How to Help Your Preschooler Develop Gratitude

Preschoolers, while sweet, are in a developmental stage where they won’t always take other people’s perspectives into account. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just that young children are still learning about the world and how other people feel. So they don’t always recognize when someone does something kind for them. They’re meant to think of themselves first.

This means that they don’t always recognize when an experience should prompt gratitude.

Expressing gratitude is a skill that develops over time. Your child needs your guidance and good example to develop the skill. In this month of thankfulness, you can help your preschooler develop more gratitude as you gently nurture with positive experiences. Use the following ideas as a springboard.

Use Senses

This video from Sesame Street shows an excellent way to help your child cultivate gratitude through their senses.

Ask your child to look around their environment and find something they see, hear, smell, feel, and even taste that makes them feel happy or grateful. Children learn through their senses; sensory learning supports brain development, builds memory capacity, increases creativity, and strengthens problem-solving abilities.

So when you deliberately tap into your child’s senses while teaching a lesson, their brains will be primed to let that lesson soak in. If you want to help your child develop gratitude, help them use their senses to experience it.

Write Thank-You Notes

get your child ready for kindergarten

Writing thank-you notes is an excellent way to help your child learn and develop the character trait of gratitude. Think about all the steps involved in writing a thank-you note:

  1. You have to first think of the person you want to thank
  2. You have to think about why you want to thank them
  3. You have to consider how to express the reasons you want to thank them
  4. You have to do something physical (put pen – or crayon! – to paper)

These steps automatically help your child step outside themselves to think about another person. The process of writing the thank-you note is so much more than simply scrawling some letters and pictures; it is literally thinking through the process of how to show gratitude. And that, in turn, helps your child develop more gratitude.

Say It Out Loud

Speaking about gratitude will help your preschooler develop gratitude. This can fall anywhere on the spectrum of simple to formal.

For example, you can simply say out loud, “I’m so grateful for the weather today! It makes me feel happy!”

Or you can have a formal time at the dinner table when everyone expresses gratitude for something or someone each day.

Watch for ways you can say “thank you” more often, and notice how your adorable preschooler will begin to mimic you.

Have a Gratitude Scavenger Hunt

Sesame Street has a great Gratitude Scavenger Hunt you can download.

Image found on

Each square prompts your child to think of a specific type of thing to be grateful for: something that makes you laugh, a place you love, etc. These prompts expand your child’s mind to understand there are so many things to be thankful for!

Thank Your Child

Look for ways to thank your child. Give them responsibilities and thank them when they follow through. Thank them when they do something that cheers you up, when they are kind to the pet or to a sibling, or when they remind you about something you forgot.

And be sure to thank other people in your life too. Let your preschooler see you thanking your partner, the cashier, your child’s teacher, and more.

Avoid Shaming

Remember: no matter how well you teach and model, your child will still forget to say thank you, refuse to share a toy, or make a disappointed face when they open a present they don’t like.

That’s because your child is still developing gratitude – they still have so much to learn.

It can soothe a parent’s heart to simply know this will happen. Then when it does, you don’t have to feel ashamed, embarrassed, or disappointed in your child. You can remind yourself that your child still needs time to develop gratitude.

So avoid shaming, and instead remind your child of a more appropriate response: “Oh, you forgot to say thank you. That’s okay! We can try again!” Or, “Oh, you were expecting a different present and you are surprised. Let’s take a minute to thank Grandma for thinking of you.”

Every positive experience with gratitude will help your child develop a little bit more of the skill of expressing gratitude over time.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we teach character traits like gratitude, courage, patience, kindness, and more to help children build their developing skills. We also provide a learning environment in which children can learn through their interactions with others. Learn more about our curriculum and play-based learning. Call us at (801) 523-5930 for a tour.

Courage Is Uncomfortable. And That’s Okay!

Did you know that using courage almost always means you’re going to be uncomfortable?


This is because courage is defined by the ability to do something that frightens you! That means that when you’re acting with courage, you’re doing something uncomfortable or scary even when it’s hard to do so.

This part of the definition of courage (that you’re actually doing something scary!) is important for children — and adults — to understand. Sometimes we get the false impression that courageous people are somehow braver than us ordinary people.

Superman is super strong and saves the world, after all, so it may seem that courage is just for the super strong, super brave, super heroic people of the world.

But everyone can have courage, even the smallest preschoolers among us. In fact, the smallest preschoolers among us frequently use courage because they often feel fear but do the scary thing anyway.

Courage Takes Support

How to teach children courage? Remember that your child will need support as they develop this important character trait. Feeling fear, moving through it, and doing the scary thing takes a lot of skill, practice, and encouragement.

As a parent, you walk a delicate line: you want your child to feel the fear and move through it because this builds strength. However, you don’t want to push your child beyond their capabilities.

Stay close, be a careful observer, and help your child through every step of the process.

