What to Do with 5 Yr Old Boy During Hour and Half Church Services.

Updated on July 20, 2011
D.D. asks from Goodyear, AZ
26 answers

URG! Our church sends out 5 yr olds with parents to worship. My boy is a busy...busy boy!! He get bored with the coloring book, he will play well with the travel size play dough, but it's messy and don't want to leave dough in pew or carpet. I have crayons and markers. I take healthy snacks (which will calm him for a wee bit.) One man came up to my husband after church and asked why they don't have a class for that age group. So my son was not only distracting to me, to others around me as well. :-(

Anyone have any idea's on how to help my son engage in something that is quiet and entertaining while we sit in church??

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answers from Washington DC on

well, if it's only for worship time (maybe 30 minutes right?) then he is plenty old enough to worship with you. Lots of kids like to sing. Then after worship, he can go off to sunday school for the rest of the time



answers from Pittsburgh on

I have girls, which I think are different, but we sit towards the front so that they can pay attention to the mass.

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answers from Dallas on

uh, seriously? you let your kid bring toys and SNACKS into a church service? i have a 2yo(she is usuallly in the nursery except for the last 30 minutes for communion, and i expect HER to sit quietly) girl and 2 boys - they are 5 and 8. sometimes the 5yo goes to children's chapel, but he usually stays with us... i seriously cannot fathom allowing him to color, play with play-do, or eat snacks during church. what you do is explain to your son(and yourself) that church is not about being entertained, but about sitting quietly and respectfully. i know i probably sounds harsh, but geez, i have been bombarded with conversations this week about "oh, you can't expect a 4yo to sit still for an hour in a restaurant, or a 2yo to sit quietly on an airplane" and the like. they will never learn how to do those things unless it is taught and EXPECTED. barring medical/mental issues, a 5yo is DEFINITELY capable of sitting for an hour and a half.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Omaha on

Personally, we have three daughters and one son. Our youngest (son) is now 14 but when the kids were little, they didn't have a nursery so they went to church with us.

This probably won't be a very popular answer but...teach your child to sit still in church. This is not to say that my kids didn't fidget occasionally, but the expectation was that they were to sit, be quiet, listen and only whisper to me if they needed to go to the bathroom. Otherwise, sit still and listen. This expectation was started when they were around 3 years of age.

Practice at home for 30 minutes to start with. Set a timer, give a reward if he can sit still and be quiet. Increase the time by 5 minutes each day. Before long, he should be able to sit still and listen or keep himself occupied quietly throughout the service. If he cannot, it is your responsibility to see to it that he is not disturbing other worshippers. I have also been known to pass out dum-dum suckers to any child around me who is fussing. I don't ask, I just hand them a sucker. I hope the parents get the idea. If he hasn't started school yet, he will be soon and will be expected to sit still and listen.

I stopped going to my church of 15 years because the kids were so noisy during service that I would get to the parking lot and have no idea what the sermon was about. I even had a dad sit behind me with one little girl on each side of him and READ THEM A STORY OUT LOUD!

I apologize if this offends anyone, but trust me when I say, I too am offended when people don't train their children how to behave in church.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My oldest is also VERY busy! I know some parents probably think I am terrible for letting him play in church, but it is better than the alternative of letting him disturb those around us.

We have found that dot-to-dot books work WONDERS, as do other task-oriented books: mazes, printing, simple math, word find, etc. I also make sure to bring a children's Bible every week which he likes to look at.

**My church also does not have a children's Sunday school during church, nor have any of the other 3 churches I have regularly attended during my life.**

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sioux City on

I have a bunch of kids and from a very early age they learn that Church isn't about them. I may take a cup of water and a couple of books for a two year old, but by five they have to participate. At five they may have a book about their faith but that is about all I will allow them to bring with them. I have the benefit of a very beautiful church so there is a lot to look at that helps them learn what it going on. I belong to a faith that has nearly 2,000 years of tradition that enhance the service and I draw from that to keep the kids involved. They all know that I attend Church because I want to get to heaven and I learn during that time. They also know that I expect the same of them.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

