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Outdoor and Nature-Based Preschools in Seattle, the Eastside and Tacoma

A growing movement of nature-oriented outdoor preschools takes off

Published on: September 10, 2018

Outdoor and Nature-Based Preschools in Seattle, the Eastside and Tacoma

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


Tiny Trees Preschool — nine parks in Seattle, Burien and greater King County

Tiny Trees Preschool, an innovative model that combines affordability and nature orientation, aims to provide children with a joyfully muddy childhood. At Tiny Trees, kids age 3–5 spend 3.5 hours outdoors in either a morning or afternoon class. Many Seattle locations are part of the Seattle Preschool Program, providing tuition-free spots for qualifying families.

In partnership with the Department of Children, Youth and Families, Tiny Trees is piloting the first state-wide licensing regulations for outdoor preschools in 2018, which will eventually lead to longer class hours to meet working families’ needs. Tiny Trees Preschool's rates are 10 to 40 percent below market rates.

Bloom and Grow Preschool at Anna's Little Farm — Columbia City

Children ages 3–6 spend all day outdoors, including lots of time with animals on the farm. There is the added benefit of a bilingual teacher and Spanish-speaking staff weaving language lessons into the day. Teachers emphasize emotion coaching and play-based education. Older preschoolers can attend Forest Adventures on Mondays and Fridays to explore local forest parks.

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. 

Discovery Park Nature Kids Preschool — Magnolia

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 have 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 of classes that go from 9 a.m. to1 p.m. For children ages 4–6, there are afternoon enrichment class options from 2 to 4 p.m. 

Woodland Park Co-operative Preschool with Teacher Tom and Teacher Rachel — Fremont

Children ages 2–6 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) has led the preschool classes since 2002. Teacher Rachel joined the school as its kindergarten teacher in 2015. They are known for their creative, child-lead curriculum.

Tara's Tots Preschools — three North Seattle locations

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

Matthews Beach Playschool — Matthews Beach neighborhood in Northeast Seattle

Children ages 2–5 spend all their time outdoors, alternating between nature explorations in Matthews Beach Park and a fenced-in outdoor space with a sand pit, play house, 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/Meadowbrook

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, play with sand, 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 — Beacon Hill in South Seattle

This nature-based preschool program for children ages 3–5 is located in Jefferson Park Golf Center Clubhouse. With an aim to make this preschool affordable and accessible by offering tuition prices below market rate and have 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 (8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) to Wildflowers (12:30 to 4:30 p.m.). 

Children spend at least an hour outside each day and the natural world is incorporated into the indoor environment. Children take part in at least two "nature-immersion" days per month with the entire class session spent outside.

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