kids

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For Christmas last year, I decided to do something a little out of the ordinary for my two nieces and my two kids. The four cousins are separated by many miles, and they love when they get to spend time together. Saying their goodbyes at the ends of visits are hard.

As someone who used to write for a living, I love the written word. I hatched a plan.

They were ages 7-11 and were all reading and writing on their own, and I wanted to put together a gift that would keep them all close in spirit, even when they were back home in their own states.IMG_2255

So I started the Write Back Soon Club, and “enrolled” all four.IMG_2284

Here’s how it works.IMG_2247IMG_2245

I put together a box for each child. After searching around, I found these stationery kits. Personalized letterhead lined paper and envelopes printed with the child’s return address on them. Almost a year later, I can say they’ve worked out great. (I don’t get paid to say this. I just like them and they were a great value.)

IMG_2243I bought a sheet of fun postage stamps for each child.

IMG_2241I added a new pen

IMG_2244and some decorative rubber stamps and an ink pad. Stickers would work, too.

I found a couple of books about correspondence and gave one to each set of siblings to share. (here’s one, and another.)IMG_2246IMG_2240

I thought through the list of friends and family members who live away from the kids that I thought the kids would be most likely to write to, typed up their names and mailing addresses, printed one for each kid and laminated it.

Last, I typed up a Welcome Letter. This is important!IMG_2249

Here’s what it reads:

“Welcome to the Write Back Soon Club! You are now a member of a very special club. In this box are all the tools you will need to write a great letter, mail it, and (hopefully) get letters in return!

Long before there were phones, tv’s, iPads, or computers (and even before there were cars, planes, and trains,) people sent each other letters to keep in touch when they could not be together. Some people think letter writing is a lost art, but you are about to show them they’re wrong.

Letters are special for many reasons. Anyone can write a letter, even kids. You don’t have to have your parents’ permission, or ask to borrow their phone or use a computer. You can sit down, and write to someone you’re thinking of without very much – if any – help.  Letters are a way to connect with someone. You get to share what you’re thinking and ask about them.

When someone gets a letter in the mail, they will probably be excited! It’s not a bill they have to pay, or junk mail, or the newspaper. A letter was written just for them, and they can read it over and over and feel happy that you sent it.  Years from now, that person might even keep letters you sent them, and it could be interesting to go back and read what you wrote. It’s a little like a time capsule!

Here are the very simple directions for writing letters as part of the Write Back Soon Club:

  1. Think of something you want to TELL. It could be how you’re feeling that day, about what you’re learning in school, something great that happened to you, or even something that’s making you sad or bothering you. Just make sure you TELL the reader something about YOU.
  2. ASK them something about themselves. What have they done lately that’s interesting? Have they taken any trips? Are they learning a new hobby? It could just be as simple as ASKING them how they are doing. ASKING is as important as TELLING. It lets the reader know you want to find out more about them, not just share about you.
  3. End your letter however you like. Your books might help with this. You could write, “Love, Penelope” or “Your friend, Brady” but make sure after you end your letter and sign your name that you add “WRITE BACK SOON!” This will let the person know you are hoping to get a letter in return. Sometimes people forget, or get too busy to return your letter. That’s OK. Don’t get discouraged. Just keep writing. They’ll love reading your letters even if they can’t or don’t write back (but we hope they do!)

Enjoy this gift. If you run out of paper or stamps, you can ask for more and we will get them. Most of all, remember how fortunate you are to have people in your lives to write letters to, and be thankful for them. Just like we are thankful for each of you.

Lots of love, Anne & Matt”

IMG_2256I had the cousins all open their gifts at the same time, and I asked them to take turns reading the letter out loud. We all listened. I may have gotten a little misty eyed. It was a pretty great moment.

My fear, though, was that

1. They’d openly roll their eyes, shove it back under the tree, and move on to something more exciting. (they didn’t.)

2. Even worse, it would sit and collect dust all year. (much to my surprise, it hasn’t. They haven’t written every week or even every month by any means. But it’s October and my daughter just got two letters from her cousins this week. Heart = bursting.)

Their faces when they see they’ve gotten a letter in the mail? So happy!IMG_2338  IMG_2342 IMG_2343

If you have kids in your life who you think would like this, I say go for it. If you can’t set up two or more kids to write to each other, you could get yourself a box and become their pen pal. Send them jokes. Ask about their friends. Tell them stories about when they were little. I bet over time, you’ll convert them to a letter writer. Even if they don’t grow up loving to write letters, they’ll have a box full of memories they can reopen when they’re having a bad day, and you will have sent a message that they are loved, and worth spending time on. IMG_2250

That’s a pretty great gift.

Write Back Soon,

Anne

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ThanksgivingcollageIt’s that time of year.  The Halloween costumes are put away.  The frost is on the pumpkins (ugh). It’s nearly Turkey Time.  And while all the stuffing is seasoned and the cranberries are cooked, there are probably some younger ones who need something besides screen time to do.

Here are some ideas I think are great:

1. If you’re reading this while there’s still time to get to the store, I recommend grabbing one of these paper table covers from Walmart.
For $1.97 you can give your kiddos permission to write and color all over their table.  Love it!

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2. I like to promote an attitude of gratitude, and there’s no better time for that than Thanksgiving! Depending on the age of your children, there are a million ways you can get them thinking thankful thoughts.  A simple construction paper craft could do it, so I mocked up a little handprint turkey napkin ring. Super easy.

IMG_4553.JPGYou can use brown grocery bags if you don’t have construction paper. Trace a hand. Cut out four “feathers” and each feather gets one thing the person is thankful for.

I cut out a little piece for the neck too. Kids can use a glue stick to attach it all together. Then glue a little band of paper on the back of the hand and tape closed around the guest’s napkin.

Each person can read what they are thankful for before everyone opens their napkins to eat!

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OR – If you have kids who are old enough to responsibly handle an iPhone or iPad, and prefer a digital option, have them act as a reporter and take the gadget around to use as a video camera, and “interview” guests about what they are grateful for, and why.  (Need some prompts? Try these: “What was your best moment this year?” “Who is your favorite person to share good news with?” “What has made you smile most recently?”  “How has someone made your life better?”  They can review their recordings and write up a story on what they found.  Let them report back to you on their findings before Grace is said at the table.

3. Take time to remember those who protect our freedom.  Veterans Day is also in November, so your kids may have just learned about that in school.  Have them take it a step further, and write a letter to a member of the military serving overseas.  An organization called Operation Gratitude is collecting them this year, and Thanksgiving is the perfect time to make one and get it sent. Here’s the details and makes sure to read the guidelines: Operation Gratitude.  When you have some ready, send them to:

OPERATION GRATITUDE

17330 Victory Boulevard

Van Nuys, CA 91406

UPDATE: Some chapters of the American Red Cross are collecting cards, too!

 

If you are local to Cincinnati, you can send your cards to the chapter here at

2111 Dana Ave.

Cincinnati, OH 45207

Just please remember the guidelines! Cards do not need envelopes. And glitter is a no-no.  Don’t send personal contact information. Just a cheerful, sincere card addressed “Dear Service member” or similar.

Have younger kids work with older kids, or with another  grown-up. They can share a little about themselves, and most of all share a message that they are being thought of, appreciated, and kept close in thoughts at a time when the service member is probably far from home and loved ones. Sounds like a perfect opportunity for children to work on their spelling, grammar, penmanship, AND gratitude to me!

I hope you and your loved ones have a most wonderful holiday.

Let me know if any of these little tips work around your table.

Blessings,

Anne

 

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