Kids in church enjoying using their Bibles

Sanity Savers for Parents of Young Children in Church

Sitting with children in church can be frustrating, distracting, and downright patience exhausting! But the value of teaching your child to value being in church and learn to be respectful and reverent takes time and practice. Many churches have a nursery or children’s church that is specific for the younger kids in church. But many churches do not or you may choose to keep your children with you in church.

I remember sitting in the pew with my two little girls hoping we would make it through the sermon.  My husband was busy up front and our girls were 18 months and 4 years old.  I was in the pew trying to occupy busy minds and hands and keep them quiet.  My weeks of actually hearing a full sermon were on hold for who knew how long while I tried to occupy these two precious little busy daughters!

Fortunately, I had a very good role model when I was a child and my mom was an excellent teacher to my brothers and me.  Our dad was a pastor so every week my mom got to sit with three little children in church, by herself.

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5 Reasons Why You Should Take Your Children to Church

  • The first and foremost reason you should take your kids to church is to learn about Jesus and His amazing love for them. If you are looking for a church, look for a church that follows the Bible. I know this may sound silly, but there are churches that pick and choose what they teach and not all of it goes along with the Bible. You want your children (and you) to be surrounded by people who are committed to following God and the Bible.
  • Your children will learn through hearing and experiencing church. Very young children and toddlers are learning and growing and by introducing them to church and Sabbath School or Sunday School, they are learning songs, Bible verses, Bible stories, as well as learning to follow directions and sit quietly.
  • Your children need to see your example of going to church. When children grow up, at some point they begin to make their own choices about what they are going to do about being a part of a church community. When you lead by example, you are building a foundation for your children to follow.
  • When you and your children go to church regularly, you will likely make friends who have similar interests. These friendships may not be the same age, as you or your children, but making friends with people who have similar interests, no matter their age, can bring a wealth of support and nuture to your family. Other children in church can become great friends to your children and help them to have Christian friends.
  • Create a family habit of going to church. When you take your kids to church from a young age, your children are learning that church is what you do every week. This helps them to see that church and God are a central focus in your life.

RELATED: Family Worship Ideas with Kids

What Do I Do with Young Children in Church?

If you have spent any time sitting with young children anywhere for very long you probably have some questions about how in the world you would keep your wiggly kids engaged and listening in church. Perhaps you’ve wondered how to keep your kids quiet, or how to get your child to behave in church. Sitting with children in church can be daunting, but remember you are teaching them in the process.

Help! I’m out of ideas!  How can I help my child sit quietly in church?

The secret to having your kids in church at a young age is having a well-stocked bag of tricks and an extra amount of patience.  In our family, we called this bag full of activities our quiet bag or rather quiet bags since we had two different bags that we rotated every few weeks. Before you feel overwhelmed with the thought of more than one quiet bags, just start with one! Here are some of the all-time favorites for a well-stocked bag for sitting with young children in church.

young child with finger on his lips to say "Shhh" as children in church learn to participate quietly

Quiet Activities for Children in Church

When you are thinking about what to take to church to keep your kids busy and quiet, first of all, you want to think about activities that are quiet to play with. One of our very favorite things in our quiet bag is Lauri crepe rubber puzzles.  These puzzles are the greatest thing to keep little fingers quiet and occupied.  They are soft and colorful.  The company also stands behind their products and if you lose a piece, they will replace the piece for you!  The puzzles in my church bag have lasted for nearly 20 years and still get used often by my little friends who currently sit with me each week.

Lauri Puzzles

Soft, quiet, crepe rubber puzzles fit perfectly in a zip top bag to keep the parts and pieces together between play time. Help your child learn to count and associate shapes with spaces as they put these little counting puzzles together.

Another great activity for your quiet bag is lacing or stringing toys.  These toys are great for very young children to learn hand-eye coordination as well as learning how to sort by colors, shapes, and sizes.  You can purchase “sewing cards” or lacing shapes with colorful shoe laces. And you can also get large, fat buttons and pipe cleaners (chenille stems). Put the buttons in a small purse, zippered makeup pouch, or bag.  Encourage your child in church to poke the pipe cleaner through the center of the button and put the buttons on in a patter of colors, shapes or just stack them on.

Lauri Lacing Shapes

Lacing shapes are quiet and encourage children in church to work on their hand-eye coordination while listening quietly.

The quiet bag is not complete without a collection of small animals or figurines to play with on the pew.  Look for little zippered purses or pouches at yard sales to store these little collections of buttons, animals, and other small items.  This makes it easy to keep these smaller items contained when not in use and it also makes it easier for children to play with one thing at a time and then put it away.

