Let’s Play — Why Your Child Needs Play-Based Learning

play-based learning

Keeping up with the Joneses has always been a hazard of modern life. We want what our neighbors have. And try as we might, we just can’t shake this competition when it comes to parenting. Even the least-affected among us want our children to excel academically, socially, physically, and more.

And we naturally worry when it seems like our child is falling behind. But in the rush to make sure our kids keep up, we sometimes focus too heavily on academics, sports, and more. While these components of childhood are all important, we may forget one very important thing:


play-based learning

It may look like our kids are just wasting time when they’re playing, but it’s actually a critical component of their development. In fact, the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights even recognizes play as a right of every child!

Read on to learn why play is so important at home and at school — and how you can make sure your child gets enough of it!

The Many Benefits of Play-Based Learning

Children need to learn their ABCs and 123s, and play is one way to effectively make that happen. When you incorporate fun into regular lessons, children just get it.

But the benefits of play-based learning extend far beyond academics. Play develops imagination, cognitive strength, and dexterity. It allows children to have control over their environment, giving them confidence and the ability to master what they’re doing. It helps children face fears in a safe space, and it lets them practice adult roles. They learn how to work in groups, to negotiate, and to advocate for themselves. They learn to try on different interests, and find what they’re really passionate about.

And that’s all just from unstructured play!

play-based learning

When a teacher uses guided play as a teaching tool, she can ensure her students build vocabulary skills, gain background knowledge on subjects being taught, and even push through academic challenges.

Indeed, researchers have determined that successful learning contains four key ingredients. The best learning happens when children are:

  • Mentally active
  • Engaged
  • Socially interactive
  • Building meaningful connections to their lives

Think of the last time you watched your child play. Whether you noticed it at the time, chances are good that you saw all of those ingredients mixing together for a deliciously fun time of learning.

How Parents Can Incorporate Play-Based Learning at Home

  • Make time for it! In your own life, you probably won’t relax unless it’s part of a daily ritual or if it’s put on the calendar. But much as you suffer when you don’t leave time for relaxation, children suffer when they don’t have time to play. Include it in your daily routines.
  • Step back. You don’t have to direct your child’s play. If your child calls a dinosaur a parrot, don’t correct her. Let her direct her own play. She’s building worlds of imagination.
  • But play with them too! There’s a time to step back, and there’s a time to engage. Playing with your child gives you a front-row seat to the stage of your child’s mind. It’s beneficial for both of you when you get down on your child’s level and play. But the key? Follow your child’s lead. Don’t take over. Don’t make judgment calls on his decisions. Just do what he does, and follow his lead.
  • Provide materials. Give your child new materials to play with — fabric pieces, play-doh, ribbon, dry pasta, empty tissue boxes… you get the idea. Don’t give any direction; just let them play.
  • Go outside. A change of scenery opens the mind. Head out to your backyard, to the park, or to a nature spot and see what your child comes up with.
  • Allow for mistakes. Learning happens when children are allowed to make mistakes.
  • Appreciate your children’s efforts. Display their artwork, tell them you’re impressed that they continued to build a block tower even when it kept toppling over, and praise them for being kind to playmates.
  • Get messy. (Well, as much as your comfort level will allow!)

play based learning

Need some ideas for what you can do together? Try these on for size:

  • Draw with chalk outside
  • Read books
  • Put puzzles together
  • Dress up
  • Play together at the playground
  • Go for a walk
  • Dance to music
  • Play board games or card games
  • Play with puppets
  • Arrange or sort tiny toys or trinkets
  • Do housework together
  • Kick, throw, or bounce a ball
  • Jump in leaf piles
  • Play hopscotch
  • Draw, paint, or color

Remember — while there is much you can do with your child, she also benefits from playing on her own. Don’t stress about how you play, how often you play, or if you’re playing the right things. Just allow for play — structured and unstructured — in your home.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we take a play-based learning approach in our classrooms. We guide children to use their imagination to help concepts stick, learn new ways of doing things, and more.


Eyes, Ears, Mouth and Nose- The Benefits of Multisensory Learning

multisensory learning

There is no question that babies are learning to identify the world around them with their senses.  From the familiar smell and sound of mom, to feeling swaddled and warm, babies are participating in multisensory learning.  

