Have you ever marveled at a little baby trying to mimic the way you were smiling or forming your words? What about the time a toddler shared a window into their way of seeing the world as you built blocks together? Or maybe you got caught off guard by a preschooler’s deep question about heaven?
These amazing little ones in our churches are voracious learners who are constantly building up a worldview and forming relationships. This is why it is so important we help our communities understand that ministry to babies through preschoolers is NOT babysitting – it’s discipleship… and it MATTERS.
Here are 6 amazing facts that reinforce the importance of discipleship in early childhood:
1. Baby talk has an impact!
Science has proven that ‘baby talk’ has significant influence on early language development. The slowness, tone, and eye contact of ‘baby talk equips babies to form word recognition earlier in life. Imagine the way this impacts spiritual formation! How can your volunteers and parents use ‘baby talk’ to help babies learn important words like the name of Jesus and that He loves them?
2. Babies can grasp the meaning of words before they can speak them!
Research from Duke University continues in affirming that babies understand more than they can articulate. There is tremendous value in intentional language and interaction with infants. Let’s encourage our volunteers to remember that the littles they’re holding in nursery are quickly developing learners! As they store up meaning in their brains, let’s ensure we are giving them words to grasp from the Way, the Truth, and the Life!
3. Active toddlers have active brains!
There is a reason the toddler room is full of energy! It’s important to remember that active toddlers are active learners- their brain activity is off the charts when they’re moving. Not only that, but they really do have energy they need to burn, so we can’t expect them to keep still all morning. A UK study showed that toddlers can burn as much energy in a day that in an adult would be the equivalent of running a marathon! When we are ministering to toddlers in our churches, let’s make sure we encourage movement to reinforce the Bible and the truth of God’s love for them!
4. Playing builds strong bonds!
Playing is an important job that littles have to do! Not only does it build cognitive learning connections in their brain, but researchers and developmental psychologists affirm that play is critical to the formation of relational and emotional development. Play builds relationships with littles, and it is crucial to the discipleship of the precious ones in our early childhood ministries. Encourage your volunteers to engage in play (rather than primarily observe play) when they can- it will make eternal differences!
5. Preschooler’s brains are twice as busy as the brains of college students!
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to grasp what is happening inside a preschooler’s brain? Two times more is happening than the average college student and three times more is happening than the average adult! These brilliant learners are making connections CONSTANTLY, so it is no wonder they have to “blow off steam” sometimes. When little ones are melting down, it’s important to create safe and supportive spaces where grace is our reflex. Even though preschoolers are learning a lot, they’re still little children and do not have the ability to cope, process, and reason the way adults do. An important aspect of discipleship with preschoolers is our ability to model the kindness and compassion of Jesus when they’re navigating big emotions.
6. Music accelerates language acquisition and memory skills in little ones!
Early childhood experts agree that musical experiences in early childhood not only accelerate language development and acquisition, but also expands their memory skills. This coordination between the mind and the body drives concepts deeper into the brain. Worship matters for a little one’s connection to God and His Word!
BONUS: We created 6 images that highlight these amazing facts about little ones so you can share them with your community. Post them on social media, or text them to your volunteer team. These are meant to encourage you and your team as you disciple the precious little ones in your church!