How to Teach Your Toddler to Be Quiet in Church Services
When it comes to having toddlers in worship services, there are two schools of thought:
Toddlers cannot gain anything from attending church services with their parents, and should go to the nursery or children’s church.
Toddler can be taught from a very young age to keep still and quiet while learning about and worshiping God.
If you know me, you know I am very much for children staying with their parents during church services. I don’t think for one second it is easy, but the benefits are worth the work. The best part is, if you are consistent, by age two or three, most little ones can make it through an entire hour of worship without having to be carried out.
I asked my go-to mamas for their very best advice on how to keep a toddler quiet during church. This is what we came up with…
Hands down, the most mentioned advice is that you must have quiet activities for toddlers during church.
I am not a crafty mama, so with the exception of the “faux purse”, which I will explain later, I usually buy my quiet toys. I am an Amazon affiliate, so if you purchase any items through one of my links, I earn a small commission. These are my (and my go-to moms’) favorite quiet activities:
The winner for best quiet activity for toddlers during church is definitely Water Wow from Melissa and Doug. These are similar to Crayola Color Wonder, but way better. You fill the brush with water, and your child can use it over and over again. I like that it doesn’t make a mess. The water does not come out too fast. They even make them in Bible stories.
Busy Bibles are a wonderful way to keep your little one busy and quiet. This one by Pioneer Plus is perfect!
Monkey Noodle is a quiet toy that can keep even the busiest hands entertained while still allowing your child to focus on the words of the lesson. Think little ones don’t pay attention to the lesson? Think again! I can’t tell you how many times Isaac would say, “He said me!” when the preacher spoke of Abraham and Isaac during a lesson.
We have always enjoyed these magnetic tins. They come in super heroes and other themes, but I prefer to stick with Bible themes (when I have a choice) for our church bag.
Magnetic drawing boards are good for keeping toddlers entertained during church, but steer away from the kind that have removable shape magnets. The magnets can be loud when clicking in, and they always get dropped under the pew in front of you. I like this basic version.
Lift the flap books are another great option. Avoid cloth books that contain crinkle pages or squeakers. Also avoid any book that you have trained your toddler to say, “Peek a boo!” with. Just trust me on that one. 🙂 I like this creation themed flap book.
You can try dry erase books as long as your toddler isn’t too wild and crazy (I hear calm toddlers exist). Some kids do great with these, but my current toddler would color my face, her dress, and the song book too. With her, I opt for notebooks, coloring books, and colored pencils or crayons.
Wikki Sticks are similar to Monkey Noodles, but your child can use them to create anything they can imagine. They are quiet. They won’t roll around everywhere. They won’t get old, even if you use them every service.
The Faux Purse
I came up with the idea of the faux purse when my first child was a baby. I took an actual purse that I wasn’t using and filled it with household objects that he wasn’t normally allowed to play with. It never caused any confusion at home because he knew the only time he could have it was at church.
I filled it with: old remotes, calculators, old eyeglasses or sunglasses, watches, necklaces, other odd items. I would then sit him on the pew beside me and let him go through “my purse”. He loved it! I have used it many times since and even swapped purses with other moms to give our kiddos some variety.
Have a designated church bag
All the quiet toys in the world won’t keep a toddler quiet and still if he is allowed to play with them every day. Save these items for church services only. Use a special bag and keep it in your car, so it will stay new and fun. Even better, have two different bags and rotate them. The more novel, the better. Just be sure that your Water Wow books and other special toys never come into your house or get brought out at other times.
So many snacks!
I’m not saying your child should have a big, noisy feast on the pew, but Cheerios can be a lifesaver when it comes to getting a toddler to make it those last 15 minutes of the sermon. I like Cheerios because I can do all sorts of entertaining things with them. I have been known to stick them on the tip of those tiny pencils that are on the back of the pews. You can usually find one with a broken tip without searching too hard.
Just stick a Cheerio on it, and show it to your toddler. All of a sudden, it becomes the most interesting Cheerio on earth. We also feed them to the people in their books. Give Moses a bite, then toddler takes a bite. You gotta get creative!
If you aren’t opposed to a little bit of sugar, you can bring special, church only snacks like lollipops, gummies, or Smarties. I’ve had a few services where I would have given my toddler a case of Snickers if it would have kept her quiet. 🙂 Luckily, she will settle for a couple Goldfish instead.
Bring your child’s lovey or blanket
Sunday morning services are often during nap time. Bring your child a sippy cup of milk and their favorite stuffed animal. With a little back rub and some rocking, you might find that your toddler takes a nice nap while you listen to the sermon.
Practice at home
It is hard for a toddler to sit still in church for an hour when they aren’t used to doing it at home. Practice sitting quiet and still with your toddler by reading to them quietly in your lap often throughout the day.
Save the goodies for the sermon
Most church services consist of singing and praying, followed by a lesson. Toddlers can participate with their parents in the first part of services. The singing will also drown out any noise your toddler makes. Explain to them each part of the service, “We are singing to God now. Now we close our eyes and pray to God.” Give them a dollar to put in the offering plate as it comes by. By the time the lesson begins, they will have already made it through most of the service.
Set the example
Set a good example for your toddler by staying focused on God during worship. I like to use a paper Bible instead of my phone so that my children see that I am focused on God. From a child’s point of view, they may not know if I am checking email or following along with the preacher. I like to hold my toddler in my lap and whisper in her ear throughout the service. She is two and a half, and has learned what each part of worship is. She will whisper to me, “Are we singing to God?” This is such a precious time!
Start training your children when they are babies. I bring my babies to services just as soon as they are able to leave the house. If they can leave the house, they can attend church services. Infants may need carried out to be fed or changed, but often do quite well being held by mom and dad on a pew.
Make the alternative less fun
While I believe that a small amount of noise is to be expected from a toddler, I do think it is important to carry your toddler out before they escalate into a full blown fit. I believe it is respectful to others and their need to focus. When I can tell that my toddler is about to flip her lid, I carry her to an area where I can work with her. I explain to her that she must be quiet and still during worship. I have her sit in my lap with no toys or books.
She is not allowed to get down and play, run the halls, and most importantly, we never carry her to the drop-off nursery. I feel that waiting until a toddler throws a fit to carry them to the nursery is the very best way to train them to never make it through services. We don’t use the nursery, but if we did, we would take our children there at the beginning of services and not wait until they act up.
Babies and younger toddlers may not be able to make it through services yet, and that is OKAY. Give them some grace and give yourself some too. During those times, I have always walked or rocked my little ones in a quiet place. I still don’t play with them or do anything fun, but I have walked miles of halls at the church building.
Teach the Tip Toe song
Tip toe, tip toe in God’s house. Be as quiet as a little mouse.
Sing it at home, before worship, and before carrying your child back into a service after they needed to be taken out. Practice singing it in your quietest voice. Some smaller children don’t understand the concept of whispering yet, so this song is a great way to teach them.
Never give up
I know that many parents feel that they trying to keep small children in church services is so much work that they may as well stay home. If this is you, I understand. I know that training a toddler to stay in worship can be an exhausting, disheartening experience. It is my hope that with these tips, you will find it a little easier. And though it often feels like it, please know that you are not alone. You can do this!