Letters are becoming a lost art. In an age of texts, emails, Tweets, Facebook and more, a genuine, hand-written note is rare. Which is all the more reason to teach your little one how to author his own, ready-to-mail, mini masterpiece (the kind grandma would love to receive).
Just because letter writing seems easy, you might be surprised at how difficult it is to explain to your child. No worries, as long as you start simple and guide your child through easy steps, she’ll be a letter writing pro in no time. Here’s a step-by-step guide for parents on teaching kids to write letters.
Preschool letter writers
Letters don’t have to be made up of words. Your writers-in-training can create picture notes to pass along to grandparents or friends. When it comes to sending the picture letter, keep your explanation of addresses and stamps basic. Point out that the postal carrier needs to know where the person who is receiving the note lives and who is sending the note. The receiver’s address goes in the middle of the envelope while the sender’s address goes in the upper, left hand corner.
Your children won’t be able to write in the addresses (after all, they’re probably still struggling to identify all their ABCs), but if you have sticker labels you can let your child put those onto the envelope. Once the addresses are in their proper places, let your little one know that it costs money to send letters – that’s why the stamp goes in the upper right hand corner of the envelope.
Now, just because you’ve pointed out this process one time, don’t be surprised if your child doesn’t remember all the details the next time.
Early elementary school writers
First-, second- and third-graders should be able to write basic letters. Help your child understand that a letter is a personalized note often sent to show the receiver that you care. So a letter begins with a ‘To’ or ‘Dear’ statement, then the message, and ends with a closing remark, like ‘Yours Truly,’ or ‘Love,’ then the sender’s name.
Building on the simple explanation of addressing the envelope, early elementary school-aged children should be able to understand that an address is made up of specific information about where a person lives, including the street and the state. At this age, your child most likely has a fairly limited understanding of countries and states, but you can still point out those details.
Don’t expect your child to write out all the address information. Instead, let your child write her name in the upper-left-hand corner of the envelope and the recipient’s name in the center of the envelope. Fill in the rest of the address information yourself. Let your child add the finishing touches by licking the envelope and putting the stamp on the corner of the letter.
Additional tip: help your child practice handwriting skills with these tips on helping kids master writing.
Upper elementary school writers
Now that your child understands general letter writing skills, help him write longer and more descriptive messages. Talk together about what he could write in his letter. Make suggestions: He could comment on how he’s feeling, “I was sick yesterday, but now I’m feeling better.” He could ask questions, like “Do you miss me?” And don’t forget the weather – he could point out, “It’s cold here,” or “I really like spring.”
Once your child has crafted his letter, he’s ready to address it all by himself – well, almost. Make a letter writing template for kids to learn how to address the envelope. Write out all of the address information exactly as it should appear on the envelope on a separate sheet of paper (that includes the proper placement). Have your child copy the information from your sample. Let him put on the stamp and he’s ready to take it to the mailbox.
This post was originally published in 2010 and has been updated for 2016.