Matt and I have entered into a new phase of parenting. Gone are the days of Matt putting his arm around my shoulder while we blissfully soak in every profound thought that spills from the lips of our pastor on Sunday morning. Now? We've got a 3 year old sitting between us and we're trying to keep him from distracting all the other happy couples that are doing that. :)
The nursery ends for kids at the age of 3 at our church, so after Sunday School my husband picks up Isaac and brings him into "Big Church." He's actually done pretty well (aside from one little closing prayer mishap where Daddy was stuck in the middle of the row with him... lesson learned. We now sit on the end. :) He likes to observe everything while we sing and enjoys sitting on Daddy's lap for part of the service. (We're not anticipating that it will be this easy with our ever-moving 1 1/2 year old when he turns 3!) Even though he's been pretty great about the whole transition, he does get antsy, so I've put together some stuff for him to do when he can't sit still any longer.
I'm not going to lie. This all kind of stresses me out. BUT I know it's so good for Isaac to begin watching others worship their Savior and a good opportunity for him to learn to sit quietly.
So here's some of the stuff we're taking to church with us to make it meaningful and that also seems to help him stay quiet:
1. Big Boy Bible. Isaac has his own Big Boy Bible that we take to church each week. It's the Bible my mom gave each of the boys on their baby dedication Sunday.
Our bulletin has the text the pastor will be preaching on, so I try to look up the passage with him in his Bible before church starts. That doesn't always happen, but Matt and I try to have him follow along in his Bible or ours while the pastor reads the text for the morning. I love that he's beginning to familiarize himself with the Word of God and he likes that he's got his own Bible like Mommy and Daddy.
2. Christianpreschoolprintables.com. I print off coloring pages, file folder games and activities from here to put in a 3 ring binder for him to keep his hands busy. Some of them I have to put together beforehand, but it's worth it to have a couple of matching games or file folder games for him to do (and I can keep them and re-use them later).
3. Bible board books. We have quite a few books on hand that tell individual Bible stories and some that have small collections of stories. I put a few of those in the bag for him to look at if he tires of coloring or doing the activities.
I try to sometimes have little "themes" for our bag of activities (like the story of Christmas or Creation or Noah, etc.). In the coming months I'm going to try to share some of those activity packets that I put together and where I've gotten my ideas from.
As a side note, I don't think that having Bible stuff for him to do is a must. Sometimes Isaac just doodles with markers on a sheet of paper. I just like the idea of kind of cementing in his mind that this hour is for thinking about God. When I was growing up and once we could do some writing, my dad always had us "take notes" and write down at least one thing we learned during the sermon on Sunday morning. Most Sundays I had no clue what our pastor was talking about, so if he even mentioned the word "love" in passing, I would write down, "God is love" (usually accompanied with some doodled hearts :). He didn't make us give him a list of all the main points at the end, but he did expect us to make an effort to listen. This was good training and I'm glad he did it. I plan to do something similar in the future, but considering the only letter Isaac's mastered writing so far is I, O and T, I don't think we're going to be getting sentences out of him anytime soon.
I'd love to hear how you help your child learn to listen and not be a distraction to others during Sunday morning worship.