The Importance of High-Quality Preschool

high-quality preschool

Higher income. Better self-esteem. Reduced teen pregnancies. Lower incarceration rates…

What is one way to achieve these positive results in the teenage years and adulthood?

Through quality early education.

It’s hard to imagine, but the quality of education your preschooler receives will end up having an impact on some of the biggest aspects of adult life later on, according to James Heckman, one of the nation’s top economists who studies human development.

“The gap is there before kids walk into kindergarten,” Heckman says. “School neither increases nor reduces it.”

But how can this be? We spend so much time worrying about our children’s test scores in middle school and high school. It’s almost as if we’re programmed to worry about our teenagers’ chances to get into college.

But studies are telling us we should be focusing our concern even younger — to preschool.

What your child does during his early years matters.

Early Brain Development

high-quality preschool

According to the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, the first few years of life actually set the stage for lifelong development. In fact, by age 5, your child will already have developed a staggering 85 percent of her intellect, personality, and skills. Because young kiddos’ brains still have plasticity, they easily adapt to the things they’re exposed to. That’s why structured, enriching environments are crucial to brain development.

And that’s why a high-quality preschool is a critical component of shaping that 85 percent. High-quality preschool will actually help your child be successful throughout the remainder of his educational career.

Giving your child more exposure to language, caring interaction with adults, positive learning experience, and more will even help her brain develop more extensive and sophisticated neuron structures. These structures actually have an effect on later behavior and intelligence.

“Children who attend high-quality preschool enter kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies, and stronger basic math skills than those who do not,” W. Steven Barnett, PhD., NIEER director.

But these results can’t be achieved with just any ol’ daycare or preschool. It’s important that you find a high-quality preschool for your child to attend.

So What Does a High-Quality Preschool Education Look Like?


high-quality preschool

Sitting children down with flashcards and worksheets is the best way to get them to learn, right?


On the contrary, when children are given the opportunity for hands-on exploration, they get to test their knowledge in a safe and relaxed environment. Relating this new knowledge to what they already know then becomes easy.

Child-initiated activities, plenty of materials to explore, and free choice is what creates successful preschool students.

“Young children can certainly learn letters and numbers, but to sit kids down and ‘teach’ them is the wrong way to do it,” says Linda Smith, executive director of the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies.  “They learn best through doing the kinds of activities they find interesting — storytime, talking to their teachers about stars, playing with blocks.”

A high-quality preschool needs to have:

  • Specific areas for different kinds of play
  • Credentialed teachers
  • Engaging activities that help children learn
  • Teachers who engage positively with the children
  • A well-structured and well-managed program
  • Opportunities to learn with hands-on activities
  • Unique ways to learn
  • Positive relationships
  • Routines and consistency
  • Patient teachers who allow children to repeat their activities
  • Teachers who get down on the children’s level
  • Teachers who are respectful
  • Open-ended play
  • A balanced teacher-student ratio
  • A safe environment

Tip: Take this thorough, handy checklist with you when checking out preschools.

All parents want their children to live happy, successful lives. It’s reassuring to know that you can make a positive impact during those early, developing years with the right preschool.

UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Utah builds confidence, learning, and creativity in preschoolers through our unique approach that combines nurturing with a comprehensive curriculum. We help your child build academic, social, emotional, and physical confidence. Give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online for a tour of the preschool.


Beating Boredom with Backyard Science

backyard science - science activities for kids

Summer is here and how often do we hear the dreaded, “I’m bored” statement? School may not be in session, but learning adventures are right outside your backdoor. Just think of the safari awaiting a young inquisitive mind!  

Roly-polies tucked away under the nearest stone. Beatles making their way through the jungle of grass. Mighty ant wars, a moving mosaic on the sidewalk.  And don’t forget that tell tale sign of the sparkling trail left by that sneaky snail.  All the backyard enthusiast needs is a plastic magnifying glass and a paper cup and she’s set!  

