Sunday morning’s are not especially peaceful or restorative for moms with young kids. Maybe you were blessed with tiny toddlers who defy the odds by sitting perfectly still and never making a peep. If that is you then you have my awe but on planet earth where I’m from toddlers do not have a button for stop moving and talking.
Entertaining your toddler at church can be difficult. It is important to set boundaries with them and help them to practice good behavior. However, at the same time they are still very little and we need to match our expectations as moms with what is developmentally appropriate for our children.
The key to helping your toddler to stay quiet during the church service and not disrupt others is to come prepared. I will show you how we approach church service with small children.
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Why is it important to bring my children to church?
You have just spent the morning trying to get out the door. Everyone is flustered, tempers are running short, and you are low key breaking out in a sweat from all the laps you’ve been running in the house.
You may have a small reprieve during the drive to church if you do not count the bickering in the backseat. By the time you finally arrive at the sanctuary you’re already exhausted and wondering if it is even worth it to go to all of the trouble. Will they even remember church? Do they learn anything at all from the service? What is even the point?
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
You are not a bad mom or a bad Christian for having those thoughts. This season of life with young children can be very difficult. I know that I have given my fair share of long exasperated sighs more than once during worship service. Some days I struggle to get five minutes to take a shower let alone read my Bible and spend time with the Lord.
However, there are many wonderful benefits to making the effort to bring our young children (and older children) to church. The main benefit of course being an eternal one.
Why you should bring your children to church?
Parenting With Focus has a great article titled 10 Reasons to Take Your Children to Church that I found to be very encouraging. It also had some great information that I had never heard before. For example, they shared the following passage:
“There are numerous studies that indicate that churched children do better as teens and later in life than unchurched children. Dr. Pat Fagan of the Center for Research on Marriage and Religion, did a study in which he compiled the independent findings of more than 100 social scientists. Dr. Fagan found that churched children are less likely to get divorced later in life, are more able to overcome poverty, and do better in school.”
There have also been studies by the Pew Research Center finding that people who attend church regularly are much happier than those who do not attend church.
Taking our children to church also instills in them the good habit of regular church attendance. As Christians we are called to fellowship with other believers (Hebrews 10:25). We want to set good examples for our children and model for them, to the best of our abilities, the teachings of Jesus Christ.
How do I entertain my toddler at church?
First, I like to talk to my little children about what kind expectations I have for them before we even get to church. This also works for any other special events where I do not want them to make too much noise or be a distraction.
I say things like, “Remember, that after we get to church we need to work so hard at practicing our inside voices.” or “Okay we are going inside the church now so we need to pay attention to our how we move our bodies.”
Also, I work hard myself to point out good behavior any time I see it. I want them to know that I am so proud of them and I see how hard they are working at minding their manners or following the rules. I do this not just by telling them directly but also by “gossiping” about them where they can hear.
“Mimi, you would have been so proud! In church today everyone was working so hard on using their quiet voices.”
“Daddy did you see what a great job the kids did in church today? We have the sweetest children.”
If they are having a difficult time it is okay to talk about that as well. “Hey buddy. I know it is so hard to be patient but I really appreciate that you are trying so hard.”
How do you keep kids quiet and entertained? The Busy Bag!
A busy bag is a bag of quiet activities that you have prepared for your toddler. It is filled with things your child can do independently and it’s a great way to help with quiet time.
My number one rule about our church busy bag is that the toys inside can only be played with during church. This keeps the toys special and even more entertaining.
A toy your child can play with any time will not hold their attention as long as a special toy that they only have access to on Sunday’s during church.
Making busy bags
First, you will need a designated church bag. This can be any kind of small tote bag that you already have handy. A reusable grocery bag would be great for this. I purchased this bag from Amazon because it was just too cute.
No matter what you use it is helpful to have a special bag that only comes out for church meetings, religious services, or Sunday service.
We have this adorable My Bible Quiet Book. My oldest loves books and being read to but he is not old enough to read on his own and I do not want to be reading to him during church. This quiet book fills his desire for having a book without needing any extra help from mom.
The book is filled with interactive snaps, buttons, velcro, and tiny characters. It shares Bible stories at an age appropriate level with lots of hands on options. Click this link to see photo examples of the different activities.
If your toddler would enjoy flipping through a board book without having your read it then regular board books could be a great option as well. An older child that can read could of course have a favorite book available to them.
I also like to have coloring books and sticker books in our busy bag. For coloring books I get the Mess Free books and markers from Crayola. There are lots of different options available with different characters your child might like. I prefer them over regular art supplies because I do not have to worry about anyone coloring on themselves, the pew, the hymnal, or anything else that does not need decorating.
I know that some parents have very strong feelings about stickers. And I totally get it. Those pesky things can be a pain in the backside. To prevent any unauthorized bedazzling of the church with stickers I have this reusable sticker book from Melissa and Doug.
The kids can stick and restick the puffy farm animal stickers to their hearts content. And I do not have to worry about stickers going in places they should not.
What do you put in a busy bag?
I suggest having several different quiet activities available for little hands. Children at a young age have a short attention span so you will want to be able to offer multiple special toys to last the entire service.
Quiet Bags With Quiet Activities
Both older kids and your active toddler will enjoy playing with finger puppets.
Another good idea and quiet activity is this alphabet matching game. We have been loving learning about the alphabet lately so games and toys like this one are a big hit.
Tips For How To Keep Kids Quiet In Church
Outside of using the busy bag here are some other ways that you can help to minimize distractions and entertain your toddler at church.
- Bring a snack and water bottle for each child.
- Sit at the back of the church so that you are not as much of a distraction to others if you need to step out for a bit.
- Dress your children in comfortable clothes that do not itch or annoy your child.
- Every time the congregation stands up have your children stand up too. This is a good time to shake out some of the wiggles.
- Your children are going to make noise sometimes. Redirect them, anticipate that you’ll need to repeat yourself, and model for them the behavior you want to see. Yours are not the first or the last children to chime in during a worship service so try not to fret.
The first time that we visited our current church I had no less than three wonderful church members come up to me after the service and tell me that they loved having my children there. They said things like, “it is such a blessing to hear little voices during the service” and “Don’t you ever worry about them making noise. It bothers you but it doesn’t bother us.”
Even if the other members of your church have not said similar things to you remember that they most likely had small children at one point. They have been there and they understand. It can be difficult some mornings but mama it is always worth it.
I often think that when it is my turn to be an elder member of the church I will take every opportunity to tell the young mothers the same things that were told to me. But until that day I will say them to you now…
You are not a bother. Your children are a blessing. You are such an amazing mother for putting in the extra work to get them in church. I'm proud of you. Bringing kids to church is such a beautiful thing. Don't give up. I'm praying for you.