This week is related to one of my favorite articles and areas of study in developmental psychology. Plus, I love hearing my little girl say “octopus,” and she said it a lot when we made our toilet paper roll craft!
Moral development is a hot topic at any age, but it is so interesting to study in infants because they are “fresh” humans that have yet to be so influenced by culture or socialization. One of the reasons that early child development exists is to give us a greater understanding of human nature – to investigate what humans are born understanding and liking, before the influence of societal norms. This is a great time to study gender differences, for instance, before little girls are introduced to Disney princesses 🙂 We can learn a lot about human nature from studying humans in their infancy.
So, what kind of moral compass are we born with? Is there evidence of an absolute set of morals? Do we know, across cultures, what is right and wrong before we are taught by our parents? Developmental researchers at Yale University came out with a study in 2007 (Hamlin, J. K., Wynn, K., & Bloom, P. (2007). Social evaluation by preverbal infants. Nature, 450, 557-560.) that seemed to prove that infants as young as 6 and 10 months can tell a difference between what is “nice” and “mean,” in terms of helping or hindering, and prefer someone who is nice and helpful. They watched as a triangle character (with googly eyes) helped a circle character up a mountain, but a square character pushed the circle down the mountain, even though the circle clearly wanted to climb up the mountain. Check out the videos of what they showed infants and how the infants chose the “nice,” helping triangle over the “mean,” hindering square. The 6-month-olds and the 10-month-olds both clearly preferred the helpful triangle over the mean square. They made a social judgment about who was desirable at this young, fresh age, before they can even talk.
This research has gotten a lot of attention, due to its interesting implications, and has been replicated many times. The New York Times even put out its take on the findings. One thing I take from this evidence is that we were all created with a knowledge of an absolute set of right and wrong. We know what is good and bad, but that doesn’t mean we always choose good, even if that’s what we know is best. My little girl has begun sneaking stuff she knows she is not supposed to do, but that in itself is evidence that she knows what is right even when she is choosing wrong. We want to do right, but we fall short, and that is what points us to a God, to Jesus Christ, who came and died so that our wrongs can be forgiven and wiped clean by His precious blood that was shed on the cross. Then, the Holy Spirit can empower us to do what we know is right, and we can be free of sin and have peace with God. How wonderful it is that Jesus first came as a baby…
CRAFT/ACTIVITY: Toilet paper roll Octopus (Source: Kids Activities Blog)
We are making our own little characters to play pretend. This was very easy; the hard part was collecting enough toilet paper rolls for our whole class!
We started off by painting a base coat of craft paint, just to be cuter.
At home, I let my little one paint how she wanted (after putting on a craft smock) with a brush and some paint in a paper cup.
After letting it dry, I cut 8 tentacles, kind of pizza style to make them each about the same size, before rolling them up to curl. I could have used a pen or paintbrush for rolling, but fingers worked fine. Then, I stuck on googly eyes with double-sided tape (just for fun), and drew on a mouth. Ta-da!
These are both fun, up-beat songs you can dance and come up with motions to have a party! This link has a pdf of the motions for Skiddamarink.
The Pigeon books by Mo Willems are all about moral dilemmas, haha! Also, we love 9 Fruits Alive by Mindy MacDonald. The link has our take and photo.