And remember: teaching children courage really is a process! It can take several repetitions of an experience before your child is able to feel fear, move through it, and do the scary thing. Heck, adults often have to go through several repetitions to finally act courageously! This is a lifelong process. Keep that in mind while you teach your child courage, using the following strategies.

Send Clear Messaging

Be sure to send a clear message that it’s okay to be scared or nervous. Remember, we sometimes get the message that strong superheroes are the only ones with courage, rather than the little people with big, scared feelings. Allowing your child to feel scared will help them to move through that feeling and face hard challenges with courage.

Naming emotions is a great way to help your child process their internal state. “I can see you are nervous. That’s okay. I’m here with you.” This messaging goes a long way for a child who is still learning about the world. This helps them identify what they are feeling while experiencing the nearness and security of their trusted adult.

Then, “I believe in you. I’m here to help you use your courage.” This helps your child feel your strength and confidence in them, while trusting you to help them take courageous steps.

Identify Courageous Actions

Point out when your child does something that was hard to do. The more they hear that they already do hard things, the more they will believe they can.

Try and identify the little things that we tend to gloss over, like:

  • trying a new food
  • talking to a new friend
  • trying a new piece of equipment at the playground
  • doing anything new!
  • admitting they were wrong. This is hard for anyone to do! When your preschooler does this, that takes courage!
  • asking for help
  • being kind when it is hard to do so
  • making good choices when other children are not

Be a Role Model

Model courage to your child. Be sure to tell them when you choose to do something that scares you. Use the word “courageous” to help your child cement the concept: “I am feeling scared, but I am going to try to be courageous and make this difficult phone call.”

Find good role models around you, as well. Courageous characters are found in every story ever written! Point them out as you read books together. And express your admiration for real-life people who are making courageous choices as well.


Children learn best through play. They naturally tend to act out versions of courage in their pretend play. (Think: a doctor saving a patient, a mermaid battling a shark, a unicorn fighting against the evil wizard, a pirate braving the stormy seas in search of treasure – all of these play examples involve playing at courage!)

Encourage this! And if you’re feeling courageous (wink), release your inner child and join in the pretend play, adding to your child’s courageous solutions for the pretend challenges.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we teach character traits like courage, patience, kindness, and more to help children build their developing skills. We also provide a learning environment in which children can learn through their interactions with others. Learn more about our curriculum and play-based learning. Call us at (801) 523-5930 for a tour.

Why Manners Matter and 8 Ways to Teach Them

Teaching manners can be meaningful and fun.
Teaching manners can be meaningful and fun.
“Being considerate of others will take your children further in life than any college degree.” ―Marian Wright Edelman

While ABC’s and 123’s are the building blocks on the road to academic learning, manners are the foundation for building healthy relationships and social interactions.  Children begin learning manners before they can even talk.  But even if your highchair munchkin wasn’t signing please and thank you for those Cheerios, preschool is a great stage in life to start teaching them social graces. 

So what are manners?  

Manners are treating other people in a respectful way, like we ourselves would like to be treated.  This common idea is taught in cultures all over the world.  Studies have also found that oxytocin is released in the brain when someone treats us with kindness, respect, and compassion.  Our brains are wired to want to be treated this way. 

As you teach a child manners, modeling is the best tool you have.  Be conscientious of your own manners and consideration for others.  It’s okay to prompt, “What do you say?”, and to be insistent.  “You can have the treat after you say please.” Just remember, the goal is to create a mutual feeling of respect for others, so whatever you do to teach manners, keep it caring and fun.  

8 Fun Ways You Can Teach Manners

1- Play Pretend

Children love to pretend! Role playing and modeling manners while playing things like princess/prince, restaurant, school, store, airplane or theater.  At snack and meal times you can be animals with manners and contrast animals without manners. 

2- I Spy Manners

When you leave the house, be spies on the lookout for people showing good manners.  

“I spy someone holding the door for us when we walk in the store.” 

“I spy someone letting us go in front of them into the elevator.” 

“I spy someone saying excuse me when our shopping cart was in their way.” 

3- Host a Tea Party

Cucumber sandwiches and strawberry lemonade in a fancy plastic cup can create a fun atmosphere to practice polite eating.  Invite some friends and give some quick instructions on where to place the napkin and how to hold the plastic goblet. Turn on some Mozart and let the fine dining begin. 

4- Make it a Contest

For that child with a competitive edge, have a contest during meal time or throughout the day to see who can count the most manners they see or do.  Tally up those “please” and “thank you’s.” Winner gets to pick the music for dish clean-up. 

5- Thank You Cards

Crafting cards is a great way to say thank you.  Children can make cards for gifts they’ve received, for kindnesses shown, and for people who serve them.  Make a picture for a teacher or a crossing guard.  Make a card for a friend who had them over for a fun playdate.  

