7 Tips for Taking Young Children to Church
When I was a new mommy and would take my infant to church I often thought, “This is simple. My baby is so good.” Before about 10 months, Buckner would happily sleep in his carrier or let me hold him while giving him a bottle. As long as I had a bottle or puffs (when he got older) he was content. He very seldom even cried out. We sat first in the cry room (a separate room from the church that is somewhat sound proof with a window to see inside and sound piped in). However, the older kids in there (three to five) were so rowdy that in my pristine state of early motherhood, I didn’t want Buckner to learn that behavior. Ahhhh early motherhood naivety.
Then he became mobile and more alert. Bottles and puffs did not hold the magic they once did. The sleepy newborn state was gone. I had to get more creative. He was louder so sitting in the church was not an option. Back to the cry room we went.
I skipped more Sundays than I care to mention because the hour was like an exhausting marathon trying to figure out how to entertain him while simultaneously keeping him quiet and trying to pay attention myself. The hour only became more excruciating as he learned to walk and then run.
I know we could drop him off in the nursery but as another fellow working mama said, “I have to leave my child in daycare all week so no way am I leaving him in another nursery on Sunday. Weekends are my time.” I wholeheartedly agree. I have to suffer enough weekday mornings as he cries when I leave him so I had to figure out how to have him with me.
Knowing that a having a healthy toddler was no excuse to miss church. I read some ideas and realized I had to change my perspective. Now is a different phase in my spiritual journey. Right now it isn’t about me listening and being prayerful during that hour. Instead this time is about teaching Buckner about church and how faith is full of joy and love. Now I feel like I have more of a mission and less worried about missing something myself.
I also incorporated small goals and a much needed survival kit! Here is my list of what works and what doesn’t. Keep trying some things. The last two Sundays we have made it the entire hour with only a few cute outbursts including a very loud, “I have to potty!” and his version of a hymn in the words of “Itsy bitsy Spider.” My favorite response so far was after the bells chimed, my sweet little man screamed, “Telephone mama!” So while it may be an exhausting time, God is showing me happiness creating these memories and moments.
- Set tiny goals. My first goal was to see if we could make it until the Gospel reading in the church (approximately 15 minutes) then I advanced to the the homily (approximately 30 minutes in) and then after the homily. If we could make it 30 minutes, I considered it a success!
- Be ready to leave. Fortunately, when we have to leave the church we can go to the narthex and still hear Mass because of the speakers. In this area, he can move and be a little louder. He hates the cry room so that is not an option anymore.
- Plan one quiet toy for every five minutes. Seriously. Toddlers have no attention span.
- Bring novel toys that your child doesn’t see every day. I go to the Dollar Store to load up on activity packets and stickers.I also bring cars and plastic toys. Make sure your cars don’t have wheels that wind up. I found out the hard way how unbelievably how loud wind up cars can be!
- Snacks always entertain! I bring goldifsh or fruit snacks in plastic Munchkin snack containers so that they won’t spill and you don’t hear the bag rustling. Don’t forget the water in a sippy cup!
- I give bribes. Yes, judge if you want but they work! Last week the promise of a sucker made him redirect his behavior every time we started to get a little bit loud or too squirmy.
- I give tons of praise! Sitting quietly for an hour is hard for toddlers so praise them for their accomplishments!