Purple Circle is an independent Early Childhood Program that supports the development and education of infants, toddlers, and children ages 5 months through 5 years old.

Located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, it was founded in 1972 as one of the first cooperatives that values families as integral members of the school community.

Our Philosophy

Purple Circle is committed to seeing and supporting each child as a unique and interesting individual.

Purple Circle is committed to seeing and supporting each child as a unique and interesting individual. Children’s questions and ideas contribute to curriculum planning. Children explore through a variety of mediums, such as drawing, painting, clay, music, literature, block building, and dramatic activity. Our classrooms are designed to encourage opportunities for all types of learning. Instead of feeding children a set of facts, we take their daily discoveries and questions and examine them in depth. The social environment of the classroom encourages and supports cooperation, sharing ideas, and working together. Our teachers pay close attention to the social, emotional, physical, cognitive, and language development of all of our children. Fundamental to the school’s philosophy is living the idea of democracy which encourages us to learn how to live together and accept our responsibilities and obligations as participating members of our society.

When the curriculum is tailored to meet the individual’s strengths and interests, and the environment supports this, the children come to see themselves as capable thinkers and learners, making sense of and imagining the world around them.

Our Curriculum

Collaboration is an essential element of our curriculum.

The teachers are committed to including a culturally responsive and anti-biased curriculum in their work with children and families.

Collaboration is an essential element of our curriculum. The teachers develop and expand topics in partnership with children and their families. Throughout the day, teachers ask thought-provoking questions, listen carefully to children’s answers, and in all interactions let children know that their ideas and investigations are important. In the children’s work and active exploration of their social and physical world, children make connections to language, literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, and the arts.

Responsive & Relationship-Based
Our program provides an environment that is responsive and relationship-based. We support teacher-child and child-child relationships. The environment is carefully designed to provide a cozy home-like atmosphere with defined learning areas and materials for exploration. Teachers observe and encourage physical and language development.

What is Primary Caregiving?
One teacher provides primary care for a limited group of children in our Infant and Toddler program. The teacher of each group learns each child’s cues for hunger, sleep, cuddles, and play. The teacher knows how to comfort, feed and diaper their primary children. Teachers sit at the table with their toddlers during meal times. The teacher also interacts daily with the child’s family.

Kids At Work

At Purple Circle, we know that kids are hard at work when they are playing. We create a special video featuring each classroom to be shown to parents at our annual back-to-school night in the fall. Watch below to see kids at work in each classroom.

Watch videos from 2023 and our 50th anniversary in 2022!

Our Families

Purple Circle believes that families are the child’s first teachers, and thus vital partners in early childhood education.

Teachers encourage family participation in the ongoing development of their child. Families participate in each classroom, leading special activities, organizing or accompanying school trips, or crafting new toys and facilities.

Purple Circle is a membership cooperative, which means that families assist in the overall operation of the school, including school repairs, fundraising, recruitment drives, professional services, and Board membership. There is at least one required general meeting of the whole family community each year, an open house, our annual gala fundraiser and many other social events. Families are encouraged to attend our school’s monthly Board Meetings.

Our emphasis on community not only strengthens the bonds between our children, but gives families a network of support and friendships that can last a lifetime.

Our Facility

A bright, warm environment designed to encourage exploration.

Purple Circle has sunny and spacious classrooms that are rich in materials, designed to encourage exploration and support all types of learning. Interest areas exist in each classroom for block building, art, reading, water and sand, dramatic play, science, math and music. The walls of the school are bright with the children’s artwork and personal stories. Our Infant and Toddler classrooms are small and cozy with room for children to move and interact with each other and adults, as well as with materials.


Purple Circle is a full year, five day a week program. We are open from September through mid-August. The prices below reflect the full-year cost, including summer, for all age groups.

Our Schedule

We offer four options to provide Monday-Friday, year-round education:

8:30 am – 6:00 pm

8:30 am – 4:00 pm

8:30 am – 1:50 pm

2:10 pm – 6:00 pm

There is also an early morning drop-off option at 8:00 am.

Apply now for September 2024