Parent Secrets: Keeping Kids Occupied

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Bride and Groom with Kids

If you’ve ever spent four hours on a plane listening to a fussy child who’s bored out of his mind, or fought the urge to stare pointedly at parents who let their precious preschooler talk loudly through a wedding ceremony or funeral, you know how important-yet-challenging it can be to keep little ones appropriately occupied in certain situations.

While our kids are the center of our universes, they are not the center of everyone else’s—which means there are plenty of times that they must settle down and behave. From Sunday church services to car trips and more, we moms need to have some tricks up our sleeves to keep our kids busy and happy in a respectful way.

Consider the following scenarios and suggestions:

At Church: Quiet is Key

Whether you have gathered for a church service or are at Cousin Tom’s wedding, kids need to be quiet throughout the service or ceremony. If the house of worship does not offer a special kid service or activity room, pack an activity bag filled with quiet and soothing toys. As Everyday Life notes, have your kiddo choose a special toy like a stuffed animal and place it in the bag—the only caveat is that the toy cannot make any noise. Crayons, a coloring book, or a small picture book are also great ways to keep restless kids busy. If the church allows it, you might bring a simple snack like crackers—just be sure they are not too crunchy and crumbly.

On a Plane: Ward off Boredom with New Goodies

If you are traveling by air with your kids, it’s important to find ways to keep them occupied in their seats. While you can probably walk up and down the aisle a couple of times during your flight, there are other times—like during takeoff, landing, and turbulence—that they must stay put.

To help pass the time, buy some toys from the Dollar Store and wrap them in gift wrap; then hand one to your kiddo every 30 to 60 minutes. Another way to keep kids happy on long plane rides is by stocking up on Crayola Color Wonder pens and paper; the special inks only work on Color Wonder paper so you don’t have to stress too much if your child accidentally swipes the pen across the seat or tray table. As Cloudy with a Chance of Wine notes, gel window clings will keep kids happy for a long time. Seat your kiddo by the window, hand him or her some colorful clings, and let the decorating begin. When the flight is over, just peel them off and take them with you—the clings and the kids, that is.

In the Car: Harness the Magic of Electronics

While iPads are a no-no in church and planes can be too loud to hear them, long car trips are an ideal place to let your kids enjoy their favorite shows on their tablets or other mobile devices. Feel free to shed any guilt you may have about using technology to entertain your kids and let them catch up on Dora the Explorer or Phineas and Ferb. To load up your child’s tablet with plenty of programs, you can either download them online or, if you are a DISH customer, you can use the company’s Hopper technology. The Hopper is a DVR that lets you transfer recordings of your favorite shows and movies to a tablet or other mobile device so you can watch them from any place. Before you leave, load up the Hopper with your kids’ favorite shows, transfer them to their tablets, and prepare yourself for some quiet time on the road.

In what situation do you prefer kids to be quiet?


Krystle Cook – the creator of Home Jobs by MOM – put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.


  1. Some great advice

  2. Phoenicia says:

    We like our children to fully engage at our church services. Therefore they can only play with gadgets/small toys before the service starts. After praise and worship they go to their classes.

    It can be difficult keeping children quiet during wedding ceremonies. I have taken mine outside when they become restless.

    • That makes a lot of sense Phoenicia. At least if they are in engaged they aren’t bored. Taking children outside during a wedding ceremony is a good idea if they get too loud! I’ve had to do that in some situations.

  3. You hit it right on with the need for kids to be quiet at times. Your suggestions would do the trick very well. I’ve never heard of the Hopper but will check it out – something to pass along for my grandchildren.

    • Thanks Lenie! There’s always a place to be loud and other places that deserve attention and quiet. Kids don’t always seem to realize this. The hopper is essentially a DVR or recorder that stores and saves movies or shows for you. They are nice to have. I personally get very backed up on tv shows and never can watch them live so recording them helps.

  4. Ken Dowell says:

    I usually have the opposite problem. How to divert my son’s attention away from the iPad.

  5. Beth Niebuhr says:

    Love the idea of the new dollar store toys to keep them interested. Don’t forget that they need to have something to do in restaurants too. I love to see well behaved children, almost a rare sight anymore.

    • I love seeing a well behaved child too and secretly wish mine would act like that more. Mine surprise me sometimes and make me think “Is that my kid?”.

  6. My greatest fear when flying is the kid who will inevitably be in the seat behind me kicking the living daylights out of it. Only half of the time do parents make them stop 🙁

  7. (I am being cheeky with this comment, but you can take it seriously if you want to. ;-))

    If all else fails, here is a fail-safe way to pacify your kids for a long car trip:

    (1) The night before the trip: Have the non-driving spouse keep the kids up all night doing something or other.

    (2) The morning before the trip: Feed the kids a large, filling breakfast.

    Upon doing this, the kids will simply sleep through the trip, guaranteed!

    • Hehe Andy! That would work. My FIL used to start trips when it was time for bedtime so everyone would sleep through the drive.

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