Multisensory Learning

It should be no surprise that preschoolers are continuing in their quest to identify and explore their environment through multisensory learning.  For those of us who are not immersed in the child development vernacular, multisensory just means using more than one of the five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) in a learning activity.  So here is an easy rule of thumb: the more senses the activity uses, the more effective the learning will be.

Benefits of Multisensory Learning

We all have a different learning style, the most common being visual or verbal. But one of the great benefits of multisensory learning is utilizing all learning styles.  Furthermore, did you know that multisensory learning can also help children with learning and attention issues?  These children are better equipped to collect data and problem solve as they participate in a more hands-on approach to learning.

Studies have also shown that multisensory learning increases proficiency and effectiveness of learning as it accesses more parts of the brain, improves memory, and enhances brain development. Don’t be surprised if your child is repetitive when doing a multisensory activity.  This type of learning is all about the process!

What Does Multisensory Learning Look Like?

To the untrained eye, multisensory learning may look a lot more like play than learning.  Look a little closer and you’ll find that multisensory play is actually their little brains at work.  

multisensory learning

Put together a puzzle and your little guy is using his sight as well as critical thinking and kinesthetic learning.  Talk about the puzzle as you complete it and you’ve added verbal and social learning styles.

multisensory learning

Role play gives children the opportunity to handle objects in their world as they discuss and apply their usefulness, using logical–and sometimes not-so-logical–thinking.  They are able to develop social learning skills as well as a combination of visual, verbal, and even auditory learning.  (When was the last time you noticed your preschooler singing while playing?  Yep!  That was auditory learning!)

Water tables are fabulous multisensory learning tools, as they just beg to be played in!  Whether using rice, water, sand, beans, or water beads, the feel of the medium on your hands and fingers are firing those synapsis all over the place!  Add the toys, and our preschoolers are busy little bees learning laws of physics while their processing brains go wild.

3 Multisensory Learning Activities to Try at Home

Puzzles and role playing are easy to play at home, too.  Get a plastic tub in the back yard and fill it with water, add a funnel, and you have your own water table as well.  But here are a few more fun multisensory learning activities to try at home:


The store-bought or homemade kind both work great.  Not only do they work their little kinetic minds while kneading the dough, they process so much more when you give them tools to use.   Here are a few ideas:

  • Plastic knife or fork
  • Plastic scissors
  • Cookie cutters
  • Milk lids
  • Wire whisk
  • Measuring cups
  • Scale
  • Muffin tins
  • Rolling pin
  • Stampers- any shape you have around the kitchen

And if mixing colors gives your OCD heart an attack, make your own dough and let them help you mix the colors in. (Make sure the dough is cool enough.) You can always make more if the final product is “blah” in color.

Homemade Playdough

2 c flour

2 c water

1 c salt

2 T oil

4 t cream of tartar or alum

Food coloring- add to liquid

(Or add a package of Kool-Aid for scent and color)

Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes until ball is formed.  Knead until stiff.  Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

2- Cook!

Popcorn. Lemonade. Cinnamon Toast. Any food preparation your preschooler can participate in introduces them to textures, smells, colors, shapes and best of all, taste!  Not to mention all the small muscle development, independence, and scientific learning it fosters.  This Rainbow Salad recipe is healthy and perfect for little hands to make with a plastic knife and parental supervision.  Don’t forget to discuss shapes and colors as you make it!

multisnesory learning

Rainbow Salad

½ c sliced strawberries (sliced with egg slicer)

1 small can mandarin oranges, drained

½ c pineapple chunks

½ c kiwi, slices cut into triangles

½ c blueberries

½ c red grapes, cut in half

Mix and enjoy.


3- Textile Mosaic

Grab some different textiles and colors and let your child cut and paste them.  What shapes can she make?  What sound do they make if they crinkle?  (Lois Ehlert, illustrator of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a fabulous textile artist if you need some ideas.)

Here some example mediums to use:

  • Tinfoil or foil paper
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Felt
  • Any scraps of fabric
  • Feathers
  • Pipe-cleaners
  • Craft foam
  • Newspaper or magazines
  • Construction paper
  • Small sticks and pinecones


This month at UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we have been learning all about our senses and we are dedicated to implementing multisensory learning! In addition, we are prepared to teach all styles of learning, including the “taster” who is prone to put that paint brush right in his mouth.  We invite you to come watch us in action.  You can schedule a tour today by calling (801) 523-5930.

