A few years ago, our now 7 year old daughter started sponsoring a child in India. She very quickly became writing to her sponsee, and they would both exchange letters throughout the the year. Recently, we decided to build on this and ‘penpal up’ with some fellow travel bloggers. I thought this would be a really simple but wonderful way to not only get to know some other travelling families, but also get to know some other cultures and ways of life. So far in addition to India, our daughter now has 4 penpals in the USA, 1 in Australia and 1 in Canada.
Despite the constant trips to the post office and killing half the rain forests in paper useage, our little girl has also learnt and grown SO much since starting her penpal journey. So I thought I would compile a list of some of the benefits we have experienced from our daughter having penpals around the world, and how this can be applied to all children.
- It opens their minds
I don’t think Lizzie ever questioned her little world until now, and just assumed everybody else had the same experiences and problems as her. The lovely thing is, we don’t have to get on a plane to open our children’s minds and explore different areas of the world. I also found it has developed her curiosity, which is an all important factor in learning. Travel teaches children the world is bigger than themselves, and having penpals is an amazing way to develop that appreciation.
2. It educates them on different cultures and customs in a FUN, unique way.
Lizzie just loved hearing about life in these different countries, and her little imagination would run wild when she learnt what their school was like, how different their school meals were, and how their lifestyles compared to our own. She developed an appreciation for the things we take for granted in our developed world such as school, houses, food, running water, clothes and of course her many toys. All this education she gained, just from a few simple letters. I have promised her we will go and visit these countries when she is older and they are now firmly on her bucket list.
It is also important to note that all this learning is FUN. Learning shouldn’t be a chore that needs to be completed, but a lifestyle of exploring. That’s why I love using pen pals as a teaching tool. Children are also more likely to be interested in what another child is telling them first hand, rather than by reading about a country in a book or watching a documentary.
3. It helps develop their reading and writing skills
In our technological world, it is wonderful to teach children the art of the handwritten letter. With texts, emails and youtube kids don’t have too many opportunities to handwrite things nowadays, so this skill is not only important, but allows them to personalise their letters with drawings and stickers. I love seeing Lizzie’s face screw up in concentration when she composes her autobiography, complete with illustrations of our family and travels.
4. It teaches them patience
In this instant-gratification world we live in, having penpals is a great opportunity to teach your children the importance of patience. Letters or packages from penpals obviously take weeks to arrive. Children therefore get to experience the joy of anticipation and the more satisfying reward of getting something after a wait. It truly makes my heart happy to see the excitement on Lizzie’s face when another letter comes through the letterbox, and she rushes upstairs to read it and reply immediately with all the glitter pens and emojji stickers she can lay her hands on.
5. Teaches them to build friendships
Allowing your child to connect and share in another children’s joys and adventures is a great way to build a friendship. Taking interest in others lives and developing relationships is a vital life skill, and one that nowadays is even harder to learn with more and more kids spending their lives on youtube and playing video games. Letter writing complements those real-life situations and helps our children to prepare for the real world.
This christmas, I have prepared Lizzie a ‘penpal box’ full of exciting stationery to make the letter writing that bit more enjoyable. I know she will just love it, and I feel it is a bit more of a unique gift to give that she will get so much out of!
I hope you have enjoyed this post! If anybody wants their child to have a penpal, fee free the go on over to our travel facebook page here and contact us for more information! We have a network of travel bloggers/non-bloggers who I are also looking to reach out to others. Look forward to connecting with you soon!