If your kids are not yet school-age, help them get ready before kindergarten.

The Waterford Institute is offering educational software, UPSTART, to families with 4 year olds for free, thanks to the State Legislature. 

“One of the challenges we face, not just in Utah but on a national level, is kids enter kindergarten but haven’t been prepared for that environment,” says Mikkel Storm, VP of Marketing and Product Development for Waterford Institute. “If we can prepare kids for kindergarten, we’ll really inspire a great start for them and their learning career.”

This year, the legislature is funding the program for 5,000 kids, with $3 million per year over the next three years. “It’s open to everybody, and we still have spots for the 2014–15 school year,” Storm says.

UPSTART teaches kids reading, math and science through an internet program. On top of the free program, low-income families can receive a computer and internet service to run it for free.

The investment is results driven: During the fourth year of the UPSTART, kids who had gone through the program were found to perform better than average on the Brigance and Bader tests. Nearly 100 percent of parents, out of 972 surveyed, said UPSTART prepared their kids for kindergarten and felt their children enjoyed the software.

Kids learn with cartoon characters Rusty and Rosy, and each kid takes an individualized learning path with thousands of lessons and activities, along with digital books and animated songs. Waterford suggests using the program 15 minutes per day, five days per week.

For parents who are unfamiliar with computer software, support is offered. “We take a very active role in the success of the program by having coaches work with each individual participant and their parents,” Storm says. “They reach out via email, through phone calls, and there is training for parents that takes place in person.” Waterford also stays in touch with the kids by sending holiday cards, and support is also offered in Spanish.

To sign your kids up or find more info, visit utahupstart.org.