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Patchwork Kids: Love Letters from Home

by Rosie Hurwitz
Girl holding up hand written letter

Rosie looks after our customers at Patchwork and like many working mums is at home with her daughter Bo – who has had the most excellent idea. She’s written a letter to ‘an old person’ trusting that her local postie will know who might need cheering up. It’s such a simple thing to do and as Bo says ‘it’s kind and also better than doing spelling sheets.’

Rosie says: “As soon as she found out her school was closing, Bo said she wanted to start writing letters to her classmates. We posted a couple to her friends and then she had the idea of sending to old people as well who are now confined to home and possibly more isolated than ever.”

Elderly man standing at window with blind down

Social distancing doesn’t have to mean increased loneliness

It’s vital that we all protect the elderly and those most vulnerable, by taking seriously the recommendations to start social distancing now. But not having physical contact in the ways we are used to, doesn’t mean we should stop contact altogether. In fact it means we need to try even harder to connect in other ways. These may include ways we have forgotten about, like picking up the phone or writing a letter.

Short and sweet and simple

Writing letters to elderly people in their community is a really nice and simple way that even young children can help. It can be a letter, a card, or postcard or just a short note. A few lines about who they are and what they have been doing and feeling, along with a few questions back is perfect! Sticking to a strict homeschooling timetable is tough, if not impossible. This is a way to weave learning in, with an activity that’s simple and accessible. If your child is very young, just their name and a colourful drawing is lovely.

Close up of red Royal Mail postbox

What should my letter say?

Start with a ‘hello my name is” and get your child to add in their age and location (don’t feel the need to add surname or address if you’d rather not) Ask your child to note how they are feeling, and maybe get them to include what their plans are while school is closed or their routine has changed. What are they looking forward to? Do they have anything special planned while they are at home? Keep it age appropriate and fun. Better to write a few short letters than allow your child to get bored struggling to write a long one!

Girl writing letter at table

A learning experience that benefits everyone

This idea works so well because it’s so simple and accessible. It can be a nice routine to each morning, perhaps writing their letter as they have breakfast. Then a walk to the postbox (if you’re lucky and there’s one near you!) allows some time to stretch their legs, get some fresh air and learn about how the postal service works. Explain to them what their letter might mean to someone who is alone. Helping them to develop their empathy, their sense of community and the feeling of doing something positive at a difficult time. And with homeschooling in mind, improve their handwriting too (shh don’t tell them that!)

For an elderly person, living alone or perhaps carrying the responsibility of caring for their partner, a handwritten letter can mean a lot. It shows that someone has thought about them and cared enough to write. It’s a small connection to the outside world, and something to look forward to in what might otherwise be a long and uneventful day.

Girl putting letter in to envelope

Like to give this a try?

Great! Get a stock of paper, notepad or some cards, and some stamps that you can keep close to hand for when you have a 5 minute gap in your homeschooling schedule to sit with your child and have a cup of tea. Unless you personally know an elderly person in your community, we recommend addressing your envelope more generally, for example:

To: an elderly person near me, then a street name and postcode, and then a note to the postman to help locate someone who is alone and might need cheering up!

If you want to share what you’re doing on social media and encourage others to so the same please share your photos and stories with the hashtags #stepbackreachout and #loveletters and let’s all do our bit to connect more and infect less.

For your reassurance, Public Health England (PHE) has advised that people receiving parcels or letters are not at risk of contracting the Coronavirus. You can read more here.

And finally, if you’d like to find out how Patchwork can help kids cope with the disappointment of cancelled birthday parties during the Coronavirus, check out our ideas for distance gifting for kids and keep the love and birthday fun alive!

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