Quiet Paper Games for Church

There is a delicate balance between making your kids listen during church, and just hoping that they are quiet so that they don’t distract others who are trying to listen.

This is the strategy for how to keep your kids distracted while you listen.

When I was younger, I remember when 3-year-old brother disappeared underneath the pew in front of us. We didn’t get to church early enough to get a good seat, so we were pretty far back. After a little while, I saw my brother’s head pop up in the very front row. Some nice people had him sit by them while my mother scrambled up to get him.

To avoid this situation in your future, I’ve compiled a list of quiet paper games to help you.

  1. Dots and Boxes
  2. Tic Tac Toe
  3. A little better (modified killing game)
  4. Telestrations
  5. Counting to 21
  6. Random Drawing
  7. Drawing with your eyes closed

Dots and Boxes

The classic dots and boxes game can take as long as you need and can be done very quietly. Start with ten by ten dots like below. Take turns connecting dots. If you complete a square, write your initial in the box and get another turn. Refer to the Dots and Boxes strategy on how to win.


After a few times of the regular version, it gets pretty monotonous. At that point, you can change things up by changing the rules. Here are some suggestions.

  • Reverse Tic-Tac-Toe. If the other person gets three in a row, you win.
  • 4 in a row. Make the board 4 by 4, and you have to get 4 in a row to win
  • Multiple playing areas. Make 2 or 3 Tic-Tac-Toe boards and on your turn, you get to play on any of them. You have to get 3 in a row twice to win.

A Little Better

My older brother and I made up a game called the killing game. Basically, you start by drawing someone or something and the next person draws a new someone or something that has to be strong enough to kill the thing you drew. This goes back and forth until there is an argument about whether the Death Star can be defeated by Voldemort.

Needless to say, my mom hated this game.

I since adapted the game to make it church appropriate. Instead of killing, you just have to draw something a little better. It works best with categories like; bad guys, super heroes, or Pokemon. We have even played the faster version around the dinner table where you just have to say someone a little worse. (The bad guy one got a little tricky with our kids because the worst guy they knew about was Bowser.)


There is an actual Telestrations game, but you can play it without all the extra frills. Take a piece of paper, and one person draws a picture. The next person writes what they think they are seeing in the picture and folds the paper so that you can only see the words. The next person draws a picture of the words etc.

You can have multiple papers going along the pew. You can even make it church themed by requiring the first picture to be scripture heroes.

Counting to 21

This is the same as the counting up game referenced here, except that you write it on a piece of paper. The game is pretty fast so it won’t last long, but you can change it up by adding multiple players, or changing what you must add up to. This is good for a few minutes of peace.

Random Drawing

I don’t mean just draw something random.

This is where one person draws a quick squiggle on the paper and the other person has to make something out of it. We often would each draw a squiggle so that both players could be drawing. I’ve seen the youth play this, and some of them get really good pictures out of it.

Blind Drawing

One player names something that you have to draw, and both players have to do it with their eyes closed. Whoever has the most complete picture wins. You can judge yourselves, or rope someone else in afterward.

What ideas do you have to keep kids distracted in church?

Christmas Strategy

Merry Christmas!

I love Christmas time, and especially love Christmas morning. I have always had a hard time sleeping because of all the anticipation for what is to come Christmas morning. There are a few traditions we have adopted in our family to make things great.

  1. Invite someone over Christmas Eve to make the time move quicker for the kids
  2. Bring out all the presents right before bed to build the anticipation
  3. Set a time when people are allowed to wake up
  4. Open Santa presents and stockings
  5. Force everyone to eat breakfast
  6. Open presents systematically
  7. Ensure a good mix of shock value, long term need, and short term fun presents
  8. Focus on your Family

Christmas Eve

When Christmas Eve comes around, kids are usually wired, and can’t wait to go to bed. One year, we tried to make it special by turning out the lights and having dinner by the Christmas tree, but Josh was so stressed that Santa would think we were asleep and come to our house early that we had to stop ten minutes into it.

Having people over, or going to someone’s house really helps in making the time pass. It gives kids something to do while they wait for the magic time to go to bed.

Bring out the presents

This may be counter-intuitive if you actually want your kids to sleep, but for me, the magic of seeing all the presents come out of Mom’s closet and go under the tree makes Christmas great.

The kids may not sleep any better, but it builds up the excitement!

Christmas morning

We have a rule that you can’t come wake us up until 6AM. Part of this is that we need our sleep, but really, this is also established to build the anticipation. I loved being awake with my brothers, just looking at the clock and counting down the minutes.

When we do get up at 6AM, we let everyone open their presents from Santa, and their stockings. This gives them a taste of what’s to come, but then we make them eat some real breakfast. “Real Food, not candy”real-food-not-candy

Then, its time for the presents. When I was growing up, we each opened one present at a time. As you can imagine, with 8 siblings, it took a significant amount of time to get back to your turn. It also really shows if someone else got more presents. (Mom always got the most,)

My wife’s family did the complete opposite. It was more of a free for all. Open your presents whenever you want. Although, this might seem great, Christmas morning is over so fast, that you hardly know what happened.

Mallory and I have taken an in between approach. Everyone picks a present and opens it at the same time. Then everyone picks their next present and they all open at the same time, etc. This has worked well for our family. Anyone else have a different tradition they like?

Present Mix

It is the stressful job of parents to ensure that the presents their kids get make things magical. There are different varieties of presents that will help you with this.

