Monday, December 11, 2006

The Quiet Bag

Every so often I have an inspiration that proves to be very helpful to my family. One of my inspirations has been 'The Quiet Bag' and over the years it has been a wonderful blessing and 'mother's helper'! I have shared this idea with other moms of young children, and I wondered if it might be something helpful to some of you as well - or even a gift idea for some young family.

Last night we had two functions in a row where the children were required to sit quietly for long periods of time, our Dreamer's piano recital and the children's Christmas Program at church. It was definately a night to grab 'The Quiet Bag'. Not only was it helpful for our family, but several children in the pew with us enjoyed the contents of the bag - we were the quietest row in the church, I think!

Our bag is an old used leather 'one shoulder' backpack style bag which we used to use as a diaper bag, but anything durable and 'husband friendly' will do. The contents vary occasionally as I 'trade out' less popular items and try to keep a rotation of fresh things to do.

The rules are simple, everything in the bag must be 'quiet', not too heavy, and requires no parental instruction. There is no playing with the contents of the bag at home or even in the car, unless we are on a long trip. It is reserved for special occasions like sermon time, funerals, the Doctor's waiting room, a fancy restaurant, or an 'adult' function where they need to be seen, but not heard. At 9, The Dreamer is expected to listen to the sermon and take brief notes, follow in the Scripture reading and sing in church, but there are still times when it is too much to expect her to be still for the length of time needed, so she enjoys "The Quiet Bag' too.

Now for the contents! We have a variety of things, but these are our favorites. Many have been purchased at the gift shop in Cracker Barrel's Old Country Store, at Wal*Mart, the Dollar Store and in educational type toy stores. There are no batteries or sound producing toys, nothing sticky, messy or glittery. Most of what we have was inexpensive, and of course has changed to be 'age appropriate' as the children have grown.

*Wikki Stix (these are so fun, but get sticky in warm weather, so they only get added to the bag in cooler months)

*Mini Etch-A-Sketch

* Mini Magna-Doodle

*Silly Putty

*Felt Story People, Fuzzy Felts or Felt Kids (a small felt board)

*Magnetic books (Construction set, Thomas the Tank Engine, Horses etc.)

*Sticker books (we like the little Dover books)

*Magnet face 'Willy' - where you use a 'wand' to put 'hair' on Willy

* 1/2 sheets of cardstock paper and mini paint sets (for in restaurants)

*Fun Pad, mini coloring books, maze books

*Fabric Activity Books

*Flip-A-Fish and The Peanut Game ( they are pretty quiet ;0)

*Magnetic Car Bingo

*Brain Quest games

*A mini photo album of family and friends

* Hand sanitizer, a small first aid kit, kleen-x, and dried fruit snacks complete the bag

We have had hours of quiet fun with this bag. When I was describing our use of 'The Quiet Bag' to the young mom beside us last evening, she was very positive and encouraging. I think she was planning to put together a bag for her own young boys. I decided that since she thought it was such a great idea, you might find it useful information too!


  1. I'm SOOO glad that you shared this idea!!! I love it!! Would you mind if I shared this on my blog this week? I would definitely share the link to your blog.

    Mrs. U

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  3. I will probably be the one dissenting voice on this article, but I disagree with it. (!)
    I understand the concept, and we've actually tried this in church when my children were little, but it never worked well. So and so would want a certain toy before someone else was through with it, the toys were a distraction to dh and I and to others around us, we had to make sure we didn't forget any when it was time to go, etc.
    We finally went the route of thousands of other parents before us down through the ages...we simply trained our children to sit quietly when we needed them to. Period.
    Think about it. Did the puritans have a bag full of toys to keep their little ones occupied during their l-o-n-g church services? What about our colonial ancestors? Not too likely.
    I believe there are times for children to just sit still and be quiet. They can be trained from a very young age to do this.
    It certainly is easier than the alternative. :)

  4. I do understand your emphatically expressed point of view. You sound a great deal like my dear friend June and we don't always agree :0) This is a route we have chosen for our children and it has worked out positively for us. There is no disagreement over the contents of the bag since I hand out the items and they hand them back quietly when they want to 'swap'.
    We do train the children to sit quietly when we don't have the Quiet Bag too and that is something we need to continue to work on, I'm sure.
    For many years, I was a Pastor's wife and a 'single mom on Sunday's' because everyone else required my husband's attention. This was a really helpful tool for me during a difficult season, one which we continue to use from time to time. I shared the idea with hopes it might be of help to others.

  5. I would also be very happy if you would care to share your 'tried and true' methods of training your children to sit quietly. We often take time to practice sitting quietly at home, but there are times when this training does not carry over to a public situation, or at least not for the duration of time required. I would appreciate your insight.

  6. Heather, your quiet bag is a great idea. As you mentioned in a comment on my blog, this can be a valuable tool in a parent's training of a child how to sit still and be content. The child will learn to associate the toys in the special bag with quiet play.

    It looks like your post sparked a lively debate about just how we can best help our children to be content during church services, waiting for doctor's appointments, and such. That's ok, because we can all learn ideas from each other.

    I can see valid points on both sides. There is a place for teaching children to be quiet -- in their heart and in their behavior. Our collective attention span is dropping as we all are overly stimulated by media. Learning to listen, to be quiet, and to concentrate is an important part of a child's spiritual and social development.

    However, as a mother of adult children looking back on it, however, I do think that it's helpful for wee ones to have a coloring book or something cuddly to hold or something else that helps them. In this case, toys in a quiet bag that are used only when the child is expected to be quiet can be helpful. When they get a little older, they will be able to give up these toys.

    I'm just glad that parents of younger children are thinking about this, rather than assuming that children cannot learn to be content and quiet. Thank you for introducing the subject.

  7. Thank you for your encouragement Elizabeth. As one who avoids beginning conflict as much as possible, I was almost sorry to have shared this post! I don't mind 'sparking lively debate' though, so I appreciate your perspective!

    My mother was raised in an unbending manner - cold, religious duty and very little joy associated with church going. Many churches today are all about entertaining children - keeping them happy.
    We are striving for a blalnce - requiring and expecting first time obedience (and carrying out the consequence for disobedience), and a real relationship with their heavenly Father, involving deep respect for His Person, a respect for the building in which we meet to worship corporately, and a love for their Saviour.


Thank you for taking the time to comment! I so enjoy reading your comments when you kindly share your thoughts!