Question: Did you bring toys, etc. to Sacrament Meetings when you had young kids? Why or why not? Any advice?
All brought some simple toys, books, and/or paper for drawing, at least for the younger kids. Some brought snacks and some found it created more distractions than it solved. Some waited until after the Sacrament to bring out any items. At least several took young irreverent kids out of the room and specifically taught them to be reverent.
Rachel (and Bennett)
I tried everything. At first I brought all kinds of things to keep my kids occupied. I soon found out what I was bringing was causing a lot of distraction. After that they could only bring crayons and paper. No food. We eventually made it through. Our kids grew up and don't hate church! We had a lot of talks at home about being reverent, and sitting still. Some of my grandkids, however, have a lot of options of things to do during Sacrament Mtg., including food. They are not any more irreverent than my children were, so I think do whatever works. The best thing to keep in mind, for the parent, is what is your attitude toward Sacrament Mtg? If you like going and appreciate being there, so will your children.
Marsha (and Richard)
I brought some simple church oriented books for the really little children. We usually had pencils or pens in our pockets or purse and let the children use them to write on the program or another piece of paper. We decided along the way not to bring much with us. I made a quiet book, which gave the younger children something to do. We used such tools until they were 8 but once they were baptized we encouraged them to listen to the speakers.
Food only caused more problems than it solved so we didn’t continue that approach. When children were disruptive and we needed to take them out we didn’t ever put them down to play or walk around. We simply went into a dark classroom and sat with them, silently in the dark until they were ready to return keeping them on our lap. That worked very well for us since it was far more entertaining to be in church with all the people than in a dark room with nothing.
Of course, when they were infants I nursed them or walked with them to settle them down. The crawlers, we supplied a variety of simple toys to handle and let them sit on the floor or bench, but as toddlers it really did work to keep them in our arms in a dark room. We remained pleasant but kept them firmly confined.
It’s harder these days to find an empty room. It might work to go to the car as long as they are confined in your arms and not entertained in any way. Just sit silently. When you think they are ready, ask them if they’d like to return to be with the family.
This approach was challenging since my husband was most often sitting on the stand. It takes some real determination and sometimes others who are willing to sit with the remainder of the children. We usually didn’t have to do it many times to get the results we were looking for.
I have a cute story to tell about one of our grandchildren. She was being disruptive in church. They were sitting on the second row so others would not distract their children. It was ward conference so all the Stake leaders were on the stand. As they tried to help her get the proper reverent attitude she said firmly to them, “I don’t want to think about Jesus!” As their efforts continued she got louder and more adamant, “I don’t want to think about Jesus. You can’t make me think about Jesus." At this point our son swept her up in his arms and headed for the door in the back of the chapel. The whole way she continued to say, “I don’t want to think about Jesus. You can’t make me think about Jesus.” He sat quietly with her in the room, not saying anything until she agreed to return and behave appropriately. Nothing more was said. As he tucked her into bed that night she looked up into his face and said, “Daddy, next church day I’ll think about Jesus!"
Karen and Lance
At the time when our children were growing we did take a few toys. One we don't recommend is a car or anything else that a child can run up and down the pew. Our pews were wooden so they made a lot of noise. We had some books that were church oriented, about Jesus etc. We had some Cheerios in Tupperware that kept them occupied for a while. We also found that our cutting their fingernails, a little at a time kept them occupied. We also used Masking tape cut in little pieces and put them on the child's fingers. Takes a while for them to figure out how to remove it. Dad was usually on the stand and so Mom had to figure out these things. Some coloring books helped, but they can find their way onto the pew and discolor it. We didn't let them out of the pew or wander up and down. Usually they were on the pew. We had stickers in those days also with little books to stick them on. We're sure there are better ways now, but we don't have to think about that at this time of our lives. Sometimes Mother's purse is an interesting place to go if there are some fun things in there. NO lipstick, after they learn how to open it, works good for a while. Small bottles are easy to hold and put in their mouths, if clean. One man at a CES fireside said that he was going to invent a Tupperware with a lid that won't come off for 1/2 hour and then when it did the Cheerios or whatever would all pop out and it would take another 1/2 hour for the child to pick them up :). Don't think that would work as they get distracted or bored after too long. Maybe you can think of something like that, ha ha.
Kenneth and Catherine
We did bring some toys that were mostly quiet books or books that were gospel related. We tried to avoid using these during the sacrament.
Danielle (and Jake)
I brought small toys that were used at Sac. Meeting only. I still take some for the noisy kids around me (with their parents permission of course). I made it a priority to have my kids like church, not HATE it. It has worked. All of my children grew up loving to go to church. A general authority once said, “We do a lot in this church to make our kids hate Sundays!" I try to have it be a fun day.
Cynthia (and Brad)
I only brought little books, mostly gospel types and some SOFT non-noisy toys for little ones. And none of this reading out loud to the child in church. When they became old enough to understand, the toys became fewer and fewer. And none of this sleeping in church when they were old enough. I think it is ridiculous that eight year olds are allowed to lay their head on their Dad's lap and sleep during Sacrament meeting. Time to grow up and realize the sacredness and importance of Sacrament meetings.
Mary (and Robert)
We took very little with us to Sacrament Meeting and I have some strong opinions about that. When we had a babe in arms or a toddler, we took no more than 2 or three toys to church. And it was important that they didn't rattle or squeak. As young children we had a book and a pad of paper and a pencil. We encouraged them to draw what they heard in the talks. The most important rule was that none of this came out of Mom's bag until the sacrament was completed. We believed that except for the very youngest they could discipline themselves to sit quietly for the first twenty minutes or so of the meeting. Often it took sitting on our laps (sometimes with assistance from an older couple sitting behind us) but they did well.
The hymn book is a great quiet activity. We sang the hymns and ran our finger along the words with a child interested in reading. When a 3 or 4 year old stood beside us on the bench as the sacrament was being passed, I whispered in his ear about Jesus and what the sacrament means. I also whispered to the boys about the deacons and how he would be one of those boys one day and be able to pass the sacrament.
One other item, once a child was potty trained, they didn't leave church for any reason. No drinks of water, no bathroom trips. The only reason a child left the chapel was for discipline. And it was never pleasant. We didn't play in the foyer and we didn't take a walk around the outside of the building.
What I see right now is a lack of attention by young parents during sacrament meeting. We have the noisiest ward in the stake (officially). It seems that the parents want to enjoy the meeting and the kids get to do what they want. I see a lot of independent play, talking even during the prayers, young women doing fun braids and such for their sisters, and no one seems to care to sing the hymns. Much of what will happen in church is led by parental expectations. If you show your children that you don't expect them to be reverent they won't be...guaranteed. If you have a plan and teach them to work the plan they will go along. It takes practice and continued reminders. We had a friend who also demanded reverence from their children. One day was particularly bad (as they will sometimes be) and he took his kids back to the chapel that evening and they sat on a bench for 30 minutes practicing reverence. Just sat there. They didn't have to do that again!
I know I sound like the sacrament meeting Nazi but this is a pet peeve. I really believe that children have it in them to be reverent and respectful and get something from sacrament meeting. If parents believe their children won't get something from sacrament meeting until they are older, they have a rude surprise coming. If you don't teach them now, they will not learn to listen to speakers later. If you don't expect them to be quiet now, they won't be quiet as teenagers. If they grow up believing that you just leave a meeting to go to the bathroom, you have no reason to expect them to plan ahead or discipline themselves later.
Next week's question: Did you have pets at your house? What ages were your kids? What good/bad things do you think came out of having pets, and what type of pets do you recommend?