Sunday, January 10, 2016

Scripture Bags

This last year has been ROUGH for us at church. Our kids are all at ages (two six year olds, a three year old and a two year old) where they just want to move so much and talk so loud, that any kind of reverence on our bench has been a major battle. Usually there are tears and laps around the building just to calm people down (not always just the kids) so we can make it the rest of the hour.

I realized a couple problems. One, my kids were way too loud. They have really big, active imaginations and loud voices to go with them. The things we were bringing for them to play with were getting them too excited and animated and they didn't know how to lower their volumes and actions to a church whisper. They'd get so frustrated with me shushing them the whole meeting and I'd go crazy whisper-yelling at them to whisper every three seconds (great example, mom).

Two, the things we filled our church bag with were not helping them spiritually. Sure the Cars/Toy Story magnets and little princesses were fun and engaging, but they weren't helping my kids feel closer to Jesus in any way... which is kind of the whole reason we come to church. They weren't helping make Sunday a different day from the other days, and weren't teaching my children any of the important truths I want them to learn.

Three, my kids were really hating church. They'd complain and dig their heels in and dread going and fight the whole time we were there. Isaiah says the sabbath should be a delight, but my kids were definitely not feeling that.  Their negativity was ruining what has always been my favorite day of the week.

For months I felt like we needed a change, but didn't know what. Thankfully, the church started putting an emphasis on making the Sabbath Day more holy and with that came some positive changes for us-- most importantly, our ward changing sacrament meeting to the first hour instead of the last of the three hour block (hallelujah! hallelujah!!). Kids struggle to adjust to any change, but after a few months, it was SO much better for them. That helped reverence a lot. We started working more on things at home to encourage reverent times throughout the week (we pushed it more during family prayer and family scriptures at night) and we made some changes to our Sundays that helped make it a more reverent day. But I still felt like we needed help during sacrament meeting.

So for Christmas, I made my kids some church bags. They've never had scripture bags of their own yet, so I felt like it was a good time to give them their own bag to carry and fill it with reverent, quiet, spiritual activities. (Plus, less for me to carry!)

I found mini clipboards (six inches wide, nine inches long) at the store that are perfect for a half sheet of paper. That sent my head spinning. What if I laminated a bunch of activity pages they could do over and over with dry erase markers and update them as their age and skill increases?

I debated uploading pdfs of my sheets so others could print them, but some are copyrighted and only for personal use. Plus, kids are at all different levels and interest. So hopefully you can find what fits your family on google or by making up your own. Here are some of the ideas I had for my laminated sheets:
  • connect the dots 
  • bingo (listen to the speaker and color in the square when you hear them talk about it)
  • blank head-- draw a picture of the speaker
  • blank laminated sheet (for drawing anything)
  • dotted line primary songs (trace the words)
  • word searches
  • Hidden Pictures (from "funstuff" in the Friend Magazine)
  • pictures of Jesus (I cut some out from old magazines and glued a collage on a half sheet)
  • dotted line & pictures of elements of a testimony (Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, Living Prophet, Temple, etc)
  • maze
That's all I made so far, I'm sure I'll add more as time goes on. I printed on both sides of cardstock, cut them in half, laminated them, and they were ready to go! I love the clipboard giving them a hard surface on their lap and also holding their sheet from moving.

I also printed several coloring pages that I didn't laminate, since all of my kids like to just plain color. These also work well for the younger kids, who aren't ready for dry erase markers. The easiest way to print these was to select "2-on-1 Printing" in my printer dialogue box and then in automatically shrinks everything to half a page (I flipped them around and printed on the other half of the page too and on the backs before I cut them up).

I found this four-pack of bags at Hobby Lobby for $9 (and in perfect colors for my two boys and two girls! But they also have other options). They're 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches (the closest thing I can find online is this: It's the same brand, mine just came in a four pack and with different colors in the store). They were the perfect size for my project, they fit the clipboards and a small Book of Mormon as well as some other markers and crayons and erasers. They were open on top, which for my kids would lead to everything spilling all the time, so I sewed some zippers on each of them myself (don't look too close at the stitching...).

I also wanted to personalize them, so I drew a little temple outline, scanned it into photoshop, added their names in my new favorite font (BetterFly draft for the girls, BetterFly narrow for the boys. You can buy it here:, and then printed it on a dark fabric transfer sheet (like these: I cut out the circles, ironed them on, and voila! Personalized church bags!

