Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sunday Bag

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka, the "Mormons"). Just like many church-going folks, I find it a struggle to keep my younger children occupied while sitting through weekly church meetings. In order to get something out of the meetings, I need to find ways to keep my little ones occupied with quiet, non-messy, un-distracting things to do. Since my children were little, we have tried and failed and succeeded at this objective, depending on the day. :) Below are a few things that have aided our moments of success:
  • Lift-the-Flap books. My littlest ones would sit with these books for at least 10-15 minutes at a time. Awesome! Keep a stash separate from the kids' book collection and rotate them in your Sunday bag.
  • Look & Find books. These are my FAVORITE Sunday-bag item. Similar to "Where's Waldo?" books, they have things hidden in the pictures that the child has to find. They are made by many publishers and come in varieties ranging from photo look & find's to scripture character look & find's. Check out your local bookstore and your local library. Just like the Lift-the-Flap books, rotate them in your Sunday bag.
  • Magnetic writer. They come in the brand-name "Magna-Doodle" but many toy manufacturers make them. They let kids draw and create and erase, all without the mess of crayons and paper.
  • Church magazines. Our church puts out the Friend Magazine for children. It is full of stories, pictures, and activities for children ages 3-11. We bring the current month's Friend, along with a few past issues, in our Sunday bag for the younger children to look at and/or read.
  • Church-based board books. These can get heavy, so we rotate them in the Sunday bag. You can get these online or at your local LDS bookstore.
  • What other tricks do YOU put in your "Sunday bag?" Leave a comment... It'll be great to get other people's ideas! :)
Now, a couple of DON'T's that have aided our success as well:
  • No food for kids older than 18 months. We made the family rule that once our child was in Nursery (18 months), we would no longer bring snacks for during Sacrament Meeting (our main meeting, usually the first 70 minutes or so of church). My logic in doing so was that our child would get a snack in Nursery so he/she wouldn't need one during Sacrament Meeting. (It's only 70 minutes -- any kid can go 70 minutes without eating at that age.) Until they hit 18 months, we only brought spill-proof sippy cups or bottles and small, non-sticky, non-crumbly snacks like Cheerios or Goldfish crackers. In our church, kids can expect to get a snack in Nursery till they're 3, almost 4. After that age, they can handle not having food for 3 hours during the day. I feed them a substantial meal before we leave, and we have snacks or a meal (depending on the time of day) just after we get home.
  • The Sunday bag stays closed until after the Sacrament. The Sacrament is administered about 30 minutes into the meeting. Before then is the singing of hymns, announcements, church callings are given, etc. I figure the sooner the bag is opened, the sooner it will loose their interest. With the goal to be to get through the end of the meeting before they completely loose interest in the Sunday bag, I figure it's best to put off getting it out until as far into the meeting as I can. Plus, I want to be able to sit through the Sacrament without the distraction of kids digging into the bag for something else to do and /or the mess of stuff created by them doing so. :) Besides, if the goal is to be thinking about Jesus during the Sacrament, can they really be doing that while they're busy with something else? They know that the bag stays shut until after the Sacrament, so they get better and better at practicing sitting quietly withOUT the stuff in the bag to distract them just yet.
  • Nix the crayons & coloring books. These, I have to admit, I am NOT a fan of bringing to church. Ever since my youngest decided that coloring on a pew would be great fun, we have excluded these from our Sunday bag and we haven't missed them a bit. I no longer have to scramble around at the end of the meeting, making sure we got all the crayons back in the bag. I don't have to help a child find a particular color while I'm trying to listen to the meeting. I don't have to pass the bag of crayons from one child to the next. Yeah, don't miss that a bit. :) We take the magnetic writer mentioned above instead.
  • The Sunday bag is off-limits once my kids hit the age of 10. At that age, they are allowed a lined notebook and pencil. What they choose to do with it is up to them. :) My daughter (12) likes to take notes. When she was younger she liked to draw in it.
What have you found to be helpful in keeping children quite and undistractING to others during Sunday meetings??

Looking forward to the comments on this one!


p.s. This is my family's personal take on stuff during church, and I know everyone won't agree. But there it is. Take it or leave it. :)

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  1. Yeah, we do pretty much everything you do. Steve is very ANTI-toy at church, so we stick with church books, Friend mags, and lots of blank paper. We never had issues with crayons or markers, so those we have. No snacks during church, but we do usually have one bottle of water, because we do NOT allow our kids to go to the water fountain 47 billion times during sacrament. :)

  2. I am a LDS too. We have 6 children, all raised and married now. Your lovely list here is very good! If reminded me of an incident where our Branch President was kind of scolding the congregation about their reverence in Sacrament meeting. THEN he pointed to US and said, "If the Br_____ghs can do it, anyone can do it!" I was so embarrassed and at that moment, my youngest was standing by my knee, quietly informing me that when we got home, he was going to get a gun and shoot all of us. LOL It makes me laugh every time I think of it. Now he is a returned missionary, and happily married. :)

  3. Some good ideas, but the look-and-find books don't work for my kids. It's the same thing for me as the crayons and paper are for you (which actually works well for us). But we also keep to the no-bag-until-after-the-sacrament rule and we don't bring snacks period, not even for the youngest ones. Most of the church buildings we've attended church in the last 5 years have had a no-food policy.

    But I like the no-bag-after-10 rule. And we do try to keep what we bring to a minimum--I hate having to schlep a heavy bag!

  4. I've got some more 8deas up my sleeve. Thanks