How to take little ones to church

Recently I received a lovely email from a reader who had just completed her RCIA through the church and become a catholic! I always think it’s such a lovely thing to do as it’s a big commitment to make as an adult and something that cradle to grave catholics can often take for granted. And she wondered did I have any secrets for taking my lot to church every sunday. And I’d be lying if I said it’s always a pleasant experience that I look forward to………….and let’s not even talk about taking them on my own. Let’s not go there.

keira models

I love that the day I decided to write this post I had 3 of the craziest children at mass and had to struggle with elodie and a full nappy bag and hot foot it out of there after communion as she was crying and wriggling out of my arms and I was left with a big seat full of toys and stuff with just keira as my helper. Then as we left as a family – 3 of them were crying over different things and we marched them straight to the car. Timely then I write about how we do things. But here we go………….


1. pack entertainment
We pack rice crackers, colouring pencils, paper, books, toys and tend to keep most of those things in the same bag that they can just pull out for church. Sometimes it lives in the car until next sunday but I never leave the house without entertainment.

2. children’s liturgy/sunday school is your best friend

I love that at our new church we have children’s liturgy almost every sunday. I send the 3 big kids off with their daddy (to keep an eye on the twins) and they have a ball. They do the same gospel as we do in church but at a level that little people can understand. Here is a sample of Tillie’s work that I had to keep – because didn’t you know that spiders are filled with the holy spirit too? Finn was smart enough to draw a picture of his Daddy…..since he was sitting next to him.


3. remember that you have every right to be there and your priest wants you to be there

Sometimes it can be easy to think that your kids are disturbing the peace of the church. I still think older people are staring at us because someone is acting up but I’ve never received a bad comment in all the years I’ve been taking the kids to church. I get plenty of nice comments and am reminded by priests that they want families to be there. You’re doing a good thing so don’t worry about what people think.

4. be prepared early

I always lay clothes out the night before for everyone – sometimes myself included – and get up early. Not always easy to do on a sunday morning and we are loving the extra hour we get at our new church. When I took these pictures we even had time to play outside before we left home. Sometimes we are getting in the car 5 minutes before mass starts…………..

playing before church

5. Keep smiling

I sometimes forget this one but you’ve got to keep smiling. Plus my fake smile hides what I’m really thinking as I glare at one of my little ones who might be misbehaving!!!

6. Try to sit in the same spot each week

We sit near the back or near an exit. Very important for a quick exit when necessary (and it usually is necessary).Retro daddy is usually the one who has to take the twins out if they need a break or are acting up and that generally means a little run around outside. If your little ones are older than mine you might prefer to sit closer to the front (my mum always marched up the front for church each week) so they can pay attention.

7. Find the right service for you

We always attend church that is closest to home and also where keira goes to school. She loves to see her little friends there each sunday. And we always do sunday morning mass but if you think your kids would be better on saturday night then try it. Retro daddy would love us to go to saturday night mass so he could have a sleep in but I know my lot and there is no way they would be better behaved on saturday night! But if your church isn’t really right for you then see what else is around.

And that is how I take all the family to church – if you have anything to add just let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you because I know some of you are old hands at this!


  1. You’ve inspired me to give it another try, having moved away from a really lovely parish, I kind of think everyone is glaring at me. My Hubby is not catholic and doesn’t share any interest in going along – took my son all last year as he did his sacraments, but left miss 7 and miss 4 at home. Will definately try again very soon, miss 7 will be doing her sacraments next year, so no time like the present! Heidi

  2. You know what too – if the older folk are looking at you, chances are they are indulging in happy memories of times past – not judging. Even though mine are only teens, I’m sure i could be caught watching the young ones, but really just thinking about how long ago it all was. A blink of an eye really!

  3. Totally agree with everything you try, I did the same for many years. Some weeks were better than others as you know. I rarely had any negative comments, on the whole most people are very understanding though I remember many years ago when my daughter was about 5 and she insisted on singing all the hymns really loudly. I got lots of frowns and glares because people thought she was too young to be able to read the words off the hymn sheets, so they thought she was being rude and making up rubbish. After church I was approached by a few people who commented that they thought she was being naughty till they listened to her and realised she could read the words! She’s way older now but still sings at the top of her voice – esp the National Anthem. We all dread watching the Olympics and sports with her because when the Australian Anthem comes on she reverts to that 5 year old. You gotta love them!