The Dirt on Getting Dirty

backyard science - science activities for kids

But backyard science goes well beyond the ugly bug ball.  Even smaller than those creeping crawlers are microorganisms that are also at work. Often as parents we are hesitant to let those little fingers and toes get all dirty.  

“We want children to explore and to construct knowledge about their world, but sometimes we stifle this curiosity by trying to keep them safe–and clean.” (Paul Chesler, Instructor, Child Development and Education Division DeAnza Community College, Cupertino, California, Young Children. May 1996. p. 28)

Scientist Jack Gilbert, author of Dirt is Good: The Advantage of Germs for Your Child’s Developing Immune System, studies microbial ecosystems at the University of Chicago.  In an interview with NPR, he shared that most parents are over washing and over sterilizing.  

“It’s fine to wash their hands if there’s a cold or a flu virus around, but if they’re interacting with a dog, and the dog licks their face, that’s not a bad thing. In fact that could be extremely beneficial for the child’s health,” Gilbert shared. According to his studies, an increased exposure to germs can actually boost immunities and decrease allergies.  So let him play in some of that “good clean dirt.”

The Nature of Nature

The natural world used to be all around humanity, but because of urbanization, few children have access to nature.  When we think of sending children out to play, we think of slides and swings. However, according to studies, “Children prefer outdoor places that allow personal investigation.” (Ruth Wilson, Fostering A sense of Wonder During the Early Childhood Years. 1993. p.131)

backyard science - science activities for kids

By nature, children are drawn to nature.  They need to connect with the world around them because they are a part of it. Giving them the opportunity to explore the backyard and beyond builds interest and curiosity, as well as allowing the whole child to grow in his natural surroundings.

Wonder as You Wander

Wonder is part of the joy of childhood and asking questions is paramount to wondering.  “As teachers [and caregivers] we may often feel the impulse to simply respond with answers, but if we let go of our image as suppliers of answers, we too can become immersed in the act of wonderment” writes Michael Elsohn Ross, author of Sandbox Scientist–Real Science Activities for Little Kids. (Young Children. March 2000. p. 12)

backyard science - science activities for kids

Asking questions is instinctive for children, but we can take learning to a higher level as we ask questions with them.  How are our senses affected by what we are experiencing?  What is happening?  Why and how is it happening? 

Discovery through our questions not only develops a scientific observer, it develops the skills of a lifelong learner who loves to explore and discover.

8 Backyard Science Adventures

Here are a few ideas for some exciting exploration:

Field Journal- Have your child document the question of the day.  Here are a few to get you started.  Drawing pictures of her experiences not only helps with observation, but increases language, small motor, and art skills as well.

  • What do they see, smell, hear, touch?  Can you describe it?
  • What is the weather like? How was it the same/different from yesterday?
  • How many animals or insects can they find? What were they doing?  
  • How did the ant measure compared to the butterfly?
  • What plants can they find?  What are the parts of the plants?

    Theme Walk-
    With or without a backyard, we can all go for a short walk.  Add purpose to your walk with a theme.  Look for colors, shadows, footprints, signs of the season, living and nonliving, puddles, etc. 

    Bubbles and Wind- We all know how much excitement bubbles bring to a summer day.  Make it scientific with a straw!  Which way is the wind blowing?  Can you make the bubbles move with your own wind as you blow them with a straw?  What about a paper fan? 

    Outdoor Scavenger Hunt-  Give him a paper sack and have him gather a list of nature items: pine needle, flower, small pebble, leaf, piece of bark, stick, etc. Give him the opportunity to share his findings with the family. 

    Make a Birdfeeder- At UDA Creative Arts Preschool we make a simple birdfeeder with a string, a pinecone, some peanut butter and birdseed. Tie the string around the pinecone so it can hang on a branch.  Your preschooler can cover the pinecone in peanut butter and then roll it in birdseed, and voila!  Hang it in the tree and watch over the next few days as the seed disappears. 

