By Marlena Chavira-Medford
If you visit Del Mar Hills Nursery School, you will undoubtedly see happy children at play. If you look closer, you will also begin to realize that as these children play, they are developing their skills socially, emotionally, physically, creatively and cognitively. This is indicative of Del Mar Hills Nursery School’s longstanding and unique child-centered approach to total child development and education.
Unlike many other programs that have closed classrooms with scheduled playground times, children here are encouraged to explore their environments and are free to follow their natural interests. Children here can choose to flex their creativity in the art studio, or learn about plants and textures while tending to the garden, or enjoy playtime in one of the indoor and outdoor spaces.
“Some children are highly active, and may want to jump and run outdoors, whereas some would rather sit inside and construct something out of blocks,” said executive director Polly Trump, adding that this openness and flexibility also allows children of different ages to interact, which is key for social development. “We aim to meet the children’s temperamental needs and always do what is in their best interest.”
Children are also given structured class time with their peers, including a daily music and movement instruction based on the educational approach of German composer Carl Orff. Here, children are engaged through a mix of singing, dancing, and playing instruments.
“This is an highly educational and incredibly positive environment for children,” said director Kathleen Pieslor — and she’s speaking from experience as she’s had two daughters go through the school. In fact, Pieslor was so impressed with what the school did for her own children, that she left her career in clinical science to join the team at Del Mar Hills Nursery School.
The school is full of stories like Pieslor’s. After more than 40 years, Del Mar Hills Nursery School continues to draw back the community. Many former preschoolers have returned to become teachers or enroll their own children — and Trump first worked as a teacher here when she was 16 before eventually returning to become executive director. Many of those stories are captured in a timeline of photos displayed in the school. That sense of community and history are part of what distinguishes Del Mar Hills Nursery School, as it is the oldest nursery school in Del Mar.
Many other programs are also run by a mix of teachers and aids, but at Del Mar Hills Nursery there are only teachers who have met specific higher standards, which is yet another distinguishing factor.
Del Mar Hills Nursery School is located at 13692 Mango Drive and accepts children ages 2-and-a-half to 6. For more information, please call (858) 755-8338 or visit