Recently, I highlighted an article about the Morality of Babies and how this intrinsic sense of right and wrong can be used as an early stepping stone to teach infants about God. Research is also showing that babies are sensitive to other’s emotions (Parents Magazine, July 2010). In fact, by they time they are a few months old, babies can tell the difference between a happy face and a sad one, and respond with a matching expression of their own.
They can figure out more than you think!
Babies can even discern how other’s feel, according to a recent study University of California at Berkeley. In this study, 14-month old children watched as an adult opened one of two boxes placed in front of them. When they opened the first box, they displayed pleasure on their face. With the second box, they seemed disgusted. Then when babies were offered the boxes, most chose to open the “happy box”.
In addition, babies seem to show early signs of empathy. If an adult threw a clothespin to the floor in disgust, babies would leave it sit. But if an adult merely dropped the clothespin, babies would crawl to retrieve it for them.
What does this mean for Children’s Ministry?
We already discussed ways, we might use babies early sense of morality and empathy in the church nursery. Is there more that we can do? I would suggest helping infants in discerning how other’s feel. When several babies are playing together, and one gets upset or starts crying, say to the others “Look, Mary is so sad. What can we do? Maybe we should give her a toy or a hug to help her feel better”. Coach children into exhibiting Christ-like behaviors even before they can speak!
Romans 12:15 tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” It seems infants may already have a more of head start on this than we thought. Let’s continue to encourage this wonderful ability that God has given these precious little ones.