Still, there are some instances where you may need to keep your small child with you. Maybe your church does not have a nursery or your child has major separation anxiety (ding, ding, ding – that’s us!) Or perhaps you simply decide that you want to worship together as a family.
We recently made the decision to start keeping our almost three-year-old daughter with us on Sunday mornings. She had been having a lot of trouble with drop-offs in the nursery and it was progressively getting worse (despite the efforts of our amazingly patient children’s ministry volunteers!)
After one particularly trying week, I gave my daughter the option of sitting with Mommy and Daddy in “big church.” I explained to her that it was okay to get up and sing or dance while the music was playing, but we had to be very, very quiet while the preacher was talking. She agreed enthusiastically, but I wasn’t so sure that she could manage.
Over the following week, I began assembling a bag of activities to keep her engaged during the sermon. Sure, kids of a certain age should be able to sit quietly for periods of time, but I knew that would be expecting a lot from a toddler.
When the next Sunday arrived, I made sure to sit near the back in case we needed to make a quick exit. I was really nervous that she would yell out something like, “I pooped!” in the middle of prayer. Thankfully, my worries were unfounded and the service went off without a hitch.
So, today I’m sharing a few ideas for what to pack in a busy bag for your toddler or preschooler. Be sure the items in your bag are used exclusively for church so that they seem more exciting and hold your little one’s attention longer.
Here’s what’s in our bag:
Magnetic Doodle Pad
This is usually the first thing my daughter grabs from the bag. It’s perfect because she can draw and erase over and over again. Plus, it gets bonus points for having an attached pen so she can’t accidentally drop it under the seats.
I try to keep only Bible related books in our bag, but feel free to use whatever you have! Board books are really great here because they don’t make as much noise when turning the pages.
Felt Quiet Book Pages
Notebook/Coloring Book and Crayons
I’m not as crazy about this one, only because the crayons get dropped and the page turning can get to be a bit much. Though, I will admit that this keeps my daughter occupied longer than anything else in the bag. Go figure.
Water WOW Book
Melissa & Doug Water WOW books are my absolute favorite. I especially love this Bible Stories version. You just fill the little paintbrush with water and the “paint” magically appears on each page. When the water dries, the page is blank and ready to be “painted” again. No fuss, no mess and they are even pretty mesmerizing for me as an adult. 🙂
I am really happy (and even pleasantly surprised) with the way the busy bag is working for us on Sunday mornings. I’ve been able to focus on the sermon much better now that I know my daughter is content beside me and not losing her mind across the hall (sorry again, nursery volunteers!). I’m not saying she’ll never go to class again, but for now, this is what’s working best for us.
If you are in a place where you’re struggling with your toddler or preschooler in church, I just want to encourage you not to give up. There were many times I considered throwing in the towel and just staying home until my daughter was older. Don’t be afraid to get creative and do whatever works for you and your family!