Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

By Karen Williams

If your kids are anything like my daughter and nephews, they are absolutely fascinated with getting mail. Ava would squeal with delight when she heard the mail landing in our box and was disappointed that nothing came for her. Occasionally I’d slip a card in the stack for her so she could find it, and she’d be so excited. I also sometimes asked her uncle to mail her a short note, and she enjoyed sending him her artwork in return. 

If your little one is the same, you may want to consider setting up a pen pal for them, even when they’re just in preschool. They’ll love it!

Benefits of Pen Pals for Preschoolers

Even pre-kindergarteners can gain advantages from having a pen pal. For starters, exchanging letters with a pen pal helps boost a child’s enthusiasm for writing. Your kid will love knowing that someone is reading the messages they create. Having a pen pal can also broaden your child’s perspective. They can learn about different cultures and ways of life, and even be inspired by the writing or drawing style of their correspondent.

Encouraging writing at a young age will give your preschooler an edge when it comes to literacy development. They’ll learn to make letters and words, and with enough motivation they’ll graduate to crafting complete and complex sentences with clear flow and thought (with spelling support from you, of course). Eventually, they will even start learning to read back the correspondence they get from their pen pal. 

Indeed, there are many benefits to having a pen pal. And with your help and watchful eye, your preschooler can connect with a safe pen pal and start down the path to a fun and rewarding relationship that supports their literacy development. Let’s take a look at some ways you can begin to seek safe pen pals for your preschooler.

How to Find Safe Pen Pals for Preschoolers

As a parent looking to find a pen pal for your child, safety is a priority. You are always looking for ways to keep your child safe from dangerous situations, so it’s only natural that you’ll want to make sure you find a safe pen pan to write to them. Here are some options to get you started in finding them a correspondent. 

The first place many people start is friends and family. Ask around to see if a family member is interested, or check with close friends. You can talk with your child and tell them about the people in your extended family and network. They may want to learn more about the cousin who lives far away, for example, or get to know the child of friends who live overseas. Or they may want to write a letter to deliver to their grandparents personally.

Another good place with safe pen pal potential is your community. There are plenty of people you may get to know in your schools, community centers, libraries, and more. Ask around among connections you trust. If you belong to any associations or groups, ask the members if they or their children would like to be a pen pal for your child.

You can also see if there are any children’s pen pal groups in your community. Is there one with a subject that piques your child’s interest? Such groups may be centered around games, TV shows, sports, and so on. Or, if you feel like taking the initiative, start your own group! This will allow the children in your community to connect with each other, compare writing and drawing styles, and form a lasting bond both with new friends and with writing.

There are groups already established that specialize in organizing people to write letters to others, as well. For example, some organizations will connect you with senior citizens who would appreciate getting letters and cards in the mail. Check out our post on helping your child write to a senior to learn more and find links to some of these groups.

Yet another option is for your child to become a pen pal for a soldier in the armed forces. There are several ways available to send letters to soldiers serving overseas. Some will even guide you on what to send and how! These letters will become part of a care package, and your preschooler may develop a lasting friendship with the recipient. Just be mindful that snail mail going to and from the armed forces can take quite a long time, so consider this route if you think you and your child have the patience for it.

Whoever you wind up connecting your child with, be sure that you read over not only what your child writes, but also what is written to them. This is key to keeping the relationship safe and happy for your little one. 

What Should My Preschooler Write to their Pen Pal?

Anything! They can send a simple message asking how their correspondent is and sharing how they’re doing, mail a drawing, or solicit your help to write down a true or invented story for their pen pal.

If your child isn’t sure what to send to their pen pal, consider breaking the ice with a journal. Just give them a notebook and encourage them to fill it however they like. Their journal can be about anything—a place for their artwork, to log the names of favorite books, to write thoughts about their day, or even to practice their letters and shapes. 

Encourage your young one to tell you about what they’re currently writing or drawing in their notebook. Then explain that they may want to share things in their journal with their pen pal.

More Opportunities for Letter Writing as Children Grow

As your child grows, they’ll start to become more curious about how the world works, how things are created, who does the creating, and more. This opens up opportunities for more letter-writing. 

Encourage your child to write to public figures and role models. For example, if your preschooler has a favorite book, they could write to the author and ask more about the story or characters. If they are interested in space, you could try sending a letter to an astronaut. They can also write to a politician advocating for a cause they care about (see our post on advocating for library funding, for example).

There’s really no limit as to how creative you and your preschooler can be when you have a safe pen pal to communicate with. Are you considering finding a pen pal for your child? Let us know your ideas in the comments!

Karen Williams is a writer, content marketing strategist, and mom to Ava, living in Cleveland, OH.

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