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Smart Start Preschool strives to create a safe learning environment, which promotes developmentally appropriate education and social skills for young children to learn about themselves, others and their surroundings.  Emphasis is placed on self-esteem, creativity, and individuality.  Smart Start utilizes a system of manipulative materials within a structured environment where exploration, discovery and learning take place.  The focus is to teach readiness skills for Kindergarten as well as instill the desire for life-long learning.  A team approach between parents, children and teacher is essential for a consistent, quality education and experience.​​

Mission Statement

Open Enrollment year round

Check out Smart Start Preschool

Check out Smart Start Summer Camp

Now Enrolling for 2024 Preschool & Summer Camp!


Owner and Director

Erin Tippetts Donahue

Erin Donahue is the owner and director of Smart Start Preschool. She is the mother of three children, is recently married to her husband Brett, and has lived in Boise for the past 15 years. She has a bachelor’s degree from Utah State University in early childhood, and has 30 years of teaching experience. Over the years, she has taught preschool in various early childhood centers, was the owner of the Elkhorn Learning Center, ran an interactive parent/toddler program, taught Kindermusik and Movement classes, and spent 19 summers as the owner of a summer day camp in Sun Valley, Idaho. Erin has been the owner of Smart Start Preschool in Hidden Springs since 2007, running the preschool with before and after school care, and Kid’s Camp in the summer months. In 2015, she opened the Smart Start Preschool in Harris Ranch and currently divides her time between the two schools. She was honored in Idaho Business Revue’s 2009 Women of the Year magazine, and loves instilling a love of learning and confidence as she teaches and engages the minds of young children.


At Smart Start Preschool, children most often: Lead…rather than follow the teacher. Create…rather than duplicate. Move…rather than wait. Initiate…rather than imitate. Raise questions…rather than answer the teacher’s questions. Solve their own problems…rather than the teacher’s problems. Make art…rather than do crafts. Make books…rather than fill in workbooks. Decide…rather than submit. Choose wisely…rather than being told. Try again…rather than fail.  


Adapted from Sandra Crosser’s, The Butterfly Garden.

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Acrilic Paints

Pam Arriola

The part I like best about Smart Start preschool is how they instill a love of learning in their students. My children are perfect examples of this effect as they love to learn about anything. It’s a beautiful building block and the perfect beginning of your child’s education.

Top View of Kids Playing

Nick Goodman

Our daughter loves the activity-based lessons that promote on-going interest in learning at Smart Start. We love the positive environment that fosters growth. Erin’s knowledge and expertise in early childhood education and developmentally appropriate instruction have truly prepared our daughter for Kindergarten. 

Chalk Colors

Megan Lotz

We love Erin Tippett’s program at Smart Start Preschool! With her gentle spirit and love of teaching, Erin instills a love of learning into her students.  Our son, Ryan, has flourished in the 3 year old class. The environment is child centered and the atmosphere is one of caring and friendship. With lessons in music, art, academics, Spanish, nature and play, I don’t think we could ask for anything more! 

Child Doing Art Activity

Dana Menlove

 As owner and lead teacher at Smart Start Preschool, Erin Tippetts epitomizes the best in early learning. While the overall atmosphere at Smart Start fosters creativity and fun and the teachers follow Erin’s lead of sweetly guiding, supporting, and challenging the children — all wonderful characteristics of the place — it is Erin’s attention to and knowledge of current literature regarding best practices for children this age (and the successful application of this knowledge) that really sets her school apart. Both of my children truly felt engaged in mind and heart, benefitting greatly from Smart Start’s approach of teaching the whole child.

Painting Class

Christine Allred

Erin Tippetts is that rare teacher who has perfected the art of generating and sustaining enthusiasm in her young students while maintaining an atmosphere of respect and regard.  I’ve never seen small children have so much fun while behaving so responsibly!  She brings out the best in them. We started our oldest at Smart Start and expect to continue until our youngest heads off to kindergarten.

School Supplies

General Policies

Smart Start general policies PDF

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