Why Your Preschooler Should Play with Puzzles

You probably know that puzzles are good for the brain. But did you know exactly how the brain gets a boost from puzzles?

Cognitive Development

Cognitive skills refer to the skills your brain gains and uses to think, learn, remember, reason, pay attention, and read. As these skills are developed, they stick with your child to help in all areas of their life.

Puzzles help to develop cognitive skills in a variety of ways, as children learn new themes and topics from the puzzles (letters, colors, shapes, animals, etc.). They also build their memory as they remember which pieces fit where.  They use critical thinking to work on and complete the puzzle.

Problem Solving

Puzzles are straightforward, in that there is only one solution: solved. But there are a variety of ways to achieve this solution, and that’s where your child’s problem-solving skills get a big boost.

If your child wants to get all the pieces in the correct places, they’ll need to develop strategies to make that happen. They’ll use trial-and-error, reason, studying, and more to get to the end result.

Fine Motor Development

Fine motor development is talked about a lot during the preschool years. And that’s because it’s a critical life skill. Just think of all the buttoning, zipping, chopping, stirring, tying, untying, writing, typing, and more that you do on a daily basis. If you hadn’t developed your fine motor abilities, these everyday tasks would be a challenge.

When putting together puzzles, your child uses fine motor movements to pick up the puzzle pieces. She uses a finger to smooth the pieces into place. All of this will help her develop fine motor skills so she can manage other fine motor activities. When thinking of future academics, puzzles are a precursor to writing (holding a pencil). They are incredibly valuable for all areas of your child’s future life.

Hand-Eye Coordination

Your child sees the puzzle piece and sees the space where it could go. He moves his hand to grab the puzzle piece, and moves it again to the place where he thinks it should go. Essentially, he’s developing connections between what his eyes see and what his hands do — and how his brain relates this information.

Emotional Development

Patience is not any preschooler’s finest quality. That’s a trait that takes years to develop and fine-tune. (Most adults are still working on it too!)

Puzzles help move that trait development along. Children can’t immediately solve the puzzle. It takes time and multiple attempts. As your child keeps at the puzzle, patience grows.


If you or another child is working on the puzzle with your child, you can talk to each other about the pieces.

“Can you hand me that corner piece? I think I’ve found where it goes.”

“Here’s the teddy bear’s eye. Why don’t you put it in place?”

The puzzle becomes a cooperative effort, and everyone can be happy when it’s solved.

How to Do Puzzles with Your Preschooler at Home

Most small children start with chunky, wooden puzzles, and gradually move to smaller and flatter pieces. A challenge is always great, but don’t push your child if the selected puzzle ends up being a bit too hard.

If you don’t have stacks of puzzles sitting around at home, try making one of these homemade ideas:

Name Puzzle: Write your child’s name in bold letters on a poster board or thick piece of paper. Then, cut in between each letter in zig-zag and curved lines. When you’re done, you’ll have a stack of each of the letters from their name, with edges that fit back together.

Paper Plate Puzzle: Cut a paper plate into pieces, using jagged, curved, and straight lines. You can also do this with cereal boxes, cracker boxes, the box a toy comes in, and more. Take a second look at the things you’re about to throw in the recycling bin, and you’ll likely find a puzzle treasure there.

Random Items Puzzle: Grab small random items from your junk drawer, toy box, or countertops. Trace them onto a cardboard box, poster board, or regular piece of paper. Mix up the items, and then have your child place the items onto the traced shapes so that they fit.

Everything we do at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah is carefully thought out. We select puzzles that will challenge, but not frustrate, each age group in their cognitive development, motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and problem-solving skills. To learn more or schedule a tour of our preschool, give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online.

Thank You — How to Teach Gratitude to Your Preschooler

The cashier at the grocery store hands your child a sticker, and your child says nothing — no “thank you” escapes her lips. You’re mortified — surely, your child should know how to express thanks by now.

But wait! Don’t be embarrassed. Gratitude is a learned character trait, which means your child isn’t going to express it perfectly every time.

In fact, the Raising Grateful Children project at UNC Chapel Hill looked at gratitude experiences in families as their children grew from kindergarten to young teens. They found that gratitude has four parts, and that while older children and adults are likely to engage in all four, young children only engage in some — and often, only when prompted.

So take a deep breath — your child isn’t the only one who doesn’t consistently say thank you.

The Raising Grateful Children project found that children show more gratitude as they develop cognitive skills, practice their skills, and begin to connect the four parts of gratitude together.

What exactly are the four parts of gratitude?

  • Notice
  • Think
  • Feel
  • Do

These four parts take time to develop. You can help by asking questions of your child. And remember — it’s an awful lot to learn, so be patient as your child figures it out.

Notice: The first part of gratitude is noticing the things in your life that prompt gratitude. Have you been given a gift? Did someone think about you and show you love and care? Do you have an abundance of something?

