Need help keeping my 3yo cousin entertained while at mass!


I currently live with my aunt while I am working my way through college and she seems to think of me as her nanny. She has a three year old son that she just adopted from Russia. The problem is that she typically doesn’t give me any notice when she wants me to watch him and it has started overlapping the times I go to mass. She is protestant but is ok with me taking him with me to mass. My problem is that being a 21 year old, only child basically I am not great with keep a 3 year old entertained or at least attentive. He is all over the place and is loud. There is no children’s program or cry room at my parish.

I was wondering if any of you out in CAF land could give me a few pointers on how to actually get him to stay relatively quiet (I know that I can’t expect perfect behavior.) and how to keep him entertained without disrupting those around me. I would like to actually be able to listen to most of the homily! Also any pointers on keeping him from trying to grab the communion cup would be appreciated! :smiley:


Aw…it’s nice that you are taking him with you. What worked for me when my kids were younger…were coloring books and some cherrios in a bag. lol Kids love coloring books…and he can just quietly sit there and draw…maybe buy him a specific Catholic coloring book…so he is on topic.:slight_smile:

Before you go to church…maybe explain to him that everyone needs to use a whisper voice…or library voice at church. We cannot shout or be loud…so, let’s try to work hard today, to speak in our whisper voices, ok? Eventually, through consistency …he will get the message. Good luck, and keep us posted with what you try out!!:slight_smile:


I usually resort to making getting a donut after Mass conditional on good behavior. I always remind them ahead of time too what I expect. I try as much as possible to involve them and get them to immitate me at Mass too. If someone is getting disruptive though, I try to stand in the back area of the church. If that doesn’t work, we try outside. Sometimes, we even end up leaving. Although since my youngest is 4 1/2, that is pretty rare.

I don’t understand though how your cousin could even be within arm’s reach of the communion cup. When I go up for communion with toddlers, I have them walk in front of me, so there is no danger of them reaching for the host or the cup.

Good luck! I know it is a challenge, but the more often they go, the easier it gets.


I didn’t think about coloring books! What a great idea and a snack would probably be a good idea too! Thanks!

I tried this and it worked until we started still and doing the responses, then I guess he figured that if everyone else got to talk in a normal voice so did he, either that or he figured out that the big ol’ cathedral echoes and was having fun with that!:smiley:

I tried the reward idea but it didn’t work. Although I did get him to imitate me through most of the mass until he decided to kneel and he hit his head on the pew! Poor thing, he wasn’t to happy with that!

We went to the back and went outside for a bit and I did end up leaving a little early.

Because I go to a church that is not in the best area we have been warned not to leave purses and what not when we go up for communion. I was carrying my purse and the bag I had his things in, I only had one free hand and it was using it to make sure he didn’t take off running, like he so often does, when he became a little to restless and tried to take off I picked him up. Which in hind sight was a bad idea. I think I need a leash for him! :rolleyes:

Thanks so much for your help!


Maybe give him a Rosary and tell him to touch the beads and think about Jesus and his Mommy?

Maybe if you ask him “can you find the red candle?”

Can you find Jesus’ Mommy?


I dont know, I take it all for granted as it was always a part of my child’s life,

I wish I knew how to help you out. You are very dedicated to do this, and its a wonderful opportunity for you to give this little one a exposure and love for the mass.

Does he have any playmates that also attend that parish?
Maybe there is another mother that can help you out there that attends that he knows already?

You are doing a wonderful thing. I know it is not an ideal circumstance from your point of view, but remember- you may be the the one who through your sacrifice is able to give to another something priceless.!

“Let the little children come to me”



You may want to try sitting as close as you can to the altar. I found that when my children reached that age most of the misbehavior came from boredom and not knowing what’s going on. When they can see the priest and the altar it allows you to dialogue about the Mass and keep his/her mind a little more focused.

I know most people with small children try to huddle at the back of the church for a quick exit if needed. However, I can count one hand the number of times I have needed to do that in the past five years since we moved closer to the altar. When we sat at the back we had to duck-out about half the time.


We have 5 children so discourage toys, food, drinks and coloring–it’s a logistical nightmare-lol. With just one it might be okay, but I really don’t think food and drink are a good idea at Mass…imho

Here’s what we do:

  1. sit as close as possible
  2. teach responses and communal prayers (Our Father, Alleluia, Sanctus, Memorial Acclaimation, Amen, etc… you get the idea) by age 3 children can learn all of these
  3. distract misbehavior by finding Jesus, candles, the Priest, etc
    4.If you choose to bring toys, make them RELIGIOUS items–children’s bible, prayer cards, rosary, religious coloring books, etc.
    5.Reward a particularly good day with something like donuts or a fun activity. This shouldn’t happen each time, just when behavior is really good

Hope that helps!


Great advice - just one caution - no snacks in Mass :slight_smile:

If he grabs at the Chalice, it might be prudent to receive only the Host when you have the young one in tow.


I’m not sure how long ago your aunt adopted this little boy but if it’s recently you can probably expect that he’s going to be bit more difficult to handle than some of the other children who have been attending Mass since they were babies. If you want him to behave properly at Mass you need to make sure he’s capable of behaving properly outside of Mass. I suggest that you have him practice being quiet, staying next to you, and other such behaviors when you go to the store, the library, the park, etc.

It can be very difficult to follow along at Mass if you have small children with you. You can’t always expect to have the same experience of the Mass when you are with a child as when you aren’t. It will probably seem like sometimes you are there in body only. But understand that helping a young child to know and appreciate the Mass is one of the ways you participate… even if you end of feeling like you missed it yourself.

If your Church is open at times other than during the Mass (and it’s safe to be there) you might want to visit with your cousin and show him around. For one thing, it will give you a chance to practice being quiet and prayerful. If you can get any cloth or other softcover books from a local religious store you can let your cousin look at those during Mass. Have you introduced him to your priest yet?

As was mentioned, you may have to skip the Cup when you are with your cousin. You might also consider taking a backpack rather than a regular purse when you are with him. That way you reduce the number of items you have to take with you when you go to communion.


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