Current studies indicate that the rise of tablet and smartphone usage in young children is inhibiting development of fine motor skills that are gained from writing by hand. In particular, young children in primary school demonstrated increased problems with holding and using writing utensils, an early precursor to developing neat penmanship and coordination. To offset these deficiencies, penpalling is a great family-fun activity to increase communication abilities in your children without resorting to screen time. Connecting your child with a penpal opens doors for them to communicate with young children across the globe, learning new experiences along the way.
The first step is to locate a penpal for your child to exchange letters with: fortunately, there are a large number of resources to connect children with young penpals across the globe, which pairs students of a similar age and writing ability. You will also need to provide your children with writing supplies, such as paper, envelopes and stamps. Furthermore, you can save time printing stamps online and use the exercise as an opportunity to teach your child how to correctly address an envelope (another skill many children lack thanks to the rise in tech). Once these items are in place, sit down with your child and assist them in writing the first letter so that they grow more comfortable with the practice of letter-writing.
Encountering New Cultures
Connecting your child with a penpal is a great way to introduce kids to new cultures and experiences across the globe. Through international penpalling, children learn about the customs, religions, daily habits, and other important aspects of different cultures, enhancing their appreciation for the world from a young age. By the same token, penpalling also encourages children to write about their own life experiences, which is valuable, especially if your child struggles to articulate his/her feelings to others. Some families like to save photocopies of their children’s letters to friends, which preserve your child’s thoughts and memories at a particular moment for years to come.
Stepping Away From Tech
The fast-paced world of social media offers instant gratification, but fails to teach children important lessons in patience and effort. Penpalling teaches children that good things come to those who wait: truly there’s nothing more exciting than the postman bringing a long-awaited letter in the mail. Unlike technology, letter-writing encourages active engagement instead of passively relying on a screen to satiate our interests. You can also use penpalling as an opportunity to connect your child with his/her extended family, such as grandparents or cousins who live in a remote location.
Penpalling enables healthy development in young children, both from a practical standpoint of learning handwriting and in the sense that exchanging letters encourages bigger social skills for your child. If your children struggle with dexterity or spends too much time on screens, penpalling may encourage healthy, productive ways for them to express themselves without relying on technology.