How to Keep Your Child Quiet and Happy in Public Places

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Is keeping your child quiet in public places even possible?? It may be difficult, but if you prepare for these moments you can make your past public spectacles into a pleasant public experience. When you are consistent you can train your child to know when they need to be quiet and when they can be crazier. 

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. The next thing I know I heard a loud bang from someone dropping something from the balcony above. 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 I watched my husband escort my son to the pew below to retrieve his lunchbox and apologize.   I found out later, that my husband took my son up on the balcony so he could peer over the edge which then resulted in my son then throwing his heavy metal lunchbox over the edge! This was when I wanted to hide….forever, but we left early instead.

If you have any kids, especially if you have more than one, 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.

Young children in public can be hard, from church, doctors office, meetings, and other misc stuff here are great ideas to help keep your child happy and quiet

Helps to keep your child quiet and happy in public! 

#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 they 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

In the past I always carried a diaper bag everywhere I went. In that diaper bag would be random items for the kids to keep them happy. After doing this for year and it not working, I found something that finally worked SO MUCH better! I purchased a bag for EACH of my kids to take to church! how to keep your child quiet and happy in public places

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 they 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. On the other hand, my toddler has a few years to go. My kid’s 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.

 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! 🙂

how to keep your child quiet and happy in public places


 Any bag will work, but 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. 

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,


Definitely a must! My kids like fruit snacks, goldfish crackers, pretzels, and anything else small. Try to avoid anything really sticky, crumbly, or messy.

-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! )

There are so many options for great coloring books. My boys love the coloring books for adults like these


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 Utensils

 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, VehiclesPlayhouse, Dress Ups.

*Since writing this post, I have also found some wonderful stickers and sticker books from Peaceable Kingdom. My kids are currently LOVING them! You can find them here and here.

how to keep your child quiet and happy in public places

how to keep your child quiet and happy in public places



I really hope this has been helpful! I have found that if you keep these bags for only when you are at church or in public that the items inside continue to be fun to use. What other things have you found to help your kids be quiet and happy in public places? If you need some ideas on keeping your child busy in the car, check out this post on DIY Road Trip Binder for Kids!

Also, if you like to read, I HIGHLY recommend this book by Marie Ricks! It was so helpful for our family!

This post has been updated since it was first published in Nov 2014.