Keeping Toddlers Quiet In Church
While there are a growing number of churches that have “children’s church”, where the kids are separated from the adults during worship, many traditional churches still require that your children join you in the pews during worship service. While it is a great experience for them to learn more about their spirituality, young children are notorious for not wanting to sit still for 10 minutes, much less an hour (or more!) through worship service on a hard church pew. It all starts with firm understanding by you (not your children!) about what acceptable behavior at church entails.
Children who are obedient overall are much more likely to be successful in this very quiet setting, so practicing this obedience at home makes it that much more likely that you’ll get it when you’re out in the world. Try having family devotion time at home and emphasize the type of behavior that you expect from your child during their church service. Take everyone to the bathroom before you walk in, as that is guaranteed to be the first thing they want to do! Ask them the question of how they feel they should behave in church, and offer positive encouragement when they respond with “Shhh” or “quiet”.
Where To Sit
While some advocate that sitting in the front might put slightly older children right into the middle of the action, so the pastor seems as though he’s speaking right to them, this doesn’t seem like the most prudent course of action. Finding an area of a pew that is towards the back helps if you need to bounce your toddler on your knee or keep them moving around a little bit to keep them (relatively) silent. Sitting near the end of a pew is a no-brainer – you ARE going to need to slide out to take them to the bathroom, and nothing is worse than having to climb over people with a wriggly toddler. Finding a spot by the door is also a good idea, as it gives you a way to slip out quickly and quietly when you need to discipline your toddler, change a diaper, or anything else.
What To Bring
A children’s Bible is a great option for bringing to church, or some simple paper and pencils or crayons so your children can be encouraged to listen to the message (at least a little bit!) and draw out their idea of the lesson is for the day. If you can bring something small to snack on like Cheerios and apple juice, that may help keep down the whining and “Is it over yet?” in the theatrical stage whisper that the pastor can hear from the back row. Don’t bring anything that will be messy or sticky like fruit or suckers, or anything that is going to be noisy.
If all else fails, you can always encourage your toddler to nap on your shoulder (or better yet on Daddy’s shoulder!) during the service, just to keep the havoc to a minimum.