Kids and Prayer Time: How to effectively use Catholic toys and books to encourage good behavior at Mass and during the Rosary

How can you keep kids peaceful and engaged during Mass and family rosary time? When my oldest child was just beginning to discover his free will, I asked myself and others (and the internet) this question numerous times. One thing I came across frequently was the suggestion to have a set of special Catholic toys and books that are only allowed during Mass and prayer time. The reasoning behind this idea is that these toys will remain interesting because they are not always available, thus making Mass and prayer time interesting and enjoyable. 

Allow me to respectfully disagree.

First of all, the argument that these toys will remain interesting is based on the concept of novelty. Now hopefully you are taking your children to Mass at least once a week and praying together as a family at least once a day. The novelty of a set of toys used that frequently is going to wear off. Quickly. Instead of the items bestowing some kind of “specialness” on prayer time, prayer time ends up bestowing some level of “boringness” on the toys. Don’t get me wrong - I love the rosary, but for honesty’s sake I must admit I sometimes find it boring. So did many saints (including St. Therese of Lisieux). And realistically, a child is going to have a hard time sitting quietly and reciting 53 Hail Mary’s, even if he has a boring toy to play with.

So what’s a mom to do? 

I definitely support allowing children, specifically little children, to play with and read religious themed items and books during Mass and prayer time. But as I mentioned already, reserving these things only for prayer time is likely to backfire. So here's a slightly different approach:

  • Acquire Catholic toys and books that are actually interesting. I’d like to do a whole post on this sometime, but for now, I’ll just say that you can’t expect your child to like every single Catholic thing you hand to them. But there are so many cool items available, you should be able to find something she enjoys. (We’ll be releasing some lists of our favorites soon. For now, feel free to shop our Catholic baby teethers.)
  • Make these toys and books available ALL THE TIME. Assuming you found some good items, your child will naturally incorporate these into his or her playtime. You may find a Saint Michael peg doll driving a tractor, or be asked to read the “Mama Mary book” five million times. This is great, because it helps your kiddos build positive associations with these items and, by extension, with the Catholic faith.
  • Allow these awesome Catholic toys and books you’ve found to be used during Mass and prayer time. These items are available for play ALL the time, but are the ONLY toys allowed during prayer time. The positive associations they've built with the toys will carry over to the rosary and Mass and help build a happy, holy Faith for your child. 

Just a tip - make sure to have a special “home” for these items. Choose a place that is easily accessible for your kids during playtime. Storing them in a particular location will help you be able to grab them as you run out the door to Mass ten minutes later than you were planning to leave. 

In conclusion, toys and books definitely help kids behave during Mass and prayer time. It's important to let these items be used at will so that they become favorites and carry over that positive attitude to the Faith. 

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