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Outdoor and Nature-Based Preschools in Seattle, the Eastside and South Sound

A growing movement of nature-oriented outdoor preschools takes off

Published on: August 10, 2022

Outdoor and Nature-Based Preschools in Seattle, the Eastside and South Sound

Fiddleheads Forest School. Photo credit: Sarah Heller
Fiddleheads Forest School. Photo credit: Sarah Heller

Seattle-area outdoor preschools

Tiny Trees Preschool — 9 parks in Seattle, Kirkland and greater King County

Tiny Trees Preschool offers an innovative model that combines affordability and nature orientation, and aims to provide children with a joyfully muddy childhood. At Tiny Trees, kids ages 3–5 spend three and a half hours outdoors in either a morning or afternoon class. Many Seattle locations are part of the Seattle Preschool Program, providing financial assistance for qualifying families

Anna's Little Farm Preschool — Columbia City

Children ages 3–6 spend all day outdoors, including lots of time interacting with animals on the farm. There is the added benefit of a bilingual teacher and Spanish-speaking staff members weaving language lessons into the day. Teachers emphasize emotion coaching and play-based education. 

Seattle Children's PlayGarden Preschool — Mount Baker

Children ages 3–5 spend most or all of their school day outside in the PlayGarden, an innovative park, garden and play space designed to be inclusive for kids of all abilities. 

Little Wildlings Nature School — Mount Baker

This urban forest preschool welcomes children 3–5. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with aftercare options available. 

Discovery Park Nature Kids Preschool — Magnolia

Note: Due to renovations, Discovery Park Nature Kids Preschool is closed and planning to reopen for the 20232024 preschool year. Check the website for up-to-date details. 

The first nature-based preschool program in Seattle, Nature Kids Preschool is a program of Seattle Parks and Recreation located at Seattle’s largest green space: Discovery Park. Children ages 3–5 enjoy a blend of indoor time with free play, art, lunch and opening and closing circles, along with at least an hour to an hour and a half of hiking, exploring and playing outdoors, rain or shine!

Fiddleheads Forest School — Washington Park Arboretum

The only building at this University of Washington program is a greenhouse; children spend their time exclusively outdoors, barring extreme weather. The kids love making western red cedar tea and climbing downed tree logs. For children ages 3–5, there are two-, three- and five-day options for classes that go from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For children ages 4–6, there is full day (9 a.m.–3 p.m.), five-day preschool or afternoon enrichment class options. 

Woodland Park Cooperative Preschool — Fremont

Children ages 2–4 spend half of their school day outside. This school is part of the North Seattle College’s Cooperative Preschool program. Teacher Tom (who writes a popular blog on play-based education) was a former teacher and led preschool classes for 16 years at the school. Teacher Althea joined the school as a preschool teacher in 2017. Teacher Cheryl has spent 6 years as a parent and assistant teacher in both preschool and kindergarten. The school is known for its creative, child-led curriculum.

Tara's Tots Preschools — four North Seattle locations

Tara’s Tots offers three play- and nature-based preschool programs in North Seattle. Each school has a fully fenced play yard as well as an indoor play area. A home-school enrichment program called Roots of Connection (ROC) is offered for kids ages 4 and older; ROC takes place at Woodland Park, where children play while learning about wildlife, native plant species, birds, edible plants and much more!

Matthews Beach Playschool — Northeast Seattle

Children ages 3–5 spend all their time outdoors, alternating between nature explorations in Matthews Beach Park and a fenced-in outdoor space with a sandpit, playhouse, planter boxes, fairy garden and covered areas for projects. Kids help decide on the agenda for the day, and are encouraged to explore, be social and take on projects of their own design.

Seattle Waldorf School Preschool Program — Northeast Seattle

Children ages 3–5 spend an hour to an hour and half every day in the outside play yard, where there are places to climb, pour water and play with sand; the yard also features fruit trees and a cob oven for baking activities. Kindergartners at Seattle Waldorf School similarly spend two hours outdoors during their school day.

Wildflowers Preschool — Columbia City

This nature-based preschool program for children ages 3–5 is located at the Columbia City Church of Hope. Affordable and accessible due to its below-market-rate tuition rate, Wildflowers has created a partnership with Tiny Trees Preschool at Jefferson Park so children have the potential to have a full day of nature-based preschool with a seamless transition from Tiny Trees (mornings) to Wildflowers (afternoons). Children spend nearly the full program day outside, and the natural world is incorporated into the indoor environment.

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