The Benefits of Pen Pals for Kids (How to Find One Safely)

August 22, 2022

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Alpha Omega Publications

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Having a pen pal is a meaningful pastime. Even in an era that doesn’t use as many handwritten letters, your kids can still enjoy corresponding with a pen pal.

child writing

Pen Pals for Kids

Finding a pen pal for kids is so much fun! Plus, it’s a great way to make new friends and even establish a lifelong friendship. Writing letters will also help your kids with language skills and improve their communication skills little by little.

Pen Pal Safety

However, in this day and age, pen pal safety is an important topic. One way to keep the experience on the safe side is for your child to write to a friend of a friend rather than a total stranger. That way, you know that the pen pal is legitimately another child and you have some connection.

If your child does end up getting connected with a pen pal that you have no mutual acquaintance with, there are still some good safety precautions you can take.

  • Remind your child not to disclose personal information.
  • Use a P.O. Box instead of your own address.
  • Read all the letters your child sends and receives.

Parent Involvement

Parental involvement is key with a child’s pen pal experience. When you can use a different mailing address, like a P.O. Box, rather than disclosing your house address, this is a good start. Always keep an eye on the letters coming in and going out. You don’t want to make your kids feel like you’re snooping, but it’s important that you know that they’re talking about with their pen pal.

Writing Someone You Know

One way to keep a pen pal experience safe is for your child to begin writing someone you know. It can be a friend of a friend. Or your child could become a pen pal with a real-life friend who moved away.

Having this ongoing connection with a faraway friend is great because your child already knows them and there is a lot to talk about in letters. Maybe your child has cousins who live in another state. Consider writing to them!

Using a Pen Pal Program

If you really don’t have any options for a pen pal for your child, you can try using a pen pal program. There are many platforms that will match your child with a pen pal who has similar interests or hobbies.

They tout themselves as secure platforms with safety precautions, but parents should still oversee the process. If you search for “pen pal program” you will find dozens of options to try.

Girls writing pen pals

How to Find a Pen Pal for Your Children

From the first letter they send, many children are hooked on the fun activity of writing to a pen pal! In addition to improving their writing skills, your kids will develop empathy and social skills.

While your child may love the idea of having a pen pal, it can sometimes be challenging to find just the right one. Here are different places to find a pen pal for your children.

Find a Nursing Home Pen Pal

There are multiple benefits when you can find a nursing home pen pal. First, older adults in nursing homes are often times lonely, and having a pen pal to regularly correspond with can brighten up their whole day.

Next, your kids can ask questions about the past and have a great conversation with someone who lived through amazing events in recent history! It’s like having a living history experience. Older people love sharing what it was like for them growing up and how it’s different from today.

Write Local Friends

Your pen pal doesn’t have to be far away! They can simply live down the street or across town. But it’s still fun for everyone to get a handwritten letter delivered to the mailbox. So, if you don’t have any faraway pen pal leads, go ahead and encourage your children to write local friends. Sometimes the best pen pals are the people you know and love.

International Pen Pals

Writing to an international pen pal can be very interesting. Your children will be able to tell them about growing up in a different country. And your kids will be able to learn about food, customs,  holidays, and traditions from a different perspective.

An international pen pal can open up the world of social studies, including geography and history, in an engaging way.

Write to a Soldier

Maybe your child can write to a soldier. Learn about the country where that soldier is stationed and why they are there. This can lead to many interesting conversations in your family. But your child can also have a part in encouraging that soldier and thanking him for his dedication and sacrifice.

Write to a Distant Cousin

Do you have a cousin of a cousin that you maybe haven’t even met in person, but you know you’re distantly related? Well then, have your child write to a distant cousin for their pen pal. That way, you generally have an idea of who your child is writing to, but it’s still adventurous like writing to a stranger.

Safe Pen Pal Programs for Kids

If you want to look into some safe pen pal programs for kids, here’s a list to check out.

Write to An Author

For your resident bibliophile, having them write to an author might be the perfect pen pal project! Look up their favorite author and write a letter expressing why you love their book. Just address it to your author, care of the publishing company from the front of the book. You should see the publishing company’s address in the book front as well.

Circle of Friends for Girls

The Friendship Circle offers a chance for your child to find new pen pals. Teen volunteers write letters to your child. Does your teen want to get involved? There’s a place to sign up for that too on the site.

