From birth, babies learn about their world through the five senses. Within a week, your newborn can smell the difference between your breast and that of another nursing mother. Hearing matures around three months and sight at about seven months. You can use your baby's developing senses to teach her about Jesus.
Taste and Smell
At birth, a newborn's taste and smell are the most developed senses. It's never too early to start saying a simple grace: "Thank you for food, God" or "Lord, bless this food."
If you're breastfeeding, saying grace before nursing may feel a little strange at first. Remember that mother's milk is a gift of God, so we should thank him for it.
Your baby learns your moods and emotions by your touch. The American Academy of Pediatrics says you send "a clearer message of love and affection" for your child through touch.
One simple way to build faith is to place your hand on your baby's heart and say, "God loves you." Changing "you" to your child's name personalizes it even more.
When our son Kenneth, nicknamed "Kiwi," turned 2 months old, we started using touch to help him learn about his body and his Creator. When we changed Kiwi's clothes, we touched various parts of his body and said, "God made Kiwi's hands, God made Kiwi's feet," and so on. Sometimes we sing the old spiritual "Dry Bones" and touch each body part as we sing about it.
Touch can also add to finger-play devotions. For example, you can place your hand on your baby's heart when you say the word "love" in a devotion. A devotion with touch may lead to little hands on yours. These moments of spontaneous affection are gifts of God. (For more ideas, see "Devotions for the Littlest Ones," Nov/Dec 1997.)
A Noah's Ark quilt or a picture of Jesus can be an important visual symbol for your baby. Faces appeal to babies at around three months, even before sight is fully developed. At Christmas you might show your baby a picture of the Christ Child and say, "Jesus was a baby, too."
Your baby may want to try to participate in bedtime devotions. We let Kenneth see us putting the older children to bed, so he knows the routine of prayer and song at bedtime. Now Kiwi sleeps through the night when we do "his" devotion and sing him a song. Seven-year-old Ian is proud of helping teach his baby brother faith, and his mom and I are thankful for the sleep!
When grace is said, your child may start to vocalize loudly. He's trying to say grace with you. If your baby is doing this, it means he expects grace and wants to be part of it. You're doing your job right.
Remember that devotions at this age register. Your child may not understand all the words, but he sees that this matters to you. That helps set the pattern for faith later in life.
© 1998 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today Magazine. For reprint information call 630-260-6200 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.