Toddlers studied at Aurora University

Sure, Katie could manage the various challenges she faced in the toddler motor-development lab at Aurora University.

That didn’t mean she was going to do them.

“She can do everything they want her to do,” said her mom, Lori Kreinbrink of Sandwich. “But she’s stubborn and likes to say no.”

The 23-month-old Katie had just respectfully declined a request to walk on a foam balance beam on the floor of AU’s Thornton Gymnasium.

“She’s inquisitive and stubborn,” Kreinbrink said.

As if on cue, Katie tried to ditch her two student evaluators and hustled in the direction of a basket of balls.

The 12th annual lab gave some 30 students, many of whom have little contact with small children, a chance to observe kids in all their toddling glory.

“It’s going to be an eye-opener for them,” professor Alicia Cosky promised beforehand. “I always tell folks it’s the best form of birth control.”

The students, from Cosky’s physical education class and Christina Krause’s child- and adolescent-development course, put the little ones through their paces. On mats around the gym, they stacked cups, colored, used scissors, played with blocks, looked at books, ran an obstacle course, all ways of testing their gross motor and fine motor development. Even their ability to grasp Cheerios was evaluated.

Despite Cosky’s warnings, the toddlers were on their best behavior. Oh, there was the occasional screech, maybe some tears, but by and large they were pros.

Take Nathan, for example. The 16-month-old had just walked up and down some stairs while holding a foam brick. Afterward he saw his mother, Jana Crisci of Aurora, and broke into a hey-ma-look-at-what-I-did grin.

The one-hour lab gave Nathan a chance to get out of the house, a change of scenery, his mother explained.

“That and a chance to get a little feedback on his development. The skills he possesses,” she said.

Nearby, 3-year-old Rachel was a reluctant participant in the obstacle course, a series of hoops, hurdles and colorful marked spots on the floor that she had to walk over. Holding her mother’s hand, she gingerly circled the course. Once through it, though, she realized it wasn’t such a big deal and reran it alone, quickly and confidently. Although she did blow off the last two hurdles to return to Mom, who had her hands full with protesting 17-month-old twins Ryan and Hailey.

Within a few minutes, though, all three of the kids were acclimated and participating happily.

“They’re not in too many situations when I’m not with them,” explained their mom, Julie Adams of Batavia. “Once they got warmed up, they were fine.”