Written by: Elsje Denison

Music Matters! How Music Benefits Preschool Learners

We all know of the importance of preschool when it comes to ABC’s and 123’s, but what about the Do Re Mi’s?  Let’s consider how music benefits children, as well as how can you enhance that learning with music activities at home.

Albert Einstein said, “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music.  I live my daydreams in music.  I see my life in terms of music.”   

Really, is there anything music doesn’t teach?  Music has the ability to reach every part of us, developing our whole selves.  It moves us and gets us moving.  It brings us together and creates meaning.  

Music Benefits for Preschool Learning

Here is a list of some of the ways we use music at UDA Creative Arts Preschool to benefit your child’s learning.

    • Math Skills are developed as children learn patterns, sequencing, beat, rhythm, and dynamics.
    • Memory is enhanced as children learn lyrics and repeated patterns, as well as curriculum.
    • Language develops as children recognize sounds, syllables, vocabulary, story sequencing, and sentence structure.
    • Science Skills are developed as children discover cause and effect with instruments and body movements. UDA Creative Arts Preschool also uses music to teach science curriculum in the exploration of the world around them.
    • Motor Skills are used as children use instruments and create movement.  Children love the opportunity to move their bodies in various ways to the music and to internalize tempo and dynamics.  Also, small motor skills develop as children learn how to clap and shake and tap instruments.
    • Brain Development occurs as children use both their right and left brain hemispheres simultaneously.  They practice using their eyes, ears, and bodies at the same time.
    • Emotional Development occurs as children learn to recognize feelings created by different styles of music.  Like Einstein said, it inspires children to dream and create.
    • Social Skills are developed as children interact with one another and the teacher during songs, and as they learn to take turns with the instruments.
    • Self-Discipline is practiced as children learn to pause before playing, to leave their instruments in their laps, and to share.
    • Listening Skills are developed as children listen to learn lyrics and rhythms and focus on sounds in order to recreate them.
    • Happiness and joy are felt as the children giggle and wiggle, laugh and smile.


Music benefits children

Music Activities For Preschoolers You Can Do At Home

While we are implementing this wonderful teaching tool with our music activities at UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we don’t want you to miss out on the fun!  Consider these music activities you can do with your preschooler at home:

1- Expose Your Preschooler to a Variety of Music.  Children songs are so fun, and we all have our favorite radio stations, but add some variety to give your child exposure to different rhythms and timbres.  The Salt Lake County Library System has a collection of music you can download for free with Freegal.

2- Name that Instrument! Play a game when you listen to music and have your child identify the instruments they hear.  Drums and guitar are pretty easy to find on the radio.  Go to a classical station to add more instrument families.  You may even challenge yourself!

3- Make use of Downtime! We all have those moments when an app is just the thing to entertain our rambunctious munchkin while we…fill in the blank.  Why not make it a learning opportunity?  Common Sense Media provides a list of music learning apps for preschoolers, along with ratings and summaries so you can chose what works best for your little learner.

4- Sing! Sing in the shower! Sing in the rain!  You don’t have to be a professional for your child to love your voice.  Sing a phrase and have them come up with a rhyming word for the next line.  Composing your own songs while you flip pancakes, brush hair, or tie shoes will encourage your child’s creativity, develop language skills, and most importantly, convey your love!

Ask your preschooler what songs they are learning at school and some of our budding musicians may give you a concert.  If you can’t wait for our next program for a performance, come visit us at UDA Creative Arts Preschool and see for yourself how music benefits our little learners.  

Written by: Elsje Denison

9 Movement Activities for Preschoolers You Can Do at Home

movement activities for preschoolers

Over the years, as academic requirements have intensified to meet standardized test scores, early childhood education has beefed up its emphasis on reading, writing, and more. Unfortunately, for some early childhood education providers, this has meant a de-emphasis on movement. But taking movement out of a preschooler’s day actually inhibits academic progress. Plus, any parent can tell you that 3-5-year-old children need to move — a lot! Movement activities for preschoolers are not only fun, they’re necessary for your child’s development.

