So, you want to take your little one to church. God Bless ya! This is a challenging task and one that many people avoid. Church is “quiet and peaceful,” two words that don’t go with “toddler!” My little guy is too little to notice we are in church, but my toddler on the other hand, he knows and will sometimes yell out “Jesus!” in the middle of mass. Adorable? Yes, but not every 5 minutes! My husband and I are trying to teach him how to act and participate in church, and we feel the only way to do that is to try to go. Please know that I have, by no means, completely figured this out, and we still have Sundays where we have to make a quick escape out of the church. But, we have found a few things that seem to make our church experience a little nicer for all.
- Go to the kid-friendly service if possible. Some churches has a service that is more kid-friendly or where more families attend. For instance, we go to a mass that offers a children’s program during the readings and homily. The kids actually leave the church for a short story time and coloring, so they too can receive the message that week in a way they can understand. Plus this gets them out of the church for 15mins or so. Not all churches have this, I know. But it’s something to look into. You want to be around other families. Parents of other kids will be more understanding if you have a “situation.”
- Sit in the back. This allows for an easy escape if necessary. Also, sometimes my husband would stand in the back with our son when he was a little younger, walking him back and forth to keep him happy. Now, we always sit near the back with a pack of other families. So, when the kids throw things, no one seems to mind. We all smile and pass the marker, bag of cheerios, or whatever back to the struggling parent. We’ve all been there!
- Snacks! Bring snacks! Choose something that isn’t’ sticky, like cheerios or Annie’s bunny snacks. I usually reserve a special snack for church, one that we don’t have all the time, so I don’t get “I don’t want that!” yelled back to me. And don’t forget a spill proof sippy cup of water!
- Buy some “church” books. Church books only come to church, so my son isn’t sick of reading them over and over. I love The Beginner’s Bible series! They have board books, activity books, flip books, and more! My son loves them. They have great illustrations and sweet messages that are easy for kids to understand.
- Color Wonder coloring books! Crayola makes markers that only mark on special paper and not hymn books or church pews. The Beginner’s Bible also has a Color Wonder pack, so your kids can actually color religious pages!
- Bath toys! Yes, that’s right. Bath toys! These aren’t religious toys, but they are perfect for church, because they are quiet. My sons alway plays with these cars at church, but any bath toy will work. They don’t have real wheels, so he can’t push them down the pews behind other people. (I learned the hard way with other cars!) Just keep them out of the bath and only available for church, so they aren’t wet.
- Puzzles, except the ones that only have 2 pieces. The Learning Journey makes great matching puzzles. I usually pull out 4 puzzles, (so 8 pieces) and throw them in a ziplock bag for church. Then my son can lay out the pieces on the pew and match them up. The pieces are large, so they won’t get lost. And it’s a quiet game!
I hope this little list helps you find some peace at church with your toddler. Just remember, everyone has good days at church and bad days at church. If you have a disaster one Sunday, just try again! You can do this!