May 27, 2008

Revamping our church bag

We attend an age integrated church, which means there is no nursery, Sunday School classes or Children's Church. We have a worship service for 2+ hours in which the whole family sits, sings and listens to the sermon together. To help the younger children learn to sit through an hour long sermon we have a church bag we take each week, with "quiet" things for them to do. (even though there hands are being kept busy, their ears still hear the sermon)

**please note: The intention of this post is not to debate whether or not children should be allowed to have things to keep their hands busy during sermons or not. This post is to give ideas and encouragement to those of us who choose to do this. Please do not submit comments to debate this. **

Lately I had noticed that our church bag was getting out of control. Too many old bulletins, broken crayons, unsharpened pencils, etc. Bleh! I also didn't like how awkward it is for the kids to get into all the different compartments of the backpack during the sermon. Zippers are noisy too. So, I decided to get a new bag, streamline what we take each week, and rotate what goes in it every couple of months. Here are the results:

Our "old" church bag - pink backpack with too many pockets, zippers and too much space to lose things in!

Contents of old bag- what a mess! (click to enlarge)

New items for quiet play for the girls: Woodkins dolls by Pamela Drake. Our chiropractor has had one in his office for years and my girls always play with it. These dolls will ONLY be in the church bag and the girls are not allowed to play with them any other time.

Here is how the inside of the new church bag looks after putting the things I want to have in it in. Using a smaller bag (and no noisy zippers!) will keep us from over stuffing it and changing out items every couple of months. Inside it are: a few coloring books, package of twist up crayons, two lacing items, two magna doodles (we love these for church use), several small, plastic animals (dollar store) and the Woodkins.

New church bag: fresh, clean and even pretty!

I would love to hear of what you use in your church bag/quiet play bag, so be sure share with us in the comment box.


AnnMarie said...

First, I love what you call your church! That's the kind of church I grew up in. It drives me nuts that my current church isn't like this. And they wonder why only a small percentage of kids grow up to join as adults. The only time they see the whole service is a few times a year, for special services! I'd have always kept my daughter with me in the service except my husband thinks she should be in the nursery (and now the RE program) because he's a SAHD and she doesn't play with other kids much. I'm enjoying summer now because they don't have RE for kids under 5 and she's only 3.

Anyway, I used to bring along a couple books in my purse for her. I'm going to try not even doing that this summer. She likes looking at the hymnal and the service program. However, this past Sunday, she did get a little bit bored. So I might slip another book in my little purse. I also like the little magna doodle idea--she has one of those as well. And I like the Woodkins although I've never seen them before. I like to travel light, so my purse is fairly small although a couple board books or the MD would fit. Previously, when I needed to carry a diaper or two, I had a slightly larger purse I used for church for that. I rarely used it for anything else, so the books or toys remained there. I also used to bring along a snack as she had to eat b'fast earlier than usual.

Our service is only an hour, however. I think I would bring more if it were 2 hours.

Any tips on keeping the kids from talking out loud? She stays interested in the books but now wants to talk out loud to me at all sorts of times! Since I'm one of the few to bring my child w/ me I wonder what others think. (There are a number of infants who are regulars and the occasional other child. No one really seems to mind, but you know how a single voice seems to be oh so loud when everyone else is being quiet!)

Leanne said...


What a great idea!

Leanne in Longview

Mom of twelve said...

What I would do about the loud voice during church is to have your daughter practice her "church" voice at home. Several times a week, till it really sinks in, have a practice sessions where you both whisper to each other, letting her know that this is what her "church" voice is supposed to be like. I would also train her during the week about how when we are in church we are very quiet when we look at books and don't talk to mamma. Again, set up a practice sessions, sitting next to her on the couch or in chairs next to each other in the livingroom and pretend you are at church. While she is looking at her little book, if she talks, remind her at church we don't talk (and if she does need to say something, like to express a need to go potty) she needs to use her "church" voice.

At our church there are all sorts of little people noises, but we are all used to it and don't mind a bit. If a child (usually a baby) gets too fussy, loud or outright loud crying, one of the parents takes the child out of the service till they can calm down and rejoin the service.

Anonymous said...

