|When my first child was about a year old, I realized that sacrament meeting can go from being a spiritually uplifting time to the most difficult hour of the week. Our son was so energetic that we couldn't seem to keep him still during the meeting and my husband or I would always be out in the foyer with him at some point.
Finally I told my sister I was struggling and she said to get a new "church bag." She explained that if I had a bag that I was putting a few things in to keep him busy it needed to be overhauled. She said to go and buy things that he couldn't play with any other time and put only those things in the bag. That way he looks forward to it every week.
I didn't have a lot of expendable income at the time, so I went to the nearest thrift store and found 5 -7 "new" things and put them in the bag. The next Sunday, it was almost like magic, I think we had at least 20 minutes of him being still and playing with his new things during sacrament meeting. I was ecstatic.
I knew I couldn't get new things every week, but I realized that I was going to need to change the bag frequently enough that it stayed exciting for him. Here are a few ideas if your current church bag isn't keeping your kids occupied.
Envelope Activity - I don't know if it is just my children, but they love envelopes. I can take a box of envelopes to church with some crayons and paper and they draw on the paper and fold it and put it in the envelopes the whole time. Another favorite is when I make them pretend stamps that they can put on their "letters." I just draw a rough flag on a post it and cut it small. Its surprising the reaction this gets if your kids like mail.
Mini Photo Album - Find a photo album that will fit about 10 pictures or less. Insert pictures of your child and the rest of your family (mother, father, grandparents, siblings, cousins,etc.) You would be surprised how much children like this.
I Spy Pouch - This is a little pouch with a see through front and glass beads inside. Hiding in the glass beads you will find various small items like a miniature toy car, plastic lizard, foam heart, miniature acorn, etc. The object is to move the pouch around and look for all the items that are on a list that is attached to the pouch.
To Make Your Own
To Buy One
Church Bingo - Take a few old copies of the Friend magazine and cut out pictures that could represent the following words (Jesus, prayer, scriptures, church, prophet, temple, Joseph Smith, sing, sacrament, faith, family,tithing, etc.) Generally you would need at least 12 pictures. Take a piece of card stock and divide it into a grid with 4 rows of 3. Use a marker to outline the grid. Paste the pictures in each box, you can also write the word below each picture. Leave one box empty in the middle and write "FREE" in that spot. Now you have your own Bingo card for sacrament meeting. We use pennies as game pieces to place on the pictures when you hear the word, but anything will do. Depending on the age of the child, You can have them fill the whole board or if they understand how to make a line, then you can follow the standard bingo rules. Make sure you have a small prize for them when they achieve the goal or it will lose its fun really fast!
Flannel Boards - These are a great way to keep your kids focused on scripture stories while they are in sacrament meeting. You can make your own flannel board that is small enough to hold on their lap or if you have more money than time, you can also buy one. As for the flannel board stories, you can buy them or make them as well. You can cut pictures out of the Friend magazine or print clip art from online. For example here are some images of Christ's birth , you could print.
Put a piece of sandpaper on the back and it will stick to the flannel. If you want the story to last awhile you can laminate the pictures.
Make Your Own Flannel Board
Buy a Flannel Board
Buy Flannel Board Story - Lehi's Dream
Buy Flannel Board Bible Stories
Board Puzzles - If you don't have much $, then one idea is to go to the nearest thrift store (Value Village or Savers is good) when they are having a half off sale and usually they will put several board puzzles in a bag together so you might get 4 puzzles for $1.50. These are usually good for older children. Melissa & Doug Puzzles are great if you want to buy something that is classic and will last. Their puzzles have a handle on each piece so they are easy to use and they have the picture in the spot where each one goes so. They have a lot of different kinds, but here are a couple.
Another favorite of my kids are the latch boards, its like a puzzle, but younger kids can figure it out easier.
Puppets - My babies really liked finger puppets during church. Its generally not the best activity for older kids because they want to make them talk or bite, which is not very conducive to reverence!
Make Your Own
What's in your church bag?