In May 2010, The New York Times ran an interesting article entitled The Moral Life of Babies, written by Paul Bloom. A team of researchers perform a number of experiments that demonstrate babies do indeed have an intrinsic sense of right and wrong:
- Babies would watch a puppet show where a center puppet would slide the ball to a puppet on the right who would pass it back. Then the center puppet would slide the ball to a puppet on the left who would run away with it. One boy (12 months old), when presented with the puppets at the end of the show leaned over and smacked the ball-snatching puppet on the head.
- Babies would watch a animated movie of geometrical shapes with faces. In one, a red ball is trying to go up a hill. Sometimes, a yellow square would help it up the hill. Other times, a green triangle would push against it. Then, the 9-12 month old babies were shown videos where the red ball character approached either the triangle or the square. If the ball approached the triangle (hinderer), the children would act surprised, indicating they expected the red ball to befriend the helper instead.
What does it all mean?
Evidence is mounting that suggests humans do have basic sense of morality from the very start of life. It appears some sense of good and evil “seems to be bred in the bone” (New York Times). Romans 2:15 states that the law of God is written on the hearts of man even if they have never been exposed to Scripture. Does this apply to babies as well? If so, how can we take advantage of this intrinsic morality in our church nurseries? Here are my ideas, but I’d love to hear yours!
Church Nursery Ideas
- Show wordless stories like the geometric shapes experiment above. Use shapes or simple puppets. Focus on godly characteristics and actions like sharing, serving others, helping, standing up for someone, etc. Put “characters” in front of baby and praise them when they choose the moral character.
- Perform Bible stories using puppets or dolls. Simplify it and over-exaggerate feelings. Allow baby to play with dolls or puppets afterwards.
- Role-play with other adults in the room. Act out sharing toys, getting a book for someone, hugging after a little fight, comforting someone if they are sad. After role-playing a few times, include baby and see if they will respond appropriately.
This is a whole new realm for spirituality. We often think of the Church nursery as “baby-sitting”, but what if it could be more? What if we could lay the foundation of spiritual truths before these children are even speaking? It’s a powerful thought to consider.