In a previous post here on Joyful Noise, I offered some general encouragement for families attending liturgy with young children. Encouragement is all well and good, but things for little ones to try in practice of liturgy in church and at home are even better.
- Books & props: Bring board books for very young pre-literate children to teethe on and occupy themselves (I’ve resorted to creating laminated icon books out of paper icons collected from church calendars). Or, if you and your community feel it is appropriate for your space and worship, allow liturgical props for these little children to imitate what’s happening during the liturgy (one example is a crochet censer).
- What happens in the liturgy: For those little ones without a concept of time, create a picture book of the liturgy using your camera & the permission of the priest; this can help you show your children the sequence of events (Little Entrance, Epistle, Gospel, procession, Communion)
- The Gospel: Make your children pay special attention to the Gospel, and tell them to draw a picture of the thing they heard. This works well on days when Jesus tells a parable, and frankly not at all well on the abstract bits of Scripture, but you can explain (in whispers) a little bit of what happened, or the main concept, and have them complete something that reinforces what they heard.
- The home church: Have prayer time with candles at home, so you can practice how to light them and what it means to light them during prayer. Hang your icons low to the ground so it’s easier for the kids to kiss them.
- Scripture memory: Pick short verses from Scripture, which echo parts of the Liturgy, for the kids to repeat and memorize–that way what they hear at home is what they hear at church
Remember, each of these suggestions should be adapted to the layout of your church, the expectations of your community, and most importantly, your own knowledge of your children. Trial and error is important, but making small efforts can yield great reward. Be observant: look for ways to draw their talents and interests into the mix. More likely as not, you’ll find new solutions for engaging your little ones every day as you encouraging them towards active and structured involvement in worship.