God’s Amazing Little Warriors
Out of the mouths
of babes and nursing infants
You [GOD] have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence
the foe and the avenger.
Psalm 8: 2 (NKJV)
What do scientific studies show that might give us insight into why God chooses to ordain strength from the mouths of infants?
How can infants actually use what they learn from before birth until three years of age that would silence the enemy of their souls?
Two Stories of Children Impacted by God's Word
Wesley was amazing! Wesley's parents were startled when they heard their young son quoting the New Testament. They had not taught him to do so.
I met Wesley when he was eight years old. Wesley had the New Testament memorized and also much of the Old Testament. He loved to talk about the kings of Israel, what happened in their kingdom when they obeyed God and what happened when they did not follow God.
When I questioned his parents about what was going on before Wesley was born and during his infancy and early childhood years, they told me Wesley's father was in seminary. The father was memorizing the New Testament, and parts of the Old Testament, saying it over and over in Wesley's hearing. Little Wesley had simply absorbed God's Word because it was repeated in his hearing. As an adult, Wesley became a pastor and later taught at a seminary. Infants simply absorb what is repeated in their environment.
Kylie: "Mommy, why you cry?" 2-year-old Kylie came into the room to find her mother sobbing. Kylie's mom pulled her daughter close, working hard to calm her sobs. "I'm just missing your daddy." Kylie's dad had passed away unexpectedly when Kylie was 2 months old. Little Kylie looked up into her mom's tear-stained face and said this, "Mommy, it's OK. God's way is perfect, even when sad things happen. We'll see Daddy in heaven." When Kylie's mom told me this story, we were both in tears.
Where had Kylie learned "God's way is perfect even when sad things happen"? In her toddler Sunday school class. The story for the month was about Joseph. Sad things happened in Joseph's life. The memory verse of the month was "God's way is perfect" Psalm 18:30. The theme was, "God's way is perfect, even when sad things happen." Toddlers may be small, but the Holy Spirit and God's Word in them is not small.
When the Word of God is in the mouth of a toddler, the Holy Spirit empowers them to use God's Word to accomplish His purposes. "A little child shall lead them." Isaiah 11:6b
Infants' Incredible Brains
According to Glen Doman, founder of the Better Baby Institute, there are rapid learning enzymes in infants' brains that begin to diminish after age three. For example, this enzyme enables babies to learn several languages at the same time by the time they are 2 to 3 years old.
An infant's brain at 17 weeks of pregnancy is equipped with one billion brain cells (more than the adult brain), to which are added 50,000 each second, ready to form the foundation of whom he or she will become. How the brain cells are connected to each other is determined by what the infant is exposed to during the last trimester of pregnancy through the first 3 to 5 years of life.[i]
Babies absolutely love to learn whatever you teach them. They bond deeply with whoever will teach them new things as opposed to someone who just plays with them. They love to learn the sounds of letters, names of things, and what the words for those things look like. They even love to learn math! But how do we use what we know about the way they learn to accomplish God's heart and goals?
God is the Master Builder. God invites us to partner with Him to build solid foundations on the bedrock of His Word in the lives of children. God wants that foundation strong enough to stand the storms of life. Jesus said, "Whoever hears My Words, and does them, is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." Matthew 7:24
God's heart for children is for His Word to be planted in the fertile soil of their hearts. God Word is alive and powerful, able to put a divine stop against evil, comfort them when sad things happen, and empower them to silence the "foe and the avenger." As we bond with them as parents and caregivers, we must also bond them to their Heavenly Father, Jesus their Savior, and Holy Spirit Who gives them power, love, and sound, happy minds. 
The following is a quote from Lee Ann Mancini, an adjunct professor at South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary. She is an award-winning Christian children's author. The scientific research I have seen and my own experiences confirm her conclusions.
The Most Critical Time for Learning is the First Three Years of Life
"Ninety percent of a child’s brain develops within the first five years of life. However, the most critical time for learning language and speech is within the first three years of life... "The first three years see the most rapid changes of all of life... At this time, the brain is the most flexible and prepared to learn." [ii]
As Christian parents and educators, we must get those first three years right. We must build a foundation of God’s Word that will equip “God's Little Warriors” to fulfill God's purposes for their lives—to silence the “foe and the avenger.”
What Does the Bible Say About Equipping Children?
"Therefore, you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
"And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, "that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land." (Deuteronomy 11:18-21, New King James Version. Emphasis is mine.)
As a child, I remember Bible verse plaques and pictures containing Bible verses on the walls of our home. Those scripture verses became very important to me. God and His Wod was a big part of our family life.
Other principles God showed me for equipping our children are found in Jesus' prayer in John 17:14-24.
"I have given them Your Word. ...
I’m not asking You to take them out of the world,
but to keep them safe from the evil one. ...
Make them holy by Your Truth;
teach them Your Word, which is Truth.
