Many moms worry about keeping their toddlers quiet and calm during church. Here are some tried and true tips that really work:
For many years, when I was pregnant and having babies for 5 years in a row, going to church felt kind of pointless.
Because I never got to listen, was dealing with fried nerves the whole service hoping everyone could be quiet, and then had to nurse as soon as the sermon started, which depending on the baby, meant I needed to go out.
If your church doesn’t have Sunday School for littles or you want them to learn to sit in on the sermon, the time to start is NOW.
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Bring Quiet Activities for Toddlers in Church
When my kids were toddlers, we had a special little backpack in the van that was designated “church” things. I packed special activities into this backpack that the kids were only allowed to play with during the message at church.
It may seem silly, but the fact that they could only get their
- magnetic stickers,
- extra large crayons,
- special church coloring books,
- etch a sketch, or
- books (we always had their favorite books in that bag).
Let’s just say that when the singing was over, the toddlers were excited to have their “quiet” play. They looked forward to getting out some of their favorite things and I looked forward to being able to stay in the sanctuary and listen to the preaching.
And they were quiet. Well, for the most part.
Here are some more quiet toys/activities that I recommend:
- Activity books that require fine motor skills such as this one (that you tie shoe laces and button jackets, or this one (where you sort shapes into pockets.)
- Water doodle books are great because toddlers can color with markers, but not leave any messes.
- Sticker books like this one, where the toddler can place the animals all over the farm are great. There’s just enough creativity to keep them occupied. But, not enough to where they would need lots of hand on help from you.
- Travel toy kids like this one. They are great for quiet time because toddlers will be kinesthetically occupied.
- Lacing cards– Not only are they a great skill for toddlers to learn, but they will keep them occupied for a while.
- Lacing beads– These are super fun for most toddlers. You can even choose beads based on their interests. Best of all, they an be strung together and taken apart in a variety of ways.
- Small wooden puzzles like these can provide lots of quiet time play for toddlers sitting in church.
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Give Snacks & A Drink
I have found that there’s a trick using food to keep toddlers quiet during church. Well actually several tricks…
First of all, make sure your snacks are sanctuary approved (crumb free, stain free, etc.) and that your drink is not going to spill.
But secondly, don’t give snacks to your toddler during the louder times of the service. Save them for “bribery” to be quiet when it counts.
Saving snacks for when the message is being preached (aka quiet time) will give them something to look forward to during this time as well.
- Yogurt drops
- Fruit pouches
- Dried fruit
- String cheese
- Snap peas
Teach & Use the Order of Things to Help Keep Toddlers Quiet
I truly believe that every person, no matter how small, has a place in a church service.
I also firmly believe that the sooner we train our children how to be quiet in situations that require it, and that they are welcome (appreciated) in church the better.
So, even when my children were young toddlers (I’m talking young) I would speak to them about what was happening in the service. I would say things like:
- Now it’s time for us to sing. Can you sing and worship Jesus with mommy?
- Close your eyes because it’s time to pray.
- We’re going to pray now for the offering so “shhhhhh”.
- We have to be quiet when the pastor is preaching so everyone can enjoy the message.
Yes, there will be times when you stay in the service with your toddler, then have to leave for the nursery during the message. We’ve all been there.
But, I do believe that starting early to teach the order of things will help.
That being said, allow your children to be louder in service during the louder times. Then, gently instruct them on how to be quiet when it counts.
Have Realistic Expectations & Thick Skin
Toddlers are going to babble, shriek, and make noises. If they don’t… then we should worry about them. It’s part of their development and it’s a given.
You know that, I know that, and any other parent knows that. Even though some seem super judgy if your child cries in church.
However, you will have some people who seem or act judgmental (like they never had kids).
Sadly, this is reality. But the way I see it is- my child deserves the opportunity to be here in church in the presence of God. Just as much as anyone else. So, if he/she is a little noisy, they can get over it.
After all, having toddlers will make you have thick skin.
That being said, I do recommend making a real effort to train toddlers to be respectful (because it’s never too early to start that).
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Hi great article! I especially like having a bag that’s just for church so it’s really special and exciting. I was a bit sad to hear that you feel you have to leave the congregation when your child wants to nurse. Your fellow parishoners should be supportive of all Mama’s breastfeeding! Maybe things are different in the USA (I’m from New Zealand) but I’ve always felt fine with breastfeeding at Mass. In fact the day of my son’s Baptism he wanted to breastfeed the minute the opening hymn was finished LOL! The Pope even encourages it calling breastfeeding ‘the language of love’ https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/07/576319476/pope-francis-once-again-encourages-mothers-to-breastfeed-in-the-sistine-chapel