Right next to the clipboards at the store, I found pads of blank paper that were about the same size, so I got those too. They've been nice when the kids just want to draw or color anything. I got my younger boys boxes of crayons. I got these twist-up crayons for my girls, which they like cause they don't have to be sharpened. We've experimented with lots of dry erase markers, but my favorite for kids are the Crayola washable dry erase markers. They come out of church clothes! Believe me, we know. They have a nice point that doesn't get all frayed like some dry erase markers, and they don't have any odor. I bought a big pack and split them up between the bags. I also got each kid their own square eraser for their bag, which is perfect and small. I'm sure I got everything at Target or Walmart. 

Some other things we've added to the bags are...

A few years ago I bought a bunch of small church pictures at Deseret Book and got two of each picture. I glued the same paper on the back of all of them, laminated them, and put the whole set in a ziplock. We use it to play quiet games of memory or go fish on the bench. My three-year-old especially loves playing with these, so we keep them in his bag (especially since he's not old enough for the more complex activities). 

When my kids each turned one, my sister gave them these little family flip books for their birthdays (a love of laminating runs in the family). They have individual faces of not only each of our family members, but all of our extended family members as well (each grandparent, aunt, uncle and cousin). It's been so fun for all of my kids to quietly look through so many faces they love (and learn family members better that they might not see very often). I love that she found pictures of both sides of our family, so it's complete. (This was Owen's so it's what our family looked like when he was one, missing Dallin, obviously). 

My kids got these little Article of Faith books in primary, and I've loved them. They're good to practice reading and work on memorizing the articles of faith. I'm sure there's an article of faith printable somewhere on pinterest that's similar. 

Like I said, this is by no means a complete list of everything that could go in a reverent church bag, but it's been a really good start for us. We've used it for three weeks now, and I am so impressed and grateful for the difference in my kids. It's answered my three concerns in such a wonderful way. 

1. They're quiet. The volume problem is so much less of an issue when each of them are engaged in their own activity and not talking/playing with each other (or with make believe things in their hands). 

2. They're learning things. They ask me what words mean and name things they recognize and they're even listening to the speakers and focusing more on the meeting. They'll be quietly coloring and then comment to me on something the speaker just said, and I'm so surprised they're paying attention. Sometimes busy, mindless hands open up the ears. I'm grateful that they're reading and pondering words that will help them feel the Spirit and learn more about our church and the Savior, instead of just thinking more about Disney characters. 

3. I've heard the words, "Yay! It's Sunday! I'm actually excited to go to church!" By finding reverent activities that are actually fun for them, we've tapped in to that emotion I've wanted them to feel all along. I LOVE going to church. Church makes me so happy and fills up my soul with joy. I want my children to feel that too. I love that they're starting to look forward to church more and hope that the feeling will become a habit and carry for them, long after the activities fade away. 

I share all of this only in the hopes that it can help someone else with their family. I felt blessed to receive ideas as answers to my prayers. They came from a loving Father who knows the needs of His little (and big) children, and I'm so grateful for His wisdom and mercy. The struggle is real, and I feel so strengthened by other parents of young children who take their kids to church week after week even when/especially when it's hard. I believe in the goodness of children and that all this repetitiveness and work will pay off as they grow and find these things entrenched in their hearts, despite all their wiggly efforts to fight it. At least that's my hope. 

I would love to hear any ideas you have about keeping your kids reverent and spiritually engaged during sacrament meeting. Or leave a comment about something to add to a church bag!


Rachel said...

Great job Steph!! So we have an apostle coming this weekend and I was trying to figure out how to get my kids to 1. be reverent during the waiting period (we are getting there at 8am for a 10am meeting!) and 2. how to encourage them to be reverent DURING the meeting (another 2 hours!!). These are some great ideas :) So glad you posted them. xoxo Rachel Burner

Michelle said...

Just found your blog, this is a wonderful idea! I too have been struggling with noisy kids and toys in church. This will be our FHE night this week!! Thank you!

Marci said...

AHH! This was what I needed to read today! I just got called as the Ward Organist, so I don't get to sit with my family during over half of sacrament meeting anymore. You made some super points - my 3 year old has a big imagination and a LOUD voice, so we need to stop bringing some of the little toys she gets really imaginative with. I just got a new big pack of laminating pouches yesterday, guess I'm going to have to find a little clipboard and a ton of fun new things for her to take to church! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!