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?