Multiple times a year on the ABCJesusLovesMe Facebook group parents beg for ideas to keep children quiet during church. Especially with Covid restrictions, many churches don’t offer viable options for younger children during “big church.” What’s a parent to do?
Continuing the series of ideas on how to attend church with young children, last week I encouraged you to set healthy, age-appropriate, and realistic expectations. Today, let’s look at some simple tips to help children be successful during the quiet part of the worship service.
1. Attend church regularly.
Whether in bedtime routine or mealtime expectations, children need consistency. It is through the repeat of activities that children learn expected behavior and routine. Church is no different. It takes regular attendance for children to develop good habits. Even if things don’t go perfect one week, attend the next week and the next to show your child that church is important to your family.
2. Allow movement and noise when it is appropriate.
Don’t use quiet activities until the quiet points of the worship time. This mean waiting to pull out snacks and the bag of quiet play until the sermon begins. Involve the child in the active worship time by participating in the singing, standing, and movement sections of the service. This lessens the amount of time the child is required to sit quietly. Looking at the math, sitting for 30 minutes during the sermon is much easier than sitting for 60 minutes.
Here are some examples. When the congregation stands, assist the child in standing. If using a hymnal, gently hold the child’s hand (hand over hand) and point to the words as you sing. If your child needs to use the restroom, leave when the congregation is standing or during meet and greet, if possible. To limit surprises, set expectations with your spouse prior to attending.
3. Provide quiet time activities.
Once the sermon begins, provide the child with a quiet activity to occupy his hands, while still allowing his mind to listen. Bring to church only a few items for the quiet time (less is more) and allow the child to pick between two options at a time.
Here are a few ideas to get your started. (This post contains affiliate links.)
- The Crayola Color Wonder Pads and Markers are amazing and we only used them at church. This way my children had something special and new to occupy their attention.
- Book of stickers like the Melissa and Doug Sticker Collections are great.
- Dolls or Polly Pockets are great for little hands. Some kids play very quietly with matchbox cars and small Lego sets.
- Usborne has created wonderful “I Spy” type of books. (Be sure to train children to look on their own without talking with you about what they have found.)
- Dry Erase Board and markers are great for children who like to draw. (Be care with the marker on good clothes!)
- Contact the church to know what Bible story will be covered to allow the child to color a worksheet from a Bible coloring book that represents the sermon passage. Or, on blank sheets of paper let your child draw a picture to represent the Bible story.
- There are a plethora of quiet sensory toys available on Amazon.
- Pipecleaners or clothes pins and bobby pins on a piece of cardstock can occupy a child for a long time. Have the child bend the pipecleaners or sort the pins and move them to certain sides of the small cardstock paper.
If your child begins to talk or babble, oftentimes a simple reminder whispered in the ear or a gentle finger on the child’s lips will quiet the child. It is normal for a child to forget and a gentle reminder that church will be over soon can help.
Without going into all of the details, dangers, and statistics of why, please do not give the child an electronic to keep them quiet. Children can learn (and it is important to learn) to participate in a church service.
4. Snacks are golden.
Often times, church runs close to meal time and little bodies get hungry. Snacks can give the extra boost to help the child be successful.
Depending on the child’s age, set the expectations for snacks prior to church beginning. If you expect the child to wait until a certain time or if they have to draw for a certain amount of time, let the child know this before church. To limit disruption, also discuss with the child what she is to do with her trash.
My favorite snack for toddlers is dry cereal. With the child sitting on my lap, I place one piece of dry cereal in my hand and make a fist. The child lifts one of my fingers at a time to get his “prize.” This makes snack time last longer and occupies the child’s attention (as well as provides some great fine motor practice). Sometimes I add 2-3 pieces at a time as a special surprise.
For older children, suckers can keep children quiet for quite a while! But remember, don’t use the snack until you absolutely need it.
5. Choose wisely where to sit.
Church is a place for the body of Christ to encourage each other and grow in their understanding of God. I never want my family to be a hinderance in this.
Choosing where to sit depends on the size and layout of your sanctuary. Also take into consideration where others sit.
Personally I always sat in the back and on an aisle so that I could easily leave if necessary. This minimized distracts for others and reduced my stress to keep my children still. Some people feel it is better to sit closer to the front as it limits distractions for their children allowing them to be more engaged with what is happening on the stage.
Acknowledge those who are understanding of little kids and those who aren’t as comfortable with noise and distraction. Be sure to sit around other families who have the same expectations in church for their children. This helps reinforce what you are training when your children’s peers have the same expectations.
In writing this post, I sought the advice of my aunt, a retired teacher and fantastic momma of 5 grown children and 17 grandchildren. She shared the importance of not causing your baby to be a distract to those behind you. Without you realizing, simply turning your baby (or child) around to make eye contact with those behind can be a distraction from what the speaker is saying and reading from the Word. Who doesn’t love a baby grin?
While this is just a drop in the bucket of tips, no quiet time activity, snack, or planning will keep a child quiet if she is not trained to play or snack quietly. This training comes at home.
And that is what we will cover in next week’s blog post.
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