6- “I See You”

It’s amazing how the kiddos are perfectly fine doing their own thing…until you need to talk to another adult. Then, suddenly, they will practically die if they don’t have a word with you right now! One fun way for kids to practice the art of patiently waiting is to have them put their hand on your arm when they see you are having a conversation with another adult and need to speak with you. You can then put your hand on theirs, silently signaling, “I see you.” Then, find a break in the conversation to politely excuse yourself while you let your child have a turn to speak.

7- Staring Contest

Learning how to look someone in the eyes while you’re speaking to them can be hard even for adults. Playing staring contest can make the challenge a little more fun. Try having a whole conversation without looking away. Once they’ve mastered it at home, you can encourage them to use the skill when they are talking to others.

8- Well, Thank You!

A fun tuck-in game is to go back and forth complimenting each other, including good things that happened during the day. While you’re playing, you can model graciously accepting a compliment. Kids love it when compliments get a little silly too. “I loooove the way your toes wiggle.”

Manners matter. Teaching your child how to treat others with kindness and respect will not only help them in their school and social environments, but will open doors for the future success.

We have committed the golden rule to memory; let us now commit it to life.

Edwin Markham, American poet (1852-1940)

WHY Does My Preschooler Do THAT?

preschool behavior

You’re not alone if preschool behavior sometimes feels baffling. One minute, your 3-year-old is playing peacefully with a few toys at the table.  The next, she’s running around the room in a fury, dumping every single toy onto the floor.

Why do preschoolers do this? And why do they struggle with the many other challenging behaviors that make you want to pull your hair out?

Rest assured that there is a developmental reason for challenging preschool behavior. Knowing that your child’s frustrating actions are actually evidence that they are right on track with their growth can be helpful.


It’s time for bed and your 4-year-old falls to the ground crying, refusing to make a move in the direction of their bedroom. Or you give your 3-year-old a snack on the purple plate, and they scream and cry because they wanted the green plate.


What’s Going on: It’s normal. Your child is still getting a handle on their emotions. When things don’t go as they planned, they don’t always have the ability to take that disappointment in stride. Knowing this can help you avoid the urge to moralize their behavior. They aren’t “bad,” “naughty,” “selfish,” or “bratty.” They’re simply a child having a hard time in the moment.

What You Can Do: Show empathy. Hug your child or get near (if they’ll let you) and tell them you’re sorry things aren’t going the way they want. “You really wish you had the green plate, don’t you?”

Remember: This isn’t a time to reason with them. Fight the urge to use logic. It would be tempting to say, “But your favorite color is purple!” Or, “But you’re still getting a sandwich. It doesn’t matter what color the plate is.” But that logic won’t help in this moment. Your child’s brain is flooded with big emotions, and they simply need love, understanding, and connection to calm down.

Once your child’s big emotions have minimized, you can offer a suggestion or ask if your child has a suggestion. “Would you like me to set the purple plate aside for dinner time?” Or, “What would help you feel better about the plate?”

Messes Galore!

You just finished cleaning the playroom when your 3-year-old comes and dumps the blocks all over the room. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it; your child is just making a huge mess!

What’s Going on: Young children want to explore their world. They do this through their senses. The more senses they can use, the better! (That’s why we include multisensory learning in our curriculum.) This is actually a sign that your child feels safe in their environment.

What You Can Do: That doesn’t mean you have to give your house over to your child’s whims, however. Making messes is a great way to learn how to clean up!

First, create an environment where you child can safely explore. Keep non-breakable items at their level. Designate a cupboard or drawer at their height that is filled with things that won’t break (the Tupperware drawer or kids’ dishes drawer, for example). Let them play freely with these items and other toys around the house.

When they are done playing, guide them to clean up. Make clean-up time connected by cleaning up right along with them, make it fun by singing a song, or make it exciting by trying to beat the clock. Additionally, make it easy by storing toys in see-through containers.

Saying No

“NO!” Preschoolers may still be learning how to pronounce the cat’s name, but they absolutely excel in saying no. And when they say it in most of your interactions, that word can get old… fast.

What’s Going on: Again, your preschooler is right on track, developmentally. Preschoolers are learning independence and autonomy, and it’s important for them to express their opinions.

What You Can Do: Let your child know you hear their opinion and that it matters to you. “You don’t want to leave the park, do you?” “You want candy instead of soup for lunch, don’t you?”

Next, give a simple explanation and a choice. “It’s time for dinner and we have to get home. Would you like to go down the slide one more time or two more times?” “Candy doesn’t have the important vitamins we need for lunch, but it’s a great treat. Would you like to have some after your snack or after dinner?”

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we teach character traits like patience, kindness, empathy, and more to help children build on their developing skills. We also provide a learning environment in which children can learn through their interactions with others. Learn more about our curriculum and play-based learning. Call us at (801) 523-5930 for a tour.

