Inside: Got to go out of town for a while? Worried about being away from your kids? Discover 5 bookish ways to help your children feel close to you, even when you’re far apart + FREE diamonds!
Every morning, my bleary-eyed son climbs into bed, pulls the covers up under his chin, and says, “Read!”
Thankfully, I’m usually one coffee in by then, so I pick up our latest book and do as I’m told. His warm body snuggles up closer as the story unfolds.
The PERFECT way to start the day.
But, today, I’m going away for nearly three whole weeks. A long time to be apart, particularly if you’re small.
When I told him, his downturned mouth, drooping shoulders, and trembling chin brought a lump to my throat.
How can we help our kids feel close to us when we’re far away?
The thought of leaving him behind made me frown hard enough to give myself a headache. Does going away worry you sick, too?
What if our darlings are sad or mad or NEVER forgive us?
5 (bookish) ways to make up for being away from your kids
1. Read them a book (or 3)
If you’re in the middle of reading your child a chapter book, take it with you.
You might not be able to read to them every day, but they’ll love the days you can.
And if they haven’t reached the chapter book stage yet, pack two or three picture books and read them over and over and over again. You might want to stab yourself in the face with a fork by day 6, but they’ll think you’re the BEST!
To connect with your children face-to-face, Facetime, Skype, and WhatsApp all do the job.
But kids often have an all-or-nothing relationship with video conversations:
- Sometimes you can’t get a word in edgeways
- Other times you can barely get two words out of them
- And occasionally they clam up completely
- To punish us for NOT being there?
It makes you want to thrust your arms through the screen and pull them in close.
Read to them.
I promise you, it breaks the ice. And even if they don’t warm up by the end of the call, they know you care.
2. Record yourself reading a beloved book
If time zones, work restrictions, or communication issues make it impossible to call, record a story instead.
I chose You Belong Here by M H Clark.
It’s one of the most beautiful picture books we’ve ever read and reduces everyone to tears.
It’s a perfect read-aloud, too – soft and lyrical and lovely,
Here’s our favourite bit:
And no matter what places you travel to,
what wonders you choose to see,
I will always belong right here with you,
and you’ll always belong with me.
Chokes me up every time (and I’m practically dead inside!).
Nothing says I love you like a barely-holding-it-together parent sniffling their way through a beloved bedtime story.
Little ones will play it on a loop whenever they miss you.
If you want to win Parent-of-the-Decade, and your kids are still small, record yourself reading with them TODAY. And roll it out every time you go away.
They’ll LOVE you forevermore.
3. Give a favourite book the personal touch
This one’s guaranteed to put a BIG SMILE on their face.
And taking the time to do it made me feel less guilty about abandoning my darling boy.
Update the characters in a favourite storybook using stickers of your name and your child’s name. I chose Sam & Dave Dig A Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. It works particularly well because both characters’ names pop up regularly throughout.
More than one child? Find a book that matches your family setup, or make one for each of them.
If you’re not squeamish about
defacing personalizing books, jazz up the illustrations to make them more ‘realistic’.
The changes I made are pretty subtle, in line with the style of the book:
- Sam aka Rowan got an ‘H’ on his baseball cap to match my son’s (Go, Astros!)
- Dave / Mummy got a striped t-shirt (I have drawers full of them)
- And cat is now a tabby, just like ours
If you choose a big, bold, colourful book add BIG, BOLD, COLOURFUL details!
Why not go the whole hog and stick photographs of your faces on the characters? (For anyone who does this – awesome! – and please, please, please share a picture.)
Does the idea of permanently marking a book make your toes curl? Use removable sticky tape instead.
In the story, even though Sam & Dave split up to improve their chances, they narrowly miss finding “something spectacular” – much to our amusement!
But at the end, they agree the EXPERIENCE was “pretty spectacular” – such a good message. And they celebrate with “chocolate milk and animal cookies.” I’ve hidden some in the kitchen for my husband to hand over at just the right moment.
Oh, how I wish I could be there to see Rowan’s face!
And it’s the gift that keeps giving
I printed a large ‘diamond’, like the one in the book, to put in his school lunchbox with a note from me on the back.
You could hide them all over the house, too. What fun!
Get your FREE diamonds PRINTABLE at the end of this post
4. Become secret agents
This takes time but your children will absolutely LOVE it.
Write them a special message for every day you’re away, with a book cipher.
How does it work?
- You need a book! A dictionary is easiest because it has ALL the words you might want.
- The message is given in groups of 3 numbers.
Example: (12, 10, 2)
- 12 = Page number
- 10 = Lines down from the top of the page
- 2 = Number of words from the left
3. String the words together to make complete sentences.
If you both have identical copies of the same book, you can send messages back and forth. I can’t wait to get my first clue!
Ideas for things to write:
- Notes to send love, luck, and encouragement
- “Good luck getting the cat to the vet!” (They’ll need it – furry, feral beast!)
- Jokes, puns, riddles
- Lines from books
- “Remember to put the bins out” (That one’s for Daddy!)
- Clues to find hidden diamonds
Don’t forget to download your free diamonds at the end of this post
5. Take them with you
Hide a book about the place you’re visiting under their pillow.
For recommendations, ask your Children’s Librarian, quiz the staff in your local bookshop, and check out these great lists:
Search Tip: Type the place name into Amazon’s search box, select ‘Books’ from the drop down box to the left, and then go left again to click on ‘Children’s’. Browse!
We have several from the same series and Rowan ADORES them.
I can imagine his SMILE as he pores over the pictures.
The frown has gone and the headache has lifted.
Right, it’s time for me to head to the airport.
I can’t wait for the next time my bleary-eyed darling climbs into bed, pulls the covers up under his chin, and orders me to “Read!”
Until then, at least I know he’ll be HAPPY, safe in the knowledge that he is LOVED.
Which ideas will you try out? Maybe you already have great ways to keep in touch. I’d love to hear them.
Download your FREE Diamonds!
Are you a fellow worrier? Like the idea of solving your parenting problems with picture books?
Some other articles you might like:
- When is the RIGHT TIME to STOP Reading Aloud?
- How to STOP Your Little Ones LYING to You Forever
- How to Raise GRATEFUL Kids in an Ungrateful World
Don’t want to miss a post? Sign up for monthly(ish) Reading is Better than Chocolate email updates using the box below.
And follow Parenting with Picture Books on Facebook where I share the best articles, pictures, and videos from all over the web.
Let’s raise HAPPY literate humans.