Preschools in Boston Series: 5 Preschools in Cambridge

by Julie Marden

We continue our Preschools in Boston series with a glimpse at five Cambridge preschools, from one of the oldest parent cooperatives in the country to a Harvard affiliated non-profit childcare center. Granted, some of these have long wait lists, but there are a surprising handful of openings right now.

We’ve provided an overview of the school philosophies and basic requirements below, but a look at these schools’ websites – and, of course, a visit! – is highly recommended as you begin to clarify your hopes and requirements for your children and their educational paths.


The Cambridge Montessori School (161 Garden St. Cambridge, MA; 02138 617.492.3410) offers educational programs to children 21 months old and up, with mixed-age classes of 3 to 6 year olds and a kindergarten of 5-6 year olds.

The emphasis here is on tactile and sensorial learning and on “learning by doing.” The curriculum includes “Practical Life, Language, Math, Geography, Science and Nature, Art, Peace, Grace and Courtesy.” The youngest students can spend three years with the same teacher, receiving formative practice in community building as well as academic and creative grounding. The school extends through the eighth grade.

Tuition starts at $16,320 (for a half-day five day per week schedule). Early drop off and extended day programs are offered. Financial aid is available to qualified families.

The Cambridge Nursery School, (6 Hillside Place, Cambridge MA 02140; 617.547.7288) a parent cooperative school, was established in 1923. At this school, whose motto is “learn through play,” parents partner with teachers both inside and outside the classroom in activities ranging from fundraising to building maintenance. The school offers morning programs to children ages 2.9 to 5 years old. Early morning drop off and extended day care (from noon till 3pm) programs are offered. Parental involvement is an essential element to the curriculum, which is based on the interests and needs of children and explores creativity, fairness, diversity, problem solving, and developing trust with adults and other children.

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis after the annual fall open house.

The Cambridge Friends School  (5 Cadbury Rd. Cambridge, MA 02140; 617.354.3880) offers a mixed age program for 4 and 5 year olds in which children develop their “intellectual, creative, physical, and emotional competencies.” The literary program, for example, builds upon a “story telling and story acting” curriculum. The school extends through 8th grade; the curriculum and community are founded on Quaker principles, which stem from the belief that truth and goodness are inherent in each individual.

Before and after school programs are offered. Financial aid is available to qualifying families.

The Peabody Terrace Children’s Center (900 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA 02138; 617.496.9160) offers a Reggio Emilia curriculum to an internationally diverse community of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarten students. While admission priority is given to children of Harvard faculty and alumni, other children are enrolled at this school/care center as well.  The curriculum includes music, art, and yoga as well as literacy and numerics.  

For information on tuition and application, please contact the school. Admission is rolling as space in the program permits.  Financial aid is available for qualifying families. 

The Shady Hill School, (178 Coolidge Hill, Cambridge MA 02138; 617.520.5260) offers its preschool, or “beginners” program to children ages 4 through 6. The school’s mission is to “know and honor the individual character and spirit of each child” and its curriculum is based on the idea of “mastery through discovery,” encouraging children to follow their curiosity, take risks, and learn from mistakes. The campus is on 11 acres, which includes wetlands and woodland paths. The preschool is a gateway to the lower and middle schools’ long established “central subject” based curricula.

Families apply following an initial parent visit. Financial aid is available to qualifying families.

Reader Recommendation: Parents Nursery School (117 Cushing Street, Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-864-3913) is a non-profit, integrated, play-based, cooperative nursery school. The nursery school itself is owned and run by a corporation consisting of the parents, the director, and the teachers. Children at Parents’ Nursery School engage in self-directed free-play, facilitated by teachers and parent helpers; have ready access to and can explore the natural outdoor environment; and extend their physical, emotional, and developmental boundaries while supported by a community that maintains a strong connection between home and school.

We would love to know if your family has visited or attended any of these schools. And if you would like to recommend a preschool not on this list, your comments and feedback, as always, are welcome!