How to Help Your Preschooler Make Friends

Friendship can be tricky to navigate at any age. While preschoolers have advantages in many ways (kids can typically bond more quickly with a new friend than adults), they also have a lot that can get in the way of positive friendships. This is a time when it’s difficult to share, difficult to manage emotions, and difficult to interpret others’ behaviors. Use these tips to help your preschooler make friends.

Honor Your Child’s Friendship Style

Every child approaches friendships differently. Some want as many friends as they can collect, constantly on the lookout for a new buddy to bring into their welcome fold. Others may stand back, preferring alone time or one close and familiar friend. And of course, there is a wide spectrum of friendship engagement between these two examples.

Pay attention to what fulfills your child in friendship and help your child find situations where they can be comfortable in friendship. 

How to Help Your Child Enter a Friendship Situation:

If your child wants to join a group but doesn’t know how, try these tips:

  • Teach them how to take a minute and watch what others are doing. As they observe the playgroup to see what they are playing, they can come up with ways they can be a part of the make-believe. For example, you could point to a friend and say, “What animal is she pretending to be? Do you think you could be an animal or a trainer?”
  • Your child can also invite children to join in their play by asking for help. “Can you help me build this road?”

Provide Space for Practice

In the safety of your home, you can give your child opportunities to develop skills that transfer to friendship groups.

For example, play a simple card game or have a family soccer match. In these interactions with you and siblings, your preschooler will learn about taking turns, following rules, emotional control, and handling both wins and disappointment graciously.

Around the dinner table, your child can learn about listening to others, showing interest in what others have to say, adding to conversations, and yes — taking turns again! 

During play, you can teach skills like how to introduce yourself. Pick up a stuffed animal, and have it introduce itself to your child. “Hello. My name is Twinkle Toes. Would you like to play blocks with me?”

Model Healthy Communication

Friendship is about respecting the other person, caring about what they care about, and being considerate of their feelings. 

You can model this in your interactions with your child. When you ask them to do something, use a respectful tone and language. When they are upset or excited, show genuine concern or interest. 

If your child gets upset about the color cup they receive, for example, don’t dismiss their feelings; instead, say, “You really wanted the blue cup didn’t you. I’m sorry you’re disappointed.” 

This respectful and caring treatment will transfer to your child’s interactions with their peers, and they will learn to be respectful and empathetic.

Tips for Playdate Success

When you host a playdate, consider how to set up the environment to make the playdate as successful as possible. 

  • Schedule the playdate for a time that the children are more likely to be well rested and happy.
  • Be prepared with healthy snacks.
  • Put away your child’s most special toys, and talk about how to share the rest of the toys.
  • Stay nearby to keep an eye on how the children are interacting. Let them work out problems together — to a point. If things are getting dangerous or unkind, step in and help the children resolve their issues.
  • Consider toys and activities that foster cooperation instead of competition.
  • Finish the playdate on a high note — before the children get too tired. 

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we focus on character traits, like compassion and respect, that help children in their friendships. Learn more about our curriculum and play-based learning. Call us at (801) 523-5930 for a tour.

6 Math Activities for Preschoolers to Do at Home (That Take Hardly Any Prep Work)

math activities for preschoolers

Some of us love math, and others cringe when we even think of it. But for all of us, math is a crucial life skill. And your child’s math knowledge will influence their academic achievement. Your role in your child’s math knowledge is important, and you can incorporate these six math activities for preschoolers into your day.

The bonus? These ideas require very little prep work!

First Things First: Don’t Stress Out

Your child’s preschool teachers will do an excellent job with math. If you feel nervous about guiding your child’s math skills, take a deep breath. You can make this easier by simply noticing basic math concepts in your daily routines.

Math is everywhere, and you can do a world of good by simply noticing the math that surrounds us. Ask your child: “How many banana slices are on your plate? How many will be left after you eat one? Two?”

Remember: Math isn’t always complex, especially at the preschool level. It’s sorting, finding patterns, measuring, building, counting, shapes, and comparisons. These things surround us every day. When you keep this in mind, math activities for preschoolers become second nature.

Second: Keep It Fun

You don’t need flashcards. Since math is everywhere, and since children learn best through play, keep math concepts fun and organic. Point out math concepts during play with the following math activities for preschoolers at home.

Rows and Shapes

Find similar items and line them up in a row (toy cars,  rocks, action figures, etc.). Ask your child to count them. Then, change the arrangement of the items: put them all in a circle, a triangle, or a square. Ask your child how many there are now.

Your child may need to count them again. As they grow and develop, they will understand that the number will remain the same even as the shape changes.


Preschool children may not be ready to grasp formal measurement yet. (inches, feet, etc.) But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t teach measurement skills! Using different items, like pumpkins in this photo, helps children begin to understand the concept of measurement.
What do you have around your house that you can use to measure items? Use blocks, teddy bears, or matchbox cars to see how long baby sister is when she lays on the floor. How many cups high is your child’s jack-o’-lantern? Try lining up leaves to measure your child’s shadow.

