“My son (who is nearly 5) has been at the Play Yard for the past 2 years, and we feel incredibly lucky to have found this wonderful preschool. Denise is a gifted educator with decades of experience, impressive credentials, and a deep understanding of young children, their emotional needs, and their creative process. She strikes a perfect balance between structure and freedom, setting up a strong routine so that there are clear expectations and the day proceeds in an orderly way, while also giving children the freedom to be truly creative. She encourages them to explore materials and create stories, and they work on these projects, sometimes individually, sometimes collaboratively, over the course of days and even weeks! She’s amazing at getting kids to work together as a group. And she provides wonderful materials, often using really cool found objects, like a whole bunch of beautiful walking sticks, gigantic paper tubes, or transparent objects and an overhead projector. The kids will work together for a long time on a building project using, for example, dozens of large cardboard boxes, figuring out how to stack and arrange them to make what they want. Denise will support their process and help them work out conflicts, without placing her own creative agenda onto what they are trying to accomplish.
Denise understands better than anyone I know how to communicate with young children and how to respond to their emotional needs. She allows them to express their feelings even when their feelings are intense. She listens. She gently, but firmly, creates clear boundaries and rules. I have joked with other parents that we should make T-shirts that say “What Would Denise Do?” to remind us to aspire to her patient, gentle, loving, and clear way of communicating with young children.
My son has thrived at the Play Yard. He has felt safe, loved, and connected to his teacher and his preschool colleagues. His creativity has been allowed to grow and flourish. He and his schoolmates have developed an amazing capacity – far surpassing what I have seen in other preschool situations – to play together in a peaceful way, to work out their conflicts, and to collaborate creatively.”
—Jenn Guitart 2011-2013“
I cannot recommend The Play Yard more highly. This is our third year with the wonderfully dedicated Denise. My son attended The Play Yard his last year before Kindergarten and thrived. My four year old daughter is attending The Play Yard for her second year now. Denise is truly a wonder. I have learned so much from her and often catch myself sounding like her. I truly respect the way she regards and respects the children in her care. In turn, the children at The Play Yard are so thoughtful, warm, and considerate. In this group of six children, they come to form a very tight and respectful learning community. Denise takes her work very seriously. She listens to the children with all ears and gets them to take their thoughts/ feelings/ ideas to a higher level of thinking. Denise incorporates story building and story telling on a daily basis. There is a lot of teamwork inside and outside. Inside, you might see the children all working together to build a tower of boxes. Outdoors you might see them helping each other on the bars. Denise is a lover of all things natural and all the children's art projects use naturally found or recycled materials. Children work on a lot of fine motor coordination lacing and beading. The paintings my children have brought home are truly magnificent. The colors Denise chooses are beautiful. Above all, Denise truly has a magical way of relating to the children. I often ask myself, what would Denise do? You would be so lucky to drop your child off at The Play Yard. Your child will be one happy kid!”
“Before we found the Play Yard, I looked at many preschools and feared that at most of them, my daughter might get lost in the shuffle. Then we found the Play Yard...Denise Hingle, my daughter’s teacher, has been a preschool teacher for 25 years, and, in the words of the mom who recommended the school to me, is a ‘gem.’ She adheres to a strict play-based curriculum, which means she listens (and keeps copious notes) on what the children are talking about, inventing, and pretending, and then gives them ways to explore and extend that play more...she has a gorgeous large outside play space where the kids spend much of their time.”
—Amanda Silas, Sept. 2010
“I’ve known Denise for 6 years and in that time have had the pleasure of watching her get to know my four daughters. She first taught my older daughters at Via Nova Preschool, where Denise distinguished herself as a dedicated, thoughtful and talented teacher. When Denise started The Play Yard, I was thrilled that my twin daughters could benefit from the same mindful and creative teaching that Denise excels at. Denise is not only an outstanding educator, but her passion for the field of early childhood education after 25 years of experience is clear.
As an early intervention speech-language pathologist, I marveled at how Denise encourages discussions among her students about how hard it can be to share or how to construct playthings out of natural materials in the yard. She is keenly able to promote exploration among her students because she is so very good at taking the time to understand them and reflect with them on the world around them as they see it and through their own words. Her ability to create art and theater activities that originate from the interests of her students is unsurpassed by any early childhood instructor I’ve ever known.
I remember first moving to Berkeley and having an opportunity to watch Denise with a group of preschoolers from afar and hoping that my oldest daughter would have an opportunity to spend part of her day with Denise. I feel grateful that all four of my children have had an opportunity to benefit from Denise’s talents. Now Denise is decidedly part of our ‘chosen family.’ I give The Play Yard my highest recommendation...”
—Erikalynn Romweber, Oct. 2010
“If you are interested in a home-based preschool program I can recommend the Play Yard, which just started this September, and is run by Denise Hingle, a teacher with over 20 years of experience. We are a cozy group and the program will have up to six kids on any one day. My daughter is turning 3 in November and she loves it there—she runs up to the gate most days. The kids do a lot of dramatic play, artwork, nature walks, and so much more. Parent participation depends on size of the group and will be a few hours a month. The Play Yard is located in SW Berkeley, near Dwight and Sacramento. Email if you have questions or contact Denise at email@example.com for more info. Good Luck!”