When I was younger I only ever had one pen pal as a child. This was organised through school to help improve our French for our French lessons. I remember it being so much fun, although sometimes limiting as to what French we knew. We even sent each other gifts, I remember receiving a diary with a French actor on the front. I had no idea who he was but guessed he must have been big in France at that time.
I recently decided that it would be good to get Munchkin some pen pals. Initially I was looking for pen pals she could actually write too but we ended up with email pen pals. These are daughters of my friends, some are Facebook friends who live abroad. But what I really wanted her to do was write letters and we finally found someone via a Facebook group who wanted her daughter to write too. Although not abroad, we decided to go for it and Munchkin was really pleased to receive her first letter.
I came across a discussion in a group about pen pals. And it was almost implied that we were being reckless mothers by encouraging our children to write to complete strangers. That in future if they spoke to strangers behind the screen we couldn’t argue as we had encouraged it.
Since when did something as innocent as having pen pals become frowned upon? Yes. the world can be a scary place and you have to be careful about what your children are doing on the internet and encourage them not to talk to strangers, but I hate it when people become judgemental about innocent things and imply it is not good parenting.
Talking to strangers online without anyone’s knowledge and emailing or writing to children of similar ages who have been vetted by the parents are two different things. Parents will supervise the whole process and be involved in the letter writing. And there are so many benefits of pen pals.
Improves Reading and Writing Skills
Munchkin’s handwriting isn’t the most tidiest. By writing more it will help her practice writing and make it neater. Writing to a pen pal is more exciting then sitting there doing homework, so they are having fun while practicing. It also encourages the proper use of proper grammar and puncuation and use full words rather than the abbreviations you see these days in text messages.
Learning About New Cultures
If you have a pen pal abroad (or even in the same country but a different culture), then this will help your child gain an understanding of different cultures, expanding their knowledge. Munchkin has an email pen pal in America and loves learning about things there. Learning about different ways of life and realising that not everyone lives the same is such a bonus, it has made Munchkin curious enough to want to learn more about different countries.
Improves Social Skills And Communication Skills
I noticed when Munchkin first started emailing some pen pals it was slightly awkward. She was answering questions and not really asking much so wasn’t getting particularly long emails back. I had to explain to her that she really needs to keep a conversation going by asking questions and have noticed a vast improvement with the way she now communicates with her pen pals.
This is more for the actual writing letters rather than emails. In todays age where emails and messages on phones are instant, writing letters can be seen to be a bit of a novelty and to some unnecessary. But when a child writes a letter they then have to wait to receive one back. I believe that makes it that bit more exciting and rewarding.
Some penpals exchange gifts. This can be particularly lovely if its between pen pals abroad sending each other items that reflect the country they are in.
Do your children have pen pals? Do you think it is a good idea?
I had a pen pal when I was younger, again organised by the school – mine was from Sweden and I used to love hearing from her and getting photographs of her life in Sweden. I even tried to find her again recently as we lost touch years ago. I think pen pals are a brilliant idea and this has actually made me think I’m going to go to my children’s school with the suggestion they do it – I think it’s a brilliant way of connecting with children the same age, learning about somewhere new, practice writing, reading and social skills. It’s completely different to talking to strangers online!
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I still love sending and receiving real post. So much nicer than e-mails!
I’m encouraging my 7 year old son to send cards to his cousins, because it helps to make reading and writing part of life rather than just something to do at school.
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How can I get. One for my son he really loves reading &writing on addition. To DAT drawing
I do think it’s a brilliant idea Foz! I got some when I was kid and it’s nice to see how other people live and what they like. It’s nice to share and I think it helps to understand the world better for the future.
Much love to all. Surely Munchkin will love it!!
PS – You made some changes on your blog. Looks great!
I used to love having penpals – I still did up till the point I found it hard to hold a pen and write a lot any more. It was just thrilling getting a new letter through the door. x
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My 5 year old daughter has 3 pen pals, and I think it’s a great idea for children. She loves receiving her post and it means she is then writing with a real purpose at home. I have about a dozen pen pals myself, so we both like to sit down together and write, which is such lovely, quality time together. It also means I’m developing her love of stationery at an early age 🙂
I remember at school our French teacher came round and gave us each a letter from a French student to reply to. I wrote back but never heard back from her! I do know many people who have kept in touch for years with their childhood penpals.
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This is a lovely idea, for so many reasons! Our children still need to learn letter writing skills, and as you point out learning about new cultures and the excitement of making a new friend is a wonderful way of doing it!
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I loved having a pen pal as a child. My eldest had a go at pen pals last year but lost interest, maybe when she’s older she’ll try again
I always had a French pen pal organised by school like you but I also had a Hong Kong friend who I found through a Pen Pals page in one of the girls’ magazines that I read! I loved writing to her and getting parcels in return.
I would encourage my children to have a pen pal in another country – I think as long as we educate our children about ‘stranger danger’ and to be mindful that not everyone is who they present themselves to be, we can help eliminate risks. This is a project that I’d supervise, to keep an eye on things but I think the positives outweigh the potential negatives in this case.
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My daughter used to have a penal but her pal stopped writing so she’s without one again now, I always used to write to people I’d met on holiday when I was little. I used to love writing letters 🙂
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I always wanted a pen pal as a kid, but my parents shared the opinion of the dangers of penpals. I tried writing to a kid who had been approved (as they knew the parents) but she didn’t write back. As an adult I found my son a penpal through a facebook group for muslim kids looking for penpals, and I got a “mom penpal” the same way (the penpal’s mother). If you are unsure this is a nice way to connect more with the penpal family and make a good penpal example :). Sometimes you have to go through a few before you find one who will keep writing. We do these on paper, though I have some “email penpals” of my own that have just developed over time!
I used to have a penpal as a child but its not something I have thought of for mine. I think it would be a fabulous idea though
My kids don’t have any. I’ve signed up before for a programme, and we sent a few letters but never received any responses, which was in fact quite disheartening. However, that hasnt put us off…can you please share the link of the site/fb page that you used to find your penpals?
Such a good idea, think i’ll look into for my children. With supervision I don’t see any problem at all. I had a penpal when I was little
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Pen pasl are a great idea and writing is a dying art nowadays sadly. Mich x
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I would love Emma to have pen pals when she grows up, people can be so negative sometimes over things that don’t even concern them!xx