Just as You sent me into the world,
I am sending them into the world.
And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them,
so they can be made holy by Your Truth."
One day, as I was meditating on Jesus' prayer in John 17, I realized I needed to sanctify myself—dedicate my time and energy as a parent and teacher—as a "holy sacrifice" for my children and students so they can be made holy by God's Truth. God asking me this, "Are you willing to do whatever it takes to empower children with My Word? Are you willing to joyfully put My Word into their hearts and mouths so they will silence the foe and avenger?"
That is not an easy question to answer. So many things clamor for time and energy. However, the rewards are immense when the answer is, "Yes, Lord, send me! I began to pray for myself, "Turn my eyes away from worthless things! Help my heart to be one with the Father's heart. Keep my eyes on His goals. Deliver me and the children in my life from the evil one."
God's Word Equipped 5-year-old to Stand Strong.
I heard this story from Lydia's parents at a seminar designed to help parents equip small children with strong foundations of God's Word. Before Lydia was born, the parents played the audio Bible through ear phones into the womb each day and the mother also read the Bible out loud. After Lydia was born, the parents either read the Bible out loud to her or an audio version was heard in the home daily.
When Lydia was in kindergarten, Lydia's teacher complained to her parents that Lydia absolutely refused to color the coloring page for the day. Lydia dad asked her, "Why wouldn't you color the coloring page today?" Lydia answered, "aw, dad! You know the Bible says witches are bad." Her parents had never discussed witches with Lydia. However, God's Word planted in the soil of her heart gave her discernment and courage to stand strong when asked to do what she felt was wrong—to color a picture of a witch.
An Example for Christians from Muslims.
Not long ago, I was invited to attend the birth of a baby of one of the Afghan ladies I tutor. Muslim families who practice their religion often have the Quran playing in the home. Before birth, their babies hear the Quran daily. Immediately after birth, the oldest male in the family reads the first chapter of the Quran into the ears of the child. It would be wonderful if Christian parents would give the same importance to God's Word. Praise God for those who do.
Muslim grandfather reading the Quran into the ears of a new-born baby .
Infant's Preferences Established Before Birth
In the Better Baby Institute, we were told of a study that demonstrated that what a fetus is exposed to before birth affects the child's preferences after birth. In this study, the researchers had several moms each read a Dr. Seuss book to their unborn child daily. After birth, the researchers watched the babies' responses as the mothers read the same book, then read a different Dr. Seuss book to the baby. The babies showed a definite preference to the book the mother had read before birth, but not to the different book. (Here is a website where science writer Annie Murphy Paul talks through new research that shows how much we learn in the womb: https://www.ted.com/talks/annie_murphy_paul_what_we_learn_before_we_re_born)
A more recent study demonstrated a similar conclusion, only using better technology. This is what it showed:
"By the time they're born, babies prefer and recognize their mother's voice. In one study, doctors gave day-old infants pacifiers that were connected to tape recorders. Depending on the babies' sucking patterns, the pacifiers either turned on a tape of their mother's voice or that of an unfamiliar woman's voice. The amazing result: 'Within 10 to 20 minutes, the babies learned to adjust their sucking rate on the pacifier to turn on their own mother's voice,' says the study's coauthor William Fifer, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. 'This not only points out a newborn's innate preference for his mother's voice but also a baby's unique ability to learn quickly." (For the full article click here, "What Babies Learn in the Womb")
Born Language Learners
My granddaughter, Amanda, is an example of both language learning and preferences being set in the womb. At 18months, she was listening to her favorite worship tape. My daughter, Milea, and I were talking at the kitchen table. Amanda came over to the table and pointed to the salt shaker looking very puzzled, saying "Salt - salt?" It suddenly dawned on me—she was connecting the salt to the song she was listening to: "Be exalted. Be exalted. Be e’xalt’ed, Oh LORD!" It seemed she was wondering why we should salt God.
Babies probably don't reason like this, but babies do draw their own conclusions about words.
Recently, Milea told me the rest of the story. Before Amanda was born and in early infancy, Milea and her husband Steve played one specific worship tape to her. The song "Be Exalted" by Pete Sandez was on that tape. Perhaps that's why Amanda loved the songs on that tape so much. Amanda's preferences were indeed formed before birth and in early infancy.
A Lesson About How Much 3-year-olds Can Learn
When attending the Early Childhood Education program of the University of the Nations in Hawaii, I watched in amazement as a three-year-old boy stood and quoted the first chapter and part of the second chapter of Genesis, and an explanation of how the story of creation and Adam and Eve related to Jesus. How had he learned it?
It so happened that during the quiet Montessori activities, before science time, the teachers usually played a 13-minute audio tape recording of what this little boy was quoting. The words were spoken with soft music in the background on the recording.
