Families in the community and on the BYU-Idaho campus have the opportunity to send their toddlers to a toddler lab, run by the Home and Family Department.
The toddler lab is a practicum class required for students studying any form of child development. Faculty members of the Home and Family Department supervise the class, but students teach the children.
“I love to see them reach their goals,” said Christine Brown, a supervisor in the lab and member of the teacher education faculty.
Jillisa Cranmer, director of the toddler lab and member of the teacher education faculty, said the lab is available to children between 18 months and 3 years old. The children attend the lab twice a week, and each lab lasts for one hour and 15 minutes.
Cranmer said that at the beginning of the semester, each student is assigned two toddlers he or she will focus on.
She said the students meet with the families of the toddlers they are assigned to and set developmental goals for the child. Then, throughout the semester and a series of home visits, the students work with the family to keep track of the child’s progress.
Cranmer said that on an average day in the lab, the children will arrive and take their coats and belongings to their locker, wash their hands and take part in free play for 45 minutes.
She said that during free play, the children can choose between activities including art, sensory, the snack center, the dramatic play area or the reading center.
Jessica Evans, a junior studying early childhood/special education, said the sensory activities are her favorite things to do with the children during the lab.
She said during these activities, the children get to play with different items in water, sand and different kinds of dirt.
Cranmer said that after free play, the children and students clean up together.
“It’s just as important for them to be a part of the clean up and the transitions as it is for them to be a part of the play,” Cranmer said.
After cleaning up, Cranmer said the children gather together to do an activity as a group.
This activity can include music, gross motor activities or reading. She said the teachers strive to make these activities interactive.
“That’s the key with toddlers in a large group — they have to be doing something,” she said. “So it’s not just them sitting and doing nothing. They’re participating.”
Cranmer said the toddlers do not always have the attention span for this activity, but it gives them an opportunity to practice their focusing skills.
She said when the children are finished with their group activity, they gather their belongings from their locker and get to go play on the playground where their parents pick them up.
She said parents are encouraged to spend some time on the playground and talk to the teachers about their child’s progress.
Cranmer said the children get to have wonderful opportunities to learn and grow while the students gain practical experience for use in their future occupations.
She said the program would not be able to continue if parents did not sign their children up for the lab.
“The one thing I do love about this program is I feel like it’s a marriage between the families in the community and students here on campus,” Cranmer said.