Shape Art

Have you ever stopped to wonder why we teach shapes to children? Shapes are the building blocks of geometry and spatial understanding. Help your child identify shapes by pointing them out in your home: the doorknob is a circle, the TV is a rectangle, etc.

And try this simple math activity for preschoolers: Cut out basic shapes in colored construction paper, and let your child glue the shapes onto paper to create art. Maybe they’ll make a building, and animal, a vehicle… whatever inspires them!

Sort with Candy

At snack time, give your child a few colored candies (M&M’s, skittles, jelly beans). Have them sort the candy into piles according to color. To add to this activity, guess at the biggest pile and then count each pile.

Ask your child what will happen if you add two piles together? How many candies will there be? What if you eat one candy? What if your child eats two?

Go on a Treasure Hunt

math activities for preschoolers

Send your child on a treasure hunt in your home! Hide a special treat, and then make a simple map of your home on a piece of paper. Indicate where your child should go with arrows or landmarks as checkpoints. This helps your child develop spatial awareness.

Then, make a map together and give it to another family member to use. Making the map together will give your child spatial language.

Compare Measurements

An important aspect of math is measuring and comparing. Find objects around the house and guess at which object is bigger. Then set them side by side and measure them.

Trace each other’s hands and feet to measure and compare.

Guess what’s farther: the distance from your bedroom to the stairs, or the distance from your child’s bedroom to the stairs? Then measure to find out.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we know the critical importance of math skills for your preschooler.  That’s why we incorporate math activities for preschoolers into every aspect of our curriculum. Learn more about our curriculum and play-based learning. Call us at (801) 523-5930 for a tour.


8 At-Home Activities to Improve Your Preschooler’s Communication

improve your preschoolers communication

We’ve all experienced frustrating miscommunications, and this is especially difficult for preschool-aged kids. Imagine how your 3-year-old must feel when they can’t quite explain why they don’t want to share — frustration overload! While it’s developmentally normal for your preschooler to have a difficult time expressing themselves, you can help to improve your preschooler’s communication with these eight fun at-home activities.

1. Play Pass-the-Time Games

You know those old games you used to play on long road trips when you were a kid? Many of those are great tools for helping to improve your preschooler’s communication. Try these three the next time you’re in the car, eating lunch, or taking a walk.

  • Guess where we’re going/what we’re about to do: Give your child clues about the next thing you’re planning to do to help them piece together verbal information. For example, if you’re going to the movies after lunch, you could say, “We’ll eat popcorn, it will be dark, and we’ll watch a story on a screen. Where are we going?”
  • I Spy: The game I Spy is a great game for improving your preschooler’s communication because it encourages the use of descriptive words in relation to your environment.
  • Play 20 Questions: Another childhood favorite, 20 Questions requires  communication that involves reasoning, ruling things out, and the use of descriptive words.

    2. Increase Nonverbal Communication Skills

    So much of communication is actually nonverbal. You can help your child decode nonverbal cues with a few different activities.

  • Write or draw directions to somewhere in your neighborhood or home. Ask your child to follow them.
  • Silently give directions to somewhere in your neighborhood or home. Use hand gestures, pointing, and exaggerated facial expressions.
  • Look at pictures in books and make guesses about what someone is feeling, based on their facial expressions.
  • Try and do a cooperative activity together without talking. For example, run a relay race in your backyard, clean up the toys in the living room together, color a picture together, or play a sport in the backyard. The idea is that you’ll have to look to each other’s body language and facial expressions to determine next moves.

3. Play Telephone

Telephone helps your child develop good listening skills. With a group of people, sit in a circle and whisper a message to the person next to you. That person then whispers the message they heard to the next person, and so on. The final person shares the message out loud.

Undoubtedly, the final message will sound much different than it started out. The hilarity is what makes this game fun, but it also teaches a lesson — we have to pay close attention when communicating, or we have a hard time hearing the correct message.

4. Take a Nature Walk

Some of the best ways to improve your preschooler’s communication skills are in the simple, everyday connected activities.

Take a no-pressure nature walk and point out what you see. Ask your child what colors, animals, and plants they see. Point out letters and words on street signs. Collect nature items and talk about how they feel and smell.

5. Play Show-and-Tell

Kids love to describe their favorite toys and items. Ask your child to pick something and do a show-and-tell for the family. When they finish describing their item, ask questions about it. This not only helps build vocabulary, it’s another no-pressure way to increase confidence — which, in turn, improves your preschooler’s communication.

6. Play Pretend

Luckily, kids have a natural desire to play pretend — and luckily this is a simple way to improve communication skills. When children play pretend, they use  new vocabulary to describe their pretend situations. They problem-solve out loud, they cooperate with other playmates, and they use descriptive words to explain what’s going on.