Kids for Peace

Kids for Peace offers the Peaceful Pen Pal Program, where your child can be matched to another child in a different country. The goal of this program is to bring together children from all different backgrounds and form friendships across barriers and borders.

Virtual Pen Pals on Students of the World

Students of the World allows you to choose a pen pal from any region of the world. Then, your child will send virtual letters to their pen pal through the site. Pen pals post pictures of their local area on the forum for your kids to check out.

Operation Gratitude

Operation Gratitude delivers care packages to deployed troops, military families, and first responders around the world. Your teen could write letters to include in these care packages and count the hours toward community service goals.

Love for Our Elders

Letters of Love grew out of the program Love for Our Elders is an effort to fight loneliness. Your child will be paired up with an elderly person in a nursing home or living alone. Just note that your child may not receive a letter in return, but they will know that they have encouraged a lonely older adult.

Global Penfriends

Global Penfriends is a family friendly organization that helps your child find a pen pal in a different country. They even have the option of sending postcards in their postcard hub.

More Pen Pal Programs for Kids

If you want to turn your child’s pen pal experience into a language arts lesson, then download AOP’s free lesson on how to write a friendly letter. You will also learn about 5 more pen pal programs for kids. 

What to Write to a Pen Pal About

Now that your kids have decided who their pen pal will be, they’ll need to figure out what to write about! Some kids don’t need any writing prompts at all. Others will appreciate this list.

A Fun Place You Visited or Would Like to Visit

Maybe you had a great family vacation recently and your child can tell their pen pal all about it. What did they do there? What was it like? This will be especially intriguing if they are writing to a pen pal from across the country or across the globe.

Sports or Other Activities You Are Involved in

Does your child play any sports? Are they involved in other activities during the week? Tell your pen pal all about what you do and why you love it.

Favorite Hobbies and Interests

Your child’s favorite things to do on a rainy day make a great topic of conversation. Talk bout hobbies and interests and be sure to ask your pen pal what their interests are too.

Topics That Interest You

What topics interest you? Go ahead and write about them.

Favorite Music, Movies, and Books

You might find that you have a lot of the same favorite music, movies, and books as your new pen pal. Go ahead and tell them what you love about these things and be sure to ask what they love too.

Your Family Members

Talk about your family members. How many siblings do you have? Are you the youngest or oldest or somewhere in between? Depending on your pen pal, you might need to be cautious here not to give too much personal information.

Your Pets

Everyone loves talking about their pets! Talk about yours. Does your pen pal have any pets?

Your City and What You Like to Do There

Writing about your city and what you like to do there is a great topic, especially if your penpal doesn’t live nearby. It’s intriguing to learn about other places through the eyes of your pen pal.

Favorite Foods

Talk about your favorite foods when you write to a pen pal. Then, be sure to ask what their favorite foods are in their city or country.

Favorite Outdoor and Indoor Activities

Your pen pal will love to learn about your favorite outdoor and indoor activities. Sports and activities vary from region to region of the U.S. and from country to country. You’ll be able to learn about geography, customs, and different cultures (even regionally) when you write to your pen pal about this topic.

A Famous Person You’d Like to Meet

What famous person would you like to meet? Tell your pen pal. Then be sure to ask them to respond to this question as well.

Favorite Games

What are your favorite games? When do you play them? How are they played? Tell your pen pal all about it.

Favorite Holiday

Write to your pen pal about your favorite holiday. Again, if your pen pal is in a different country, this will be fun to learn all about their unique favorite holiday. It might be very different from yours!

What You Want to Be When You Grow Up

Talk about what you want to be when you grow up. You just might be surprised and have a lot in common with your pen pal.

Should Your Child Use Snail Mail or Email?

Having a snail mail pen pal is probably more fun. Getting a real stamped envelope in the mail is a great experience! Writing letters that you physically mail is a great skill, too, that many of our kids are not getting just because of the technical age they’re growing up in. You can use a letter template for kids to get them started. 

But if you’d rather exchange an email address rather than a mailing address, your child can still have a great pen pal experience via email.

More Resources You Might Like

In Conclusion

By finding a pen pal for your kids, you’ll be able to bring back the lost art of letter writing. It’s a fun and engaging way for your kids to hone their writing skills without it feeling like schoolwork! Plus, it’s just plain fun.

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