We have this tradition when traveling aimed at keeping the kids occupied. The night before we leave, they give me their backpacks, I quietly fill them with new books and a few snacks for the journey, but they cannot open the backpacks until once we’ve taken off, either by plane or car. We love this tradition. The kids love the suspense, and excitement of getting some new things, while I love the distraction that the new books will bring.
This year was our longest vacation as we headed to New England for nearly two weeks, and I started to worry when I thought about how many books my daughter would need to cover the trip. To say she’s an avid reader is an understatement. I envisioned myself having to ship books via UPS because there was no way a suitcase full of books would suffice. Luckily, this is when my husband raised the idea of buying her a Kindle.
I’m wary of electronics, and screen time is limited, but this seemed like a great solution. Many of my daughter’s classmates have their own iPads, but I wasn’t ready to go there, so the Kindle seemed like a happy compromise. We didn’t buy the cheapest one because I wanted to shield her from advertisements, but still, it cost less than an iPod, another thing she doesn’t yet own. We password protected the wifi, hide the fact that it can play games, loaded up a bunch of books, bought a cute cover, and packed it into her backpack as a surprise.
Once we were flying, I told the kids it was time to open their backpacks, and they started ripping them open before I could finish. My son – not yet a reader – had a bunch of books. He would be entertained by the graphics for some time. I was surprised when my daughter pulled out the only paper book I’d packed for her (a book not available on the Kindle). I thought she’d whine that she only got one book, but in a rare turn, she didn’t complain. I had to prompt her by asking if there wasn’t something else in the bag. The Kindle is tiny and the cloth cover fooled her, making it look like a little journal. When she opened it up, she flipped. She was so thankful and so giddy that she couldn’t surprise her smile.
The Kindle was perfect. It was convenient for taking with us everywhere we went (but the beach, my rule), and it has a dictionary for her to look up words. As the trip went on, we bought more books, including enough to cover the long flight home. This isn’t meant to be an advertisement for the Kindle – the Nook, iPad or other reading devices would probably work just as well. For us, it was the ease of use and the ability to take many books with us without taking up physical space. For our daughter, it felt like a grown up thing to be given, making it extra special.