Getting your toddler to sit still or be quiet during a church service is no small feat. Here are some tips that may help you in your quest to turn your big squirmer into . . . well, a little squirmer.
Tip #1: Practice whispering at home. This is a skill you can teach as soon as your child is talking. Make a game of talking loudly and then using a hand signal (finger to lips) to see how fast the other person can change to a whisper. Reward them with praise such as “Good whispering! That is how we talk in church!”
Tip #2: Give them a heads up. On the way to church, review the order of the service and what your expectations are for their behavior. Make a list of keywords (such as sit, calm, and quiet) and use them as lyrics to the tune of a popular nursery rhyme (for example: “When we are in church, When we are in church, We sit and play in a quiet way, When we are in church” sung to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell”). Sing it weekly as you travel in the car.
Tip #3: Sit in the back of the sanctuary. You will bother less people and can make a quick getaway if needed.
Tip #4: Bring healthy snacks. If your church allows it, bring small, mess free snacks such as dry cereal, pieces of pancake (without syrup of course!), or bite size crackers. Reserve these snacks for the silent portions of the service such as the pastoral prayer and the sermon.
Tip #5: Bring appropriate toys. If your place of worship has an uncarpeted floor, plan your toys accordingly. A dropped Magnadoodle can make quite a racket on a hard wood floor. Ideas include: books (like Richard Scary or I-Spy which are rich with details), coloring books and crayons, dolls with clothes, action figures (limit the quantity), flannel boards, and vinyl clings. Print out mazes or connect the dot activities using on-line game makers before church. Attach a pencil with a string to a clipboard for an impromptu “office.” Have a special church bag filled with these items that is designated for use only on Sundays.
Tip #6: Model silence. Quietly interact with your child during appropriate times such as music and announcements. But do not verbally interact with them during the sermon or prayer. When the sermon begins, whisper to them that the “no talking” part of the service has begun. You can hold them on your lap and flip pages of a book for them, retrieve dropped crayons and the like, but model silence by not speaking. If your child needs a reminder, pick them up, take them out and quietly list the things they can do right now instead of talking.
Tip #7: Go somewhere boring. If your child is still not able to sit still or be quiet in church and there is no crying room, find an empty classroom or office and have them sit quietly on your lap. Leave all the fun (books, snacks, etc.) in the service. Once they have settled (and are sufficiently bored) you can return to your seat, quietly reviewing the expectations on the way.
Making good use of these tips not only teaches your little how to sit still and be quiet in church setting, but also frees you to more fully engage in and reap the benefits from the service you are attending.
[Photo credit : click from morguefile.com]