With children’s attention spans often not being long enough to get them through an entire church service without becoming bored, parents can often find themselves struggling with spiritually appropriate ways to keep them entertained. Parents can relax knowing there are activities they can provide for their toddlers, preschoolers and school age children that can make the service interesting and also help the children learn a scriptural message. If your kids are bored at church, here are a few ideas.
Make an Activity Bag
It is best for parents to come to church already prepared with coloring and writing utensils, scrap paper and toys of choice. Keep the materials in a fabric bag to reduce noise while accessing them during the service. It also helps to ensure that all coloring and writing materials are in good working order ahead of time in order to avoid tantrums about dull or broken tips.
Church Activities for Toddlers
Since toddlers generally can not read or write, it is acceptable for parents to bring along two or three noiseless toys for use if the children become restless or bored. These should be toys that are accessed only for church and not at any other time during the week. This ensures that the toys remain interesting and possibly even eagerly anticipated by the children.
If possible, parents should include toys that can be used for scripturally based play. Providing toys that support the theme of the sermon or complement stories of the bible can help reassure parents that the child is still getting something out of attending church even if the child is not old enough to pay attention to the speaker for very long.
Some examples of toys that can be used for scripturally based play include:
- pairs of stuffed animals of the same species to stimulate play based on the scripture story of Noah’s Ark.
- stuffed or larger toddler safe toys based on the nativity scene to encourage play based on the birth of Christ.
- cloth or board picture books based on bible stories or containing pictures of items found in church.
Fun Activities for Younger Children
Pre-school and younger school aged children often enjoy activities that allow them to problem solve and express creativity. Here are some quiet and entertaining activities parents can provide for their children that can complement the message being shared during the service.
- Provide the children with coloring pages that have a biblical theme. These can be found in manuals and workbooks used by those who teach children’s church.
- Create word searches based on church related topics and have children complete them when they start complaining about being bored.
- Have children draw a picture with a scriptural theme such as Noah’s Ark, Moses and the 10 Commandments and The Last Supper.
Praise the child’s drawing afterwards as well as his ability to remain reverent during the service. This kind of reinforcement will encourage the child to continue being reverent. In her book The Developing Person Through the Lifespan, Kathleen Stassen Berger states that “school aged children respond readily to reinforcements such as a word of praise or a moment of special attention.”
Activities that Encourage Paying Attention
One activity parents can use is for the parent to pick a word at the beginning of each talk and have the children count how many times the speaker says the word in the talk. It helps to ensure the word is not so common that the children will get tired of counting it, but is likely to be used often enough that they won’t get bored waiting either.
Another way to encourage paying attention is to tell the children ahead of time that there will be a brief but easy question and answer period after the service or later that day during family time. Make the questions age appropriate and fairly easy, such as asking what color the speakers tie was or what the topic of the talk was about.
It is natural for children to become bored having to sit still and listen to a speaker for the duration of a typical church service. Parents can use some creativity and planning skills to organize activities for their children that can keep bored children occupied while also providing them with a spiritual message.
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