  1. Shock Value Presents: (New Bike, Large Ball, Pogo Stick…)
  2. Long Term Needs/Wants: (Clothes, Games,  Backpacks
  3. Short Term Fun: (Lego’s, Games, Dolls, Nerf Guns..)

To make Christmas last, it is nice to have a mix of everything, so that you can enjoy it now, and enjoy it for months to come.

Focus on Family

Lastly, the most important thing to do on Christmas is to focus on your family and Jesus Christ. Put your phones and laptops away. Take the time to enjoy your children’s company. They are great people, and they just want to be with you. Invest your time in the things that matter most, your family.


Playing Games for Christmas

Games are a great present for Christmas. A brand new game can bring energy to the house, and will create great memories. When I was about eight, my family got Hero Quest for Christmas. (Super nerdy, I know. Check out the classic early nineties design).


Every day, right after lunch, my brothers and I sat around the table with our dad and played one quest. I still remember the quest when an invincible ghost appeared. It could only be defeated by a certain sword. I had it! As an eight year old, I loved the feeling of working together to a common goal: defeating our dad.

How do you create these moments in your home? Here is what you should do.

  1. Pick the right game
    1. Fits your Christmas crew
    2. Long enough
    3. Replayability
    4. Full participation
  2. Plan time
  3. Prevent fights with food

Picking the right game

Choosing the right game can really help. I recommend checking out this Holiday Gift Guide from the BoardGameFamily. Trent lists out 11 different categories that will help you pick something that fits your Christmas crew perfectly.

You’ll need to pick something that gets people together. The game should be longer than 30 minutes, but not so long that people aren’t interested in playing again.

Replay-ability is also key. Some games are really fun, but you don’t really want to play them again right away. Hero Quest was fun because each quest was different. Dominion is another great one. Each play is almost a completely different game. The key here is finding a fun game, that takes long enough, that can be played lots of times over the holiday.

Lastly, it needs to be a game that doesn’t have long turns and that everyone can play through the whole game. (Risk is very fun, but once you are out, you are just sitting around)

Plan time

I can’t stress enough how important it is to set aside specific time every day during the holidays. We did it every day after lunch. It also works well to play to play every night after cleaning up dinner.

The kids (and those of us who are kids at heart) will appreciate looking forward to the time.

Prevent fights with food

Games add a lot to our lives, but they also can add some tense moments. When someone clobbers you in Blokus, (LINK), or eliminates you early in Bang, you have to have a positive attitude, and it really helps if there are snacks around.

What other ideas do you have to make game playing a part of the holidays?

Gaming with children

My church is launching a Light the World program for the month of December. The idea is to serve in 25 ways over 25 days during the month of December. In following that theme, I encourage you to serve a child by playing a game with them.

Think back on your childhood. Where did your love of playing games come from? It probably started with your parents playing with you. If not them, was it a sibling or a friend that introduced you to board games?

My dad often played games with us, but I remember the first time I ever got to attend one of his real game nights. A bunch of the youth from church came over to play an intense game of Risk. I had played once or twice before, but never a serious game. I went into the game pretty nervous.

My dad was my partner, and he guided me through the play. I wasn’t the first one eliminated, but I definitely didn’t win. This was a great memory. If I was going to be like all those wise teenagers, I would have to learn how to play games well.

This leads me to the strategy for playing with children, regardless of the game. Your purpose as the adult is to help guide them through the game process in such a way that the following things occur:

  1. They learn how to play
  2. They feel loved by spending time with you.
  3. They have fun.
  4. They gain a love for board games.

Notice how I didn’t say anything about you winning? Of course you can beat them in games. You are the dad, and they know you are awesome. The important thing here is raising children that will want to play games with you when they are older and can actually beat you. Here are a few strategies that help without letting them win. (No one wants to realize that they only won because you weren’t trying.)

  1. Change the rules to give them an advantage.
  2. Play on their team against another sibling.
  3. Play games that are mostly luck.
  4. Stack the deck against you.

Change the rules

When I was growing up, we had the Stoker Olympics (situps, pushups, stepups). We made the competition fair by giving the younger kids a handicap. It ended up being a competition of who improved most. This is what you do with games.

Some games lend themselves well to changing the rules. You could let them draw two cards instead of 1. You can let them roll twice and take the better of two roles. You can give them extra money, or let them see your cards, but don’t look at theirs.

The options here are limitless, and it allows them to know that you are trying your hardest, but giving them a slight advantage.

Team play

Being a kids teammate is great for meeting three of the four criteria, but some kids don’t feel like they have as much fun when you are coaching them along. Watch for this. If this is happening in your family, it may be time for you to back out and just let them play.

Play luck games

Some of the best games for kids have no skill at all. These are perfect for kids because they can legitimately win! Candyland is one of my kids favorites. It is pretty painful to play. “You are just moving along, and then you draw plumpy”. We adapted it so that you never have to go backwards. If you draw plumpy, your character goes back and has a “snack”, then moves right back to where they were. This really helps everyone to have fun.

Stack the deck

Sometimes you just have to stack the deck. It is actually quite fun to try to win after setting up your children to get most of the good cards. You can even play up the discrepancy by saying things like, “Awe man, I got the 2 again. That’s the 3rd time in a row!” They love it. and laugh and laugh.

Your competition of tomorrow are your children today. So play a game with a child, and make it great.

Please comment and let me know how it went.