Have you ever thought about finding your child a pen pal?
There are many benefits to your child having a pen pal. It encourages deeper connections and builds patience (having to wait for letters to arrive). If your child has an international pen pal, it can open up their perspective to how people in different parts of the world live, too.
Written communication is often a more meaningful and genuine way to connect with and get to know someone. It also provides plenty of fun reading and writing practice.
A pen pal can be a classmate, a friend, or a relative, whether near or far. Sometimes, pen pals help one another learn about different languages and cultures, and there are websites and apps that connect long-distance pen pals.
If you have safety concerns, you can also establish a pen pal relationship with someone your child already knows.
Where to Find a Pen Pal for Your Child
If you’d like to find a pen pal in a different country, there are several places you can check out online. Please note, it is up to the parent/caregiver to research these suggested websites and groups.*
- Raising Kids with a Growth Mindset Facebook Group (this group is managed by Big Life Journal). Search for posts about Pen Pals inside the group.
- PenPal Schools
- World Wide Snail Mail Pen Pals
- Global PenFriends
- Facebook groups. Search Facebook for dedicated pen pal groups for children/families
*Big Life Journal is not responsible for the vetting process of your child’s pen pal.
If your child would like to have a pen pal, check out these tips, topic suggestions, and more to get started.
3 Tips to Help Children to Be a Great Pen Pal
1. Be Yourself
Encourage your child to write the same way they would normally speak. The best pen pal letters are conversational so you can almost “hear” the writer as you read.
Your child’s natural personality, interests, and sense of humor should shine through. There’s no need to impress your pen pal with embellished stories or big words. Of course, if you want to get in some vocabulary practice, throwing in a few vocabulary words is fine, too!
2. Ask Questions
Just like in regular conversation, it’s important to show interest in learning about the other person. Encourage your child to switch between talking about themselves and asking their pen pal a few questions.
Some questions may be related to what your child just wrote. For instance, if your child writes about a fun beach trip, they could ask, “What’s your favorite vacation you’ve been on?” or, “Where have you always wanted to travel?” Once the letters begin flowing, your child can ask for updates on information the pen pal has shared, like, “How did your baseball game go last week?”
Asking questions also makes it more likely your child’s pen pal will continue to respond. Another rule of thumb to encourage responses is to keep letters to two pages or less. Sometimes, an overly long letter can be overwhelming for the recipient.
3. Keep It GoingAt the start of the pen pal relationship, decide together how often letters will be exchanged. This ensures both pen pals are on the same page and won’t feel ignored, neglected, or impatient if one pen pal prefers to write just once a week or every other week.
Once you’ve agreed to some basic guidelines, keep it going. Try to respond in a timely manner. Creating a basic routine, like writing to your pen pal every Wednesday after school, helps it become a habit.
If there’s going to be a delay in sending letters, let the pen pal know so they aren’t left wondering. At the same time, try to be patient if the pen pal is taking l to respond. Your child may also send a quick note to be certain everything is okay.
Topics to Write About to Your Pen Pal
Sometimes, coming up with something to write about is the hardest part of being a pen pal. Here are a few topics to try:
- Places you’ve visited or would like to visit
- Favorite hobbies and interests
- Something interesting you’re learning about
- Your family members
- Favorite family ritual or tradition
- Your pets
- Your city and what you like to do there
- Favorite foods
- Your bedroom or favorite part of your home
- Your recent art or craft
- Favorite outdoor and indoor activities
- A famous person you’d like to meet
- Favorite board or card game
- Favorite podcasts
- Favorite season
- Favorite color and how it makes you feel
- Favorite holiday
- Books and movies you love or are currently enjoying
- Your nickname or what name you would like to use and why
- Your biggest dream (e.g. What do you want to be when you grow up?)
- Favorite animal
- Your morning routine and/or evening routine
- Favorite YouTube channel
- A sport you play and how often you practice
- Three things you are grateful for right now
- Your volunteering experience
- Your previous pen pal (if you had one before)
- Favorite book or movie character
- Your goal and what you do to achieve it
- Your recent dream
- Something kind you did for someone recently
- Something you’re proud of
- Your recent invention idea
- Things you would like to learn about
- Your recent trip somewhere
- Music or singers you like
- A recent gift you received and why you like it
- Fun or interesting information since your last letter
- An amazing thing that happened to you recently
- The musical instrument you’re learning and how often you practice
Should Your Child Use Snail Mail or Email?
Finally, you might be wondering whether your child should communicate with a pen pal via handwritten letters or emails.
Ultimately, it’s up to you, your child, and your child’s new pen pal. Handwritten letters have a special personal touch. They allow your child to work on their handwriting and there’s certainly something to be said for the excitement of receiving a letter with your name on it in the mail.
On the other hand, email is faster and easier. Plus, it’s completely free. Sending emails can help your child learn more about computers and how to type.
Alternatively, you can have your child write a letter, then scan and send it via email. You can also print out emails from your child’s pen pal.
Weigh your options, talk to your child, and decide on whatever works best for you and your family.