, and go nature exploration
along the trails. Also they do regular picture book readings
and music classes. I highly recommend to visit and stay an
hour to feel the atomosphere. Diana's phone number is
I highly recommend Willow Street Daycare as a nurturing home daycare for your 15 month old daughter. That is the exact age my son was when he started going there, and we found Willow St. through the UCB Parents' Archives (it was formerly known as Patrick's Playmates). Everyone we have ever recommended the daycare to has ultimately placed their child there. Diana Bickham is the director and she is so warm and nurturing as are all of the other daycare providers she hires. When my son was in the daycare, I always came at different times during the day and also made a point (especially in the early days) to secretly stand outside the play area in order to listen to daycare provider-children interaction and have only been impressed with what I have heard and witnessed. Willow St. Daycare is on the corner of Willow St. and Richmond Road in El Cerrito. Willow St. is parallel to Central Ave. The school takes no more than 12 children. One caution is that the house can seem somewhat rundown and smallish. My husband and I put aside our adult sensibilities and tried to look at the environment from a 1 year old perspective. We decided small was better-safer, and that our one year old wouldn't care if toys were old or new. Diana's telephone number is (510)525-2305. Daphne
I'd like to second Margo's recommendation for Patrick's Playmates. Actually, now that Patrick is in kindergarten she has officially changed it to Willow Street Schoolhouse. My children have been going there regularly for the last 2 years. She has told me recently that she has an opening and, while most of her kids are now in the 3 to 4 year old range, she would welcome a younger child (after all, since most people stay with her, she needs to start a new generation or else she will run out of kids in two years!). My children also shout "Diana's home" when we drive by and ask me can we stop by and pay a visit (which we never do because it is Saturday morning and I figure she has seen quite enough of us during the week!).
There are several part time staff members who are there on different days, but they have been the same people for quite some time and the children all become friends and go to each other's birthday parties. Diana doesn't concentrate on "academics" per se, but they read books every day and do spelling games and one of the helpers gives them a Spanish lesson each week. It's a very pleasant relaxed place with a family atmosphere.....I don't know how she does it!
I read your request for recommendations for daycare for your 14 month old boys. I would like to suggest a lady named Diana Bickham of "Patrick's Playmates" a family daycare located in El Cerrito, right next to the El Cerrito Plaza Bart station. My sister and I have both used her, my sister's two children and my now-six year old. My son really liked it there and constantly points out her house and says, 'Diana is home!! Look!!" Her daycare is named after her youngest son Patrick, she also has an older son who often helps out. She has a helper and has a teacher come in frequently to do special activities. She is always taking the kids out on field trips, (day hikes around the area). She does not have a TV for the kids, but has a computer that the kids can get on with some very good educational programs, has a yard with grass and play structures.., does lots of activities inside and out. She turned her living room into a play area with cushy places to sit and read, several play areas for make believe and such. I have found her to be a very gentle, patient and kind caregiver, I've never witnessed her yelling at the children, but talking in a measured tone of voice if she needed a child to understand the urgency of what she was saying. I suggest you visit and stay for about an hour to see what she does. I believe she'll take children as young as 14 months. I've seen children there with diapers. She takes part time as well. Her number is Diana Bickham, Patrick's Playmates - 6727 Willow, El Cerrito, 525-2305.
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