On this day, the tape broke. The teacher said, "The science tape broke today. Who would like to say the words from the tape?" Many children raised their hands. To my utter surprise, the teacher picked this three-year-old boy who quoted the tape! When he would pause to think of the next word, the other children filled it in. They all had it memorized! I was astounded!
The instructors told me they discovered the children had this tape memorized when they heard the children quoting the tape on the playground!
Infants and Toddlers Rapidly Calculate How to Get What They Want.
Babies and toddlers make very rapid and complicated calculations about how life works and what is important to caregivers. Babies, toddlers and young children do what works: if it doesn't work, they stop doing it. Toddlers know how to manipulate their care givers to get what they want.
An Example of Parenting Skills: One day I offered to care for a friend’s daughter, Lisa when she was almost three. I needed to go to the grocery store and wanted to take Lisa with me. The mother said, "Oh NO! Don't take her to the store. She will beg for things. If you don't get her what she wants, she will throw a fit and scream until you give it to her." I decided to test my skills as a certified parent educator, and assured the mom that I could handle it.
Before we went into the store, I told Lisa if she begged for something, I would ignore her. I demonstrated what "ignoring" would look like by turning my back to her. I also told her when we were through shopping, she could have a coin for the candy machine. Lisa was good for the first isle. Then she saw something she wanted and began to beg. I turned my back to her. Her begging got louder and louder. I turned around and said with a twinkle in my eye, "Remember, I'm ignoring you." She got quiet. She was good for two more isles, then began to beg again. I turned my back to her. This time, she immediately stopped begging. When we were through, Lisa got her treat.
Back home, Lisa asked for a cookie. Since I like to say ‘yes’ first, then state the conditions, I said, "Sure. As soon as we have lunch, you can have a cookie." Lisa screamed, "AAAAAA! I want it NOW!" I turned my back to her. Lisa stopped mid-scream and said matter-of-factly, "Oh! That doesn't work with you, does it?" I just laughed and said, "No it doesn't. Let's have lunch and then you can have your cookie."
Infants - Amazing Learning Geniuses
Dr. Alison Gopnik says, "Babies are very good at taking in lots of information from a lot of different sources at once." Adults can't do that. "We are wrong when we say babies and young children are bad at paying attention or that their attention span is short. In truth, they are bad at NOT paying attention!" In other words, they are multitasking. That's why the children in the preschool class where I interned could memorize a 13-minute tape while busy doing their Montessori activities.
Psychologist Alison Gopnik in her YouTube TED talk "What Do Babies Think?" says, "Babies and young children are like the Research and Development division of the human species, ..."The baby's brain is the most powerful learning computer on the planet."
God built into infants and little children the urge to run every new thing they encounter through a set of scientific tests! What does it taste like? What happens when I shake it or bang it on a table or throw it on the floor? Can I pull it apart or tear it? Will it fit in my ear? How about my nose?
Infants test people as well. They analyze to see what another person will do if (insert any action a baby might do!). They figure out who they can trust (including the dog!). They rapidly learn who will care for them, help them learn and interact with them, and who won't. They will mimic the behavior of others.
Infants' RAGE to Learn.
I once read a study demonstrating that babies are far more attracted to someone who will teach them something new, than to those who interact with them on a surface level. (See the study here).
An interesting article, Early Brain Development, by Phyllis Porter, M.A., explains how God has wired infants' brains for rapid learning.
Her article says in part, "By the 17th week of pregnancy, the fetus already has 1 billion brain cells, more than the adult brain. These cells are proliferating at a rate of 50,000 / second. ... At birth, the distinct areas of the brain are all in place ...
“Within each part of the brain are millions of neurons (nerve cells) that are connected to each other by synapses. These trillions of synapses and the pathways they form make up the wiring of the brain. The number and organization of these connections influence everything, from the ability to recognize letters to the maintenance of relationships. Neurons develop rapidly before birth. After birth, brain development consists of wiring and rewiring the connections (synapses) between neurons. “New synapses are formed while others are pruned away. Between birth and eight months, the synapses are formed more quickly. There may be 1,000 trillion synapses in the brain at 8 months...
“Early experiences, both positive and negative, have a dramatic effect on this formation of synapses. The brain operates on the 'use it or lose it' principle. Only those connections and pathways that are frequently used are retained.
“At 3 months the brain has the potential to distinguish several hundred spoken sounds. Over the next few months the brain organizes itself to recognize only the sounds it hears.
“During early childhood the brain retains its ability (plasticity) to discriminate sounds it has discarded (i.e., not yet organized). As an analogy, think of putting something into the ‘trash’ on your computer. You can still retrieve that information out of the trash as long as it has not been deleted. This is why young children can easily learn foreign languages accent-free. After age ten, this plasticity is lost (the trash was emptied). Children can still learn foreign languages but more effort is required.