Love your church bag! We don't have the kids take too much but Brooklyn usually takes a soft doll (so when it falls on the floor it doesn't make too much noise) and a bottle/blanket or something to use with the baby. She always brings her blankie so she can cuddle up during service. Dylan usually just has a pencil, his bible and a bulletin. I never even thought of magna doodles! Brilliant! Since all we have is little ones, there has been a time when Dad and Mom are standing to sing where the crayon ended up on the pew...this would prevent that temptation! :)
I also second Jerri's advice to practice at home. We have Family Worship every day where the kids are to behave like at church, and it's where they learn how to act during service. If they only practiced sitting still for a worship service once a week it would take a long time of training for them (especially our 2 year old super active girl) to get it!
Jerri - any tips on how to keep an 8 month old quiet?? I end up in the Mother's Room for part of the service every week due to Preston's happy screams. This is one I am struggling with and guessing it will just take time...but with having raised 12 through this phase maybe you have some other idea?? :)

Kristen Bradley

Mom of twelve said...

There is a phase that all babies (well, at least all my babies) go through where they have found their voice, but are too immature to know what to do with it (or when NOT to use it!lol!). Those are the times I spend in the hallway, where I can still hear the sermon, but the baby noises are far enough away not to be so disturbing.

I will admit, there were some times I did not have a good attitude about this phase. I felt like I was missing out, I was inconvenienced, I was the one always having to deal with the loud or fussy baby at church... so why bother going? I was a dark cloud that is for sure. God really had to help me see my ugly heart and change it for me. I want to be a joyful mother, joyfully embracing each child's stage of life, no matter the inconvenience to me. That's motherhood in a nutshell, isn't it? Once my attitude was changed, the baby didn't change, but I was able to be at church with a joyful heart, knowing these days will all too soon end.

Believe me, if this attitude isn't nipped in the bud, it only grows along with the baby. Once they are able to sit better in the service, they still disrupt you. Just as you are really getting into the sermon they whisper something to you, can't find something, need to be taken to the potty, etc. Oh, that could be so frustrating... if I let it! It is just part of growing up children.

Sorry, I don't have any tricks for this age of baby. When we can't change our circumstances all we can do is change ourselves. =)

Please realize I am not saying I am perfect in this area! I'm not. I'm still learning and growing. We are all in this together, moms!

AnnMarie said...

Thanks for the ideas! I might also start bringing her baby doll. She actually didn't play with it much until just recently (just turned 3.5) which killed me--I bought a pretty expensive handmade cloth doll that she ignored for 2 years. But it would be a perfect quiet toy for church--and will be perfect also because we're hoping to add a baby in the next year or so to my arms!

Roberta said...

Hi Jerri!
Right now we are going to a little church that has a 1 hr. Sunday school and 1 hr-1 1/2 hr church service. Noah (2)wants to stay with us during Sunday school, the 3 others go to class (where they are sometimes the only ones or of just 2 or 3 families) and sweet older ladies teach them. I just tell you that, because it's different from our time at HoFCC, but our kids learning from these diligent 70 year old ladies, it's pretty age integrated. :)
During church we used to take quiet activities (probably would if the service were longer) but for now find it works best to have the kids each bring their Bible, small notebook and something to draw with. Sometimes Noah has a little stuffed animal. It keeps it simple, and they enjoy drawing as they listen.
Hope you're doing well and feeling well with your pregnancy.

Martie said...

Everything looks so neat and organized. Hope you are feeling well.


Michele said...

That looks great! :) I've been telling DH that we need to start taking a church bag for our daughter (just turned 18 months). So far, we've just been taking the diaper bag, but I love the idea of having things "just for church only."

I've been rotating in some books, and a few quite toys. She has never been able to sleep in church, and often wants to "read" her books outloud! :) I'm always looking for inspiration for what to do with my busy little one! (She does love the music, and also prayer time- she says "Amen!") :)


Jenny/Runningamuck said...

I love those Woodkins dolls! I've never seen them before. Hmm, just might have to purchase one for a birthday that's coming up.

Love the re-vamped bag. Looks like you got it all under control. And rotating the toys is KEY I think. It will prevent them from getting a chance to get bored with the toys. Or at least prolong the process of becoming bored with them. lol.

Great job.
Love ya.

Sarah Schreffler said...

Our 3-year olds love the Woodkins dolls. its one of the things we rotate around that gets a lot of use (even by the boys!)

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