    Plant a Garden- This activity takes more planning, but learning the science of seed to fruit is a labor of love.  Your child will learn responsibility as she waters the plant and watches it grow.  And what better way to develop a love for vegetables than growing your own?  Pots can be used if a garden is not available. 

    Create a Habitat- Or just study one.  Where does the spider live, and what does it need to survive?  How about the worm?  Ant farms can be fun to see how the ants live under the soil, then study what they are doing above the ground. A beetle or caterpillar can survive inside a plastic cup with some leaves for a day in the shade. 

    Explorer Tool Box- By giving your child tools and questions, they can use their own imaginations to explore; but just in case they are too bored, here are a few ideas to get started.

  • Plastic Magnifying Glass- What can she find on the bark, leaves, in the grass and dirt?
  • Trowel and Bucket- What is below the surface?
  • Plastic Tweezers- Great for small motor skills! What does the other side of the leaf look like?  Can they pick up that little rock?
  • Ruler- Which leaf is longer?  How long is the worm? How far did the snail go?
  • Paper Cups- Playing in water can be hours of entertainment, or create a habitat for an insect for studying.
  • Notebook and Pencil- This is a great way for them to express their data and findings through art.
  • Chalk- Trace, measure, and describe on the sidewalk!
  • Plastic Tube or PVC Pipe- How does the rock go through the tube compared to the leaf or a blade of grass?  What about water? How about wind?
  • Straw- Can they move the bubbles in the air by blowing them? What about a leaf?  A rock? (Make sure your child is old enough to know the difference between blow and suck.And if you think these backyard ideas are fun, you should see how learning is fun in our classrooms!  Come visit us for a free tour at UDA Creative Arts Preschool, the premier preschool in Salt Lake.  For more information, call us at (801) 523-5930.

Written by: Elsje Denison

5 Art Activities for Your Preschooler’s Developing Mind


When was the last time you felt the cool ooze of paint between your fingers as it spread across the page? Or had the exhilaration of watching bright yellow and spring green twirl and twist at the gliding of your fingertips? But who has time to play in colorful finger-paints?  

As fun as playing in finger-paints can be, its value extends beyond “fun,” especially in the preschooler’s developing mind. The benefits of art activities for preschoolers extend into all aspects of a child’s learning, and your participation as their parent or caregiver plays a role.

“It’s very encouraging for children to know that their parents are willing to participate in activities with them,” says Adrianne Russell, a Kansas City, Missouri-based arts consultant, “especially if it’s something the adults have never done before or have little experience with.”

“Painting, drawing or sculpting forces us to stop multitasking and focus on the project at hand, as well as the person we’re doing it with,” writes Grace Hwang Lynch, for PBS Parents.

One added benefit to art activities for preschoolers is that they keep those little munchkins busy! “Children engaged in creating art express their feelings constructively, not destructively,” says Sydney Gurewitz Clemens, consultant for childhood education, teacher and organizer of San Francisco Classroom Teachers’ Association.

With those long summer days, we can all use a few “constructive” ideas. Here are five fun art activities for preschoolers you can do at home for your munchkin’s developing mind.

1- Zebra Resist Finger-paint

A little messy, but definitely delicious. Let your child tear painter’s tape into strips and then press them down onto a paper plate.  Make a small box of chocolate pudding and let it set.  Scoop a spoonful of pudding onto the plate and let the cool yummy goodness glide beneath your fingers.  Licking encouraged.  When pudding has dried, peel the painter’s tape off.  

art activities for preschoolers

Developmental Benefits: Small-motor skills are developed as tape is torn and placed on the plate.  Language develops as your child discusses how the pudding feels, tastes, and looks as you discuss the outcome of the tape resist.  Decision making is required as your child chooses how to tear the tape, where to place it, and how to move their hands to create thickness/thinness in the pudding.  