5 is too old for eating and playing in church. And I had busy kids too. When they were very little, 3 and under, we brought some cheerios and either a book or stuffed animal. Nothing with pieces that could be dropped. But after that they should really be ok for 90 minutes. If anything, take them to the bathroom 1/2 way just to stretch and get a drink of water.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I think kids in church is a lot more common than a lot of people think. We attend a very small catholic church. There's no nursery at all and the cry room is ridiculously small. In fact, the window that looks out into the main part of the church is too high for the kids to see over. My kids misbehave more in the cry room. I too am struggling with this. My 5 year old does well with a little toy and small notebook and pen. My 3 and 1 year olds are impossible! I bring snacks too but i feel like 5 may be too old to eat in church. I once saw a little girl in church with what looked like her "chuch bag" that had prayer cards, booklets, stickers etc. I thought that was a neat idea.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I bring my 3, 5, and 9 year olds with me to service. We go to the contemporary service which is more lively and keep my kids engaged a little more. I remind them before the service that church is a time to be quiet and sit still because other people are trying to listen. They are typically very well behaved. I used to sit in the back pews in case my children acted up. I now sit as close to the front as I can because I have found that they behave very well when the pastor is so near.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Provo on

I would LOVE to know what other people do. I'm just going back to church, so this is a new world to me! I also have brought crayons and cherrios. . . so far only worked for 1/2 an hour. . .

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Wichita on


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Spokane on

Our church does not offer an alternative service/class for the kids. There is a quiet room that mother's can use to nurse and a nursery that parents can take their little ones if they are being too disruptive that has the service piped in via speakers.
My 7 y/o and 3 y/o both typically stay with me throughout the service and have been going to church since they were born. I have had to take them to the quiet room or the nursery at times, but very rarely.
My 7 y/o does dot to dots, math pages, has a notebook of his that he writes little notes in, does get a small (quiet) snack during the sermon, he reads books, he sings along to the songs and is required to stand/sit when the congregation does. He also goes up for the children's sermon and up front for communion/blessing.
My 3 y/o is a little more difficult to keep busy/quiet. He loves for me to trace his hand so we do that about 100x! He looks at books, colors, gets his snack during the sermon, goes up for the children's sermon and communion/blessing, sits on my lap, plays on the floor with his dinosaurs and tries to sing along.
Our church offers an 8 am service and an 11 am service ~ the 11 being more "kid friendly" b/c most people with children go to that service. Our pastor has two young girls and enjoys all the children. It makes for a very warm feeling for those with little ones.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Spokane on

Maybe this is a great opportunity for you to volunteer to start a childrens church program? I'm sure that other parents are in the same boat and with coordination and prayer this could be something that everyone can benefit from, especially the kids.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lansing on

Perhaps an incentive before entering church to behave well then he can do something special he doesn't get to do often? Otherwise it just takes time and a lot of practice.

Oh and FYI, my church never has Sunday school during service. I'm so jealous of all of you that do. :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

I can't imagine having my son in a church service for that long, and it seems unreasonable to expect them to do so. Adults fall asleep in church ALL the time, so you can imagine how boring it is for kids. I honestly would find a different church with a kids ministry.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Augusta on

Does your church have a children's church? Ours has one for ages 4 and up. I definitely would not do the play doh. Snacks are a great idea as well as the coloring book. What about an etch a sketch? or even a leapster or nintendo ds? As long as the sound is off I don't see why you couldn't take it into church? Or playing with your cell phone or ipod? HTH and good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

At my church we do have a child's room where parents can drop off their kids in a nursery if they want during the service. Our church also is very family friendly, so some kids are busy, so are quiet, so are a little distracting BUT you are going to church as a family and that is a good thing (even if he or you are not getting much out of it right now).

My daughter will be 5 soon and we have a "church busy bag" that we bring along to church. We only use it for church, we change out the stuff once a month to keep it intresting. Items that we have in there: kids bible, stickers, coloring book, crayons, simple activity books, small quiet games, healthy snacks, 2-5 small books, 2 small toys (my little ponies, cars, dinos, whatever we decide when changing it up). Most of the items I get from a dollar store or the cheap sections in target or walmart. We are trying to phase out the snacks but the service we go to is at 10:30 and goes till 11:30 which is lunch time for my daughter, so I bring along one small bag or item and that is it.

