Penpals: an engaging and lifelong learning activity

Girl practising handwriting
Revive the fading practice of letter-writing for your child through one of the penpal schemes available for students – not only can they practice penmanship, but they may make a friend for life!

With the increasing variety of quick and easy ways to communicate, letter-writing has fallen down the list of top ways to convey information. Regularly corresponding via envelope and stamp is seen as quaint, and waiting eagerly for letters to arrive in the day’s post is eclipsed by instant-answer emails and text messages.

But, this doesn’t mean today’s children don’t want to experience the same thing –they love it when the postman brings them cards and letters, and writing their own letters on fun stationery. Having a penpal can re-awaken this love for letter-writing, and also teach your child about another culture through the eyes of someone who’s a similar age. It will also help them practice penmanship and communication, and introduce them to a friend they may very well keep in touch with for years to come (it does happen!).

Be twinned with a school

Some teachers have their year groups participate in penpal schemes with another schools in the UK, arranged through their own connections or through an online teacher forums such as the Times Educational Supplement site.

Teachers can also liaise with schools in Europe through websites such as Europa Pages, which is a great way for students studying another language to practise their grammar and vocabulary.

Sponsor a child

Some charities offer the opportunity to sponsor children in underprivileged areas around the world, one of which is Plan UK. When you sign up to sponsor a child, Plan UK will ‘assign’ you a child and send you information and photos.

You’ll be able to write to them as well, which is an ideal activity for your own kids to do. When you sign up, you can choose to sponsor a boy or girl, and also request children of a specific age or from a certain country. Let your child choose their penpal, or leave it all up to Plan UK and be surprised when the details come through in the post!

Sign up online

Why have one penpal when you could have 5, 10 or even 100! Postcrossing is a brilliant scheme that involves sending postcards to addresses around the world, randomly generated by the website. It’s free to sign up, and the more postcards you send, the more you’ll receive. To help your child get into it, put pins in a map to track their progress – one colour for postcards they’ve sent out, and another for where they’ve received cards from.

There are lots of other ways to help your child practise handwriting, such as writing a letter to Santa and making their own books.