Think: Why do you have the gift? Were you born with it? Did somebody give it to you? Do you owe somebody something in return? Gifts given without attachment will prompt greater gratitude as you think on them.

Feel: How do you feel when you receive this gift? As a child begins to notice and think about gifts given to them, they will also connect positive feelings with the gift, adding this third important component of gratitude.

Do: This is the part of gratitude we think of when we think of gratitude, but it’s only one element — and it begins to come naturally once the other three parts are developed. This is when you demonstrate how you feel about the gift. It may be saying “thank you”; it may be returning a gift or a favor; it my be paying it forward. You can help your child develop this by asking your child, “Is there something you would like to do to show how you feel about this gift?” Give suggestions.

It’s one thing to say thank you without Mom or Dad prompting, but it’s something else when your child actually means it. Use these ideas to help your children notice, think about, and feel gratitude.

Teach About Your Family History

What did their grandparents and great grandparents go through? How did your ancestors survive immigration, the Great Depression, or war? How did they communicate, cook, style their hair, travel, and play with their friends without the technology of today? Knowing the circumstances that their own family members have gone through provides your children with perspective that, over time, can help them feel grateful for what someone went through before them — and grateful for their own challenges and lives.

Serve Others

From organized volunteering events to random acts of kindness, letting your children have the opportunity to serve others helps them understand what goes into helping. This guides them to see what others are going through, and also helps them be more appreciative of help that they receive.

Think Positive Thoughts

Humans experience a wide range of emotions every day, and preschoolers can run the gamut of those emotions in about two minutes flat! Let your preschooler experience their emotions, but periodically throughout the day, point out positive things in your life and surroundings.

Say Thank You

Model the act of gratitude by saying thank you to the people in your life. When your partner picks up the kids, makes dinner, mows the lawn, or buys new toothbrushes, say “thank you.” It’s easy to get so used to the people in our lives doing daily tasks that we overlook the work they’re doing. Saying thank you goes a long way. Similarly, thank your preschooler!

Do Chores

Have your preschooler do chores. Your child will better understand what is done for him when he participates in taking care of the house and family. Give him age-appropriate chores, and thank him when he completes them.

Be Careful with Stuff

Be mindful of how much stuff you give your child. Remember that buying them whatever they want, whenever they want, doesn’t teach respect for what they have. And when they have too many things, nothing is truly important.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we focus on the character trait of gratitude during the month of November. We talk about what we are grateful for; notice, point out, and thank people who help us; identify feelings of gratitude and more. Give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online for a tour.


9 Things to Do During the Summer to Prepare for Kindergarten

get your child ready for kindergarten

It’s here already! How did you get to this place so quickly? This is the summer before your little sweetie goes to kindergarten, and whether you’re excited, scared, tearful, or all of the above, you’re probably wondering what you can do to prepare your child for kindergarten.

First things first. Don’t get stressed out this summer about getting your child ready for kindergarten. This should be a fun and exciting time of life. Don’t feel pressure to push your child to meet milestones. Remember that your child learns a lot every day through play, routine, and observing life. Your child is soaking up knowledge simply by talking with you each day.

{Pretend Away! Why Your Child Needs Pretend Play}

The following items aren’t meant to overwhelm. Rather, keep them in mind and try to incorporate them throughout your summer days. We’ll give you tips on how to do that. Keep reading!

1. Have Play Dates

In kindergarten, your child will need to know, and continue to learn, how to share, take turns, respect other people’s bodies and property, and more. Play dates, whether formally set up with parents in attendance or casual playtime with the neighbors, are helpful for developing these social skills. Give your child opportunities to play with other kids her age this summer.

2. Practice Name Writing

Your child will need to write his name on his kindergarten work, so take the time now to let him practice both his first and last name. You can buy a special notebook, or just use loose-leaf paper. Or have him practice with sidewalk chalk or paint. Let him spell it out with pretzels or raisins at snack time. Ask him to spell his name as you’re driving in the car.

3. Practice Letters and Numbers

Find opportunities to practice letter and number identification. This doesn’t have to always mean worksheets. Point out letters in your daily life, encourage your child to sound out words on the cereal box, ask her what letter comes next in the alphabet, and encourage her to write the names of her family members or her favorite toys.

Count items out loud, challenge your child to count as high as he can, and ask him to identify numbers in addresses as your drive.

{8 Ways to Lose the Flaschards: Make Alphabet Learning Fun}

4. Teach Your Phone Number and Address

By kindergarten, your child should have a good handle on his phone number and address. One simple way to teach these is to set them to the tune of a simple song. Try “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Then, as you go about your day, sing your phone number or address. Sing it while you prepare lunch, while you’re driving in the car, when you take a walk, etc. After your child has heard it, encourage him to sing along.

