Four years ago I had 3 children, ages 6, 3, and 1. We had just moved into a new house, a new neighborhood, and were going to a new church. I’m not sure if it was the particular ages of my children, the fact that there were 3 of them and only 2 of us, or just a new phase of life ….a very hard phase! Taking my kids anywhere was about as fun as rolling in a patch of prickly cactus! The grocery store was always a circus. I’m sure everyone around me was thoroughly entertained, but in my little pool of fun, I felt like I was drowning. Church was, by far, my hardest obstacle. I would apologize to the people in the pew behind us before we even sat down knowing full well what they would have to endure sitting behind us for the next hour. What I should have said was,
“Would you like to buy front row tickets to our family circus?”
I remember one experience that was my breaking point. We attended a church meeting in an older meeting house (formerly known as the Provo, UT Tabernacle.) I knew it would be long and boring for the kids so I brought a few things to entertain them. For my active 3 yr old son, I brought a metal lunchbox with his trains inside. Half way through, my son needed to go to the bathroom so my husband took him out. I found out later, that my husband took him up on the balcony so he could peer over the edge….and then chuck his heavy metal lunchbox over the edge! I was sitting down below and heard the crash that just barely missed someone sitting below. I remember thinking,
“Oh my gosh! That could have seriously injured someone! What idiot is letting their kid throw things over the edge??”
I watched in horror as my husband escorted my son to the pew below to retrieve his lunchbox and apologize. I wanted to hide….forever! We left early instead. I might have also said a few choice words to my husband and son (which I regretted soon after.)
If you have any kids, especially if you have more than 1, you may be able to relate.
I went to work developing a plan for my kids to help them behave in church, and the doctor’s office, and the car, and every other place they were required to sit more than 5 minutes! We have come a long way since then. I now have a 4th child who is almost 2. Dealing with him in church last week reminded me of 4 years ago, and that I needed to, once again, repeat the same thing with him that I did with the others. I hope what I share will help other mom’s who might be feeling just as I did. Here are the 2 things that finally worked for me.
1. Prepare. I learned to PREPARE my kids before we went anywhere. This usually consisted of a nice talk in the car on the way to our destination. If I was really on the ball, it would occur at home , before we left, followed by some practice role play. These are the questions I asked:
Where are we going?
Why are we going there?
How should we behave while we are there?
Why should we behave this way?(kids ALWAYS want to know WHY)
Then thy would have fun showing me the right and wrong way to behave.
Whenever I just throw my kids into a new situation without preparing them first, the result is usually disastrous. If they still continued to misbehave after everything, we would remove them from the scene (take them out to the car or in another area where we could talk) and allow them to practice again before taking them back. Lots of praise for great behavior worked wonders also! If you were to ask my kids, though, they would tell you what worked the best was the SECOND thing I did.
2. Pack. I had been carrying a diaper bag everywhere I went. I would usually just throw random items in it for the kids to keep them happy. I found something that finally worked SO MUCH better! I purchased a bag for EACH of my kids to take to church!
Then, I purchased as many fun (yet quiet) things that we could afford. Most of the things I bought were great for all of my kids, some were specifically for each age. I bought enough items that we could ROTATE them each week. I discovered that when thy each had their OWN bag and also DIFFERENT things in that bag each week, my life outside the home suddenly became so much calmer and manageable again. The trick was always being a step ahead. When we first started doing the ‘bags’ I would fill them myself the night before and it would be a fun ‘surprise’ for them to open their bags and see what mom packed for them that week. Eventually, I started letting them pick out their own items to put in their bags. My 3 oldest are to the point now, that even if we forget the bags, they can sit still and be okay. My toddler, on the other hand, has a few years to go. My kids quiet bags not only helped them, but also lots of other kids who would ever sit by us. It was fun to see them share items from their bags and sometimes see relief from other moms as they got a few minutes of peace also. So..that’s it! I know, how can just 2 simple suggestions really make that big of difference? Try it and see! I hope they help you just as much as they have me! I have also included links to the items I found that worked best in my kids bags. Obviously, everyone is different, so pack what you know your kids will like. What are you waiting for? Get Preparing and Packing! 🙂
-Bags. I bought my bags on BYU campus in the book store for $5 each. and they have been very durable. If you live close to a Seagull Book store, they also carry these bags! Any bag will work, although, I found the ones with handles instead of a backpack worked best for us. This way, I can carry all the bags in one hand if necessary. Not as easy if they were backpacks. You could even buy those cheap canvas bags from the craft store and write their names on them. Whatever you do, don’t pack anything in a metal lunchbox! 🙂 Here are a few others I found: Simple canvas tote, Heavier Canvas tote,
-Coloring/activity books. I always get my coloring books at the dollar store, but I have found some awesome sticker books and countless other fun ‘books’ online. Here are my favorites: Hidden pictures, Big Preschool Workbook, Doodle pad, Jumbo Coloring Pad, Dry Erase Books (with washable dry erase crayons!) Water Wow #1, Water Wow #2, Water Wow bundle. (love water wow books for toddlers and preschoolers! So much better than markers! )
-Puzzles. Make sure to include these. Think durable but not too many pieces. I bought several of these puzzles and then put the pieces in a separate ziploc bag labeled for each puzzle. The smaller puzzles also work great. The pieces were still big enough that I didn’t worry about my kids swallowing them. My toddler would love these 4 piece puzzles.
-Fun Little Toys. I would also keep these stored in ziploc bags so I could just grab them and go. Our favorites were: Sunny patch bugs, Sunny Patch Lizards, Finger puppets, Wooly Willy, Lacing cards, Safari Toobs, (Safari Toobs ROCK for quiet bags!) Melissa and Doug Travel memory game (my kids love to play this and I love it because you can’t lose any pieces!!)
-Coloring/Drawing Utencils. Find a sturdy little container to keep these in to make it easy to rotate from bag to bag. I loved these: Twistables , Twistables colored pencils, crayons, washable crayons, mechanical pencils.
-Magnetic Books. Great fun! Once again, keep small pieces in a separate little bag so they don’t get lost. My kids really liked the Create-a-Scene sets. The Magnetic Fun Tins are really great also because they are smaller and come with the tin to keep the magnets in.
-Sticker Books. My favorite are the books with the REUSABLE stickers. The books pictured below I bought from a salesman who came to my door and I don’t think they are available online. Here are some of the other similar ones we used: Animal Habitats, Vehicles, Playhouse, Dress Ups.
I really hope this has been helpful! What other things have you found to help your kids be quiet and happy in public places?
(Also, if you like to read, I HIGHLY recommend this book by Marie Ricks! It was so helpful for our family!)
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