We always sit in the back pews, that is where all the families usually sit so we all understand that some times your kid is cranky or whatever. Besides the bag we have the rule starting at age 3 have to sit in the pew when everyone else is sitting. Still can play quietly but have to be sitting in the pew or on our laps. We also have a potty break about half way through just to help break up the time we are in the one spot where she uses the bathroom, gets a drink of water and walks back to the pew.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Why don't you start a Sunday school? Or, find a new church?

I agree with a lot of the other mothers-- he could be made to to sit if you really wanted to. Of course, he may grow up hating church. :-)



answers from Los Angeles on

When my kids were that age our church services (sacrament meeting) was 90 minutes too. My wife made what the ladies called "quiet books" to keep the little ones amused and quiet. I've seen them for sale in book stores. My wife made them for our kids. They were made out of cloth.

If you need more info, e-mail me and I'll ask my wife to tell you more. All of my kids with kids have quiet books for their kids.

Good luck to you and yours.


answers from Dallas on

i would find a new church. if that isn't an option, i would visit with the pastor about them starting a class for 5 yr olds.



answers from Chicago on

This is news to me that a church would not have Sunday school for a 5 year old during the adult services. I would certainly get more information to understand why they do what they do.


answers from Dallas on

Our church has a children's ministry too... When my oldest was that age and in elementary school she didn't want to go to the kid's church, so I told her she had to sit still and be good, and she did. She usually would write in a journal or draw, but she didn't want to be with other kids. Her younger brother loved going, they have snacks there too, but he always had fun which I don't think he would have sat as still as her. My youngest is almost 5, I don't go to church on a regular anymore, and he doesn't usually sit still either. I just take him out and we listen from outside the sanctuary. I think it is rude to disturb others so if my kid is doing it, we aren't saying in, now we just don't go as much...


answers from Allentown on

Hi, T:
Have you gone to the church Board meetings to see what
the church is dealing with to get someone to teach
the little children?

Is that something you can do?
Just want to know.


answers from Los Angeles on

Mine does not even have a nursery. We bring a church bag, always stocked. Play dough is a very bad idea. I bring a wooden train set, stuffed animals, crayons, coloring books...Its acctually good for them to learn to sit still. We overstimilate our children all day long.


answers from Williamsport on

It's not really about keeping entertained every second. It takes discipline to make kids sit still that long. We don't go to church, but most of our cousins sit through long service by around age 3, OR ELSE.

When we outgrew the kiddy groups as kids, we were 4 or 5 and we weren't allowed to have any activities other than a pen to write on the program which we didn't get until 3/4 through the service IF WE WERE BEING GOOD. I remember getting SO impatient waiting to draw, but if we squirmed AT ALL we got removed for discipline and didn't get the pen when we got back. I really don't remember being disciplined, just knowing we were NOT allowed to act up in church. We did NOT get snacks, and if we acted up at all, we didn't get to stay for coffee time and cookies after church and to run around with our friends. Which was a huge drag because we didn't get cookies at home and lived pretty remotely and never had playdates. I think that was the biggest incentive to keep us in check-earning the cookie break.

He needs discipline immediately and firmly for not being still and quiet in church, and an enticement for being good for the WHOLE time. If you can't rein him in, you may have to wait until he's older. Kids have had a hard time in church through the centuries. You have to be very firm. The last time I went to church my daughter wanted me to take her to Christmas Eve service. There was a boy in there acting squirrely. It was a HUGE nuisance to everyone. The man behind them kept almost saying something, and his wife was having a hard time calming him! Church is hard enough to get through without being annoyed :)

Be sure your husband really steps up the discipline as the male role model. Your son needs clear expectations and follow through for church. No activity is going to be so mesmerizing that it will override the desire to be hyper in church. It has to be an enforced rule.

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