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When I was in high school, during the long school breaks, I would get postcards from my friends whenever they went on vacation.
I loved looking at the picturesque scenes of their destinations featured on the postcards and reading their handwritten descriptions of what fun they would be having. They were so meaningful and special to me. Their postcards enabled me to get a glimpse of their vacation experience, and so when I went on holiday, I would send them postcards too (although I tended to look for postcards with something funny or quirky about the places I visited).
The element of surprise of receiving a postcard or a letter from a loved one and the excitement and thrill of opening the envelope is something of a lost tradition.
In our fast-paced world of instant messaging, we don’t need to send the written word any more. Voice and even video messages can be sent with a simple tap on the screen or broadcast on social media. But in our era where messaging technology lets us constantly stay in touch and updated, are we actually more connected?
Why letters matter
There is a certain charm about sending and receiving physical letters.
Unlike e-communications that can easily be lost in the never-ending stream of messages (or accidentally deleted when you change your phone), a physical letter can be carefully kept away. It can be treasured and read over and over again. Even the scent and touch of an old letter is a personal stamp that reminds us of the special relationship and memories that were created.
A letter is a physical reminder of the sender’s special affection. They cared enough to make the effort to physically write to you. They took the time to think of what to say, to compose the letter, write it down by hand and post it.
I still have every letter that my husband and I wrote to one another when we were courting.
We lived miles apart back then and the only way to communicate was through our letters (or otherwise a very expensive phone call). We spent hours meticulously responding to each other’s replies, carefully crafting every sentence with careful thought.
After sealing the envelope, we couldn’t run fast enough to the post office to have the letter weighed and stamped by the postal officer. The final act of slipping the letter into the post box was so thrilling.
Unfortunately, our children have probably never stepped foot into a post office, never sent a letter by post and never known the warmth of personally receiving a letter in the mail.
Why not create opportunities to teach them this skill again? There are many great benefits, and some of them include:
- Teaching your children how to craft hand-written letters will teach them the power of the pen to connect with people!
- They will also learn how to think calmly and clearly to express their thoughts and emotions through the written word.
- Spending a little time teaching your children this valuable skill can help you foster a relationship with your child as they open up their feelings when they look to you as a guide on ideas about what to write.
Here are some creative ideas to get started:
You can get your preschooler to draw pictures. Ask them to dictate a simple message to you, then faintly trace out the words for them. Get them to write with a crayon or felt pen over the letters and words for them to trace. This form of ‘tracing over letters’ can help them learn how to formulate and spell words out. It also teaches them how to construct a message in a meaningful way. It could be something as simple as Dad; you are the best! I love you so much.
Here are some sample letters written by my kids when they were preschoolers that my husband kept in his keepsakes box of artwork done by our children (the ink may have mostly faded by now, but the meaningfulness of the message will always be kept intact).
Letter writing is a form of expression that can be shared with little kids in a fun manner. As long as they are old enough to scribble, they are ready to put their creativity to the test! At this age, don’t aim for perfection. They’re just grasping the concept of holding their crayons and putting into action the very first stages of writing.
Writing, drawing and even scribbling helps to bring out their creativity in an affectionate way. It also teaches them how to put their feelings and expressions on paper. Teaching this valuable skill at a young age will enable them to cultivate and enhance a very thoughtful habit.
For primary school students
Primary school kids are skilled at being able to understand how to put their thoughts on paper. Letter writing would be a fun way for them to practice their penmanship and hone their expressive thoughts.
You can help your primary-aged children to write letters by firstly giving them examples so that they learn how to formulate a template on their own that looks something like this:
The Heading – include an address and date
The Greeting – Usually with Dear (name of the person they are writing to)
Body of the Letter – The message you want to send
Closing – Sincerely, Your friend, or Truly Yours
The Signature – Usually their first name
Thank you notes are an especially great way to also teach kids to be thoughtful and appreciative of anyone who makes a difference in their lives or the lives of others. A trip to the post office to buy a stamp and an opportunity to post the letter into the mail box themselves can be a fun activity to do together. It is an activity you can keep up especially if the person they correspond to returns a reply!
For older children beyond primary
You can encourage them to write letters to their favorite authors (many authors actually write back!), or a non profit group that they support or someone who does a job in a field that interests them. These are great ways to allow your children to foster their interests as they discover possible career paths or explore a hobby.
If you have any friends or relatives who live abroad or in another state, you could assist your child in getting in contact with them to start a safe pen pal letter-writing correspondence. After all, research has shown that kids who write letters from a young age are likely to continue to do so as they get older.
It may seem old-fashioned now, but handwritten letters are treasured messages that stay timeless! As the old saying goes, “the pen is mightier than the sword,” the written word is indeed a very effective tool for communicating and especially so when someone has taken the time to write it out by hand. It will go a long way in fostering their love for words and responding to letters written with affection, attention and care.