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Writing Letters to Grandchildren

Make Pen Pals of the Grands from Toddlers to Teen

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Senior woman using mobile phone while writing at table, smiling

Phoning is great, but why not write a letter to the grands once in a while?

Photo © Thomas Tolstrup | The Image Bank | Getty Images

Although you may be connecting with grandchildren through Skype, Facebook and phone, you should still consider forging a connection the old-fashioned way--through writing letters.

The Advantages of Writing Letters

We live in what has been dubbed the Electronic Age. Why would anyone resort to writing letters, utilizing what is sometimes sardonically called snail mail? Actually, there are a number of reasons:

  • Letters last. They can be read, reread, saved and treasured.
  • Letters have a physical presence. They can be held and examined, unlike electronic communications.
  • Letters come in the mail. Everyone, young and old likes to get something in the mail.
  • Letters reinforce experiences. If you write to your grandchildren about something you shared with them, they will relive the experience and remember it longer.
  • Letters are easily adaptable for grandchildren of all ages. You can send simple greetings to young grandchildren and have philosophical discussions with older ones.
  • Letters lend themselves to creative variations. Write a poem, draw a picture, put in some stickers or insert a photograph. There are a million ways to make your letters special.
  • Letters are educational. Put in an unusual word, write about a historical place you have visited or identify a new bird you have spotted at the feeder. Your grandchild will be learning as well as bonding with you.

These are all excellent reasons for writing letters, but the very best reason of all is that letters are sometimes answered. There's nothing to equal the thrill of getting a letter from a grandchild.

Writing Age-Appropriate Letters

Children can enjoy receiving letters before they are even a year old. Begin by using simple vocabulary and short sentences. You can gradually increase the level of language until your grandchild starts to read. At that time, you'll want to revert to simple language so that your grandchild can read the letters with a minimum of help. It's okay to throw in an occasional hard word. As their reading level increases, you can user harder words and longer sentences.

You will need to think about your use of cursive. Children first learn to print, so it makes sense to print your letters at first. Many schools are no longer teaching cursive, so your grandchildren may not be able to read cursive, even if they are in the upper grades. Ask so you will know. An alternative, of course, is to word process your letters, but I don't think there's anything to compare with a hand-written letter, whether printed or written in cursive.

Many grandparents wonder what to write about. Grandchildren will enjoy hearing about your activities and also the activities of other family members. Don't forget the pets! Another good strategy is to remind the grandchild of some recent activity that you shared. The act of reading about the experience and remembering it will make the memory more vivid. If nothing especially noteworthy is going on in your world, write about something that happened to you as a child or make up a story for your grandchild. You can also write about something that you plan to do with your grandchild the next time that you get together. It's best to focus on modest activities that your grandchild has enjoyed in the past, such as taking walks, making pancakes, playing a game or feeding the ducks. If you discuss big plans, such as visiting a theme park, the anticipation may be too much for younger grandchildren to handle. With older grandchildren, you can discuss interests that you share, such as books, music, movies or sports.

Enhance Your Letters

There's a reason why picture books are popular with young children. Pictures are more meaningful to them than words. You can harness the power of pictures with these techniques::

  • Draw pictures. You don't have to be a talented artist to jazz up your letters with some drawings. Almost anyone can draw a flower, a cat or dog, a stick figure, or a house. If you're truly hopeless as an artist, trace or copy the image you want.
  • Use stamps. Stick a few stamps on your letter, and include the others in the envelope.
  • Decorate the envelope. Curly Grandma says an embellished envelope really makes a letter special. She advises letter writers to stay clear of the areas around the stamp and the address, but feel free to add drawings and cheery greetings to the rest of the envelope.
  • Add photographs. Create you own stationery by adding photographs or clip art to plain computer paper. You can also tuck in a photograph or two.
  • Use cut-out pictures. If you have been somewhere interesting, cut a picture out of a brochure or send a picture postcard. Selma Wasserman, author of Grandparenting at Long Distance, recommends picture postcards even for non-travelers. She advises checking out the picture postcard racks in your own town.

Another hint from Curly Grandma is to create a personalized signature that you use each time. Curly Grandma's is a little sketch of herself. A signature salutation or stock phrases will also enhance your letters. Children love repetition.

Relax!

Some grandparents worry about their handwriting or their writing abilities. Don't stress! Just as your grandchildren do not expect every meal you prepare to be a gourmet feast, they won't expect your letters to be masterworks. Just like the foods that you prepare for them, your letters will be special because they were created by you.

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