Let your child type your phone number into your phone.

To help your child write her phone number, post it where she can see and get familiar with its appearance. Let her trace the numbers. Encourage her to copy the numbers. Eventually, ask her to write the phone number and address from memory. Praise her for her efforts, even if she doesn’t get it perfectly. Give her plenty of opportunities to try again!

5. Read

prepare your child for kindergarten

Reading is a crucial skill for every person, and while your child doesn’t need to be independently reading before kindergarten, exposure to books and reading in all forms is going to help with his future academics.

Incorporate reading into all aspects of your day. Pick a regular time each day to read to your child. If she can read, select books at her level and ask her to read them to you. Encourage her to look at or read books on her own.

Let your child see you read a recipe, read a map, read street signs, read books, and more. Bring your child into your reading world by pointing to the words in the recipe as he looks over your shoulder. Ask him to help you find a street name by telling him the first letter to look for. See if he can find the letters of his name as you run errands.

{8 Ways to Help Your Preschooler Fall in Love with Reading}

6. Do Chores

Chores are a great way to teach your child responsibility, as well as following directions — two things she’ll need to have a handle on in kindergarten. Every family does chores differently, but figure out your rhythm. There are certain chores, like making the bed, that can automatically be done every day. And then you can add additional weekly chores or projects that make sense for your child.

You can have your child set the table, weed the garden, make her bed, fold his laundry, feed the cat, help prepare meals, sweep, vacuum, empty wastebaskets, dust, and more. Remember it will take time to learn how to do the chores properly.

7. Work on Independent Tasks

In kindergarten, your child will need to use the restroom by himself, so use the summer before kindergarten to make sure he’s able to do all the required steps. Help him learn how to button and unbutton, zip, put on and take off a coat, and tie shoes. Just take one skill at a time, and help him work on it each day.

8. Eat Independently

If your child will be eating snacks or lunch at school, make sure she can eat the whole meal on her own. Can she unzip and zip her lunchbox? Open her packaged snacks? Open and close storage containers? Use plastic forks or spoons? A great way to make sure she has these skills is to eat lunch out of her lunch box a few times throughout the summer.

9. Have Lots of Free Time

Remember to give your child plenty of free play time. Children learn best by playing, and much of preparing your child for kindergarten actually will come in the everyday, informal moments. Plus, your child needs time to be herself and be confident in who she is, and free time is likely to give that to her.

Always remember: It isn’t a race. Let your child progress and develop at his own speed while you work to prepare your child for kindergarten.

How to Help Your Preschooler Build an Emotional Vocabulary

preschool emotional vocabulary

Your child has been busily adding new words to her vocabulary for years now. In fact, just yesterday, she used the word vehicle instead of car, and you marveled at how much she has retained and how grown up she’s getting.

But have you thought about your child’s emotional vocabulary? Expanding an emotional vocabulary is something that children need help with. Learn why it’s important for your child to have an emotional vocabulary, and what you can do to expand it.

What Is an Emotional Vocabulary?

Your child’s emotional vocabulary is the collection of words he can access to describe how he or someone else is feeling. Most children understand words like “happy,” “sad,” and “angry,” but they often don’t have an extensive vocabulary to describe their other feelings accurately. This can lead to acting out in other ways — biting, hitting, throwing, etc.

When children can more accurately tell you how they are feeling, they are empowered to control and manage their own feelings better. Likewise, when they can read the emotional cues of other people, they can interact in more appropriate ways, leading to better social situations.

Emotional Vocabulary Needs to Be Taught

This is not a subject where we should assume our children will pick up the necessary components by osmosis. Children need to be taught emotional vocabularies. Telling your child to “use your words” when she hasn’t been taught the appropriate words to use will only leave her confused and frustrated.

There are many ways to build your child’s emotional vocabulary. Try one or two this week!

Make Sure You Have an Emotional Vocabulary

First things first, make sure you understand what you’re going to be teaching. Do you have an extensive emotional vocabulary, or do you resort to the same basic adjectives or behaviors to express your emotions? If your lawnmower keeps jamming, do you curse and scream? Or do you tell yourself you’re frustrated and worried you won’t get the lawn mowed before it gets dark?

There’s no shame if your answer fell closer to the curse and scream spectrum. Our culture hasn’t done a good job of allowing us to have a range of emotions. As parents, it’s important we take the time to understand our emotions, label them, and let ourselves feel them. This will not only allow us to have more empathy and patience for our children’s emotions, it will give us a greater vocabulary to teach our children.

And remember — kids are always watching. When you express your emotions in a healthy way, they’ll try to do the same!

Label the Emotion

Label emotions so children can build their emotional vocabulary. Name what your child might be feeling. “You’re feeling sad because Daddy has to finish cooking dinner and can’t hold you. That makes you feel lonely, doesn’t it?”

