Remember being a kid and thinking getting mail was the most exciting thing ever? You know, before “mail” just meant a box full of bills and junk and the occasional Amazon order. Even now, we still get excited to see a wedding invitation or holiday card — or the very rare letter.
While it might seem silly to communicate via snail mail in the age of the internet, letters feel different from shorthand messages and texts, and they’re more intimate than a long email. Plus, writing by hand can have several benefits, including a calming effect on the brain, improving coordination and inspiring creativity. And for kids, pen-palling with someone across the country or the world can be an exciting way to learn about a different lifestyle or culture from a faraway friend.
So buy some stationary and dive in. Here are a few places to find a pen pal for your kid.
1. Social media
Most of us have friends or acquaintances who don’t live near us, and many of those friends have kids. These are perfect pen pal opportunities, and all you need to do is reach out and ask. Also, be open to different age ranges; maybe you have a friend who has a hobby or job your child finds interesting who can correspond with your child as a sort of mentor. Of course, as with all things social media, make sure to do due diligence in researching any potential pen pals you don’t know IRL. If it’s your cousin in Croatia, cool; if it’s a “friend” your kid met in a chat room, maybe not.
Classes and even entire schools sometimes have pen pal programs. Ask your child’s teacher or principal if that’s the case and whether your child can get involved, even if they’re not quite in the corresponding grade range. If there’s no program available, pass on resources and express why you think it might be valuable to get started. The Teacher’s Corner even has a map with pen pals by age range.
One of the coolest things about kids is how so many of them make friends wherever they go. Did your child hit it off with a bunkmate at summer camp? What about that kid from the hotel room next to yours on a family trip? If they have a buddy they won’t see for a while, all the more reason to put pen to paper and catch up.
4. Through a pen pal website
As usual, make sure you’re taking precautions about sharing your address through the internet. Consider a P.O. Box, verify all possible pen pals and websites yourself, and have a frank conversation about what topics are and are not appropriate. Encourage your kid to come to you if anything feels off about the communication. And stock up on stamps!