Benefits of Movement in Early Childhood Education

Focusing almost exclusively on academics during the preschool years actually misses the point! It’s possible — and actually essential — to focus on both physical development and mental development in preschoolers.

movement activities for preschoolers

Physical activity in preschool is important, and its benefits can last far beyond preschool graduation. Preschoolers who get plenty of time to play and participate in physical activity enjoy:

  • A healthier lifestyle, now and in the future
  • Increased school readiness skills
  • Stronger cognitive, social, and emotional skills
  • Appropriate muscle, bone, and joint development
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • An increased learning capacity
  • Greater self-confidence
  • Better concentration
  • Fewer chronic health problems
  • Fewer sick days
  • Increased memory skills

Not only that, but interactive games give your child a leg up on social interaction and communication skills. Kids learn to problem-solve while also learning important things like counting and colors.

Children simply do better when they are allowed to move. Early childhood curriculum that incorporates movement sets your child up for a better future.

Movement Activities for Preschoolers

When you want to bring movement activities home for your preschooler, you don’t have to do anything elaborate. In fact, young children learn at a very basic and fundamental level, so activities are often better when they are simple. Use these simple movement activities for preschoolers in your home.

Music and Movement

preschool movement activities

Children love music, and generally respond very well to it. Ask your child to listen to the different rhythms and tell you what he hears. Ask him to clap his hands, jump up and down, or tap his head to the beat. Let him get in on the music creation by giving him empty oatmeal boxes to use as drums and empty paper towel rolls to use as “trumpets.” Add bells to shoelaces or belt loops and dance around the living room.

Beach Ball Balance

Give a beach ball to two or more children and have them hold the ball between them — without using their hands!  See how creative they can get when they’re left with shoulders, heads, backs, and tummies for holding a beach ball.

Jumping Animals

In this fun jumping game from The Inspired Treehouse, work on coordination, gross motor skills, balance, and more as your child gets to pretend to be different jumping animals. (For full instructions visit the link.)

Get Up & Move Dice Game

Make two giant dice out of boxes. On one, write action words like “jump, climb, run.” On the other, write direction words like “in a circle, like a monkey, forward.” Throw the dice and do what they instruct. (“Jump like a monkey.”)This will get you moving too! For full instructions, visit Growing a Jeweled Rose.

Hot Lava

Who knows when the hot lava game originated, but chances are you (and everyone you know) grew up pretending the floor was hot lava. The preschool age is a great time to introduce this classic game. Make it more interesting by using paper plates as jumping points.

Flash Light Treasure Hunt

Hide a few of your child’s favorite toys around the house (or just in one room), turn off all the lights, and send her off to find her items with the flashlight! Hide a fun snack to enjoy together too.

Floor Tape Activities

  • Make a tight rope by laying tape down on your carpet. Teach your preschooler to walk across it without falling off, and if he does — the tickle monster gets him!
  • Lay down an indoor hop scotch with tape.
  • Put tape all throughout your house for a road. Your preschooler can be the car and run along the tape, or she can get down and drive her cars all around the house.

Note: Don’t leave the tape on your carpet for too long, as it can become hard to pull up once it’s been walked on for several days.

Indoor “Basketball”

Your mom told you not to throw balls in the house (and she was right), but you can still play “basketball” inside with your preschooler by wadding up newspaper for basketballs and using a pot, laundry basket, or clean bin for the hoop.

Do Chores

movement activities for toddlers

Yep. Seriously Give your preschooler a broom, mop, rake, or dust rag and get to cleaning together. It’s all in the attitude — if you act like this is a fun game (“Let’s see if we can sweep the kitchen before the song ends!”), your preschooler will pitch in with glee.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Salt Lake City, we know children get the full benefit of learning when we incorporate movement into our lessons. That’s why we provide a dance/movement class taught by a trained instructor who gives lessons that correlate with our weekly preschool themes. Send us a message, or call us at (801) 523-5930 for a tour.


6 Ways to Help Your Child Love Learning

how to help your child love learning

For a preschooler, the whole world is still new. Sure, they might be recognizing some colors, numbers, and shapes. They can identify animals, walk up and down the stairs, and even carry on (mostly) interesting back-and-forth conversations with you.