  4. Hi Corrie… So funny! We always sit near an exit when we go (which is shamefully irregular). Luckily in Darwin our church has bi fold doors or similar all around so there are exits along 3 walls. Also I love children’s liturgy… I sneak the Sprog in even though she is supposed to be four before she goes. She loves it. She loves the music too. But it was so tough taking her in those years between 2 and 3 years that we used that as an excuse to stop :( which I am not proud of.

    My mum took all us 5 kids to church by herself for years and years and years (dad is not catholic or remotely religious/spiritual) and she always marched us right up the front telling us that if we misbehaved the priest would get cranky. I guess it worked! I still rememer the day when we left and my 2 yr old brother sang “I can feel a Fourex coming on…” as his very own recessional hymn!

  5. Beautiful post.
    Sometimes I leave and think ‘Did I actually take anything in’?

    But you do,and they do and children make a Mass.

    My most embarrassing memory was feeding Matilda at her Baptism and Father coming over to give her a blessing and her pulling off and he got sprayed with milk. He calmly wiped his face with his hanky,the pew behind me got the giggles and I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me!

  6. I’m not a catholic but I take my son to my Kingdom Hall 2 times at week,and been on my own it’s hard.
    This post is really usuful for me,thank you very much Corrie.Francesca(Italy-London)x

  7. You forgot the strategically placed parent rule! :-) seating goes- one child, then parent, next child, then parent, next child then oldest, well-behaved child.
    When they were little I took snacks, an extra bottle and lots of drawing stuff. But luckily our church has a great “cry-room”, soundproof but with a big window and a speaker so you can still hear and see what’s going on!

  8. I love your last point – we ended up changing churches to find a service that suited us, complete with a Kids Church/Sunday School that the kids really enjoy. I take my kids on my own each week – and have a bag of activities ready for during the school holidays when kids church isn’t on :)

  9. I don’t think the older people are staring at the kids in annoyance, I think they’re looking because your little ones are so adorable!

  10. P.S. A tip for mums – When I was involved in a church during my 20s and 30s, it was the normal thing for us single ladies to partner up with young mums to give them a helping hand at church.

    It was a pleasure and a blessing (mostly, LOL) and it was nice to feel useful. Maybe there’s someone in your church who would like to share in this little piece of your family life.

  11. My 6 and 4 year old enjoy going out to kids church and my 2 year old generally enjoys creche but that can change from week to week! I think as you make church a weekly routine kids know the drill and know what to anticipate which is helpful. We have to think of the long term benefits and make those sacrifices now and believe that our children will carry on with their own faith through our diligence at this early age :) Thanks to my parents who did the same with me and my in-laws we have much to be grateful for!

  12. We like to go Wednesday night as that’s when they ring the bells. Thankfully there is good heating, so cold out now and the Church is made of blue stone and so lovely to go to. Lots of Anglican’s go on the Wednesday with kids, must be because of all the sport on weekends.

  13. I used to find a plain fresh breadroll kept the toddlers occupied for quite a while. When the boys were learning to read, they had a children’s magazine and used to circle al the words on the page that they knew.

    Corrie, I remember going out to church when first sone was about 8 months old. He was a bit noisy, not crying but noises and grumbles. I apologised to an old lady later. She had had no children of her own and I was worried about her reaction. She said she would rather a bit of noise and have us both there than have me and baby at home and have no noise.

    Children are valued where I go now. Made to feel very welcome. It’s an Ango-Catholic church (Anglican) in inner Sydney. They are treated as people, not as nuisances. They come back in from their group after sermon. Some play quietly at the back but most look around. There’s lots to see and take in from vestments to candles, incense etc. Yesterday they all processed down aisle carrying their Pentecost mobiles, even the 2 yo. A piece of stick covered with yellow and red yarn and with red tongues of fire tied on. Each week most of them take part by carrying a lit votive candle in the procession. Even the littlies do that accompanied by a parent but the child takes the candle.
    You are helping them form habits for their life. Don’t get discouraged.

  14. I agree with you whole heartedly – we always took plenty of books, pencils etc along to mass when my children were younger, as children get older they learn to be quieter, some may like to follow the mass in their own little book… or take part in Sunday School sessions – I agree this can be a great help. In time it gets easier and older siblings can be a great help too . My children enjoyed having little jobs – taking up the gifts, collecting hymn books etc. I think it gives a sense of belonging, makes them feel part of things.

