Tips for Handling Young Children at Church

Awhile ago I did a poll on my Instagram stories and this was the second highest blog post topic request! Sorry that I am just now getting to it, life is crazy!

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Parenting is not easy, and one of the places that stresses me out the most each week is definitely church. It's hard to keep young ones quiet while people are gathered together to worship and hear uplifting messages. Sometimes it feels like I deserve an Olympic gold medal after Sacrament each Sunday just for surviving it without crying, especially since Kyler is currently Bishop and can't sit with me and help me with the children on the pew. 😬

Here are a few tips that have helped me greatly each Sunday to keep my kids calm(er) and quiet(er) so I can occasionally catch a few words here and there from the speakers and not feel like a total basket case! Of course, every child is so different and what works for mine may not work for yours! Just sharing these in case they are helpful to others. ❤️ You of course should do what you gotta do to make it out alive! 😉

 

1- If you need help with your kids, find a helper. 

Maybe this is cheating, but since Kyler was called as Bishop, I've been super blessed to have many dear friends in the ward offer to sit with me and help me with my rascals. One couple in particular (the Nielsen's ❤️) sit with me pretty much every week and they have been marvelous. What I appreciate most about them is that not only do they help keep my kids distracted, but they so sweetly follow my lead and help me teach my children how I want them to be taught during the meeting. (I'll explain more about that below.) They have saved my sanity time and time again and I am forever grateful for them and the sweet service they offer my little family. ❤️ If you have many young children and either don't have a spouse sitting with you or you do and you're still overwhelmed and outnumbered, find helpers that would love to sit with you and your children! (But also make sure they are actually helpful and don't make your kids even rowdier. :) Of course there are moments where my kids only want me and no one else (and it seems to always hit them at the exact same time ha!) but for the most part, this has helped me significantly! 

2- Be prepared, but not too prepared  

Further down in the post I'll give you some examples of fun quiet toy ideas I've been able to find/make for my kiddos, but I also wanted to tell you my cautionary tale!  

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When Henry was first born, and then again with Rose, I'd get so nervous about how church would go that I would pack 80 billion toys just keep them entertained. However, having TOO MANY toys and distractions actually made things way harder. I was stressed about the huge mess my kids were making with all of the various toys and pieces flying everywhere and hoping I'd be able to find them again and not lose them... 🙈 it was just pure chaos. I have since found that less is more! A few books, some crayons and paper, a toy for each child and maybe a "project" toy to keep their attention for a little longer has been all we've needed and it's helped me feel better organized and not like I'm dumping out my kids entire toy chest on the church pew ha! It also helps that my helpers always bring cute little toys for my kids as well. (And we all know others peoples toys are cooler than ours right?) If they have a toy from a helper, I usually pack ours away so they don't have a ton out at one time. It just helps me feel a little more put together ha! 

3- Snacks save lives!  

I think this is an area I can improve on, because the previous advice applies here as well. If you have too many options of snacks, you end up just feeding a bunch of animals at the trough. (Pardon the analogy!) If you have just 1-3 options max, you'll know if they are actually hungry or just bored and wanting to create chaos and you'll have less of a mess. I think I still overpack in this area and I'm very motivated to work on it because it's kind of frustrating having them constantly say "I'm hungry" and then noisily digging through my bag and considering all of their options over and over again. (Especially when I totally fed them beforehand, but they oddly act as if this is the first they've eaten all day. 🙄😂) 

When you do bring snacks, I suggest you make them extra special ones they don't usually get at home so they are more exciting. Try to avoid bread, crackers or other crumbly things because they often just make crazy messes and they are harder to clean! Snacks have saved me time and time again, especially with Rosie's age, when a melt down is coming and nothing else will help. Snacks are awesome! 

4- Pay attention to where you sit

I've found it's much easier to control my kids if we sit in a pew as opposed to the metal fold out chairs. They are better contained and the padded pews don't echo with every little movement either!  I've also noticed my kids are harder to control if we sit by other families with young children. Something about seeing what toys and snacks the other kids have always drives them crazy ha! Of course if we end up sitting by some it always works out, I just have to brace myself for the adventure! :) 

5- Some toys hurt more than help 

Toys that make sound or toys that are round or have round parts (wheels, balls etc) only ever cause me heartache when I pack them for my kids. They always drop the balls or cars and they roll far away and then there is little human distress and panic until we are able to find them again. Take my advice- avoid those babies like the plague! 