Name emotions you see in other people as well. “Your brother is smiling and laughing on the trampoline. He must be feeling happy!”

Identify Emotions in Books

Picture books are a perfect place to learn about and identify emotions. As you read a story to your child, pause occasionally to point to a face. “Gretel looks worried, doesn’t she? I bet she doesn’t know what to do next.”

Play Games

Play emotion charades, in which one of you has to act out a certain emotion and the other one guesses.

Make faces at each other and guess what emotion each person is trying to convey.

Make sounds that go along with emotions,  and guess which emotion the sounds match. (“Yippee!” for excited, blowing air out of your mouth for frustrated, “Grrr” for angry, etc.)

Use Art

Let your child illustrate different emotions by asking your child to draw a person who is cheerful, furious, afraid, grateful, joyful, loving, etc.

Turn on some music and ask your child to tell you what emotion he is feeling as he listens. Have him select a color of paint, crayon, or marker and draw, paint, or color as he feels the emotion of the music.

Make a feelings collage by cutting out pictures from magazines.


Talk about actions that go along with feelings — and then perform those actions. For example, frustrated might make us feel like balling up our fists and stomping. Joyful might make us feel like leaping lightly around the room.

Play music, and ask your child to identify an emotion that she feels through the music. Then ask her to move or dance with that emotion in mind.

Role Play

This is especially helpful if your child tends to have a consistent problem. For example, if a child at preschool tends to take your child’s toy, you can talk about the feelings your child might feel when it happens. Then, you can talk about helpful and unhelpful ways to react. You can then role play the scenario, with your child choosing one of the helpful ways to react. Identify the feelings your child might feel after choosing a helpful method.

Some Helpful Emotion Words

Remember, there are so many more emotions to talk about than happy, sad, and angry!

Use this list to help expand both your and your child’s emotional vocabulary:

  • Annoyed
  • Afraid
  • Worried
  • Brave
  • Confused
  • Grouchy
  • Loving
  • Lonely
  • Nervous
  • Peaceful
  • Pressured
  • Concerned
  • Considerate
  • Kind
  • Careful
  • Disappointed
  • Uneasy
  • Uncertain
  • Thankful
  • Unhappy
  • Secure
  • Surprised
  • Puzzled

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we work to help children identify their emotions and express them in healthy ways. Give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or sign up to come to one of our open houses.

8 Ways to Help Your Preschooler Fall in Love with Reading

help your preschooler love reading

Reading independently is undeniably a critical academic skill, but a child’s ability to read also affects their entire life — beyond academics. Of the adults at the lowest level of literacy proficiency, 43% live in poverty, while only 4% of adults with strong literacy skills live in poverty. Students who read frequently are higher achievers than students who read rarely.

Access to books at home helps children to go further in school — and in life. And when children decide to read independently, they become better readers and even score higher on achievement tests across all subject areas.

So how do you help your preschooler love reading so that she reaps the many lifelong benefits?

1. Get Familiar with Books

Read books to your baby. In the beginning, your baby will notice the pictures. Then, he’ll learn how to turn the pages. Soon, he’ll understand that the story is the same every time you read it. These are all pre-reading skills that can develop simply from reading and spending time with books from a young age.

2. Don’t Push It

At a young age, pre-reading skills are more important to literacy than being an early reader. Don’t push your child to learn to read. Certainly point out letters and discuss the sounds they make. And if your child is interested, follow her lead and help her learn how to sound out words. But follow the cue of your preschooler. If she would rather hear you read her favorite book than try and sound out The Cat in the Hat, go with that.

Let your preschooler love reading — in all forms, including looking at the book and being read to — so she will continue to naturally develop reading skills.

3. Location, Location, Location

help your preschooler love reading

Setting up cozy or fun reading nooks makes reading both enjoyable and special. This could be as simple as pulling out a cozy blanket to snuggle with on the couch, or it could be as detailed as designing and decorating a reading corner with fashionable furniture.

Throw a blanket over a few chairs and read together in your makeshift fort. Pick a theme (teddy bear picnic, beach day, snow day) and throw a few props together for an instantly-fun reading corner.

4. Read TO Your Child

When your child is young, it’s obvious that she’ll need you to read to her. But remember to keep reading to your child as she grows up. Reading can be taxing and tiring for emergent readers. When you read to your child, you take the pressure off and let your child experience the joy and pleasure of getting lost in a story.

tips to help your preschooler love reading

5. Go to the Library

There’s magic in a library. Just ask a children’s librarian. Let your child discover this special magic by making regular trips to the library. Go to story times and craft afternoons. Attend special events and participate in raffles and summer reading programs. Hold your child’s hand and walk up and down the bookshelves looking for covers that jump out at you. Show enthusiasm when your child selects a book.

