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Pandemic pastime

Families turn to cards, letters to connect

Arielle and Josiah Calmas stand near the map they use to mark the countries where world leaders have responded to their letters during the pandemic.

Parents seeking new ways to keep their kids engaged during the coronavirus pandemic are turning to a resource that has been around for generations: the U.S. Mail.

Moms and dads are encouraging their children to write cards and letters to friends and relatives they can’t see in person due to the pandemic. Families are also signing up for pen pal services, while others are helping their kids write to world leaders.

“While it’s been challenging since remote learning began in the spring, writing letters fills the time and enhances their school assignments,” said Rachel Calmas, a Boston-area mother of two.

With their mom’s help, the Calmas children — Arielle, 7, and Josiah, 9 — have written to hospital workers and friends who live abroad, as well as President Donald Trump, Queen Elizabeth II and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The children are learning to appreciate letter writing and enjoy “the anticipation of potentially receiving a letter back,” Calmas said. When the kids receive a reply from another country, they place a pin in a map that hangs in the family kitchen.

“It’s the perfect way to talk about geography and history,” she said.

Maya Norton, a Boston mother of two and founder of Coronavirus Homeschool, a 13,000-member Facebook group for parents who are helping to educate their kids at home during the pandemic, has used the page to encourage families to spend time together sending postcards and finding pen pals.

While Norton said she sees more family time as a “quarantine silver lining,” she is “glad to create a space that provides resources for parents in this situation and thankful for the community every day.”

One member of the group, Kaydi McQuade, a mom and former middle school teacher in Lincoln, RI, said exchanging letters with friends has helped her children learn the value of relationships.

“The fun thing is when friends started writing back. It was a very good way to feel a connection with people and to actually have something written by hand that your friend wrote to you,” she said.

Although they wrote fewer letters during the summer, McQuade expects the kids to resume their new pastime as the days get shorter and the weather gets colder.

“It could be a return to more of the same,” she said. “Winter is coming.”

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