Spotlight on TTU Child Development Lab and Being Your Child's First Teacher

Last Updated by Kate Spears on
We all know that school is an important place in the life of a child, especially because it's where so much learning takes place. However, long before you send your child off to school, he or she has been learning, growing and developing. Did you know you are your child's first teacher? Without ever entering a classroom, a baby brain is a little sponge soaking up the world around them.
Research shows that 85% of a person’s brain development occurs before age 5. These first years of life set the stage for lifelong development (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine 2000). When an infant is born, there are 100 billion brain cells or neurons in the brain. However, the critical connections that determine a child’s emotional, social, and intellectual structure are not yet developed. These critical connections are formed by the care, attention, and stimulation provided by parents, caregivers, and early childhood educators. 
On WCTE’s Get Ready to Learn radio show, host Cindy Putman, WCTE and Putnam County Schools Ready To Learn Project Manager is joined by Angie Smith, Director- Child Development Lab (CDL) at Tennessee Tech University, and they discuss the importance of  fostering a child’s development from the moment they are born.
As a university-based laboratory program, one of the CDL’s important goals is to train TTU students majoring in early childhood/ early child special education, child and family studies, and other academic disciplines such as music therapy, nursing, and psychology. They strive to exhibit the highest standards and best practices in childcare and early education professions.
The laboratory setting provides additional experiences for children through age-appropriate activities provided by teaching/practicum students.
The children of the CDL spend their days in a socially stimulating and language rich environment where learning occurs through play-based developmentally appropriate curriculum.
Smith says for more information about these programs for young learners, please feel free to make an appointment for a tour to help answer any questions you may have regarding the CDL. They maintain an “open door policy” at all times.
Putman and Smith share tips for parents as well as talk about how a typical day at the Child Development Lab CDL is planned to utilize the natural ways children learn - playtime, lunchtime, sharing and talking together. 
Every child's development is unique and complex. Although children develop through a generally predictable sequence of steps and milestones, they may not proceed through these steps in the same way or at the same time. A child's development is also greatly influenced by factors in his or her environment and the experiences he or she has.
The information in this guide explains what child development experts consider to be "widely-held expectations" for what an average child might achieve within a given year. Please consider what you read in the context of your child's unique development.
Research shows that if children start school with a strong set of attitudes and skills that help them "learn how to learn," they will be better able to take advantage of educational opportunities. While some learning skills come naturally to children, others can be developed through a supportive environment. 
Tips for building learning skills:
Let them choose: Give kids a chance to make simple choices, such as what to wear or what to eat for a snack.
Help them finish what they start: Children experience great satisfaction when they try and finish new things. Give them a bit of support when they need it, but be careful not to take over completely.
Nurture creativity: Encourage children to ask questions, try different ways of using materials, or offer them a wide range of new experiences.
Don't rush activitiesWhether at home or in preschool, children need extended periods of time to really get involved in activities and to experience the "engagement" that is such an important foundation for learning.
Provide encouragement: All children start life eager to learn, but if adults are critical, that eagerness may disappear by the elementary grades. Look for achievements to praise and acknowledge your child's progress whenever possible.
Check out the PBS Parents Parenting Tools/ Child Development Tracker, where experts share information about a child’s progress from year to year and offer PBS Kids programs that are created to meet the developmental needs of children. For example, here are the recommended shows to view with your two year olds -
Daniel Tiger
Mister Rogers
Sesame Street
In this edition of the radio show, Smith shares a curriculum used at the CDL to help children identify and express their feelings. Putman and Smith shared this with 8th grade students at the Highlands and they loved the interaction that is used with the Kimochi (KEY.MO.CHEE) means “feeling” in Japanese.
Sometimes kids (and adults) have strong feelings that can fuel challenging behaviors. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to communicate when you are in an emotional moment. Kimochis are a playful way to help children (and adults!) learn how to identify and express feelings. When kids can communicate their feelings effectively, they develop positive social skills that lead to lasting friendships and success in all aspects of life. Kimochis teach the fourth “R”—reading, writing, arithmetic, and RELATIONSHIPS. This “R” is the foundation for success in ALL areas of life.
If you need additional information about today’s show contact 
Cindy Putman -
Angie Smith- 931-372-6262


Tune in each Saturday morning at 9:30 for the WCTE Get Ready To Learn Radio Show, with host Cindy Putman on Zimmer Broadcasting's The HUB 107.7 FM and 1400 AM. 

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WCTE’s Educational Team can customize workshops or professional development trainings for your group or organization. For workshop information, or to inquire about scheduling a workshop, call 921-528-2222 x. 227 or email us.

Topics are listed below:

  • Using Media as a learning tool
  • Using PBS kids apps to extend learning
  • How to be your child’s first teacher
  • Sesame Street Workshops
  • How does poverty effect a child’s brain
  • Literacy and Math
  • Brain Development

Workshops can be conducted in English and Spanish.