{Read: Why Your Child Needs Pretend Play}

7. Play Charades

Sure, charades doesn’t rely on verbal communication. But it can still increase your preschooler’s communication skills by encouraging your child to think of non-verbal ways to get their point across. Remember, not all communication is verbal!

8. Tell a Story with Pictures

Give your child a few pictures and ask them to tell a story with them. You can clip pictures from a magazine, use family photos, or draw a few pictures. Put them in order, or let your child come up with their own order.

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we know how important communication is for your preschooler.  That’s why we provide a verbally-rich environment and curriculum. We are also always watching for markers of appropriately-developing language, and recommend intervention when those markers are not being met. Learn more about our curriculum. Call us at (801) 523-5930 for a tour.

10 Transportation Activities Your Preschooler Can Do at Home

Preschoolers are fascinated by vehicles. And transportation activities for preschoolers can actually help teach important concepts, like letters, numbers, cooperation, planning, and more.

Whether your kiddo is obsessed with tractors, trains, or trucks, these 10 transportation activities for preschoolers will give you something to do on a lazy afternoon while boosting important preschool skills.

1. Chairs, Chairs, Chairs

Let your preschooler rearrange the kitchen chairs to create a world of pretend transportation. Line the chairs up in a row to create a train, add aisles for an airplane, or create a replica of the family car.

Grab a few props from around the house — a suitcase, dress-up clothes, backpack, books for the flight, cardboard IDs for check-in, and more. Your child will have a great time playing pretend, but they’ll also be building vocabulary, increasing planning skills, and strengthening their imagination.

{Read: Why Your Child Needs Pretend Play}

2. Workin’ at the Carwash

A carwash sensory bin is a great backyard activity for a hot day, or a perfect kitchen-sink activity when it’s too cold to play with water outside.

Fill up a tub with soapy water, give your child some cleaning items (washcloth, brush, toothbrush), and let them give their toy cars a carwash. This sensory activity helps their brain create stronger connections, develops motor skills, builds imagination, and more.

[Read: The Benefits of Multisensory Learning]

Another fun sensory bin transportation activity for preschoolers is to make a construction sensory bin with sand, gravel, and rocks.

3. Make a Steering Wheel

Use construction paper or cardboard to make your own steering wheels, and then let your child use the wheel in their play. Have them bring their steering wheel along on car rides so they can backseat drive!

4. Active Transportation Activities for Preschoolers

Get your preschooler moving by teaching them to use their body as transportation in their pretend play. They can “fly” around the room as airplanes by putting their arms out to their sides. Crawling on the floor, they can use an arm to scoop up toys as they pretend to be a tractor (this could be helpful during cleanup time too!).

5. Car Painting

Have your child express themselves creatively with the transportation theme by painting with toy cars. Using washable paint, let your child use plastic toy cars as paintbrushes on their canvas. This will build creativity, reinforce the concept of cause-and-effect, and build fine motor skills.

6. Pull Out the Sleds

You might have some fun transportation props sitting in your garage. For example, a sled can make a fun boat on your living room floor. Your preschooler can take the lead in pretending where that boat is headed — is it going on a fishing trip, heading across the ocean to another continent, or ferrying stuffed animals across a river?

Let your child’s imagination drive this activity.

7. A City on the Floor

You might already have a rug with roads, buildings, and stop signs. These are great tools for imaginative play. But if you don’t have one, build one with your child.

Use masking tape to create roads. If your child wants a more-involved city, you can build buildings out of cardboard, toilet paper rolls, and more.

8. Make a Parking Lot

Use a cardboard box to make a parking lot for your child’s toy cars.

This is a great way to practice numbers or letters. Label each parking spot with a number or letter, and then label each car with a corresponding number or letter. Ask your child to park each car in its coordinating parking spot.

You can increase the challenge by asking them to park their car in the spot that is “plus 1” or “minus 1” from their car’s number.

9. Make Vehicles out of Shapes

Cut out triangles, squares, circles, and rectangles (or have your child do it), and then use those shapes to create vehicles. The vehicles can look like real vehicles, or your child can make up their own.

10. Visit Big Vehicles

transportation activities for preschoolersTake your preschooler to a construction site or fire station to let them observe big vehicles. What colors does your child see? How are the vehicles the same as your family car? How are they different? What sounds do the vehicles make? What features help the vehicles get their jobs done?

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Salt Lake City, thematic pretend play helps us teach reading, writing, science, social studies, and so much more. Learn about our curriculum. Call us at (801) 523-5930 for a tour.


12 Popular Preschool Activities to Do at Home

Learning should be fun, and at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Utah, every activity we do is carefully thought out to teach important skills and concepts, while being fun and memorable.

With summer coming up, we thought it might be helpful to round up some of  our most popular preschool activities you can do at home. We love to make home life easier for our preschool families, so for each activity in this article, we made sure it meets certain metrics:

  • It must be fun
  • The activity must be easy
  • It must require few supplies and little prep
  • It must strengthen a skill or concept (while being fun!)

