A Church made for toddlers: Understanding the sanctuary and celebration

Going to mass with my daughter is quite the trip. As she grows further into toddlerdome, her wiggles are growing, but we have also found many opportunities to share the celebration with her, using tactile and visual cues. We mention her place in the family of God as we dip our hands in the baptismal font, and when she gets fussy we use the stations of the cross to tell her the story of Good Friday. As she finds ways to engage, it makes me wonder, was church made to engage people at all developmental states? Was our church made with my toddler in mind? The liturgy clearly utilizes our senses to activate our brains. And let’s be real, sometimes my mind and needs are not that different from a toddler.

The Salt Stories: A Church made for toddlers

One of the most amazing things about the incarnation is that, in it God made the common holy. He has a track record for turning material things into something more. Whether with a burning bush, a rod that can part a river, a land for his people, healing with mud, or the attachment of the human soul and the body. God enters the world in which he created, and speaks to us in a way we can understand.


There are definitely parts of the service that are harder for my 2 year old, and for me on some days, to stay focused, but the mass is meant to activate our minds and our spirits through the senses. From the beginning to the end there is a way for my daughter to engage in the church service. Holy water, incense, music, Eucharist, offering peace, sitting, standing, kneeling, spoken prayer, color changes, and even moments of silence. And all of gear things have been a part of Christian tradition for thousands of years.

The church treats me like a toddler, and I am okay with it. When my mind wanders to my grocery list, I can see out of the corner of my eye a beautiful picture, liturgical color, or am asked to re position my heart as I move my body. It keeps me engaged and my body fills in the gaps where my mind and heart fails.

The Salt Stories: Understanding the sanctuary and celebration

So in this series, I will be digging deep into the fixtures and traditions that mark the Holy mass. A few posts coming to a screen near you soon.

  • Standing and singing Alleluia for the Gospel
  • Lighting and moving of candles
  • The use of the baptismal font
  • Singing the Great Amen
  • Why all the kneeling?
  • A Case for the Crucifix

I am pumped to learn more about these ancient traditions. Please let me know if there is any other pieces of the celebration that you would like to add to the list.



  1. Thanks for your reply to my post on the Carrots website.
    Just one quick hint (you probably know this, just in case): The building depicted above is not a church, but our Natural History Museum here in London.

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