Your Ultimate Guide to Real Estate on Chicago's North Shore

A Joyful Noise Preschool

Many of our clients are families with young children who are moving from the city to the North Shore. As they shop for homes, they are typically drawn to the communities with the best schools. Even those with toddlers are already thinking about which high school they want their children to attend. As for elementary school, most have scoured the sites with school rankings to make sure their children are in the schools which will prepare them best for high school.

Preschool usually isn’t a factor when choosing a community, but once a family has bought a house they set about finding a preschool that will get their little ones off to a great start in their education. Fortunately we have a lot of terrific preschools on the North Shore, and which one you choose depends on which best fits your child’s temperment and your own philosophy about early childhood education.

A Joyful Noise is a school that consistently gets high marks from its parents for its play-based curriculum, experienced and nurturing teachers and strong parent community. Many parents make life-long friendships with the other parents in the school.

A Joyful Noise is one of two preschools in Kenilworth and is affiliated with Kenilworth Union Church. You don’t have to live in Kenilworth to attend and you don’t have to be a member of the Church. But the school is based on the principles and values of the Christian faith, and there is a faith dimension to the curriculum.

There is a Moms & Tots (<2 years) program one day a week, and programs for two year olds and three year olds, as well as Junior Kindergarten.

Here’s what’s special about A Joyful Noise:

  • It’s a play-based curriculum whose purpose is development of the whole child and which is based on current research on best practices in early childhood development.
  • It has a wonderful play-space that no other school can match: a huge lot behind the church with playground and garden that the kids enjoy year-round.
  • The teachers are very experienced and have long tenure at the school.
  • There is a strong community of parents who are very involved in the school, and fellowship is an important part of the experience. My neighbor, Chris, gave me a great example of this: when her second child was born the school families prepared and delivered six weeks of meals to her family!

If you would like to consider a preschool that incorporates Christian principles, you should check out A Joyful Noise. If you don’t live in Kenilworth, don’t worry. Only about 20% of kids at A Joyful Noise live there. The rest are from all over the North Shore: Wilmette, Winnetka, Glenview, Northfield, etc.

A Joyful Noise Preschool is located at 211 Kenilworth Avenue, Kenilworth, IL 60043. For more info or to schedule a tour of the school call (847) 853-2100 or visit

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Guide to Highland Park Preschools

Nursery School ChildrenRavinia Nursery School

686 Red Oak Lane, Highland Park, IL 60035
(847) 831-3700

Ravinia Nursery School is a developmental preschool where children are encouraged to learn through play. Children learn at their own pace and in their own direction. Programs include a classes for 3-4 year olds (five mornings/week from 9:30-11:00) and a class for 4-5 year olds (five afternoons/week from 12:30-3:00). The younger class focuses on outdoor play, arts and crafts, music, singing and stories, while the older class adds language, literacy and math skills like counting, sorting and classifying objects.
There is also a summer camp.

Highland Park Montessori Schools

There are three Montessori schools in Highland Park. The goal of the schools is to help children become creative and competent human beings who are fully aware of themselves and the world around them.They are dedicated to creating an environment where children can feel comfortable and are able to learn in a respectful, caring community. The children work independently and in groups  in a non-competitive atmosphere and are encouraged to make decisions from an early age.

Programs include a parent-child class (2 months+), a toddler class (2-3 year olds), a primary class (3-6 year olds) and full-day kindergarten

  • Highland Park Montessori
    1301 Clavey Rd., Highland Park, IL 60035
    (847) 433-3383
  • Montessori Connection West
    1731 Deerfield Rd., Highland Park, IL 60035
    (847) 831-9393
  • Montessori Connection East
    330 Laurel Ave., Highland Park, IL 60035
    (847) 433-5106

Read the rest of this entry »

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Guide to Wilmette Preschools

Preschool classHere ‘s my list of the best preschools in Wilmette, based on my own experiences and research, as well as the recommendations of friends and clients.

Banner Preschool

3220 Big Tree Lane, Wilmette, IL 60091
(847) 251-3955

Banner Preschool believes that children learn best by being active participants in the learning process and the program is geared to stimulate intelligence through creative learning experiences. Curriculum includes music, art, reading readiness, cooking, science and social studies. There is an indoor gym and outdoor playground.

Banner is open to children two-five. Two year olds attend two days a week; three year olds attend three days;  four and five year olds attend five days. Read the rest of this entry »

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Guide to Winnetka Preschools

Preschool girl as pirateWinnetka Community Nursery School

800 Pine St., Winnetka, IL 60093
(847) 446-4432

This is a play-based program whose goal is to foster the social, emotional, cognitive and physical development of young children. Its philosophy is that young children learn primarily through play. The emphasis is on developing social skills, fostering a positive self concept and emotional well-being, encouraging thinking, reasoning, language and literacy. Key activities include: imaginative play, cooking, sensory activities, music and singing, manipulative toys, gross motor play, outdoor play, dramatic play and experiential art.

