The ABCs of UPK

Spring 2024

Registration for Universal Pre-K is Open: Learn the ABCs of UPK

With up to 15 hours a week of free preschool provided to every child the year before they enter kindergarten, Colorado’s Universal Preschool Program is one of the best ways for families to set their children up for a lifetime of success. So whether you’re looking for a preschool for your child, know someone who is or want to help spread the word, it’s important to know the ABCs of Universal Preschool.

By Steffanie Clothier, Director of School Readiness

Through Colorado’s Universal Preschool Program, also known as Universal Pre-K or UPK, every child gets up to 15 hours a week of free preschool the year before they start kindergarten. 

From the time a child is born until age 5 is the most important time to help them grow and develop. Going to preschool is a great way for children to get ready for all the things they’ll learn in kindergarten, including how to learn and play with other children. Registration for the 2024-2025 school year is now open and knowing the ABCs of UPK makes registering your child for preschool easy! If you or someone you know is ready to register a child for preschool remember to:

  • Ask Yourself the Right Questions
  • Begin Your Search for Preschool Providers
  • Choose Your Top 10 Providers

Ask Yourself the Right Questions

  1. What age is the child I’m trying to register?
    If your child is 3-years-old, contact your local school district to register. In many counties, your child must be 4 years of age on or before October 1, 2024 to be eligible. However, this date can change depending on the county. Check your county’s age cut-off date before you register.
  2. How many hours of preschool does the child need?
    Every child can receive up to 15 hours a week (half-day) of free preschool. More hours may be available at an additional cost depending on the provider. Some children may be eligible for more than 15 hours of free preschool if they meet certain requirements. See if you’re eligible for more than 15 hours of free preschool.
  3. Would the child benefit from special education in preschool?
    Children with specialized learning needs who qualify for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) will have access to a preschool program aligned to their IEP. Learn more about special education in preschool.
  1. Am I registering a child with a provider I currently use?
    If your child is currently with a provider you’d like to keep, has a sibling there, or has a parent or guardian who works at a Universal Preschool provider, visit to register. Select your current provider as the #1 choice on the application.
  2. Am I registering a child with a new provider?
    If you need to register a child with a new provider and you already know which providers you prefer, rank your top 10 choices, with 1 being your first choice and 10 being your last choice. Visit to register. If you want to learn about more providers, begin your search below.

Begin Your Search for Participating Preschool Providers

Step 1: Get to know the three types of Universal Preschool Program options
There are three types of licensed providers participating in the Colorado Universal Preschool Program: participating child care centers, programs offered by your school district, or a licensed provider operating out of a home setting.

Step 2: Research different preschool providers based on your child’s needs.
Once you’ve decided how many hours of care you need and what type of care you
prefer, browse the different providers in your area and check their quality ratings on the Colorado Shines website. By entering the name of a preschool provider, you can learn more about the quality of the program. Any preschool with a level 1 rating means that the program is licensed, in good standing with the state, meets health and safety standards, and is regularly monitored. Any preschool with a rating from 3 to 5 have proven their ability to:

  1. Support children’s health and safety
  2. Have staff who are well trained and effective
  3. Provide a supportive learning environment that teaches children new skills
  4. Help parents become partners in their child’s learning
  5. Show good leadership and business practice

Step 3: Contact your preferred preschool providers to find the right school for your child.
As you browse the different providers, you’ll find contact information for each
provider to ask questions and/or set up a time to visit. Be sure to prepare a
list of questions to ask the provider during your call or visit.

Choose Your Top 10 Providers

Step 1: Get your personal information ready to complete your application
On the application, you will be asked to provide your address, child name and date of birth, number of people at home, annual income, contact information, and your relationship to the child you’re registering.

Step 2: Rank your top 10 providers on a notepad
After you’ve completed your research and visited the preschools you’re interested in, review your notes and write down your favorite providers with 1 being your favorite provider and 10 being your least favorite provider.

Step 3: Complete the Universal Preschool Program application
Go to to create an account and answer the online registration questions. Keep your account information handy so that you can login to check the status of your child’s enrollment later. Once you’ve entered your personal information, enter the names of your top 10 favorite preschool providers and submit your application.

What Happens After You Register?

You will learn what provider you’ve been matched with beginning in April. Once you’ve been matched with a preschool provider, you will receive a text or email to accept or decline your preschool match. If you accept your match, you must also contact the provider to complete the enrollment process. If you decline your match, you must begin the application process again and reselect your top 10 providers. This does not guarantee placement at the provider you want most.

You can check your child’s enrollment status any time by logging into your account at

Questions About UPK?

Contact the Universal Preschool Program Helpline
To submit questions about Colorado’s Universal Preschool Program, call the Colorado Universal Preschool Helpline at 303-866-5223 or submit your questions to the Colorado Department of Early Childhood below.

Contact Your Local Coordinating Organization (LCO)
Local coordinating organizations are also available to help you find the right preschool and submit your application.