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Just for You > Everyday Godly Play Print Materials > How Children Can Make Meaning

How Children Can Make Meaning

Learn how narrative, wonder, play, and rhythm are used to nurture children's spirituality and foster a way of being that supports children's ability to make meaning.

Making Meaning Through Narrative, Wonder, Play, and Rhythm

Narrative
Research insight from neurobiology confirms this ancient value of repeating stories over time through an emerging understanding of a concept called the compression effect (Lillywhite et al., 2010). Using functional MRI (fMRI) technology, researchers can visualize the expansion of the brain’s engagement upon hearing simple stories repeated (Lillywhite et al., 2010). It follows that story repetition is one of the ways we expand our ability to access foundational stories key to moral and ethical decision-making. One does not need to memorize the entire Bible to grow with and into its profound truths. In a society that values “new!” and “quick and easy!” Foundational faith stories coupled with unique family stories, told with simple materials, in-home or school or church, and repeated over time, are the bedrock of faith formation.

Wonder
Research insight from neurobiology confirms this ancient value of repeating stories over time through an emerging understanding of a concept called the compression effect (Lillywhite et al., 2010). Using functional MRI (fMRI) technology, researchers can visualize the expansion of the brain’s engagement upon hearing simple stories repeated (Lillywhite et al., 2010). It follows that story repetition is one of the ways we expand our ability to access foundational stories key to moral and ethical decision-making. One does not need to memorize the entire Bible to grow with and into its profound truths. In a society that values “new!” and “quick and easy!” Foundational faith stories coupled with unique family stories, told with simple materials, in-home or school or church, and repeated over time, are the bedrock of faith formation.

Play
Research insight from neurobiology confirms this ancient value of repeating stories over time through an emerging understanding of a concept called the compression effect (Lillywhite et al., 2010). Using functional MRI (fMRI) technology, researchers can visualize the expansion of the brain’s engagement upon hearing simple stories repeated (Lillywhite et al., 2010). It follows that story repetition is one of the ways we expand our ability to access foundational stories key to moral and ethical decision-making. One does not need to memorize the entire Bible to grow with and into its profound truths. In a society that values “new!” and “quick and easy!” Foundational faith stories coupled with unique family stories, told with simple materials, in-home or school or church, and repeated over time, are the bedrock of faith formation.

Rhythm
With shifts in the modern social fabric, there are abundant examples of the degradation and loss of predictable rhythms and rituals that previously underpinned family life (Ginsburg et al., 2007). Friesen’s (1990) research determined that rituals excite both brain hemispheres, which results in “deep emotional experiences ...facilitating personal integration and the feeling of well-being” (pp. 46-7). Practical theologians Herbert Anderson and Edward Foley, in their seminal text, Mighty Stories, Dangerous Rituals: Weaving Together the Human and the Divine (2001), underscore the importance of balancing liturgy with the repetition and dependability of ongoing rituals.

Equally important are the rhythms required to cultivate the tensile strength within a family ecosystem. Anderson and Foley’s (2001) book testifies to the rhythm and reliability of ritual as a trust-building and formative experience for all, including families with children. Steiner-Adair and Barker (2014) describe the attributes of a sustainable family as having “the ability of an ecosystem to hold, endure, or bear the weight of a wide variety of social and natural forces which could compromise its healthy operation” (p. 261). Dependable rhythms in the life of families, like faith communities, ‘set the table’ for fostering a sense of well-being, strengthening interpersonal connections, and cultivating a family’s tensile strength that anticipates life’s joys, sorrows, and stressors.

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Agate, S. T., Zabriskie, R. B., & Eggett, D. L. (2007). Praying, Playing, and Successful Families: An Examination of Family Religiosity, Family Leisure, and Family Functioning. Marriage & Family Review, 42(2), 51–75.

Anderson, H. (2001). Mighty Stories Dangerous Rituals (1st edition). Jossey-Bass.

Friesen, J. D. (1990). Rituals and Family Strength. Direction, 19(1), 39–48.

Ginsburg, K. R., and the Committee on Communications, & and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. (2007). The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. Pediatrics, 119(1), 182–191.

Hughes, F. P. (2021). Children, Play, and Development. SAGE Publications.

Lillywhite, L. M., Saling, M. M., Demutska, A., Masterton, R., Farquharson, S., & Jackson, G. D. (2010). The neural architecture of discourse compression. Neuropsychologia, 48(4), 873–879.

Holmes, S. E. (2017). Help or Hindrance? Exploring the effects of Christian nurture upon the whole faith of the child. International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, 22(3/4), 274–290.

Steiner-Adair, C., & Barker, T. H. (2014). The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age (Reprint edition). Harper Paperbacks.

 

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