Keeping kids focused at Mass can be tough. Experienced parents will tell you that the most successful Masses with kids start and end at home, and thankfully there are a variety of tools that can help. Here’s a breakdown of seven resources and how they might fit into your family Mass prep.
by Heidi Indahl
Prepare in Advance
Breaking Open the Word at Home
Taking time before Mass to go over the weekly readings can give your child something to think about and listen for when it comes time for Mass. The simplest option each week is Breaking Open the Word at Home by Jen Schesslmaus-Perry, posted each week here on Peanut Butter & Grace and featured in the FamilyTime! newsletter. Each article covers the weekly readings, a brief reflection, thought/discussion prompts for a variety of ages, and suggestions for more in-depth action or reflection. It’s totally free and designed to be used by parents and children together.
Another free option is the Holy Heroes weekly Mass prep video. A link delivered to your email provides a video (usually related to one of the readings), a coloring sheet (or two), and the weekly Mass prep quiz. This is another great option that covers a wide range of ages and can be done at the same time by the entire family. In this option, the parents aren’t responsible for the teaching, the adventure guides take care of it for you!
The Mass Box
The Mass Box is a third prepare-in-advance option for families. A subscription-style box, each box covers a month of Masses, including holy days of obligation. Each week comes with a craft project and an activity booklet. The target age is listed as 4-8, and I think that’s an accurate reflection, although some projects could be done by a younger child and some were a bit trickier for my non-reading 8 year old.
My favorite part of the Mass Box was not the craft projects, but the activity booklet. It’s similar to the Magnifikid (see below) with less text and better paper for writing. There are enough activities to prepare in advance (or follow up) and use during Mass to follow along. The downside of this option is that it starts to add up quickly if you want one craft kit for each child. They offer a great discount, however, so it’s doable.
Follow Along During Mass
A variety of options exist to help your child follow along during Mass. The most well-known is the Magnifikid, a missalette aimed at reading elementary-aged children. As a missalette, it includes all of the parts of the Mass including the readings and responses. No other option offers the same in-depth look at the Mass itself.
We’ve had a subscription for years, and I have mixed feelings about it. I find it is quite text heavy and I dislike that the kids need a pen to write on the glossier paper. That means there is a pen floating around the pew that toddlers can (and have) hijaked for less honorable purposes. That said, there is nothing more thorough when it comes to including something to follow along for the entire Mass. There are a couple activities that can be finished in the course of the homily without distracting the child for the rest of Mass in which they can easily participate. I think this is a great option for maybe a second to fourth grader.
Magnificat also recently released a brand new Sunday Gospel coloring book about which I am quite excited. The pages are perforated so the parent has some control over how much the child gets each week. The price point is accessible for purchasing multiple copies, an advantage for families with multiple. I think this is the best option for preschoolers and really fills a hole. I’m planning on purchasing one for my 6 year old with special needs.
To Hear His Voice
To Hear His Voice is a new Mass journal from Ginny Kochis and Not So Formulaic. Published in a three month interval it allows more flexibility than any other journaling option. Plenty of room to write a lot for a prolific writer or draw for a non-reader. There is also the option to purchase a bound version or a pdf, allowing more budget flexibility. Little saint quotes and weekly feasts are highlighted in a way that allows you to go that little bit extra, but doesn’t make you feel as though you’ve wasted a resource if you don’t. My only criticism of this resource is that the Mass readings are not the same translation read at Mass. For some kids this might be an issue, but for many others it is not.
Every Sacred Sunday
Not published for kids, my oldest daughter has been using the Every Sacred Sunday Mass journal. I’ve seen several other Catholic bloggers doing the same with their middle school and older girls. The price point is higher up front than either Magnifikid or To Hear His Voice. The whole year actually falls in the middle, but it is published in a hardbound volume that only includes the current liturgical year making it more of a commitment up front. With either of the other two options, you can start wherever you are without wasting pages. That said it is hands down the best option for older elementary students and teens who are genuinely looking to deepen their own Mass experience. This one for me is a great bridge book: an adult resource that is accessible for kids, too.
In a Nutshell
- If you want to work with the whole family at the same time, you can’t beat Breaking Open the Word at Home (discussion based) and Holy Heroes (computer based), so pick the learning style that works best for your family. As free offerings, both of these options also win if you are on a tight budget.
- For the kindergarten and under crowd I would go with the Magnificat Sunday Gospel Coloring Book.
- For elementary students who are non readers or readers who need extra support, I would go with the Mass Box or To Hear His Voice. As a bonus, both of these options can be used before, during, or after Mass.
- For elementary students who are proficient readers and don’t really need the activity piece, I would go with the Magnifikid.
- For non-nuerotypical students of all ages I would go with To Hear His Voice. Hands down, it offers the most flexibility based on your child’s temperament.
- For middle school and up I lean toward the Breaking Open the Word reflections and discussion guide, with the back-up option of Every Sacred Sunday for a child who has already shown a devotion and desire to go deeper into Mass.
A special thank you to the folks at The Mass Box and author Ginny Kochis for providing me review copies of their resources. Also to fellow Peanut Butter & Grace blogger, Brian Smith, for sharing photos of the Magnificat Sunday Gospel Coloring Book so I could include it in this review. (And also to my kids for tagging along while we mixed up all these ideas in the span of a couple weeks!)