  15. Fully agree with the comment about food and entertainment, and Sunday school is always a good way of introducing them to church. I did go on a roster when my youngest was quite small, so she got used to the idea of going out and doing activities. Also don’t worry what they say when a priest asks a question, it is always an honest answer. My youngest couldn’t st still but was quiet when she wandered around, so I used to let her wander around the church. But one or two is much easier than 4.

  16. OK so from an old hand 4 in 6 years now 25-31 and married to a Baptist minister.
    Everything you have said I concur, entertainment is essential, non noisy eating is also good, sultanas or dried apricots were a favourite of my kids.
    Take it from someone who knows, the priest or in my case the minister never notices the noise of the kids not even his own.
    Easy exit is also essential as sure as anything someone will need to go out because they need to go to the toilet, split something on themselves or you, or with babies they have puked all over your best outfit.
    My best advice is do not beat yourself up over how your kids behave, they are kids and still learning how to do things and most importantly be yourself and who God made you to be

  17. we are youth pastors and so not only do we attend church sunday morning and night..but we are also there thursday and friday nights…its honestly like my kids second home..we pack lots of toys and snacks and they are good for the meeting! and we have a cafe at church so I always bribe my older two with a baby cino if they are good!! some people dont like bribes…but hey, it works!!!!

  18. My husband is catholic , and our children go to the local catholic school. I was not brought up in a religious family (at al!) but since my oldest daughter (now 5) has been at school for a year and a half I have been learning bits here and there. And I’m actually interested in it all and brought my family along to church quite a few times now and next month we are getting all 3 children baptized and in September I am starting the course for adults too that you mentioned above, and plan to get baptized myself next Easter. Thanks for your tips corrie!

  19. Glad its not just me who ends churcg in total chaos! I have just changed churches because my son didn’t like the sunday school at our previous church. He loves the new one and his behaviour is better. Also I am just going through the health and safety processes to become a Sunday school helper. If you can’t beat em join em sort of attitude!

  20. When my friend went through RCIA and became Catholic, her husband was not interested in joining her at Mass. Their kids were about 4 & 6 at the time, and she made it a point to sit as close to the altar as she could, because they would behave if they thought that Father could see them. LOL I think it’s whatever works! I have boy/girl twins and an older daughter, now 18 & almost 22, and we are all cradle Catholics. We did with our kids as our parents did with us–pack entertainment, expect the kids to participate as much as they could for their ages, and realize that there will always be noise/shuffling/whatever as the kids were younger. I grew up in the USA, where the churches we attended all had ‘cry rooms’. DH grew up in Ireland, and had never heard of such a thing, and no way no how would we sit there when our kids were little. I was always mortified if the kids got loud, and if anybody turned around and looked at us, DH would glare at them. LOL Looking back, I know it bothers the parents more than anybody else because I think as the parent you are more aware of the noise than others.

    A few favorite memories… I am almost 9 years older than my youngest brother, and I can still see his face sticking out from underneath the pew in front of us, resting on the kneeler, as we stood up for one part of the Mass. I was mortified but my dad’s philosophy was–we were attending Mass and he was quiet. I’m not so sure how the people in that pew felt, of course. I remind Tim of that now as the father of 3 & 5 year old girls that he wrestles with at Mass! Then there was the time that I was carrying one of my twins in my arms, coming back from Communion, when our older daughter decided to have a melt down and adhere herself to the floor in the middle of the aisle. As I struggled with the child in my arms and the child on the ground, I could feel my pantyhose edging their way south. By the time I reached our pew, I was doing this odd shuffle/hop to try to keep the hose from ending up around my ankles. Ah, good times. 😉

  21. I agree completly. With 3 littlies and 1 on the way, everythings fine when DH is there but on my own when hes working, I too say, plenty of entertainment and a big smile! Luckily I have plenty of willing helpers to sit near me if Im really struggling and they all love us being there

  22. I have to disagree on the entertainment bag. I’ve found that with my kids that the less things we bring into church, the less fighting and tantrums happen.

    I use the nursery for under 3 years old, and will sometimes let my 4 year old bring one dolly into church – as long it doesn’t make noise. My girls all bring their Bibles & song books in so they can always read/look at those if they want.

    And if one of my kids starts getting loud or crying, I walk them out right away – bring them to the washroom and discipline them if necessary and give them a drink of water – then back in the service we go.

    All in all, I’ve had many ‘frustrating’ services where I spent more time parenting than listening. But it gets better if you let them know consequences for bad behaviour, and stick to it.