But they still know very little! And they’re looking to their parents for the answers — to everything.

Fortunately, preschoolers have a natural excitement about learning. Your job as a parent is to help keep that excitement going strong. Your words and actions matter a lot at this point in your child’s life. What you do and say will have an impact on helping your child love learning — now, and throughout her whole life.

1. Help Them Deal with Failure

Learning involves failure — and lots of it. Your preschooler is going to call an L a P. He’s going to struggle to use a hand shovel the first time he digs a hole in the garden. She won’t know how to hold scissors correctly right away.

Sometimes, these learning processes and mistakes won’t phase your child. But other times, he’ll feel upset that he can’t do what he wants to do yet. Help him understand that failing isn’t bad.

In fact, it’s great!

Making mistakes helps us grow, and trying hard things makes us stronger. So when your child is frustrated she can’t yet ride her big sister’s scooter, don’t criticize her. Instead, comment on the progress you’ve already seen. Tell her you know she’s trying hard, you understand she’s getting frustrated, and her mistakes are helping her get better.

Sometimes, kids respond really well when you tell them about a time you struggled with something similar.

2. Give Toys that Inspire Creativity

how to help your child love learning

Toys that can be used in a variety of ways are ideal to help your child love learning. Blocks, dress-up clothes, art supplies, and stuffed animals can be imagined into completely new worlds each time your child picks them up.  This gives your child confidence and allows her to develop her imagination.

Playing while learning makes learning fun. And when something is fun, children want to continue doing it. That’s why, at UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we offer our students plenty of open-ended toys and activities. We want the children to explore and enjoy play and learning, as this is a huge part of the process of developing the whole child.

3. Model a Love of Learning

What do you love to learn about? Do your children know about it? Do they know you get excited about certain subjects? Show them. Seek out more information about your passions, and share it with your children.

Sure, your preschooler can’t understand the complexities of foreign policy, but you can tell her you read a really interesting article that helped you see a solution to a big problem. Your preschooler probably can’t create a gourmet recipe for dinner, but he can help you cook — and while you cook, you can ask his opinion on ingredients.

When your children see how passionate you are about learning, they’ll continue to feel permission and excitement to love learning as well.

And if your child asks you a question about something in the adult world, don’t tell him he wouldn’t understand. Give him an answer. Your answer will need to be simple, kid-appropriate, and straightforward, but always give an answer. That way, he knows he can always ask questions.

4. Make it Fun

How many classes were you forced to sit through in which the teacher droned on and on? How many classes relied on worksheets to teach concepts that could have been learned through a more fun, hands-on method?

Now, how much do you remember from those classes? Probably not very much. Children (and adults, too!) remember lessons that engage them. Basically, we learn when we’re having fun.

Turn things into games, take your kids exploring, use music in your everyday life, and be enthusiastic when you’re teaching your child something new.

5. Read, Read, Read!

The ability to read will open up your child’s entire world, and put learning literally at his fingertips his whole life through. Make reading a happy experience for your preschooler.

Don’t rush the process of learning how to read. Let her go at her own pace. Surround your child with books, and let her handle them on her own. Read every day, and talk about the books. Ask her what she thinks is going to happen next or how she thinks a character feels.

Go to the library, give books as gifts, and let your child see you reading for pleasure.

6. Process Over Outcome

We all want our children to succeed, and we’d be lying if we say we don’t love when they’re actually ahead of the game when it comes to academic milestones. But being achievement-oriented pushes your child and removes the fun and pleasure of learning.

It also leads your child to believe that the outcome is more important than the process; that getting to the next step is what life is all about. When this is her focus, your child won’t love learning. She’ll tend to be afraid to take risks, and may even struggle when things get hard.

Instead, take interest in your child’s interests. Don’t focus on the outcome of what he’s doing. Be interested and ask questions the whole way through.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Utah, we want your child to feel confident as a learner, and our hands-on discovery approach will help your child love learning. Give us a call at (801) 523-5930 to schedule a tour.


6 Ways to Help Your Child Become Independent

help your child become independent

It wasn’t so long ago that you were doing everything for your baby — and you were happy about it.

