Under 5s and church: how can parents help?
Under fives and church – there are so many ways for this to pan out! There are so many variables: is my under 5 clingy and quiet or bubbly and boisterous? Do they have friends in their Sunday school group – if there is a Sunday school group?
What can parents do to make church the best possible experience for their small person? Here are some ideas:
- Come prepared! With snacks and things to do in the boring, or more adult-ish, bits – books, pens and paper, quiet toys.
- Take every opportunity to engage your under five with what’s going on. Sit where they can see what's happening or where there’s a suitable area for them to move and dance during worship. You may need to dance yourself to encourage them! Explain what’s going on. Show them where the passage is in the Bible – even if they can’t read. Point out the bread and wine and remind your child that Jesus had bread and wine with his friends. Invite them to join in with you as you worship and pray.
- If you know what your church’s current favourite worship songs are, you could download them and play them at home or in the car, so your child becomes familiar with them.
- Give your child boundaries that you are comfortable with. For example: you may dance during worship, but you can’t run around; you can lie on the floor and draw quietly, but you can’t chatter with your friend; when it is time for us all to pray, you need to sit with me and listen; you can play with your toy during the sermon but until then I’d like you to stay with me and we’ll worship together.
- If the church crèche runs for the whole service, consider keeping your child with you for the worship at the beginning of the service so that they see worship modelled rather than taking them straight out.
- Help your child feel part of the big family of church: get to know other people; invite them into your conversations after church; help them understand why church is important to you; get them loving people alongside you as you visit them, or hug them, or fetch them a coffee. Encourage other people you know and trust to become part of you and your child’s life so that they can grow up with a church family who love and pray for them.
We’d love to know your thoughts, too. What does your church do for parents with under fives?