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My daughter used to love writing. She would happily create endless stories and illustrate them at her little table. In fact, we could no longer keep each creation and had to divert several to the recycling bin. A year ago, though, she lost momentum. We tried to encourage her to write more and prompted her with topics, but she resisted. Then, we ran across an American Girl-branded letter writing set and she perked up. ‘I want to write letters,’ she announced.
Letter-writing is great for kids. It’s fun because it’s short, you get to use a sticker (a stamp), and you can keep in touch with friends and family over summer. I think letter-writing between a child and grandparent is especially exciting. Grandparents always read and praise the letter lavishly, often insert comic strips or jokes, and quickly respond. I ran across an iVillage article today that had some great tips I have highlighted below to start the pen pal relationship:
From The iVillage PBS KIDS Summer Reading Community Challenge

Pre-Readers:

  • Ask your child to think of five questions for his new pen pal to answer, about your family history. These questions might arise as you build the tree together – write them down!
  • Help your child write out his letter, and encourage him to accompany it with a copy of the tree and his own signature.

 Early Readers:

  • Help your child set up an interview with his new pen pal, with the aim of learning more about his family history.
  • When your child receives his first response in the mail, help him fill in any new information on the family tree and of course, read it together!

For grandparents, here are a few ideas to keep the conversation and excitement going:

  • Include stories about your childhood at about the same age as your pen pal. Point out what is different and what is similar.
  • Consider adding some humor with comic strips cut out from a newspaper or sharing a knock-knock joke.
  • If you have a picture from your childhood that relates to your letter, make a copy and send that along. Kids love to see what their grandparents looked like at the same age!
  • Use postcards when traveling or visiting special places like museums or attractions.
  • Ask specific questions! This helps continue the conversation.
  • Send a stamp! (This is written by a busy mom. If you really want a quick reply, toss a stamp in the envelope.)

Happy writing!

We love summer in our house. Trips to the pool, fun camps, late, lazy nights followed by even lazier mornings, and the occasional camping trip or visit to grandparents sprinkled in. But, as a parent, I am hearing a lot more about the ‘summer slide,’ where a kid actually loses a portion of his or her learning over the course of the summer. This puts me in a tough spot. I want summer to be fun and relaxing, but I also don’t want my daughter to be shedding what she learned during the school year.

This is where a grandparent can really step in and make a difference. I got the idea watching how a neighbor of ours is using our app, DoubleScoop, with his grandfather. He is going into second grade and learning simple math. His grandfather is sending one math problem over the app, and the boy answers it and sends it back. And there are lots of fun ways to draw smiley faces, stars, whatever, to make it more fun. And the boy says it’s like getting mail!

I think this is a brilliant idea. When I ask my daughter to do something like a math problem, or write a story, I am met with a scowl and a whine. But if Grandma or Grandpa do math or writing using technology, it’s the greatest thing ever for her. So here’s my plan. My dad is going to send her some math every couple of days. She’ll figure it out. I won’t have to worry about it.

My other plan is to have Lydia write and illustrate a story with her grandmother. They can each write a short section, send it off, then the other person will illustrate it. I think this will be a great way to help my daughter write more and be excited about it. I’ll let you know how we do, and share some ideas for types of math problems and story lines.

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