But now, your child is growing up, and you’re realizing she needs some independence. Not only is it going to be good for her future happiness and growth, you could sure use a break or twelve.

Independence is a process, and it needs to be taught. Ultimately, you want your child to settle happily into adulthood, confident in his ability to pay the bills, hold a job, take care of a family, and be a decent human being.

But for now? It’s baby steps, friends. Read on for the baby steps that will help your child become independent.

1. Set the Stage

If your home is dangerous, too protected, or just generally un-child-friendly, your child won’t have the chance to do things on her own. Creating an environment in which your child can explore will help her become independent and develop confidence.

This doesn’t mean you need to change your living room decor to Paw Patrol kid chairs; it just means you should make your home safe for a wandering child. Put breakable heirlooms out of reach while keeping kid-friendly books within toddler grasp. Create spaces that are designated for your child — a kid-size coloring table in the TV room, a basket of non-breakable toys in the bedroom, or a kid-level drawer of kid-friendly plates and cups in the kitchen.

help your child become independent

2. All Decisions Don’t Have to Be Yours

Not a newsflash: Your child has some serious opinions!

Let him feel ownership of those opinions by allowing him to make as many decisions as possible each day. Again, this doesn’t mean restructuring your life so your child is a tyrant in your home. Rather, it means stepping back when your opinion really isn’t more important than your child’s.

So he wants to wear rain boots to the store in the middle of a dry summer day? Don’t worry what other people think; let him have this one.

She wants to read books outside instead of in the living room? If it isn’t raining, snowing, or too cold, why not?

In addition, offer your child choices throughout the day to avoid later power struggles. Just make sure you can live with either choice. Library or park today? Lunch at the counter or the table? One book or two?

3. It’s Never Too Early for Chores

When kids contribute to the household, they feel a sense of pride — and they develop independence as they learn new skills. Children have different skills at different ages, but they can always be taught to help in some way. A 2-year-old can put child-safe cups on the table for dinner. A 5-year-old can sweep the kitchen. A 9-year-old can clean a bathroom.

But be patient. Your 2-year-old has a short attention span, and may wander off to give the cup to the dog instead of setting it on the table. That’s okay. Just try again later.

Also, take the time to model the skill correctly. It may take a while for the job to get done to your standards, but as you teach and praise, your child will develop more and more independence.

This age-appropriate chore list will give you some good ideas for what you can expect. Remember that each child develops at a different rate, so don’t be too concerned if your child can’t do everything on the list. Just use it as a guide.

4. If They Can Do It Themselves, Let Them

There’s no doubt about it. You’re better at almost every task your child is capable of doing. And there’s no question that it’s easier to just do those tasks yourself. You’ll be ready for the day 10 times faster if you dress your 5-year-old, tie your 8-year-old’s shoes, and pack your 11-year-old’s lunch.

But when you do for your child what he can do for himself, you’re actually sending the message that you don’t trust his abilities. Believe in your child, teach your child age-appropriate skills, and then step back to let him shine.

But do remember to be flexible. It doesn’t hurt to lend a helping hand from time to time. Children also need to know that they can be part of a support network.

5. Make It Fun

What do you do when you know your child can do what’s expected, but refuses to do so? Be compassionate. She may be doubting her abilities, feeling like she wants attention, or just having a bad day.

When this happens, help your child become independent by changing things up with some fun.

  • Give a  fun challenge: “I bet you can’t brush your teeth while standing on one foot!”
  • Try a compromise that involves you: “I’ll zip up your hoodie for you if you put your arms through.”
  • Change the mood: Try a little tickle war, a game of “Where’s Mommy?”, or use silly voices to lighten the mood.

6. Failure Isn’t the End

Sometimes you just have to let your child taste a little failure. It isn’t pretty for anyone, but it helps your child (and you) understand that responsibility lies with each individual.

It’s okay to not rush forgotten homework to your elementary-aged child. It’s okay to let your toddler struggle for a minute to take off her shoes. It’s okay to let your teenager explain to his teacher why he didn’t complete an assignment.

It’s hard to let your children struggle, but remind yourself that you learn your biggest lessons when facing a trial. Let your children fail from time to time, and be their comforting, non-judgmental sounding board when they need to work out their own solutions.