6-  Avoid making Hallway time fun time 

This one has been a game changer for us! I remember when Henry was just walking and I was pregnant with Rose. If Henry was misbehaving or too loud in Sacrament and I took him out in the hall, I'd be so exhausted and just dread it because he'd just want to run around and climb up and down the stairs repeatedly, which was crazy hard for me while pregnant and with low energy. Finally, one day I was complaining about this to Kyler (who was a bishopric counselor at the time so he still couldn't sit with me at church- I've essentially sat without him every Sunday for most of our marriage ha ha) and he said if it were him taking him out, he'd make him sit with his arms folded on his lap until he calmed down. Then he'd say "if you want to play with toys and have snacks, you need to be reverent and listen so we can go back inside. Do you want toys and snacks?" If he can be quiet and calm, he can go back inside. If not, we'd sit out in the foyer and I wouldn't let him budge. Once I started applying this, it was like a night and day difference. It was no longer fun for Henry to go out in the halls because it just meant he was stuck on mamas lap. It encouraged him to be quiet and reverent in the meeting because at least he got some fun toys and yummy treats there! (Of course all kids are different and will respond to techniques differently, but this worked really well for us!) 

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7- Find the opportunities to teach  

This is absolutely just a suggestion, but it's something that has made the Sacrament extra special to me and my kids. (and what I was referring to that my helpers help me with and help me apply to my kiddos.) ❤️ Growing up, my mom would have us put away all toys during the administering of the Sacrament. (About 10-15 minutes) During this time, she'd teach us about Jesus, explain what was happening, have us look at church books etc and it really made a big impact on me, even as a young child!

Since my kids are still so young, I pack up their toys at this time but have purchased some cute kid friendly books about Jesus and other bible stories and we have story time. (Pictured below.) I'm also fine with them drawing quietly, but I really just love the opportunity provided to teach them something about the gospel. I'll show Henry the young men passing the Sacrament and talk to him about what they are doing and how he'll get to do that when he's older. We'll talk about Jesus and how he loves us so much. Henry is so sweet and you can tell he's really taking it all in. 

If the gospel books aren't keeping their attention, I also bring a few other books to help them stay reverent. And with Rose being so young, if she needs a toy to keep her calm then I am totally all for that too! I just like starting out with toys put away so I have a few minutes to help my children focus on Christ, but if they are having a rough time and need them, I'm not above pulling them out! It's hard being little and I totally try to be realistic with their age and my expectations. ❤️ Doing this during the Sacrament has been a really spiritual and special bonding time for me and them and I love it. Especially since sometimes it's so hard to get to hear the talks while wrangling the kids, so this has been a way for me to still feel spiritually connected and engaged each week. 

8- Don't assume everyone is judging you

This is one I used to really struggle with. When my kids were younger, any time they'd have a melt down or be so rowdy I'd get so embarrassed about how others must perceive us. If I had to take a child out on the hall, I'd look down at the floor and avoid eye contact. Sometimes I'd feel like someone would look back and give me a dirty look. Then one Sunday a woman got up to bear her testimony. She happened to be someone I had felt had given me a dirty look at one point with my loud and squirmy son. She talked about how much she missed being a mom, and how she loved to look at those of us with young babies and wish she was in our place again. It totally hit me that I had judged her instead of the other way around! Ever since then, I have tried to give others the benefit of the doubt and have chosen to believe (whether it's true or not 😉) that everyone is rooting for me.  

I know I'm doing my best to keep my children calm and most people understand that kids are kids and can't be quiet for very long. Now I look people in the eye when I take my screaming child out into the hall and I've noticed far more smiles and understanding looks than judgemental ones. It's helped me feel a sense of community and support instead of feeling ashamed and embarrassed over my kids just acting their age. Of course there are still rude people out there, but more often than naught, people are kind. ❤️ Look for the kind faces, they are always there! You are doing your best- don't let anyone or anything (perceived or real) get you down! 

9- Ideas of what to bring 

Quiet felt books 

You can make one of these or purchase one! They are always a hit and keep my kids so well distracted! The ones pictured below I found at the Target dollar section for $3 each just today. They often have adorable quiet games like these there!  

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This is just the first page. It has 4 different pages/activities - all so cute and fun  

This is just the first page. It has 4 different pages/activities - all so cute and fun  

Books  

Here are those precious books I mentioned earlier. My kids love them and I love how they teach my kids about the Gospel! I got them at Christianbook.com for $2.50 each! (I purchased them for last Easter- not sure of their current price or availability though but I'm sure they still have some type of children's book option.) 

Bad lighting sorry :) 

Bad lighting sorry :) 

Quiet learning activities  

This little Parmesan cheese container activity is such a life saver for the age of 1-2! Both my kids have loved this and it's great for their fine motor skills as well. It's super easy to make. Just clean out a Parmesan cheese container, get some pipe cleaners and little fuzz balls and you're golden! 

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Puzzles  

My mother in law made these for my kids and Henry loves them! Easy to make, they help get his brain pumping and they encourage quiet! Win win!  

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Also, here is also a blog post I wrote awhile ago about some quiet bag ideas for age 1 when they start getting mobile and church starts getting harder! (Pardon the pictures on that post- one day I really need to re-do them 🙈.)  

 

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Well, hopefully that was helpful to at least a few of you! If you have any other suggestions or tips, please leave them in the comments! I love hearing about what works for each of you!  Also, if you have questions on something I didn't address, email me and I can try my best to answer you. :) Happy church-ing!