2- Summer Collage

Have your child choose pictures that remind him of things he loves to do in the summer.  Tear or cut them out of newspapers, magazines, pictures he draws, or even pictures you print for him.  Allow him to organize them on a large paper (8×10 is fine) and then give him a quarter-size puddle of glue on a paper or in a milk lid. Let him paint the glue to his picture with a finger, paint brush or Q-tip, and then paste them to his large paper.  Remember there is no right or wrong way for him to place his collage. Upside down and sideways pictures are part of the process.  

Note on Scissors: Learning to cut is a challenging small-motor skill for young children.  If he is tired of using scissors, encourage your child to tear his pictures out, but keep practicing with those scissors.  

art activities for preschoolers

Developmental Benefits: Cutting, tearing, gluing and pasting are all small-motor skills that need coordination and muscle strength.  Planning where to place pictures and then implementing the plan develops creative thinking, reasoning, and spatial awareness. Displaying the pictures they have chosen fosters self-worth and individuality.   

3- Oobligook

Cornstarch and water make a wonderful medium for the small artistic hands. This art activity is all about the process.  Gather 3 cups cornstarch and 2 cups water.

  1. First let your child handle the dry cornstarch.  What does it feel like?  
  2. Add a little water and let those little fingers mix.  What is happening? What will happen if we add more water?
  3. After the lumpy stage, add the rest of the water.  
  4. Mix it all up and enjoy the silly, flowing substance.  Add food coloring if desired.
  5. What can you create?

art activities for preschoolers

Developmental Benefits: Your little scientist is beginning the scientific method!  Observing the qualities of her ingredients and making predictions, your preschooler is critically thinking.  She is also tapping into that right brain as she handles and creates with the oobligook.  The more we can cross the two brain hemispheres, the better! Language development is also occurring as she describes what she is feeling.

4- Beautiful Junk 

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”  This old English proverb holds true for preschool creativity! Give your child a pile of safe “junk” objects.  (Cereal boxes, beads, foil, cartons, buttons, cloth, toilet paper/paper towel rolls, ribbon, spools, yarn, shoelaces, cotton balls, rubber bands, paper. etc.)

Then issue the challenge.  “What can you make?”  Or if they need a little guidance, “What is the tallest thing you can make?” “What is the shiniest thing you can make?”  Be available with tape, or even better, colored duct tape, but let them do all the creating.

art activities for preschoolers

Developmental Benefits: This is a wonderful activity for problem solving.  For more problem solving experience, have your child work with a friend to make their creation.  This activity also encourages inventiveness.

“The kind of people society needs to make it move forward are thinking, inventive people who seek new ways and improvements, not people who can only follow directions,” says MaryAnn Kohl, an arts educator and author of numerous books about children’s art education. “Art is a way to encourage the process and the experience of thinking and making things better!” 

5- Story Inspired Art

Book illustrations can be a wonderful way to inspire your home art.  Here are a few examples:

  • Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson.  Use sidewalk chalk to draw your own adventure!
  • Press Here, by Hervé Tullet.  So many dotty options!  Dot pens, fingerprints, stamping.  Try cutting grapes in half and stamping them in paint to tell your own dot story.
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle. Always a favorite! But have you ever examined the cover pages?  With scraps of colored paper, make your own caterpillar holes using a hole punch.  Then, use all the punch circles to decorate your little artist’s created butterfly.

art activities for preschoolers

Developmental Benefits: Language is developing any time we tell a story.  Mathematical skills are developed as your child sequences her story.  Your creativity is developed as you are inspired by the illustrations of others to come up with your own art adventure.  

Remember: Process over Product!

As you do art activities with your preschooler, remember it’s about the process more than the product.  The development happens as your child creates.  The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) offers some helpful suggestions for process-focused learning.


If you’d like to see more fun ways art can be used to develop your whole child, come visit us for a free tour at UDA Creative Arts Preschool, the premier preschool in Salt Lake.  For more information, call us at (801)-523-5930.

Written by: Elsje Denison