The more you make the library a meaningful part of your family’s life, the more your child will associate happiness and joy with the library — and books.

6. Keep Books Within Reach

Keep books throughout your house. Put a bookshelf in your child’s room, keep books on the coffee table, decorate with books, and fill your bookshelves with books you love to read. Keep a basket or shelf just for library books that constantly rotate. Bring out seasonal books as you decorate for different holidays. Make books a familiar part of your child’s life and he’ll be more likely to reach for a book more often.

7. Connect Books to the World

Does your child love Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books? Go to a local farm to see the pigs. Search for elephants nearby, and have a conversation about why they aren’t in the same place.

Read Giles Andreae’s Giraffe’s Can’t Dance, and then head to the zoo to contemplate whether or not the giraffes dance when you aren’t looking.

Read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and then look for letters on store signs, street signs, and refrigerators.

Read Dr. Seuss‘s Green Eggs and Ham, and discuss foods or experiences you and your child might be afraid to try. Then go try them!

8. Let Them Read What They Want

Introduce your child to new books regularly, but also let her read what she wants. If she’s a pre-reader, this may mean you’re going to have to read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish 100 times, but if your child is enjoying the story and the process of reading, you’re on the right track to help your preschooler love reading.

When your child gets older and reads on their own, don’t criticize them if they only want to read Junie B. Jones or Captain Underpants. Let them read what they love on their own, and continue reading other books to them out loud to expose them to new authors and stories.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we work on pre-reading and reading skills constantly and immerse the children in a reading environment. Come see us in action. Come to an open house or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.


S is for Space — What’s Happening at UDA Creative Arts Preschool

Space Week is always a blast. The children love pretending to be astronauts, or managing launches from Mission Control. But the week isn’t only about pretending and playing (although there’s plenty of that going on — it’s the best way for young children to learn!). At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we use themed weeks that will interest the children as a way to teach concepts about our world (or Outer Space, as the case may be) and to also fully immerse the children in the important aspects of our curriculum that help children develop and learn.


Space Week lends itself so easily to understanding science concepts more fully. It’s also a fun time to blast off with some impressive experiments!

We used our rocket launch experiment as a way to understand the properties of gas, while learning how to make educated guesses.

Before the launch, teachers placed an Alka-Seltzer tablet in water so the children could see how it bubbled. The teachers explained that the bubbles were made of gas (carbon dioxide), and that gas takes up space — even though it’s invisible! To further expand (haha) on this concept, we used Alka-Seltzer to blow up a small balloon.

We talked about how the gas was pushing on the walls of the balloon because it was running out of space. That’s what made the stretchy balloon expand. But what would happen if we put an Alka-Seltzer in a film canister, which isn’t stretchy?

The children made hypotheses (some hypothesized accurately!), and then teachers placed the Alka-Seltzer in the film canister with water.

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… the lid blew off the canister!

We added variations by changing the amount of water in the canister and predicting which would produce the blown lid first. As you can imagine, this was popular, and we did the experiment over and over… and over. And over again and again (which is great, because repetition reinforces concepts!).

Creative Movement

When children get their bodies involved, they can learn concepts in more memorable ways.

To gain a more comprehensive understanding of the solar system, we had children take turns as the sun, planets, stars, shooting stars, and comets.

The child who was taking a turn as the sun stood still in the middle of the room, while the planets revolved around the sun. The stars stood still in space and twinkled, while shooting stars and comets shot through space randomly.

We also practiced hand/eye coordination by tossing comets back and forth with friends.

We blasted off into space and visited each planet in our land rovers (scooters). We weren’t able to walk or land on some planets because they were too hot, and we had to get out of there fast! Other planets presented tricky problems, as we had to navigate ice rings and asteroids just to get to them!


Space featured heavily in our art, as the children created their own representations of outer space. They also learned cause and effect, and used their creativity as they explored the effects that different artistic tools could make.

Sensory Learning

We filled the sensory bin with black beans and black rocks that represented dark space. Stars, planets, land rovers, astronauts, and rockets were mixed in. As the children searched for the items, they got a sensory learning experience that connected them to our theme.

Dramatic Play

Mission Control was located in our preschool during “S is for Space” week! With a computer (not plugged in), telephone, and other gadgets, the children communicated to each other about the important space missions taking place. The teachers loved seeing how much the children had learned as they pretended. The children requested launches to different planets, and we even heard Mission Control tell the astronauts, “You can’t go to Mercury! It’s too hot. You will burn up!”

This kind of immersive learning never gets old for us at UDA Creative Arts Preschool. And it always allows the children to form their own connections as they learn important concepts. If you’d like your child to have fun, immersive experiences like this, give us a call at (801) 523-5930 to request a tour.

