As my children are not grown this is of course still a work in progress! However with my youngest being 4 we are over some of the hardest times and we made it through and enjoyed going to church the whole time. Today I thought I would tell about some things that helped me to enjoy and get the most out of church even while having young children. I would really love if all of you would chime in a share you tricks and tips too! I certainly don't have everything figured out in fact sometimes even now my children will do something in church that will totally leave me wanting to hide. But life goes on and over all going to church goes pretty smoothly!
I thought I might preface my tips by mentioning that I know their are a wide variety of ideas out there on kids and church. Some are very conservative (no toys, no noise, just sit there and pay attention!) while others are pretty liberal about what their kids are allowed to do. I would consider myself to be somewhere in between. I want my kids to be quiet and try to listen but I do let them have toys, books and even snacks depending on their age. Here are odds and ends of ideas that have worked for me in having kids that enjoy going to church and a mom that can enjoy being there and participating too all without (at least not usually!) bothering the other church goers.
The only photo I could find of one of my kids in a pew- my Mom and Megan
- When they were babies I nursed them right in the pew/chair. Nobody even noticed but it certainly kept my baby happy. They also sleep a lot when they are really little.
- A pacifier was nice. However Mara was the only one that seemed to think it was worth anything of my children. But with her I did like it for during church.
- As they got a little bigger I would bring a bag with little things in it that they could look at. I made sure that none of them were rattles or keys that shook together or anything that would make noise. I would take them out one at a time and let them look at them. I also learned a trick from mom to do things like stick a little toy in their sock, they would pull it out and that game could be repeated for a long time very quietly. Good toys that I have found are: little dolls, farm animals, finger puppets, board books, cars, etc.
- Little snacks were nice too as the babies got a little bigger. Things like raisins, cheerios and small crackers. I would have them in a very little container and they could pick up one at a time to eat. If they weren't nursing still then a sipper cup with water in it was brought as well.
- If they need a little soothing I found it very helpful to whisper very, very quietly in their ear. It didn't necessarily need to be words, sometimes it helped to just blow very softly.
- Another thing that can kind of help to calm and entertain is to just softly rub you fingers up and down the small child's arm or leg. Rubbing the back of a larger child can help them to remember to just relax and be calm too.
- As they passed up the infant stage training began. One thing that I wanted them to be completely aware of was that we didn't leave the church service (go to the nursery or whatever) to have fun. We would go out to quickly and efficiently change a diaper or take them to the potty but then we went directly back to the service, no playing. If we had to go out because they were making noise then I would discipline them if they were of understanding age, get them quiet and back in we would go. This was a very important step for us in raising kids that can sit in church.
- As kids got older they could participate and listen more but they still get the wiggles so it is nice to have something they can keep their hands busy with while they listen. I really like paper and drawing utensils or coloring books or busy books for this time. (You can see some of the busy books I have made here and here.) I also have often brought books for them to look at thought when they start being able to read then I tend to not let them have books so often because they read (instead of just looking) and they don't hear what is being said.
- Also as my kids have gotten older I try to prepare them for whatever is going to happen at church. Currently on Sunday mornings we have a song service, a communion service, (with a 2-10 minute meditation) and then the kids actually go off to class during the sermon. There is still a fair amount of quiet time required during singing -though they can sing too- and communion but not nearly as much as when we had class first and then singing, communion and a sermon all of which the kids were a part of. Anyway, I like it both ways but I would gladly go back to having class and then sermon with kids. On Sunday nights we do a variety of things, sometimes a speaker, sometimes prayer time, some times Bible baseball, sometimes a video and sometimes singing and sharing. And then on Wednesday night we have singing and then classes for all ages. And then we do like to go to rallies too which are another opportunity for the kids to sit quietly. :-) Anyway, as you can see things aren't always the same way each week and so I try to prepare my kids for whatever the activity is going to be. When we have bible baseball we study ahead so that the kids will know the answers of the questions (this has been especially important as we had questions on books like Zechariah and Malachi!), but whatever it is we are doing it is nice for them to be able to prepare mentally for whatever it is we are going to do.
- Another big thing is attitude. I love going to church and I get excited about it and my kids get very excited about it too. It is a big part of our lives.
- Also, It would be very hard to do this by myself. It is possible but I am glad that I didn't have too. Ken played a very crucial role in helping to train our older two and my parents have also been a ton of help! Which reminds me that as my children get older and I don't need to be concerned about their behavior so much, I hope I can reach out and help other young parents if possible.
This is what has worked for me, please share what has worked for you!