7 Reasons Your Kid Should Have a Pen Pal

When you were a kid, did you ever have a pen pal?

When I was about ten years old, we met a family from England temporarily located to the the U.S.  We became very good friends with them and it turned out that the mom of the family had a god-daughter in England my age.  She connected the two of us and we began writing letters.  The girl’s name was Charlotte.

It was so exciting to walk down to our mailbox and find an envelope with Charlotte’s handwriting and see the almost enchanting “air mail” stamp.  I don’t remember everything we wrote about (although I saved every letter) . . . probably just about life, our families and our experiences at the moment.  

 Charlotte & Me in London (yikes, my bangs!)

We corresponded regularly.  And three years later, I was on a plane to England to meet my pen pal.  (This was over twenty years ago.  I’m not so sure I’d send my child alone internationally in today’s culture.)

I had the experience of a lifetime to live for a few weeks with Charlotte’s family.  I still can remember images of their bright, cheery kitchen, the room I stayed in and swimming in their pool.  We saw beautiful palaces, toured the area and visited London.  I learned the different names they called things such as boot for trunk, chips for fries and loo for bathroom.  Charlotte and her family made me feel so very welcome.

Me in a London Phone Booth

The following summer Charlotte planned a trip to the States and we timed a trip to Disney World for the second half of her stay.  It would be 12 years before we saw each other again when she and our original British friend housed my best friend and me on a trip to England.

Having a pen pal was great in so many ways!  You can start at any age, but 8-10 (or older) seems ideal.  Here are seven benefits for your child when they have a pen pal.    

7 Reasons Your Kid Should Have a Pen Pal

1.  It is a chance to learn about other customs, cultures and the world we live in.
2.  It will help to improve your child’s writing skills.  In our technological world, how nice to maintain the art of the handwritten letter. (I know many schools are no longer teaching cursive writing which I find so sad.)
3.  It is an opportunity for your child to grow in their communication skills.  They can learn to ask questions and communicate in a give-and-take manner.   
4.  It is completely fun to receive letters in the mail.  
5.  It is an opportunity for your child to grow in what could be a lifelong friendship.  
6.  It teaches patience.  Writing, mailing letters and waiting to receive one back takes time.  This is a great opportunity to learn patience in our instant-gratification world.  
7.  It allows your child to connect to another person . . . to share in their joys, sadness and adventures.  It will yield an opportunity for your child to learn that there is a world bigger than themselves.
Charlotte & Me in Epcot’s U.K. Pavilion (Disney World)
Suggestions for Finding a Pen Pal

If you google “how to find a pen pal,” you will find a multitude of agencies who will coordinate a connection.  Frankly, in today’s world, these freak me out.  So unless you have knowledge of a good, quality company, I’d try a different route.  
  • Start with friends who have international family or friendships.  Can they connect you with someone your child’s age?
  • Do you or your spouse have any international connections through work?
  • Do you know any missionaries who could you connect you with someone in the area they live in?  
Charlotte and I still stay in touch through Facebook and who knows, maybe someday our children will be pen pals.  

Did you have a pen pal?  What was the best part?