Q Is for Queen and King

We had a royal good time learning math, science, letters, engineering, art, and more during our “Q Is for Queen and King” week.  Thematic units help us to incorporate imagination while we cross subject lines. This gives our preschoolers a more comprehensive understanding of concepts as we explore and appreciate the many themes of our world.

We invited some of our favorite princes and princesses into the classroom to enjoy our royal ball, royal feast, and even do some learning.

Majestic Math

Even queens and kings need to do math, and our royal guests were down on the floor with our preschoolers as everyone counted out jewels and returned them to princesses who had lost them.

Aristocratic Art

Symbols are all around us, and children are good at picking up on them. The next time you’re out and about, see if your child can spot warning signs, exit signs, bathroom signs, and more based on the symbols.

To drive home the point of symbols and colors, and what they may represent, we had each child make their very own Coat of Arms. After discussing different symbols and colors, the children used watercolor glue and salt to make a Coat of Arms that represents themselves.

Resplendent Royal Feast

One of the highlights of our thematic week was the royal feast. The children loved using their fancy goblets and eating from fancy plates. They also loved clinking their glasses together!

q is for queen

Fancy Fine-Motor Skills

What is a royal feast without royal headwear? Each child decorated their own crown to wear to our royal feast. Using jewels, they not only fancified their crowns, they developed their fine-motor skills as they used the pincer grasp over and over.

Engineering the Empire


Using cups, the children created fortresses and castles fit for a queen or king. Through trial and error, concentration, and observation, they learned that some structures are more secure than others. They then built on what they discovered, and created stronger buildings the next time around.

Monarchs on the Move

Kings, queens, princesses, and princes need to be active if they are going to manage their kingdom effectively. In creative movement class, we created castles with our bodies when we held hands in a circle and raised our arms together to create windows. The children took turns going “in and out of the castle.”

We also rode horses throughout the kingdom, surveying the land and well-being of our subjects.

And the children performed princely promenades and coordinated dances that impressed their royal guests.

We have so much fun exploring, learning, and creating at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah. If you would like to come see us in action, join us for an open house or schedule a tour.


The Importance of Teaching Character Traits in Preschool

teaching character traits in preschool

All parents want their children to reach their full potential. That’s why we agonize over decisions like where to send them to preschool, what sport they should play, what extracurricular activities we should find for them, how to help them achieve their academic potential, and more.

It’s also why we cringe when they call someone a mean name, forget their manners, or refuse to share.

But just like a beginner soccer player has to learn the fundamentals of kicking, stopping, aiming, and more, our preschool children need to learn the fundamentals of character. Your 3-year-old isn’t ready to share every time she needs to, he doesn’t yet know how to overcome his fear of speaking in front of the class, she doesn’t know how to patiently wait for something in the future, and he still struggles to use his words when he’s angry.

That’s why it’s important to gently teach character traits in preschool. Children have so much to learn, and a nurturing environment in which teachers patiently coach children through big concepts like gratitude, patience, respect, and more will help your child gradually build on skills so that her character will allow her to reach her full potential.

[7 Ways to Teach Your Preschooler to Be Respectful]

Teaching Character Traits in Preschool Helps Your Child’s Future Self

Character traits take skills. You have to learn the foundational skills of problem solving before you can negotiate sharing on the playground.

When we teach problem solving at UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we teach the children how to use their words to express what they want. We also teach them how to state their feelings in clear ways, and we teach them to listen to other people’s feelings. Through this process, they learn to understand what they truly want and to hear and understand what others want. They become very good problem solvers as they try to find solutions that work for all parties involved.

We tie our character trait learning into our weekly themes as often as possible, so during our royalty week, we talked about how to act like royalty and use our words to find solutions.

teaching character traits in preschool

As children learn these skills now, they develop a strong self-esteem and confidence to help them navigate their future life. Learning problem solving skills at a young age helps children develop resilience and grit, as well as integrity and forgiveness.

Set Your Child Up for Lifelong Learning

teaching character traits in preschool

Studies have shown that when character education is included in school curriculum, academic performance (and even attendance) increases, while disciplinary problems decrease.

Learning about, and being encouraged to develop, traits like honesty, fairness, compassion, and patience creates a safe place where children want to be. It also helps children feel prepared to learn and to absorb the skills necessary to become lifelong learners.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we teach children they are responsible for their bodies, their actions, their words, their learning, and more. During a week focused on safety, we become “Super Safety Kids” who learn the rules of interacting with strangers, crossing streets, getting help from firefighters or police officers, and more.

teaching character traits in preschool

The children learn they are responsible for taking care of their safety and making their environment safe for others. This emphasis on responsibility helps them understand they are also responsible to do their best in academics, learning, and friendships.

We also focus for a whole month on the character trait of courage, helping the children learn for themselves that they don’t have to be perfect at everything. They just have to have courage to try to do hard things, like learn new things in school or try new things.