    And there’s no need to be embarrassed if you do have to quickly exit with a screaming kid – all those other parents looking at you? They’re sympathizing and just thankful that it isn’t their turn.

  23. As a member of the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints I hear ya! our church is full!! of kids! us mothers love to sigh with eachother when the kids just cannot make it through and we end up in the hallway!

    I’ve done alot of things – quiet bags, just drawing materials, no toys (agreed with above – my kids were worse noiser when we bought activity bag/small toys along), kids church books and magazines, I used to bring food but we would make such a mess on our pew! now that my youngest is 2 – NO FOOD! lol.

    my husband was a bishop for 3 years so I sat alone and I kindly had other either older women or young adults sit with me or a young married couple. That helped when I had to duck out with a newborn and could leave my 6, 4 year olds still sitting in church

    my husband now sits with me but we still have 2 older ladies that sit at the end of our long pew – one brings tiny plastic animals and some sparkly necklaces to pass over to my toddler if she gets a bit restless. Its sooo kind!

    sadly now we have moved into perhaps digital distraction.. our church has lots of app’s for gospel related colouring-in and/or games so we let our 2 year old do that! church ones only on sundays when she tries to play other ones!! I’m a bit ashamed about that though!!

  24. oh I didn’t realise you could ‘eat’ in church!!? I am not catholic but went to a catholic high school. I attempted to get my eldest (and only child at the time) baptized Catholic but the priest grilled me as to why I wanted to, why wasn’t I a parishoner etc. It really put me off. As it was the only faith I know I was really put out. I then thought I would find another church when No. 2 came along. No. 3 has been here for 2 years now and I still haven’t done it. I knew of one lovely priest but he has since been ‘kicked out’ for being too old. I also grew up around the very liberal ‘Father Bob’ and should have gone to his parish to baptize them. My eldest in studying Christian education and asking me lots of question and I’m finding them difficult to answer. If she wants to go to church I won’t hesitate to take her. (last nights question was ‘mum, what is an apostle’…ok dictionary…).

  25. It has been very hard to take my two year old to church recently and I decided to stop going even though I really love mass. The last time we went I had to drag her out kicking and screaming and I couldn’t calm her down so we had to leave. Thank you for the words of encouragement! I love the mass worksheets you showed and I plan on making some for my daughter as we don’t have those here.

  26. Our 8yo is great in Public and always has been since he was a newborn. It doesn’t matter what we pack in his bag our 2yo will still make a scene just to go back outside when we’ve just gotten into the pew. My partner and I take turns each Sundays to watch him. Every now and then we force him to remain in Church with us so we can celebrate Mass together.

    Other people do look but I think more out of ‘Which kid is that?’ because I do it too. People in general don’t really ‘stare down’ the Parents/kids because the Priest uses a microphone. We are always near an exit too. Always.

    As a cradle Catholic, my partner a new Catholic undertook RCIA last year and loved it! Even I was surprised by his response. It took him almost 4 years to make that decision but I think coming to Mass with the kids and I made him see the bigger picture. In this way, it’s the same as taking your children to (any) Church. Don’t worry about others Reaction, it’s about your Interaction.

  27. I guess different things work for different people, but I find the following works best for us (we have 5 kids, 8 down to 10 months): No entertainment, like one other commenter, I find the more ‘stuff’ the more fights and problems. We don’t even take the newsletter until after Mass! The only exception to that is the 3 and 2 year old are allowed a small snack. We do also each take a hymn/Mass book and that’s fine, because they’re all the same and we each have one. We also sit pretty close to the front (but not too close…!) so the kids can see what is going on, they seem to like that and it keeps them somewhat focussed! We also don’t bother with the children’s program. Growing up my husband and I always felt like it was an escape and time to play! We just want the kids to learn that coming to Mass is coming to Mass and they soon learn how to behave the whole way through. I agree with the commenter about a seating plan! We sort of book-end the kids, and put the older ones – who are now very good in Mass – in the middle. Of course, there is much shuffling and seat walking and falling over, but it’s a work in progress! With regard to other people’s reactions about the kids in Mass, well, honestly – I believe people (if they’re even looking at all) are probably either relieved it’s not them, or thrilled to see some kids in Mass! If we get any comments, they’re always really positive. In the end, we have good days and bad days (parents AND kids…) but the best way to get your kids to be ‘good’ in Mass is simply to take them. They understand from quite early on that this is a special place, and extra special behaviour and quiet is part of what we do here. Of course, all bets are off when you take the kids without the support of your spouse….

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