“It is from early infancy to early childhood that these vital connections are made permanent. As we mature, the brain physically changes due to outside experiences. The first three years see the most rapid changes of all of life due to the bombardment of experience (everything is new!). At this time, the brain is most flexible and prepared to learn.
“Touch, talking, tasting, seeing, and smelling all build connections if done in a loving, consistent, and predictable manner. These connections die if not maintained. If there are no experiences, the connections are pruned back and the brain remains small.
“Children Raised in Deprived Environments (such as the Romanian orphanages in the 1990s) experience fewer sounds, colors, pictures, interactions and sights. Their brains are smaller than those of children who grow up in sensually rich environments within meaningful relationships. When doctors studied the brains of children from deprived environments, there is a strong resemblance to brains of Alzheimer's patients." (Romanian 'Orphans': Half a million kids survived Romania's 'slaughterhouses of souls.’ GlobalPost December 28, 2015 · By Vlad Odobescu)
What Wires Infant's Brains for Learning? What care givers do with infants, prenatally through infancy and up to three years of age, not only determines the child's preferences for good or bad, but also determines their ability to learn, and to interact socially. The more a baby learns, the more they will be able to learn the rest of their lives. They learn how to learn in infancy because their brains are wired to learn and brain cells are retained by early learning rather than being discarded.
Since the body literally destroys brain cells that are not used as an infant, the "use it or lose it" principle is never more true than pre-birth to 3 or 4 years of age. A child needs to be presented with activities, rich learning experiences, interactions, etc. These experiences organize, arrange and connect brain cells, but do not add new brain cells. As Phyllis Porter says, "Brain cells that are not connected and organized are put in the trash bin and deleted, much like you would delete contents of your computer's trash folder."
(I encourage those who work with infants and children to read Phyllis Porter's other articles - see end notes, below.)
When we as caregivers, parents, grandparents and teachers put God's Word in the hearts and mouths of infants, we partner with God to "ordain strength" in them and, at the same time, increase the child's ability to learn.
Consider this: When we joyfully put the Word of God into the mouths of infants, we are equipping children with God's armor: The belt of God's Truth, the breastplate of God's righteousness, the shield of faith, God's thought that are the helmet to protect their minds, and the Sword of the Spirit—the Word of God. We are indeed equipping them to be God's little warriors, ordained by God with spiritual, physical, mental, emotional, and social strength and excellence to do Psalm 8:2.
Ancient Hebrews understood this. That is why they used Psalm 119 to teach their children the Hebrew alphabet.
End Notes and YouTube Resources
[i] More by Phillis Porter, M.A.
[ii] An 18-month-old Learns to Read Because Parents Taught Sign Language.
Why it is Important for Newborns to Move - tips for brain growth. The Importance of Physical Activity for Children, Baby Exercise. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqrNaZTR8MM
Human Connection Between Babies and the Adults in Their Lives:
Read, Speak, Sing: Fun Ideas for You and Your Baby
Singing, rhyming and storytelling are other great ways to nurture your baby’s early literacy skills and to promote their love of reading in the future.
For more tips and ideas, visit: www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/read_speak_sing_to_your_baby
University of Washington study: Early Learning and the Brain.
Research focuses on how infant and adult brains process language, our understanding of critical periods in learning, cognitive development and social understanding in infants, children, and adults. Video courtesy UWTV.
Dr. Andrew Meltzoff - YouTube Videos of his Research
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
Children are born learning.
Nineteen hour old babies in a hospital setting will imitate an adult sticking out his tongue or opening his mouth before the infant has ever seen a reflection of its own face.
Children are wired for learning from the culture in which they are brought up. Part of this is their intense interest in socially imitating the people around them.
"Children pay extraordinary attention to the gestures and actions of other people and use imitation to learn about the actions and rituals in their culture as well as the ways that people in their culture use tools and machines."
Children are acutely aware of intention: integrating information not only about what a person did but what they meant to do.
Children have an innate capacity to integrate complex information about adult behavior, intention, and approval.
Dr. Meltzoff walks through anecdotes and data from the ~5,000 children per year seen by I-LABS.
Quote from this article: “Usually when you enter a room packed with cots filled with children, the expectation is of noise, chatter or crying, sometimes even a whimper. There was none, even though the children were awake. They lay in their cots, sometimes two to each cot, sometime three, their eyes staring. Silently. It was eerie, almost sinister. The smell, with which I became familiar in the months and years visiting the institutions throughout Romania, was rank.” Staff ignored the children in their rusting metal cots. There were no toys or books around, and the walls were empty of paintings and murals, he recalled. “They were inhuman,” he said. “Stalls where children, babies, were treated like farm animals. No, I am wrong — at least the animals felt brave enough to make a noise.” Most of these children grew up to be dysfunctional adults.
Millie has included - and will be adding more and more - fun, proven, and effective ways to work with children at home, child care, Sunday school and preschool settings.