After watching caterpillars turn into butterflies, we do a butterfly release every fall. The children gather around and give encouragement to the butterflies. “Have courage! You can do it!” they shout. When the butterflies take flight, the children are ecstatic and easily see the connection to courage and the many new, big things they have to do as preschoolers.

Help Your Child Have Better Relationships

Children who learn character traits have better success in relationships both at school and outside of school. They learn to be more forgiving, responsible, caring, and compassionate.

They also learn how to cooperate with others, to tolerate different viewpoints, and to respect the needs of others.

At UDA, we help teach compassion by participating in Project Sleep Tight. Our students bring in donations of blankets, stuffed animals, and books to share with children who are homeless. As we assemble the kits, we have some of our most meaningful conversations with the children. They really think about what it means to be someone else and how to help others. At this age, they feel compassion without even trying, and the project helps solidify that strength they already have.

teaching gratitude

Help Your Child Be a Good Neighbor and Citizen

When children are taught that their behavior impacts others, they learn that they matter in their community and beyond. They feel anchored and important, and that leads them to be their best selves in all aspects of life. When they become adults and take on roles as parents, employees, business owners, neighbors, and more, they contribute in meaningful ways to a better community and world.

At UDA, we take a trip around the world while we learn about being compassionate and respectful. We learn about other cultures and different traditions, while also thinking of our own traditions in our own cultures. The children learn they are part of a family. That family is in a city, which is in a state, which is in a country, which is in the world. They become aware of who they are in this world and how they can have respect for people who are both the same and different from them.

Preschool is so much more than learning ABCs and 123s. Children really begin to develop in who they are during their preschool years. Teaching character traits in preschool is essential to helping children develop their whole selves.

Come visit us! Call UDA Creative Arts Preschool at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online to set up a tour.


6 More Reasons Why Your Child Needs Dramatic Play

Dramatic play (also called pretend play) enhances your child’s life and world in countless ways. From language skills to problem solving skills, and even to physical development, dramatic play in preschool is a crucial component in helping your child become her best self.

[Pretend Away! Why Your Child Needs Pretend Play]

We’ve covered some of the many benefits of dramatic play, and wanted to give you 6 more reasons why you can relax when your child plays pretend. It’s not a waste of time. In fact, it’s necessary.

1. Dramatic Play in Preschool Empowers Children

Think of how many rules your preschooler has to keep in mind each day. Sharing, keeping his hands to himself, waiting for a parent’s hand before running into the street, saying please and thank you, waiting her turn, etc.

And that’s just a normal day. If something upsetting or frightening happens in your child’s life (even something like seeing a scary image in a movie), your child has a lot to process and keep in mind.

It’s tough. But dramatic play helps a preschooler feel power. As they take on common pretend roles like Mom, Dad, the doctor, or the teacher, they get to be in control of the situation and try on the feeling of power. Plus, they get to make their wishes come true, and this helps them to process real-life emotions and events in a safe and empowered way.

2. Dramatic Play Helps Your Child Cope

When something difficult happens in your life, you talk it out with a friend, loved one, or therapist. Or you replay it in your mind as you work through your emotions and feelings. Maybe you write about it to process what happened.

A preschooler doesn’t yet have these language capabilities, and that’s where dramatic play comes into… well, play.

Instead of talking about his feelings, your child might reenact a difficult situation with his stuffed animals or friends. This helps him make peace with what happened and gives him the chance to move forward.

3. Dramatic Play Improves Your Child’s Thinking Skills

Dramatic play is a form of abstract thinking. As children play, they are recreating something they once experienced or pulling from their imagination. This requires cognitive skills, and each time your child plays pretend, those skills are enhanced.

dramatic play in preschoolers

4. Dramatic Play Increases Your Child’s Understanding of Symbols

When children play, objects stand in for the real thing. For example, a stuffed cat becomes a child’s “real” pet or a tiger in the jungle.  Domino tiles become crackers or coins. Not only do children learn to improvise on the spot, they begin the important work of understanding symbols — which leads to understanding concepts like letters and numbers down the road.

5. Dramatic Play Increases Attention Span

In the beginning, a young child may only be able to have a pretend tea party for a few minutes. But as children grow, their pretend tea party lasts all afternoon and takes on new forms. Maybe something magical happens at the tea party, requiring the guests to take a break and follow the magic. Maybe the tea party becomes a fancy restaurant and menus must be drawn up.

As children engage in dramatic play, their attention span increases and they can spend a longer amount of time in their pretend world.

dramatic play for preschoolers

6. Dramatic Play Gives You an Insight Into Your Child’s Mind

Preschoolers can’t always articulate their feelings in a way that makes sense to adults. They’re still building their emotional vocabulary and piecing everything together. That can make it tricky to understand what’s going on inside your child’s mind.

