The Ingenious Solution to Staying in Touch with Relatives Right Now

updated Mar 9, 2022
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young girl writing letter at a desk

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The pandemic has been challenging for everyone, and without a doubt the most difficult part has been the separation from friends and family.

FaceTime and Zoom have served their purpose, but aren’t a replacement for shared meals, group game nights, and giant bear hugs. Technology can also prove problematic when trying to connect with loved ones who aren’t computer-savvy, or who have unreliable internet access.

After several frustrating attempts to have a video chat with our great-grandma, I was determined to find a more effective way to stay in touch. 

While in the midst of some Small Business Saturday online shopping, I stumbled upon this beautiful Master Boddington’s Pen Pal Kit at one of our favorite local shops.

I was instantly enthralled with the idea of engaging our kids in some good old-fashioned correspondence, a welcome break from electronic messaging and screen-based conversations. 

Credit: Laura Hennigan

The pen pal package contains several cards with prompts, letterhead, and plenty of envelopes. After the kids selected their first message, we dropped it in the mailbox addressed to GG, who lives out of state, and waited with anticipation for her reply.

When it finally appeared, we delighted in comparing the answers to respective favorite books, desserts, and seasons, discussing the similarities and differences.

Another package was quickly created to send her way, this time with the addition of more questions, a game, and some original artwork. 

Since then, the back-and-forth snail mail has been a regular occurrence, filled with shared stories and dreams of future adventures together. This unexpected solution has helped us bridge the distance, strengthen our connections, and deliver some much needed joy. 

While premade kits are a wonderful option, it’s simple and easy to create a DIY set, utilizing items that are probably already in your art bin. The more independence kids are given with this project, the more invested they will be with following through and continuing the pen pal relationship. Allow them to add drawings, print off photos to include, invent a secret code to decipher, or try hand lettering. Encourage them to engage in ways that speak to their imagination and ingenuity.

Credit: Laura Hennigan

Pen Pal Kit Components:

  • Paper: any kind will do, but bright and colorful cardstock is durable and goes through home printers well.
  • Envelopes: be sure to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope in your package to make correspondence easier for the recipient. 
  • Stamps: weigh your envelope carefully, especially if you are enclosing several sheets of paper.
  • Questions: Sign Up Genius offers this list of 100 Getting to Know You questions, so you can browse through and choose your favorites. Print them out, or just write each by hand, but make sure there are spaces for both kids and adults to complete the answers.
  • Alternating Games: ThinkFun offers some great free printable games that can easily be mailed, such as Tic-Tac-Toe and Dots & Boxes. Take your turn, then send to your pen pal and await their next move.