There is a two-day a week program for older 2 year olds; three and four day programs for 3 and 4 year olds; a five day program for 4 and 5 year olds. Half day and full day (8:45am -3:00pm) programs are available. There is also an extended day program and a summer camp.

Winnetka Public School Nursery

1155 Oak St., Winnetka, IL 60093
(847) 446-5153

Founded in 1926, Winnetka Public School Nursery is a play-based program where children learn to think critically, express themselves creatively and relate constructively to the world.  It is a Reggio-Emilia inspired school that believes that the child’s environment is the “3rd teacher” that inspires exploration, collaboration and joy. The program balances blocks of child-initiated activity with group experiences led by the teacher. Its name (Winnetka Public School Nursery) is misleading as this is a private, non-profit school, not a public school.

For 2 year olds and younger 3’s the program is thee days/week from 9:00-11:15 am 3 and 4 year olds can attend either 4 or 5 days/week from 9:00-11:15 am or 12:45-3:00 pm.

Willow Wood Preschool

684 Oak St, Winnetka, IL 60093

Willow Wood is a play-based program for children 3 – 5 years old that encourages children to learn through exploration, creativity and problem solving.

Three year olds have a choice of 2 days/week or 3 days from 9:00-11:15. Four year olds go 4 days and 5 year olds go 5 days/week, either mornings or afternoons. Willow Wood also runs a summer camp.

Harkness House for Children

630 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, IL 60093
(847) 501-2549

Harkness House is located in the Winnetka Community House and accepts children as young as six weeks. It is the only true “day-care” program here in that it runs year round and operates from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm with full day or part day options available.

Activities include art, music, sensory table, manipulative toys, socialization, gross motor and out door play.

Sacred Heart School

1095 Gage St, Winnetka, IL 60093
(847) 446-0005

Sacred Heart School in Hubbard Woods runs a preschool program for 4 year olds concentrating on four main areas of development: cognitive, emotional, social and physical. It is a child-centered curriculum allowing for flexibility and creativity. The main activities are language arts, dramatic play, cooking, music and art.

Children attend mornings from 9:00-11:30 am or afternoons from 12:40-3:10 pm. Parishioners have first priority and others are welcome when space is available.

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Guide to Kenilworth Preschools

preschool girls with doll houseThis is Part 3 of my preschool series, with a list of Kenilworth schools. Kenilworth is a small town so there are not many, but you also have access to the preschools in nearby Winnetka and Wilmette.

All Things Bright and Beautiful Preschool

222 Kenilworth Ave., Kenilworth, IL 60043
(847) 251-6120, ext. 16
All Things Bright and Beautiful website

Run by the Church of the Holy Comforter, this preschool program is open to children 2-4 years old. There is also a “Mommy and Me ” program for younger children. It offers a play-based program focused on the social, emotional and spiritual growth of its children.

A Joyful Noise Preschool

211 Kenilworth Ave., Kenilworth, Il 60043
(847) 853-1738
A Joyful Noise website

A Joyful Noise is the preschool at Kenilworth Union Church but is open to members and non-members alike. It offers programs for 0-5 year olds, including Mommy and Me Music Class, Moms and Tots, Two’s and Older Two’s classes, Three’s classes and Junior Kindergarten. Extended day and enrichment programs are also offered.

For more information, visit

Joseph Sears School

542 Abbotsford Rd., Kenilworth, IL 60043
(847) 256-5006

Joseph Sears School is the public school in Kenilworth for grades JK-8. The Junior Kindergarten provides a warm and nurturing environment in which children can learn through interactive play and problem-solving.  Activities include art, music, dramatic play, outdoor play, math, science, reading and pre-writing. Different levels of ability, development and learning styles are expected, accepted and used to design appropriate activities.

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Guide to Glencoe Preschools

Preschool boys on a slideIn my first post about North Shore preschools I talked about some criteria for selecting a preschool. In this post I share my top picks for preschools located in Glencoe.

Children’s Circle Full Day Preschool

Takiff Center, 999 Green Bay Rd., Glencoe, IL 60022
(847) 835-3035

Children’s Circle is a program of the Glencoe Park District that serves children 15 months to 6 years old, offering a full day preschool program, as well as before and after kindergarten care. It operates year round and children may attend 2,3,4 or 5 days a week.

