On Children at Meeting

SFMM Meetinghouse Children's Room

We recognize children of all ages as junior members of our Worship Community and welcome them both in First Day School and in Worship. Although most children attend First Day School, families may also choose to stay together in worship for the entire hour, or for as long as they can do so comfortably.

Children and First Day School Programs

childrenplayingFirst Day School programs are available every Sunday from approximately 11 am until 12:10 pm to coincide with rise of Meeting. Child care is available starting at 10:40 am for parents who are going to Meeting. Child care is also available during Meeting for Business (Second First Day of each Month from 1pm to approximately 3PM) and often available by advance arrangement for other activities held after meeting for worship.

We have a regular program for children from 6 up to about age 10 or 11. Children 3-5 have a short, separate program, which combines for part of the hour with the toddlers and infants. We have one paid child care worker who is with the infants and toddlers through the whole hour. Parents and other adult volunteers also rotate assistance with child care. Meeting volunteers facilitate an occasional Bible study group for teens. Please let us know if you have a teen who would like to attend. If you would like to help, please let a First Day School teacher know.

The first day school sessions for older children follows a course of study that may include Quaker faith and practice, stories from Quaker history and biography, Old and New Testament study, the study of other faiths, the overall structure of Quaker meeting, and special issues for Quakers like the Advices and Queries and Testimonies and their application in daily life. The preschool group uses stories and songs to reinforce basic social, family, and religious concepts. Teachers in both groups consider play a most important way of communicating Quaker ideas and principles.

We ask parents to prepare their children for participation in First Day School by encouraging them to behave in ways that will foster their joining in, and not disrupting discussions and activities. It is very helpful to the children if parents can arrive early enough to show the children where meeting for worship is held and to introduce then to the first day school teacher and other children. This can help them separate comfortably from their parents and join smoothly in the classroom activities. Parents are welcome to stay until your child is settled or to observe First Day School for the entire session. Please check with the teacher so there aren’t too many adults staying at the same time.

We realize it is sometimes a challenge to bring an entire family anywhere and arrive on time. Although it is a strong value among Quakers to be on time, we gladly welcome you late to the meeting, if necessary, rather than suggest that you avoid coming at all for fear of disturbing First Day school activities or worship. Friends who arrive after Meeting begins are invited to participate in quiet contemplation in the lobby and are admitted as a group at approximately 11:15 am. Over time, as a sense of community grows within you and your children, it may become easier to come on time.

Joining Worship

Our children over 5 years join us in Meeting for Worship during the first 15 minutes, and then exit with their teacher at the same time that latecomers are admitted to Meeting. Younger children are welcome to stay for as long as they are able.

Although First Day School teachers help prepare children for sitting in worship, it is important for parents to also talk with their children ahead of time to help them think of how to be in the silence, how to think of it in a positive way, so they come to expect it and gradually become comfortable with it. With toddlers, it might be helpful to have with you a favorite quiet toy or book you can give them to occupy themselves. Practicing silence at home, for example before meals, might also prepare them.

When children come into meeting for worship, we ask parents to attend to their child’s conduct by helping them actively foster, and not disturb, the silent reverence within the meeting for worship. Here are some guidelines we offer to help you guide your children:

Sounds and activities that can usually be absorbed into the silence include:

  • the gurgling, cooing and nursing sounds of infants
  • a mother and child’s movements related to nursing
  • parent and child movements related to bottle feeding
  • occasional loud whispers of young children
  • quiet play with soft toys (e.g. a small stuffed toy or play dough)
  • the quiet turning of book pages

Note: board books are available in the First Day School classroom or the library.

Sounds and activities that may disturb the silence include:

  • extended loud crying and distress of infants
  • extended periods of loud talking by young children
  • toys that make noise
  • book pages turned noisily
  • children trying to gain the attention of their parents or others by attempts to distract or by actions like hitting or pulling
  • eating food or chewing gum noisily
  • activity by children such as extended walking around, wrestling with siblings, crawling under chairs, making loud noises

Parents can attend to these behaviors by taking a little time to help children settle, and by guiding them back into an alternative behavior. It’s helpful to give a child a little time before feeling you have to take him or her out of meeting. With a parent’s patience and perseverance, children are usually able to adjust to longer periods of quiet.

After Meeting For Worship

animal wafflesChildren come downstairs during the announcements. They are welcome to sit with you or to quietly go to the Fellowship Hall. They are welcome to join us for refreshments when Meeting rises. Every first Sunday, there is a potluck lunch for all who attend Meeting. There is no organized childcare during this time. Please remind children to walk, not run, in the Fellowship Hall and to be careful not to bump into others as they are enjoying fellowship. Toys are available in the toy box for children to play with on the carpet after the announcements have finished, while their parents enjoy the social time as well. We ask you to be aware of your children’s location and activities during this time.

After every Meeting for Worship, a member of our community is available to answer questions about our Meeting and Quakerism. In addition every Sunday at 10:40am there is an Introduction to Quaker Worship led by members of Ministry & Oversight committee to welcome newcomers and to answer questions they might have about Quaker worship and practice.

On the second Sunday of each month, after refreshments, a Meeting for Business is held. During this meeting decisions are made on matters of corporate concern and responsibility. Visitors are welcome to attend. Child care is provided during Meeting for Business on second Sundays and whenever there is a special program so that parents can participate in the work, activities and decisions of the Meeting.

Questions? Contact the Clerk of the Children’s Religious Education Committee, thank you.

Thanks to Redwood Forest Friends Meeting for original ideas.