Animals to Play with on the Pew

Choose a few of your child’s plastic animals to put into a small bag in your quiet bag to help your kids in church to play quietly.

Felt quiet books are great for encouraging your child to create quiet stories while learning to listen.  Some of these books include flaps, and other interactive features.  They do take some cutting and assembly to get them ready for your bag.  Keep them tucked into a large zip top plastic bag to keep the loose pieces of felt from getting lost in the bottom of the bag and also to help keep the felt books clean and in good repair. These felt books and felt sets can provide hours of quiet play for your children in church. Individual felt pieces can be used to create a scene on the back of the pew, or in the felt book.

Pre-cut Farm Set of Felts

Felt sets are quiet and take up little space in your quiet bag! This set happens to be pre-cut, so it is ready to play with immediately.

Magnetic and paper doll-type toys can also be a lot of fun for children in church. The key to choosing the activities to put in your quiet bag is to choose things that are small and compact so you don’t have to haul a suitcase to church, and items that allow for imaginative, quiet play. Magnetic pictures or paper dolls can provide hours of fun while your child is repositioning the little figures to create different scenes.

Mix and match puzzles

are great for endless options of creativity. These wooden puzzles are not as quiet as a felt set, but this provides the opportunity for children in church to learn some skills as playing quietly.

Magnetic story sets are great for a quiet bag because are typically flat like a book and the pieces stay together easily. The background story board is easy to play with on your lap or your child can kneel on the floor and place the story board on the seat of the pew and create their stories and pictures.

Magnetic Playboard Set

The sturdy playboard provides the backdrop for all sorts of scenes and adventures with these cute magnetic animals. Store in a large zip top bag to keep all the little parts contained.

A couple more favorite items that don’t take up much space but provide hours of fun are these tricky magnetic dogs and pipe cleaners.  I remember playing with these little dogs when I was a child.  A bulletin was a perfect landing place for the top dog and then the other dog would connect through the bulletin. These tiny dogs will easily fit in your purse or pocket and can entertain children in church for quite some time.

Tricky Dogs Magnets

These timeless little toys will provide hours of quiet observation and play. These are small, so make sure you are supervising your young child in church.

You can slide the dogs around and around on the bulletin and then try to make the dogs connect the other direction which would result in the push of the magnet.  They fit perfectly in a Certs container or another small container so they won’t get lost in the bottom of your bag.

Pipe cleaners are another inexpensive, fun item and they provide a quiet way to build or create shapes or objects.  Use them over and over again.  You can also use the chenille stems for threading large buttons.  This is especially great for kids learning eye/hand coordination and much easier than a button with string.  Encourage your child to string the buttons in patterns by color or shape.

Books are always a great way to capture a child’s attention.  The key to having great books in your quiet bag is to rotate the books often so they don’t get bored or lose interest.  If your child loves horses, then put some horse books in the bag.  If they love farm animals, then put in some books with farm animals.

When you are preparing for your children in church, think about the content of the books as well. Choose books that will help your child to think about Jesus or nature rather than movie characters or things that will distract them from learning more about Jesus.

As your child gets a bit older, they may also enjoy drawing.  I absolutely LOVE these books for helping kids learn to draw.  They are step by step instructions for drawing many different things.  If you follow the instructions, you will end up with realistic-looking pictures.  They are simple but excellent!

Draw Write Now

This series of learning to draw books has easy to follow instructions and simple pictures that a child can easily follow.

Preparing Your Activities for Your Children in Church

You know your child and what interests are so you will use that knowledge to pack your bag.  The key is to pack things that are new and different from everyday toys. Once you’ve chosen the things that you will put in your quiet bag, put the bag away and use it only for church. This will keep the toys and activities fresh and exciting for your children in church. It also provides something special for them that they only get to play with at church.

When my daughters were little, I actually had two quiet bags packed and we would alternate every other week.  Each bag had similar types of items but the actual items were different.  This really helped the girls to stay interested in what was in the bag and be able to be busy and entertained during the church service. If you buy a huge package of chenille stems, split them into two different bags so you have a set for each bag.

One trick that works well is to save the bag until the church service actually starts.  In our church, we sing, pick up the offering and the kids collect an offering and then there is a children’s story.  Only after those things were done, were my daughters able to open the bag. This helps them to learn patience as well as pay attention for a short amount of time when there is more activity going on in the church.

