Monday, March 26, 2007

"Is it really a family night out?"

This installment's topic: "Is it really a family night out?" in which you may share your views regarding children under age 5 attending formal events (such as funerals, concerts, weddings, even church services). We hope that those of you who have "tried and true" tips and tricks up your sleeve will share those as well.

Hmm... I usually don't see anything wrong with taking children to a formal event IF they are well-behaved. After all, they do need to learn sometime how to behave properly. However I believe one needs to look at each situation or event and decide what is best. Funerals, where there may be an open casket, can be scary. Weddings are a happy occasion but most brides do not want a tot stealing the 'limelight'. Concerts are another matter. Most concert goers (I'm including plays, operas, symphonies, etc. here) are hoping for a culturally uplifting experience, not one spoiled by the cries or outbursts of a small child. If they wanted that they could have stayed home and watched a movie with their own munchkins. Having said that, there are some great kid-friendly concerts and plays you can take children to. I wish we lived near a big city so we could take advantage of those and experience them with our children

I put church in an entirely different category than the above formal events. For me, church is a family affair where we go to worship God together. So I don't mind hearing little voices during a church service. I don't even mind when a child acts up if the parents are trying their best to settle the child down. It does 'get my goat' though when a child is misbehaving and the parents DON"T DO A THING ABOUT IT!!!! I've been in meetings where a child is running all over the chapel, climbing the stairs to the podium, squealing with delight and the parents are in their seats smirking because they think it's cute. That is very annoying and very distracting.

Now I know we all have our days. There are times when, yes, even I feel like crying at the top of my lungs or stomping my feet in frustration. I am not an expert by any means but here are some tricks I have used to try and keep my seven children quietly occupied.

I try to do these every time:
1. Feed them before going anywhere. A hungry child is a cranky child.
2. Get ready with plenty of time to spare. It's less stressful on everyone to not be rushed about.
3. I don't believe in bribery, but I do believe in rewards. So we reward those who are well-behaved, handing them a stick of gum to chew on, letting them be first for something, getting to ride in the front seat, etc.
4. Set a good example. You know the old adage "monkey see, monkey do!"

I provide these at my discretion:
5. Stencils are fun and keep children of all ages engaged in quiet play.
6. Quiet books. Sometimes quiet books generate more noise from children because they are so neat and fun to play with. My children love them. I made the ones we have now from kits purchased from LDS Quiet Books. They also sell non-religious books here. You can see pictures of ours here.
7. Sometimes the simplest items provide the greatest enjoyment. I created photo rings by printing off pictures of family members, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, animals, and tractors (we are farmers), laminating them, punching a hole in the corner of each and putting them on a binder clip. Small children love pictures of themselves, family members, and friends. I have had to make several of these over the years because they get so worn with use.
8. Touch and feel books are great for busy hands. My favorites are made by Dorling Kindersley.
9. Word searches are perfect for older children (and adults!) when they become bored.
10. I like to use bingo cards where the squares are filled with gospel topics to help my children listen to the church service (Sacrament meeting, General Conference, etc.) I've used the ones from here and here and have also made my own on the computer.
11. File Folder Games are wonderful and provide an almost endless assortment of fun. Here's a site with some examples and links and others are here.

I only use a maximum of three of these per meeting. Most of the time I only use two. I also keep these items only for Sunday church use. That way it takes longer for their newness and specialness to wear off. Some days, no matter what, nothing will work to keep the littlies quiet. When that happens either my husband or I take them out so they don't create a distraction for others.

We have received numerous comments about how well-behaved our children are in public (and they're even home schooled! Gasp! How did that happen?). We have appreciated kind remarks immensely, it makes all the hard work so worthwhile. So next time you're out and about and see a family whose kids are behaving for the most part - tell them you noticed! They'll appreciate it!

P.S. For those that know me, no fair laughing at me next time we are at church and you see me scrambling to get the kids quiet. I'm trying! Honest!


Julie said...

It is always important for a parent to use common sense as to which events to take their children to and which to not. It's also very important for a parent to be courteous and respectful to others. I enjoyed and agree with your comments. It really is nice to receive a compliment on your children's behavior, isn't it! I love your little postscript. I'm trying too!! :-)

By the way, I love your music (I can finally HEAR it - don't know why I couldn't before). Josh Groban is so good!

Jen said...

Montse-your kids are usually very well behaved at church. I also wish we had a better location for cultural events out here. I agree wholeheartedly about feeding them before church, I once saw someone bring an entire picnic lunch for their kids to eat during the meeting. Cheerios are one thing, whole apples and PB&J? Juice boxes? But I digress...I liked reading your post.

Morning Glory said...

You are marvelous! I love your creative suggestions and the quiet books you made are great! Thank you for sharing your insights and tips on this subject.

Hootin'Anni said...

I love the fact with all your ideas and choices of 'entertaining' and trying to keep a child well-behaved and still learn!! Great idea to share this, I never thought of adding my 2 cents on mine today.

I think the idea of stencils and word searches are super!!!

Thanks for the visit.

Tigersue said...

I have to laugh at your homeschool comment. I am not a hommschooler, but goodness kids have to learn to take instruction whether in a public, private or homeschool setting. :)

Like you I try to take things to help keep my little one quiet. It doesn't always work, but then somedays I have a hard time sitting still. :)

Susie said...

I loved reading all your delightful ideas for keeping your children happy and occupied during your worship time.
Six daughters! They must be such a blessing to you and your husband!!
Thanks for visiting me...Stop by anytime...

Lee said...

Great Ideas you have. I love how creative you are. I will have to steal some of these.

Lee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Randi said...

Your list of ideas to keep the kids busy is great! My 5 year old is getting tired of coloring at church, so now i have some new ideas--thanks!

Lei said...

I agree - church is a different matter entirely. And I woudl really appreciate it if somebody complimetned my children when they are behaving! It would be encouraging to hear and help my children understand the importance of behaving ALL the time!

Lisa M. said...

I absolutely love your ideas and suggestions, thank you so much.

I agree with your perspective as well.

Thanks again

An Ordinary Mom said...

Great perspective! Thanks for sharing your tips and thoughts. I especially appreciate how you say you can tolerate some noise from kids as long as the parents are doing their best to help them behave. What a true point!

One thing to add to your list. My 5 year old daughter loves to look at The Friend during Church. She even likes to look at the pictures in the Ensign, too.

Montserrat said...

Church magazines are a natural given. I always have some in my bag. I can't believe I forgot to mention those! Thanks for reminding me.

Dee Light said...

Great post!!! and I love that you added ways to keep kids quiet and busy.

Marcia said...

HI there

Thanks for visiting my blog and for the nice comment.

Your kids are gorgeous and you are soooo blessed!