Science and Social Studies Thursday – Babies

W & C at our wedding

It’s been a baby filled week.  (No, I’m not pregnant and we have no plans to adopt).

The thing with babies is, they grow and change and develop so quickly.  Saturday night we partied hard at Lucy’s one year birthday party.  At the same party we had our shoe laces eaten by 7 month old Nina.  My friend Tahnea gave birth this weekend to a beautiful little girl Lyric.  Tuesday night I visited Rachel, and her babies, Will and Cora, who were born this summer (just in time for mom to be in my wedding party).  The way Lucy interacts with the world is so different from how Nina is interacting with the world, and even more different from how the twins interact with the world.  How Will and Cora interact with the world today is much different than what it was like the last time I was at their house 6 weeks ago.  And Lyric is so tiny and new.  On Saturday night we cheered for Lucy as she stood up on her own and took a first step.  On Tuesday night we cheered for Will and Cora as the rolled onto their tummies and worked on keeping their heads up.  To think that these people who can’t even crawl today will be walking within the next year is absolutely inspiring.

But what’s going on in their brains? What’s happening in babies’ minds?

There was a great TED talk this week about what and how babies think.  If you’ve got 20 minutes to listen to it I’d recommend it.

One of the most interesting ideas in this talk is about empathy, being able to understand what someone else is thinking and feeling.

This is obviously an enormous challenge even for adults.  But it seems that sometime between 15 months and 18 months, babies are able to start to understand that what someone else is feeling and thinking may be different from what they are thinking and feeling.

Another interesting thing about Alison Gopnik’s talk was that all across the animal kingdom, the longer the childhood period is, the larger the brain size and the smarter the animal.  So crows and ravens, who are fed by their mothers and live “at home” longer grow up to be smarter than chickens, who mature in just a matter of months.  Humans, with our extended adolescence into our mid twenties, are obviously quite intelligent, and yet we often think of kids as deficient adults.

Instead, Gopnik says, let’s think of children as the Research and Development department of the human race.  We adults have learned our lessons about the world and now we need to put those lessons into practice.  Let’s let our children explore the world and figure out new things.

As a The Children’s Ministry Coordinator I’m responsible for everyone 8th grade and under at church.  I am most at home with the older kids, but I’m moving from sheer terror to a holy amazement with the babies and toddlers.  I wonder how much we can learn from the littlest of children.  I wonder how much of this Jesus had in mind when he gave ownership of the kingdom to the children.

Gopnik has a few books that look interesting.

The Scientist in the Crib: What Early Learning Tells Us About the Mind and

The Philosophical Baby: What Children’s Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love, and the Meaning of Life

I haven’t read them, but I’m interested.

What lessons have you learned from babies and children?