It can be very discouraging to try to sit through church with kids but don’t lose heart and give up.  It is amazing how many things children hear during the sermon even though you didn’t think they were paying attention.  Consistency is the key.  If you keep going to church and teaching your children to be quiet in church, it will help them to learn to be disciplined in church while also providing you the opportunity to listen to the sermon.

Pack Your Bag and Take Your Kids to Church!

Go find a bag and start packing! Remember, it doesn’t have to be fancy and you may not have all of these things in your quiet bag yet, but start. Every week that your children are in church it will get easier as they get used to the expectations and the programming. Before long, you may even hear them asking questions about the sermon or humming the songs from church.

Remember that your kids are individuals. What might be very entertaining and keep one child busy, may not work for the next child. Swap out the things that they lose interest in and put in fresh activities every so often to keep the quiet bag engaging and helpful. As your children get older, they won’t need as much “entertainment” in church. But for now, embrace it and know that you are bringing your children to church to learn more about Jesus and there is nothing more important than that!

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47 thoughts on “Sanity Savers for Parents of Young Children in Church”

  1. What a great idea. These would work on the airplane and restaurant and road trips too. I am always looking for things to help my little ones when they need to be quiet. Thankfully, my toddler loves music and likes clapping and singing during praise and worship.

    1. You are absolutely right that these ideas are very versatile. I always kept a different bag for church so it would be something new and not the same old things that they got to play with at every appointment or meeting.

  2. These are all great ideas! Our youngest son is still able to go to the church nursery for a couple more months, so he’s taken care of… my oldest, however, needs to be occupied. He’s 6, and I’m up front in the choir/praise team and Daddy is up in the balcony doing the sound board! We do have a children’s church program, but it’s not every week and it’s only during the service. Now that my oldest can read, it’s easy just having him bring a book to read or a workbook for him to practice his math or writing. He also is allowed to bring a coloring book or a drawing pad and his colored pencils or crayons (NO MARKERS please as we had an incident…). He can also bring a small box of LEGOs if he promises to be quiet with them or he can bring a handful of Hotwheels cars. Rotation is key though, and we have a special bag that is ONLY brought to church, so they get excited about it.

    1. Yes, I agree that rotation is the key. I had two different bags packed all the time and we would rotate them until they were bored and then I’d change out parts of pieces of the bag and it was like new again.

  3. Great suggestions! It’s so important to always have the future generation in the church. I love the quiet book suggestions.

  4. We didn’t allow toys to be brought to church. Quiet books, drawing, coloring. They also had to learn to sit and listen as well.

  5. Oh my goodness I need this? My two littles are three months apart and one in particular is such a wiggle worm. Thanks for all the amazing ideas! I am going to start compiling my own bag full of tricks…I think I’ll call mine our Busy Bag???

  6. We have a special church bag for our children. We haven’t used it as much in recent weeks, but I now have it stocked and ready to go with new items. The Lauri rubber puzzles are super cute! We have used the lacing activities too. In fact, the first time I introduced them to my children, they weren’t super interested, but when their grandmother called them “sewing” they thought they were the best thing ever! 🙂

  7. I haven’t had to think about this in a while, but now that I have a 3 year old granddaughter who sometimes comes to church with us, these ideas will be a big help!

  8. Littles are tough in church, for sure. Once they come out of the nursery, I tried to be an example to my sons to listen and take notes. I would let them take their own notes during the service – either by picture or words considering the age – and we would talk about our notes after the service.

  9. I cannot tell you how much I LOVE this post. I am not opposed to children in church, but I am opposed to LOUD children in church. I’m not opposed to wiggly kids or busy kids or fidgety kids…it’s just the LOUD kids that make me want to break out my “mom glare” {I don’t but I want to!} All of your suggestions are quiet, which I think is the perfect solution to kids in church!

    1. I’ve never attended a church with a nursery so I don’t know about most churches 🙂 I wanted my children to be in church with me anyway, so I’m not sure I would have used the nursery.

    1. I think sometimes parents just don’t really know what they should be doing to help their kids. I’ve enjoying mentoring young moms and their little ones to help them learn how to teach their kids to be busy but quiet. Whispering is definitely a learned skill! 🙂

  10. I have a Lauri Puzzle and some lacing toys but have never thought of bringing them to the church service with us. Great ideas! I also LOVE The Beginners Bible! Such a great kids bible. Thank you Karen!

    1. The great thing about the Lauri Puzzles is that they are so quiet! I keep mine in a large ziploc bag (1 1/2 gallon size) so that the pieces don’t get lost or fall out in the bag.

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