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Churches for children: dangerous mind-play or harmless fun?

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Churches for children: dangerous mind-play or harmless fun?
11:33 CET+01:00
Keen to keep his daughter occupied, Joel Sherwood finds sanctuary in Sweden's many church play areas. Which beg the question: Are the country's legions of latte mamas soon to be overtaken by a new generation of chapel papas?

On weekdays when my baby daughter and I are looking for a good time we often head off to...churches.

Yep, during my time on paternity leave I've discovered Swedish churches are the place to see and be seen with babies on workdays. A lot of these weekend places of worship second as popular 'öppna förskolor' in the week. Roughly translated, 'öppna förskolor' means 'baby play-area extravaganzas'. Rooms full of toys and games are made accessible free of charge to parents and toddlers of apparently any affiliation, including Danes.

There are usually kitchen facilities available for baby feeding, and coffee and sandwiches on sale for parent feeding. At these sessions, the churches also coordinate activities, like sing-alongs. Basically, it's as good a place as any to go with your infant if you're concerned her first words are going to be: “can we get the hell out of our apartment and go play somewhere else for a change!”

I'm not religious, but to me it initially seemed as counter-intuitive to have churches as hot spots for baby entertainment as it would be for amusement parks to be the place for baptisms. Then I realized it's all a ploy to continue brainwashing the Swedish population. And there clearly is brainwashing going on here. How else to explain the unquestioned worship of herring in this country? Or the complete and utter schlager music glorification? Rational, unbrainwashed people wouldn't willingly do these things.

I must admit, I haven't yet seen any herring at these church playtime bashes. The sing-alongs have so far featured only typical baby songs, not Carola hits. But if there is a mass, national conspiracy warping minds into liking the raw, slimy fish or the cheesy, formulaic jingles – and there must be, no? – I imagine the plot masterminds would want the washing to start on as young brains as possible. These 'öppna förskolor' provide the perfect forum, don't you think?

Ok, maybe the conspiracy theory isn't foolproof. But why else are these churches compelled to turn themselves into weekday baby resorts? It can't be profit. Everything is free except for the coffee, which they sell dirt cheap. They could be after new members. But so far I haven't seen any attempts to woo me into joining, besides the coffee prices.

Maybe the whole initiative really is as it seems: just a friendly, no strings attached community service for families with small children. These churches are simply trying to do something nice, and I'm being cynical by looking for hidden motives.

Well anyway, all this analyzing has made me hungry and tired. I think I'll go have some herring and relax with some Carola tunes.

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