Splash!

How Babies Think!

Baby Science

"Over the last decade, researchers in fields like neuroscience and developmental psychology have made astounding discoveries about the capabilities and potential of children from birth to three," reports Dawn Rundman. Rundman is the lead development editor for Splash! birth to three faith formation resources at Augsburg Fortress. "These scientists report that until recently, they had no idea that infants and young children could learn as early, as much, and as quickly as they do."

Babies Are Big Business

Rundman, who holds a doctoral degree in developmental psychology, describes the business world's reaction to these scientific results. "Thousands of products have been developed in response to this research. Just look at the array of brain-based toys, books, videos, and other products now available. Toys used to be good enough if they were developmentally appropriate. Now toy makers tout that their toys actually enhance development, citing research findings in areas like learning, memory, music, and social interactions."

Brands for Babies

Marketing research suggests that companies treat young children as customers who are able to recognize brands. "These findings on children's capabilities can be misinterpreted, even abused. In some companies, the bottom line is more important than the well-being of children," claims Rundman. "Additionally, advertising directed at parents may suggest that if they don't purchase such-and-such a toy, they will somehow be jeopardizing their child's development."

Congregations: Good for Baby!
"A church - and especially worship time in that church - provides experiences for infants and toddlers that can enhance and stimulate development in so many areas: physical, social, emotional, sensory, and cognitive."
Rundman asserts that congregations are in a great position to respond to this research. "A church - and especially worship time in that church - provides experiences for infants and toddlers that can enhance and stimulate development in so many areas: physical, social, emotional, sensory, and cognitive." Rundman point to the social, multisensory nature of worship. "Where else can babies and toddlers interact with dozens of friendly people of many ages? Where else can they hear so many types of music? Where else do they see vivid colors, images, and symbols that aren't commercial brands or logos? The church is a unique place for development to happen."

Rundman also emphasizes that church is one of the only settings in our society that is safe, intergenerational, and not trying to sell anything to kids and their parents. "Instead of brand names, slogans, and logos, the church's message is rooted in one image - the cross, which reminds us of Jesus' unending love for us. A church can be a sanctuary from the media-saturated world that a family must face. This community of people expands our understanding of family to include people of many ages and backgrounds who care deeply for a child."

What's the most important reason for congregations to respond to the birth to three research? Baptism!
What's the most important reason for congregations to respond to the birth to three research? "Baptism!" Rundman declares. "A congregation needs to support parents in fulfilling the promise they make at their child's baptism. Those three splashes of water signify the beginning of a wondrous journey as a child of God." But many parents aren't certain about their role in this journey. They need reassurance that the spiritual development of their young child can happen during their everyday activities, not during some separate set-aside religion time. Rundman, a new parent herself, knows that parents of young children don't have much time to spare. "New parents need ideas, they need affirmation from other parents and grandparents, they need prayers - and their faith community is just the place to give them what they need. This support can help parents fulfill their baptismal promise of raising their child in the faith. And remember, congregation members also make a promise during the child's baptism."

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