To that end, here are 12 popular preschool activities for you to do at home. Keep these ideas in your back pocket for spur-of-the moment mood-lifters, gatherings with friends, or a way to get through the lazy days of summer.

Remember, none of these activities need to be done to perfection. And if anyone gets frustrated, it’s always okay to stop!

Indoor Snowball Fight

When it’s too hot outside, retreat indoors and have a snowball fight. Use rolled-up socks and get as creative as you feel. Build forts, construct barriers, or simply use the couch as no-man’s land.

Skills this builds: This builds strength, coordination, creativity, and helps your child find joy in being active.

Travel by Plane or Train

Need to mop under the kitchen table? While you mop, set the chairs in two rows in the living room as if they are a plane or a train. Pull a suitcase out of storage, and let your child “travel” around the world.

Skills this builds: Pretend play builds imagination and creativity, increases vocabulary, enhances problem-solving skills, and so much more.

{Read: Pretend Away: Why Your Child Needs Pretend Play}

Treasure Hunt

Hide something fun (a treat, small toy, special note, or even your child’s favorite stuffed animal), and send your child on a treasure hunt to find it! Make this as simple or complex as you’d like: The simplest way is to write or draw simple clues like, “Go to the refrigerator.” Once your child is at the refrigerator, they’ll find another clue.

You can move up in difficulty by writing or drawing clues that make your child think, like “Go to the place where our food is kept cold.”

Want it to be more complex? Make it an alphabet hunt, where each clue takes your child to the next letter. Or draw a map for your child to read.

Skills this builds: Treasure hunts, even in their simplest form, help your child build critical thinking skills. They have to read or interpret pictures and figure out what to do with the information. Treasure hunts also build reading skills.

Make Your Own Pizza

English muffins are a great canvas for pizza items. Set out pizza ingredients and let your child build their own pizza.

Think of other food items your child can make on their own, or with minimal help: fruit salads (they can cut bananas, grapes, and strawberries), quesadillas, cold-cut sandwiches, etc.

Skills this builds: Making their own food helps children build independence. It also gives them confidence in making their own choices. Plus, it builds fine motor strength.

Try New Foods

Pick a country or region, and learn about the foods that are eaten there. Then, try them together.

Another way to have fun with trying new foods is to pick one type of food and try its different variations: apples are great for this. Family members can vote on their favorite, and you can add different dips to select another favorite.

Skills this builds: Your child learns how to try new things, while paying attention to multiple senses. They also learn about world cultures. And if you make a hypothesis about which will be the family’s favorite, you’re introducing the scientific method.

Car Wash

Indoors or outdoors, car washes are always fun. Fill a bucket with water, soap, and sponges, and let your child give a bath to the toy cars. Want to keep an eye on your child while you’re preparing dinner? Fill the kitchen sink!

Skills this builds: This activity gives your child a multi-sensory experience, which engages multiple parts of the brain. Your child also develops fine-motor skills while having fun.

Red Light, Green Light

Red light, green light is an easy and fun way to kill time. As with all of these activities, you can make the activity as easy or complex as you want. On the easy end of the spectrum, you can simply take turns being “It” and shouting out “Red light” or “Green light.” On the more complicated end, you can make red lights and green lights on papers or craft sticks.

You can change it up — and add some creative thinking and memory-building skills — by designating different colors to mean different things. For example, purple light could mean to hop or dance forward.

Skills this builds: Red light, green light teaches your child skills like following directions, self-regulation, and self management. It also helps your child be active.

Obstacle Course

Obstacle courses are fun ways to pass the time. Use what you have to create areas where your child can jump, spin, climb, balance, crawl, skip, and more.

Skills this builds: Your child gets to develop their gross motor skills, find joy in movement, and learn how to follow directions.

Teddy Bear Picnic

For lunchtime, head outside, under the kitchen table, or spread a blanket on the living room floor. Invite the household teddy bears to join a picnic in their honor.

You can do this popular preschool activity on the spur of the moment, or make this an elaborate, drawn-out celebration where your child creates invitations and party games for the teddy bear guests.

Skills this builds: Creativity! Your child will come up with imaginative scenarios at your teddy bear picnic. This is also a fun and nurturing connection for your family. And if your child turns this into a day-long event, complete with activities and party games, your child will develop writing skills, planning skills, and leadership skills.

Paper Plate Ice Skating

Keep a few paper plates handy for the inevitable choruses of “I’m bored.” Simply step on the paper plates and move around — now you’re “ice skating” in your kitchen and living room!

You can make this activity last longer with races, obstacle courses, and challenges. Write movement suggestions on cards that your child draws at random — backwards, spinning, to music, dancing, etc.

Skills this builds: This activity builds your child’s strength, dexterity,  coordination, and motor skills. If you use cards to suggest movements, your child can also improve reading skills.

