Writing letters to far away friends can help bridge any distance.
Having a pen pal, either in a different country or just a town away helps kids practice skills in literacy, writing and geography.
But for me, there’s an even more important skill kids learn, patience. Raising kids in the digital age means they don’t have to wait for much anymore. Almost everything is just a click away. And that’s great for some things, but for others it’s a problem. Writing letters with pencil and paper slows kids down. It makes what they read and write even more special. It also helps them write more thoughtfully about things that are important to them.
Here are five tips for helping your child craft the perfect pen pal letter:
1. Find a Pen Pal.
The thing that makes writing to a pen pal more thrilling than a writing exercise at school, is that there’s a clear audience (other than the teacher).
Ask family, friends or co-workers if they have a friend with kids living abroad. Chances are you already know someone with kids living in another country. But your child’s pen pal doesn’t have to be international. It can be just as exciting to get a letter from a friend in another state.
Our daughter’s pen pal is the daughter of a blogging friend of mine. Our kids have another set of pen pals in Belgium and one in Nashville. I keep up with both of their parents on facebook and social media.
2. Share What You’ve Been Doing
There are many reasons kids will love writing to their pen pal. Topping the list? They get to be the subject of their own story. If your child has trouble knowing where to begin, start small—write about a pet, what they did that week or what they love to eat. They can even write about the weather or include a joke. It’s small talk, kid style.
3. Ask Questions
Pen pal writing is a conversation on paper. Make sure your child includes a few questions to keep the conversation going. It also shows the pen pal your child is interested in what he/she has to say too.
4. Personalize It
Encourage kids to get creative. Include drawings, add stickers or little things that show your child’s personality. It doesn’t have to be big or grand. It can be as simple as using kid-approved stationery or a special way your child signs his letter. Bubble letters anyone?
5. Address Envelope Correctly
Knowing how to correctly address an envelope is an important life skill. If your child’s letter isn’t properly addressed, it won’t arrive. And don’t forget the return address. It’s a great way to give kids extra practice memorizing their address and learning state abbreviations.
Adaptations for Younger Kids
Having a pen pal isn’t just for older kids, younger kids can get in on the fun too! Here are two easy modifications:
If your child struggles with writing, play stenographer and type up the letter as she dictates. Just make sure she adds her signature, even if it’s a doodle.