I’ll admit it: the first few weeks of watching the Sunday church service at home during quarantine were not my favorite. While I’m sure the message was wonderful as always, I wouldn’t really know.

Because instead of enjoying the service from the quietly dimmed worship center, I was watching it from middle of the monkey enclosure at the zoo. (Otherwise known as: my living room with a stir-crazy 2-year-old and 4-year-old.)

Here’s a little glimpse into how the first couple Sunday mornings went down in our house:

We started out strong – the kids were excited when the worship team began playing. They were engaged, dancing along with music. But then the questions started – “Will they sing my Jesus songs? Will they sing Frozen songs? Can we watch Frozen now? Why are they allowed to be at church?”

By the time Bruce was on the screen, we’d completely lost control. There was couch jumping, pillow throwing, toy screeching, and toddler whining – oh, the whining…

But finally, we’ve gotten the hang of it. Through a lot of trial and error, we’ve picked up a few tricks that have helped make the whole virtual Sunday service experience much more pleasant. And now, I can happily say that Sunday mornings are back to being one of my favorite times of the week!

Prepare them for quiet / independent time. 

If there’s anything I’ve learned about my toddlers, it’s that they need time to process transitions. So pretty much from the moment they get up on Sunday mornings, we start talking about what’s going to happen for the day.

We’re going to eat breakfast, watch a show while mommy and daddy drink their coffee, play for a little bit, and then we’ll all have our “Jesus time.” That means we will watch their church videos together, and then the kids will go play upstairs while mom and dad watch our church.

My 4-year-old especially needs this prep time – he’s our super attached, “play with me” child. We’ll start talking early-on about what he can do during his upstairs time.

“Maybe you can build me a huge castle with your Magnatiles? Maybe you can build a fort for sister? Maybe you can have a superhero slumber party with your Avengers?”  This helps get him excited, and ensures he doesn’t see it as a punishment that he’s having to go upstairs without us.

We also talk about why that time is important to us. We tell our kids that mom and dad like to learn about God and the Bible, so we can help teach them about it too. We tell them how happy it makes us feel to get to spend that time with God. We talk about how we miss going to church, and how getting to watch the service online helps us feel connected and not miss it quite as much.

I won’t pretend my 2- and 4-year-olds are empathetic savants who immediately register and comply with all of this, but I do think it helps frame the time appropriately in their minds, and sets the stage for us talk to them about what we all learned later on.

Watch the weekly Promiseland videos together.

Did you know that the same videos your kids watch in Promiseland every Sunday are now available through the CFHome app? When you open the app, choose “This Week,” then “Promiseland” and choose the appropriate age group for your kids. Voila!

It’s been so much fun to watch these with my kids each week. My oldest knows all the words and dances to the songs, and really engages with the lessons. Even my 2-year-old requests it all week long: “I watch Jesus! I watch Jesus!”

We’ve found that watching their video immediately before our church service helps set the stage for them to be respectful of mommy and daddy’s church time, too. 

Set up activities to keep them busy.

Set them up for success! Ideally in a separate room, if you have a safe space they can go by themselves. I’ve got a few independent play ideas for older toddlers over on my blog, but here are a few others:

  • Build them a fort
  • Print out coloring pages with washable crayons
  • MegaBlocks and/or Magnatiles
  • Puzzles or board games

Of course, any time you can prep something ~new~ for them, you’ll get more playtime out of it. Whether it’s toys that have been hidden away in the closet for a couple months, a new activity book, or a new fort they’ve never seen, it’ll keep their imaginations and curiosity going longer if it’s fresh.

It also helps our kids if we have music playing for them. That tends to fend off the I’m boooored’s a little bit longer.

But when all else fails…

Screen time

We’ve all probably been pushing our families’ screen time to the limits during this quarantine, and that’s okay, as far as I’m concerned. Especially in this case, if one extra hour in front of the TV gives you peace and quiet so you can connect with God, that’s well worth it.

Besides, screen time doesn’t have to be all bad or frivolous. There are tons of shows out there that are educational and/or spiritual. Some of our favorites to watch on Sunday mornings are:

    • Veggie Tales (Netflix)
    • Daniel Tiger (PBS Kids)
    • Owlegories (Amazon Prime)
    • 3-2-1 Penguins (RightNow Media – Free via Christ Fellowship!)

Load up the snacks

The number one disruption in our house is: “I need a snaaaack!” 

It doesn’t matter if they ate 5-course English breakfast 5 minutes earlier. If they sense that I’m settling in to relax and get some “me time” in with God, they must intervene. So now, I do what I can to mitigate – I make sure the playroom is stocked with full water bottles and multiple options for snacks and fruit to get them through the hour (even if it means I have to vacuum or wipe sticky hand-prints off the entire upstairs afterwards).

And there you have it! Hopefully these tips help your little ones settle in long enough for you to actually enjoy a virtual Sunday service, and maybe even find a new routine that the whole family can be grateful for.

ABOUT CHRISSIE JONES

Chrissie is a wife, mother, and Christ Fellowship attender living in McKinney. She blogs about her life as an #IVFMom, being on the receiving end of toddler tantrums, and family-friendly recipes at onehangrymama.com!

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