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The Best Tips for Sitting with Young Children in Church

Sitting with young children in church can be frustrating, distracting, and downright patience exhausting!

I remember sitting in the pew with my two little girls and hoping we would make it through the sermon.  My husband was busy upfront 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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Sitting with Children in Church

If you have spent any time sitting with young children in church you probably have some questions!

  • My kids are little, how do I keep my kids quiet during church?
  • How can I get my child to behave in church?
  • I’m out of ideas!  How can I help my child sit quietly in church?

The secret is having a well-stocked bag of tricks.  We called this bag full of possibilities our quiet bag.  Here are some of the all-time favorites for a well-stocked bag for sitting with young children in church.

My girls are in college now but I still take a bag to church every week and usually have two or more young children who sit with me.  I love sharing my toys and books and my heart with these children to give their moms a break and give them a chance to listen to the sermon.

young child with finger on his lips to say "Shhh"

A few of our favorite things for sitting in church with a young child…

My very favorite things in my church bag are my Lauri 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.


Strings and Chenille Stems

My bag also includes lacing and 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.  I also have fat buttons and pipe cleaners (chenille stems) in a small purse or pouch.  My little companions love to thread the buttons onto the pipe cleaners or laces and create all kinds of patterns.


Animals, animals

The bag is not complete without a collection of small animals to play with on the pew.  I look for little zippered purses or pouches at yard sales to store these little collections of buttons, animals, and other small items.  It makes for a fun way for a child to open up the next thing to keep them busy and also contains all the little parts and pieces.


Felt quiet books

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.  I have about 8 of these books and I 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.


Magnetic and paper doll toys.

These types of toys can provide for hours of fun while your child is repositioning the little figures to create different scenes.


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.

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.


Sitting with Young Children in Church - Puzzles

Books

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 some books with farm animals.


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!


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.

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.

One trick that I used was that they could only open up the bag after the church service actually started.  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 they able to open the bag.

It can be very discouraging to try to sit in church with young children, 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!

Go find a bag and start packing!  If you have a friend who might benefit from this post, please share this list with them.  Pin this post for later!  I’d love to hear what tricks you have found for sitting with young children in church.  Please drop a comment below.  I love to hear from you!

 

You may also enjoy these posts:

8 Tips for Exhausted Christian Moms

5 Basic Things you Should do with your Child Every Day

Capturing Teachable Moments Part 1

Capturing Teachable Moments Part 2

 

47 thoughts on “The Best Tips for Sitting with 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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