The Early Learning Center is a half day preschool, also at the Takiff Center, for 2 – 4 year olds.

The focus is on helping children learn to navigate their world by supporting healthy social and emotional development and an enthusiasm for learning.

St. Elisabeth’s Nursery School

556 Vernon Ave., Glencoe, IL 60022
(847) 835-0609

St. Elisabeth’s Church runs a non-religious morning preschool program (9:00-11:15 am) for 3 and 4 year olds. The program is designed to give young children a positive social experience, laying the foundation for them to become enthusiastic lifelong learners.
It also offers an extended day enrichment program from 11:15-12:45, with music, art, math, science and language activities.

North Shore Congregation Israel – Preschool @ NSCI

1185 Sheridan Rd., Glencoe, IL 60022
(847) 835-0724

The Preschool @ NSCI is a great place to play and learn about Judaism. The warm and nurturing environment fosters the social, emotional, intellectual and physical development of its students. The program integrates Jewish customs with conventional preschool activities such as arts & crafts, music, dance, drama, science and outdoor play.

The program serves children from 15 months to 4 years old, with a parent-tot class for children under 2 years old. Older 2’s attend either two or three days a week; 3’s attend three or four days and 4’s attend five days a week.

J.C.C. Early Childhood Services at Am Shalom

840 Vernon, Glencoe, IL 60022
(847) 835-0008

Children 2-4 years old have fun while learning Jewish values and practices, Hebrew vocabulary and honoring Shabbat. This unique program combines education about Jewish traditions and heritage with a best in class early childhood development program. It integrates Reggio Emila into the learning experience, which encourages learning through probrlam solving, exploration, discovery and experimentation. J.C.C.also offers a summer camp.

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Guide to North Shore Preschools

Preschooler With Paint on HandsOne of the things that attracts people to the North Shore is its excellent schools. Usually when we talk about schools we are referring to elementary through high school. But if you have very young children, the more immediate concern is finding the right preschool. There are many outstanding ones on the North Shore to choose from. So many, in fact, that it can be daunting to try and select the right one.

I’ve compiled a list of some of the best preschools on the North Shore, organized by location. See the links at the bottom of the post information about preschools in each community.

How to Choose a Preschool

At the end of the day, choosing a preschool boils down to which one is the right fit for you and your child across a number of different dimensions. Here are some of the things you should take into consideration:

Days/Hours of Program
Many preschools are for a half day only (or less) and may be 2,3,4 or 5 days a week. Typically the program is more days and/or more hours as children get older. If both parents work, you will want to explore full-day programs or preschools that offer extended care options.

Is the school accredited by NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children)? Are the teachers trained in early childhood education? Do they know CPR and first aid? What is the student to teacher ratio? A good rule of thumb is one teacher to seven children for 2 and 3 year olds and one teacher to ten children for 4 and 5 year olds. Make sure to ask the director about teacher turnover, too. You don’t want a school that’s a revolving door.

Different schools follow different philosophies of education. Some are more play-based and others are more academic.  The important thing is to choose a program that feels right to you and fits your child’s particular learning style and personality.

Secular or religious?
Some schools are totally secular and some have a religious component. However, don’t assume that all church-based schools have a religious curriculum. Usually this will be communicated on the school’s web site, but it is something you should get clarification about from the director, if this is important to you.

What to Look For When You Tour

Try to do three things when you visit a school:  tour the facility, meet with the director and observe a class in session.

When touring, this is what you should see:
The indoor environment is clean, neat and well-organized. It should feel spacious, bright and inviting. The equipment and materials should be in good condition and age-appropriate. There should be an outdoor play area that is large enough for children to run and jump. There should be a variety of climbing structures, riding toys, balls and other play equipment.

Ask the director about the school’s philosophy, curriculum and daily schedule. Does it offer a good balance of child-directed play and teacher-led group activities? Do the children get to engage in a variety of activities every day?  Is there outdoor play every day? How is discipline handled?

If you are able to observe a class, try to spend at least 20 minutes, but stay out of the way so that you don’t disrupt the class. Are the teachers’ interactions with the children positive, consistent and fair? Do they encourage critical thinking and problem solving? Are they patient with the children and sensitive to their different needs? Are the kids happy and enthusiastic about what they are doing? Is there enough variety in the curriculum to keep them actively engaged?

After you’ve done your research and spent some time at the school, you will have formed an overall impression about whether it’s a good fit for your child. Above all, trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right to you, then it’s probably not the best choice. You know your child and what he or she needs better than anyone, so go with your instincts.

Read more about choosing a preschool here.

Go to links below for information on preschools in each community:

Guide to North Shore Summer Camps

Anne West - Your North Shore Real Estate Connection