Monday, January 31, 2011

Keeping Your Toddler Happy in Church

Many of you know of the difficulty we have had in keeping Addie in the nursery at church.  For some reason, no matter what, she always catches what other kids have brought with them! Note: If your child is sick, please don't expose others to what they have.

We have decided that for us for now, she needs to stay with us in the service. An hour of convenience is not worth a week of having a sick toddler. This is not new for us.  We have kept her with us for most of her almost three years.  As an infant it was rather easy.  Diaper bag was packed with diapers, wipes, juice, bottle, pacifier and an extra outfit.  She usually slept right through the service (nap time) and was ready for lunch when church was over. 

As she got older, it became more of a challenge to keep her occupied. But we have managed, and have done very well.  Yesterday, she almost made it through the entire service until she saw the youth group kids get up to man their stations at the spring break missions trip fundraiser, and she was ready to go out with them to see what they were up to. Oh, my little social butterfly!

In her bright pink princess backpack (which poor Brian ends up carrying around), we have a book of five puzzles, a variety of books, a coloring book and crayons, a little doll with changeable clothes, two kinds of snacks, a sippy cup of juice, a change of clothes and underwear.

Before we arrived at church, we tell Addie where we are going and we review how she is supposed to behave (our weekly ritual).  In her words, we are going to "sing songs, pray to Jesus, listen to Pastor, and no talking."

During the service, we chose to sit along the wall in the extra seating section.  It gave Addie a bit more wiggle room and we were not disrupting anyone else's worship time. If the extra seating chairs are not set up, then we usually sit in the last row or as close to the last row as possible. During the song and worship time, we let Addie walk along our row of chairs to help her get as much of her wiggles out as possible. 

When the sermon started, she sat beside me and out came the book of Sesame Street puzzles.  I took apart the puzzles one at a time and she would put them back together. For this, I let her stand in front of the chair as long as she was quiet to put the puzzles together.  This took a good portion of the sermon to complete. 

Next it was time for her snack.  For this she had to sit in her chair. I had a small container of blueberries and another container of Goldfish crackers.  After her snack was completed, she had a little juice to wash it all down.

During each activity, I would look over at Brian's sermon notes to see how much time we had.  Pacing your activities is very important.  If you rush through everything in your bag, you"ll be left with nothing to interest them by the end of the service. However, you don't want to drag each activity out.

Next I pulled out her doll, which she named Dora because of her dark hair.  This doll has little hard plastic clothes that (quietly) snap on and are interchangeable.  She played with the for some time..... and then the youth group got up right at the closing prayer.  I had to take Addie out, and Brian got stuck holding the pink princess backpack.

 This has been our system for quite some time now, and each Sunday is very different.  Some days, she just sits and isn't interested in the bag.  Other days, I feel like the bag didn't have enough in it.  But for the most part, our bag works well as it is. 

Hopefully, someday soon we can begin putting her back in the nursery.  But until then, I will make sure our bright pink Princess backpack is armed and ready to go.  And I am so thankful that I have a good man who is willing to carry it for me.

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