It’s Sunday morning. You walk into church… well, it’s more like you lug your kids and diaper bags into church like a dressed up pack mule. You get coats off and wrangle your toddler who wants to chase after pretty much anything that’s in a direction away from you. Your older little is already asking if it’s time to go home yet, and the baby is hungry (or teething, or tired, or too hot, or…). You exchange sympathetic looks with your husband and give a tired smile to the usher as you hustle after your toddler into the sanctuary. Your husband asks the usher where the church nursery is. The kind man replies that there isn’t really a nursery. Children’s church? Nope.
As you wrestle your oldest into the pew and bounce the fussy baby, your husband joins you and breaks the bad news – the kids have to stay in worship with you. As you let that sink in and wonder how your little row is going to survive the next hour with everyone’s sanity in tact, that kind usher taps you on the shoulder and hands you a couple of small cloth bags bursting with kid-friendly stuff. He says that maybe these will help. You say a silent prayer that they do and hand them to your littles…
Maybe that little story is a bit exaggerated. Maybe it’s not. Chances are we’ve all had at least one Sunday in our parenting journey where some of the above rang true. Many of us probably go to churches where there isn’t a staffed or unstaffed nursery, no children’s church, no Sunday school during church. What’s a tired mom to do? I hope you’re learning through this series that not only are you completely capable of worshiping with your littles, it’s actually really important that you do.
But let’s be real – a lot of Sundays your kid won’t sit still for a full hour. At least, mine doesn’t, and she does really well in worship. Sometimes distractions are very necessary to keep some sense of peace in the pew.
Enter the Quiet Bag.
Quiet Bags are the church’s gift to parents of littles. These little bags are filled with so many things to hold the attention of little kids. Crayons and paper, stuffed animals, etch-a-sketches, matchbox cars, picture books, and Bible story action figures are just some of the magical items we’ve found in Quiet Bags for our daughter. She got the biggest kick out of the etch-a-sketch a few weeks ago, and loves cars (thankfully the whole sanctuary is carpeted). The variety and novelty of these fun things she only sees on Sunday morning keep her attention for quite a while. Every bag is just a little different so unless we choose the same bag each week, we’re kind of guaranteed something new and interesting!
Don’t fret if your church doesn’t have quiet bags. You can make your own for your kids. The end of this post has a (not-exhaustive) list of items you can put in a bag for your little.
Your church might also offer coloring pages, children’s bulletins or children’s Bibles. Take advantage of these tools to help hold your child’s attention. Sitting for an hour is hard to do!
Yes, I’m suggesting that we keep our kids in worship and then find things to distract them. It seems counterproductive, but there is a method to this madness. The goal with these activities is to keep their hands busy and help them focus. If we’re strategic enough the distractions even end up teaching Bible and faith concepts. I have been impressed with how much kids will pick up from listening while doodling, coloring or otherwise being occupied. My 18 month old likes to play in the pew but as soon as the music starts she starts dancing and wants to be picked up to see where the music is coming from. Often, she’ll stay in my arms as we sing songs and hymns.
It’s okay to offer your kids some distractions while they’re in worship. They’re still there, hearing the Word. They hear the songs and the language of the church. They see and hear you and will begin to play less and model more as they grow and learn.
Quiet Bags are great tools, but they aren’t perfect. You might find your little gets too distracted with the contents. Or maybe you can’t get them distracted enough. Remember, the important thing is that you showed up. You’re teaching and modeling, you’re showing your kids that worship is important to your family.
Build-Your-Own Quiet Bag
Cloth tote bag or nylon drawstring backpack (any bag will do, really)
Fill with items like:
Picture books, board books, soft books, Bible story books
Crayons and paper
Clipboard for paper or children’s bulletin
Baby doll and toy bottle
String and beads in a container
Pipe cleaners and beads
Quieter toy cars
Pro-Tip: Make this a special bag containing special items that your child ONLY sees when you’re in church. Consider letting your child decorate their bag to add to their excitement to use it. Let your little choose some items for the bag, and you choose some that your child doesn’t see you put it for an element of surprise on Sunday morning. Change out items every so often to keep the novelty up or to reflect seasons like Easter and Christmas. Have fun!