You negotiate. You beg. You negotiate. No matter what you try before the church service begins, it won’t be long before you get those bored looks, followed by the fidgets, chattiness or–even worse–tears. Preempt any in-church disasters with a backpack full of game ideas. Distract your child with some activities that will stimulate and entertain while you enjoy the service.
If you go to a church with a standard schedule or liturgy, it becomes easy for you and your children to know what to expect. You can set up games for your kids, based on what will happen during the service. Encourage kids to see how long they can stay quiet or how long they can entertain themselves. The first time it might be through the first song. Next week, try for longer. Older kids will enjoy a bingo-style game. When they hear a certain common word, such as “love” or “forgiveness” or experience a common event, such as a prayer or song, they can mark the grid. Just make sure no one yells, “Bingo.”
Pack Your Bag
Fill a small bag with activities and games. Travel games and quiet board games work well in church. Avoid the ones with popping dice, bells, alarms or timers. Avoid balls that can make a thudding sound or bounce or roll away. Use bean bags and other things that can’t get away. Use fabric dice that won’t clank.
Work as a Team
Teach your kids to work together to entertain themselves. Create a notepad full of hangman, tic tac toe and dots for games. Show them how to play before church starts so they don’t have to ask you questions. Let kids know that they will have to work together silently or the game will be taken away.
Relate the games you prepare for your child to the lessons you are learning that day. Ask your clergyman to send you the readings for the day. Create connect the dots or word guessing games related to the lessons. Encourage children to talk with you later about the words they learned.
Take It Outside
If you are dealing with antsy little ones, let them leave when necessary. You can run a quick race around the church or to the car and back. You can also play a wiggle game, in which you encourage your child to get moving as much as he can for 30 seconds. These will help him learn to sit longer later.
If you are not above bribery, prizes might be the key to keep kids quiet during church. Write out some games for your child to play. Give him a sticker or prize for each one she finishes.
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