They’ll come out the other end much stronger.

And so will you.

How Can Preschool Help Your Child Become Independent?

teach your child indpendence

Hands-on discovery-based learning is critical to developing independence in a child. At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we work on developing the whole child by giving children learning opportunities that incorporate all of their senses in their quest for knowledge. Our daily routine helps children know what is expected of them, and assists in learning independence and responsibility.

Give us a call at (801) 523-5930 to request a free tour.

Preparing for Preschool Goodbyes

preparing for preschool goodbyes

It’s that pang in your heart as you hold back the sting in your eyes, threatening to turn into traitorous tears, that make those preschool goodbyes so difficult.  Whether it’s your first or last baby, whether you’re feeling excited or nostalgic, something about sharing your child with someone else as they start school is a significant milestone that can pull at your heartstrings.  

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool we get it! We see it at school every year, but more than that, most of us are mothers who have been there!  We want your preschool goodbye to be as smooth and heartwarming as possible for you and your sweet preschooler.  

Here are some tips to make this day not only memorable, but meaningful!


  • Familiarize Your Child to Their New Environment

     UDA Creative Arts Preschool invites you to bring your child to our open houses as well as our orientation. This allows your child time to become familiar in their new environment with our teachers and staff while having the security of a caregiver by their side.  

  • Read with Them  

    Every student receives a new book about our preschool and staff.  Take time to read it with your child and discuss some of the fun things they will be doing at preschool, making their experience with us predictable.

  • Keep it Positive

    Some children’s books may introduce ideas of sadness or anxiety that your child may not have considered otherwise.  In reading and conversations keep your discussions about preschool positive and exciting!

  • Build the Excitement

    Anticipating this special day can make it fun and special.  Make a paper chain or put smiley faces on a calendar to count-down the days.  Have older siblings or friends share stories of their first preschool. Pick out a favorite outfit they can wear their first day.   

  • Give Your Child a Concrete Time

    “Adults may know how long a separation will last, but a young child has little or no understanding of this, and a few hours is a long time for a child.”1 “I’ll be back soon,” could be interpreted as a few minutes to your child.  “I’ll be back before lunch,” gives your child a time frame they are familiar with.

  • Create a Goodbye Ritual

    Dropping your child off through the carpool makes it a little tricky to give big hug goodbyes.  You can do the big hugs at home and then have a song or a special wave you do right before it’s time to drop your child off.  The NAEYC also recommends a reunion ritual where you have your child tell you all about their preschool day.  Creating these rituals will create normalcy and fun your child. 

  • Eliminate Stress

     Although getting the first-day-of-school-pictures and the hearty breakfast and the new book bag together all make for a memorable morning, it also adds stress!  Your child will sense your anxiety, even if it’s more about being on time than being separated.  Have things prepared in advance and leave with plenty of time for a stress-free goodbye. Then eliminate stress for your child by being on-time to pick him up.

  • Tips for the Extra Anxious Child

    Each child is different and we recognize that some children will be rearing to start school and others…not so much.  If your child is one who really struggles with separation anxiety, here are a couple tips for you:

    • Allow your child a special stuffed animal or small blankie in their bag.  We will ask that they keep it in their cubby so it doesn’t get lost, but knowing it is right there waiting for her every time she walks past can help.  Or something she can wear, like a watch, can stay with her.
    • Stay consistent.  Even though some days may be difficult, be consistent in coming.  When it becomes a routine, your child will adjust better.
    • Trust us! We ask that even with the tears, you just drop him off.  We promise it gets better.  Even our little 2-year-olds get the hang of preschool goodbyes.  We adore your children and want them to be happy.  They can feel our love and warm up to us, but those relationships are hard for us to build when you are all they can see.


We are so excited for another school year with your beautiful children and hope you can feel our love for our returning and new students!  We can’t wait for the adventures that await us this year and invite you to come visit us at UDA Creative Arts Preschool!


1-Anne Stonehouse, Putting Children First, Magazine from National Childcare Accreditation Council, Issue 32. December 2009. P. 10. http://ncac.acecqa.gov.au/educator-resources/pcf-articles/Positive_goodbyes_Dec09.pdf

Written by: Elsje Denison

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