My first summer at Camp Nah-Jee-Wah, when I was going into 4th grade, my mother promised me Capri Sun Juice pouches in my lunch every day the following year if I wrote every other day. Seemed like a great incentive before I left, but once I got to camp and realized rest hour was for playing jacks and cootie catchers, I didn’t really care about the silver pouch of fruit punch. I had lanyards to make and bunk-mates hair to braid (and let me tell you, both of those skills have made me a really cool mom!). I wrote about four letters that summer.
Well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and now I struggle with getting letters from my own kids while they’re at camp. My nine-year-old is a great letter writer, but my older one – not so much. She sends me the names of her counselors weeks after I met them on visiting day and borrows check-off stationery from her friends. So how do we get our kids to write? Here are my suggestions…
- Create your own fill-ins. I send 2-3 Mad Lib-style letters for my kids to write home with the first few days of camp. This way, I get the info that I need to picture them having fun at camp. Who is in their bunk? Are they on a top bunk bed? Who sleeps on the bunk above, below, next to them? Where are their counselors from? What activities are new at camp this year? Did they check on each other? You get the gist. (I save the templates from year to year and just print a new batch for that summer.)
- Send pre-addressed envelopes. This year my little one asked me to take a stack of stationery, address the envelopes and put stickies on them so she knows how many letters she should write to each of her grandparents, aunts/uncles/cousins, and a few friends. Hmm, why didn’t I think of that!?
- Print pre-addressed labels. I create address labels for them to use so they not only have an idea of who they need to write to, but it’s easy for them to do so. I give them the amount of labels for how many letters each person is expecting.
- Make sample envelopes. Since letter writing is becoming a lost art, I put a sample envelope in with their stationery so they remember to include (and where to put) their return address and a stamp.
- Choose your stationery wisely. I’ve never met a stationery store I didn’t like, but the cutesy stationery isn’t always best. My nine-year-old has big loopy handwriting so standard fill-ins and postcards aren’t always the best. This year, we made personalized pads on VistaPrint. We have a few fun fold-overs from years past, but this way she gets something fun and the room she needs to tell her stories.
- Keep it together. I try and send my kids’ stationery organized in a plastic sleeve from Staples. One goes with a lapdesk, my other with a big storage clipboard. I also include some fun pens – sparkly, smelly, twisty – as incentive to write. It all comes home as a big mess but at least that shows they’ve been rifling through!
I am going into this summer with low expectations about what and when they’ll write. But that won’t stop me from hunting down the mailman and sending pictures of their letters to their bunk-mates’ parents to fill them in.