But if you sit back and watch (or join in!) your child’s dramatic play, you’ll see clues about the inner workings of her mind. You’ll get a glimpse into what makes her afraid, happy, proud, and bold. And when you keep your discussions in the framework of what your child was playing, you can help your child talk about her feelings.

Dramatic play features heavily in UDA Creative Arts Preschool curriculum. Even though we witness it every day, we’re constantly amazed at how dramatic play can build confidence and improve children’s lives in countless ways. Come see us in action. Give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online to schedule a tour.


Does Preschool Matter?

does preschool matter

Does preschool matter? Do children really gain anything from their time spent in preschool? Is it worth it?

It’s true that small children aren’t going to hold onto every memory created in preschool, but when you think about the fact that their brains grow to about 90 percent of their adult size by the age of 5, it makes sense that quality education during their formative years is important.

Evidence suggests that children who attend high-quality preschools gain consistent and positive short-term effects in literacy, language, and math skills. These benefits even extend to later years, when children who attended preschool experience a lower percentage of grade retentions and special education.

Long-term, some studies have even linked a high-quality preschool education to reduced criminal behavior and higher graduation rates.

In the Perry Preschool Experiment conducted by Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman, 123 low-income African American children from Michigan were randomly assigned to a group that received a high-quality preschool education or to a control group with no preschool education. These children were then tracked for the next several decades. At the age of 40, the adults who had attended the preschool program were 20 percent more likely to have graduated from high school and 19 percent less likely to have been arrested more than five times. Not only that, they were also more likely to remain married and were found to be less dependent on welfare programs. They also received better grades throughout their education.

While children learn the most and gain the most from their parents, the benefits of a quality preschool cannot be overstated. Preschool provides important learning experiences, opportunities, and exposure that can’t be found anywhere else.

Social Skills

Important social skills are an obvious plus that children gain in preschool. Spending time with other children in a group helps young children develop emotional control while they learn to share, take turns, get along with others, and more. Appropriate language expression also develops in a preschool group.

Learning those basic social skills at a young age helps children add on to more complex social skills as they mature. And because we all need to interact with each other throughout our lives, social skills may be one of the best benefits of preschool.

does preschool matter

Environment Affects Brain Development 

Did you know that the experiences your child has as a young child interact with their genes? This affects brain development — positively or negatively. If your child spends time in enriching, nurturing environments, she gets a head start in developing cognitive skills, behavioral skills, social skills, and more.

Young children’s brains are still developing, which means this is the perfect time for learning to adapt. If your preschooler is exposed to a language-rich environment with structured, enriching activities, he will grasp important concepts easier and will be able to expand upon them.

Early brain development is important, and a high-quality preschool can help your child have a successful educational career.


W. Steven Barnett, PhD and director of National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), said that “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.”

Think about it. If your child learns letters, shapes, sounds, and more in a rich preschool environment, he will have an easier time meeting the demands of kindergarten. When he moves onto harder tasks and subjects in later grades, he’ll be better equipped to master them because he never missed out on the fundamentals.

If a child doesn’t have that same access, he will have a hard time mastering the fundamentals, and every subsequent milestone will be harder to reach. This lag will follow the child throughout his whole educational career.

Executive Functions

Executive functions refer to the critical mental skills we all need to help manage our life — planning tasks, keeping track of time, emotional control, organization, focus, and more.

In the preschool years, the part of the brain that governs the executive functions — the prefrontal cortex — is still developing. That makes this time of life ideal for developing those important functions.

A long-term Penn State study found that a high-quality preschool program helped children grow in executive functions. Plus, the same children in the study who expanded their executive functions demonstrated better reading fluency and math performance than a control group.

does preschool matter


High Quality Is Key

But not just any preschool program will do. Researchers have found the benefits of preschool to be present only when associated with high-quality preschools.

Schools that rely on evidence-based curriculum and that hire high-quality teachers (and continue to train them) impact children’s long-term education for the better.

A high-quality preschool curriculum should include engaging activities that help children make connections and draw their own conclusions.  Hands-on activities reign supreme in preschool for their ability to help children more fully grasp concepts.

A preschool’s program should be well-structured and managed, with consistent routines that allow children to understand what’s happening now and what will be happening next.

Preschool teachers should be kind and patient, allowing children to develop at their own pace. If that means some children repeat activities when they want or need, the teacher allows it. Teachers also are adaptable and can cater to each child, allowing those who are advanced to continue to advance while those who need extra time to be given it.

A high-quality preschool also needs open-ended play with enriching toys and props to allow children the chance to learn, try new things, develop socially, and more.

The environment should be safe, and a balanced teacher-student ratio is critical so children can have the attention they need.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, your child’s development is important to us. We teach the whole child, and aim to help each child grow in their own individual way. Schedule a tour today.