Paint with Unique Brushes

Find unique tools for painting. Head to the dollar store, and select kitchen items like whisks, spatulas, and brushes. Use vegetables, like peppers and potatoes. Ask your child for suggestions too!

Skills this builds: Your child gets to experiment, which builds imagination, an understanding of the scientific process, creativity, and artistry. They also build fine motor skills.

Scissor Practice

Give your child some safety scissors and head outside to cut the grass. (Just keep an eye out, because your garden might look tempting too!)

Or draw fun lines on paper, and have your child try and cut on the lines.

Skills this builds: Cutting with scissors builds the small muscles in the hands, which are critical for writing, brushing teeth, buttoning, tying shoes, and more. Cutting with scissors also builds coordination.

Come see how we incorporate these, and other fun skill-building activities, into our curriculum at UDA Creative Arts Preschool in Draper, Utah. Give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online to schedule a tour.

Why We Use Centers in Preschool

If you’ve ever visited us at UDA Creative Arts Preschool when we’re using centers, you’ve seen a buzz of happy activity and play. Centers in preschool are  fun — that’s undeniable — but they’re also key to learning, development, and growth for your child. Learn what goes into centers in preschool, and how your child is benefiting.

Academic Skills

Children build their academic skills when they explore and create during their chosen centers. This happens organically, because children are allowed to choose the centers that appeal to them, and then once there, they get engaged and active in using the materials.

Children learn through play. At centers, children use designated materials that are designed to build learning and skills, and they get to be hands-on and exploratory with those materials.

Safe Place to Make Mistakes

We learn through mistakes, but when children’s learning has a heavy emphasis on worksheets, there isn’t as much opportunity to learn from those mistakes. Center time, on the other hand, is low on stress — there’s no right answer here — which allows children to try, mess up, and still enjoy the process.

Extend the Learning

Centers are also designed to allow children to keep learning the concepts they are being taught. If they practiced learning the letter A, for example, they might want to paint an A in the art center. Or they may look for the letter A in  the books at the reading center. They may use manipulatives in the literacy center to sound out other letters.

This provides an environment ripe for making academic discoveries on their own, further solidifying important concepts.

Free Choice

Children have so little say in their world. In a world where big people call almost all the shots, centers at preschool are liberating. Children need time to make their own choices, and the freedom of choice is abundant in centers. This helps children develop a true love of learning and exploration.


Children build social skills, including cooperation, when they play at centers.

Children have to learn how to respect the materials, how others use the materials, and the ideas of their classmates. They learn to build on each other’s thoughts, and they learn to take turns. They also learn to problem solve together.

And because centers are open for free play, children get the opportunity to learn how to join in on play that’s already going on, and to welcome people into an activity.


We also use centers in preschool to observe the children. We note what they are drawn to, where they struggle, who they interact with and how, and so much more. And often, as teachers, we engage with the children at specific centers to monitor their skills and understanding.

Time Management

Surprisingly, children can even learn a bit of time management through centers at preschool. With only a limited amount of time each day, children have to learn how to prioritize what’s important to them. Over time, they begin to better understand that if they spend all day at the puppets, they won’t have time for blocks. They then get to make their own decisions about what is more important to them, and act accordingly.

The Types of Centers at Preschool

At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we have a variety of centers where we often rotate materials and items according to our themes.

{Read: Why We Use Themes Each Week at Preschool}


We supply the art center with a variety of materials that help children build skills while expressing themselves creatively. Here, they practice drawing, cutting, gluing, and so much more that helps with hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and creativity.


We stock our reading center with books that support our weekly themes. We often change the objects in the reading center to match our themes as well, like when we bring in a spaceship tent during our unit on space.


We encourage dramatic play in all we do, as it allows children to make sense of the world and draw important connections and conclusions. Dress-ups are a fun and important process of dramatic play. They allow children to literally try on different roles.

We love that children often keep their dress-up clothing on while they move to different centers. They take their dramatic play with them to new situations!


Puppets help in dramatic play, building vocabulary, storytelling, sharing, building listening skills, learning to improvise, and so much more.

Sand, Water, Sensory Bins

We often have a sensory bin filled with objects that correlate with our weekly theme. For example, during our “Under the Sea” unit, we filled sensory bins with blue sensory beads and ocean animal figurines. This allows the children to get more familiar with a subject through their senses.

We also often bring sand and water into our sensory bins, as those allow children to discover the world in new ways.


Providing musical instruments is a great way for children to explore cause-and-effect, creativity, emotional expression, and a variety of elements of music.


Playing with blocks helps children learn engineering and architecture concepts, teaches planning and cause-and-effect, builds creativity, fosters cooperation, and so much more.


Using manipulatives in a math center is a great way for math concepts to come to life for children. It also helps math feel accessible and positive, giving children a good foundation for a subject that tends to intimidate as time goes on.