How to Write Great Letters to Grandchildren

Make Pen Pals of the Grands from Toddlers to Teen

Senior woman writing at table by window
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Although you may be connecting with grandchildren through Skype, Facebook and phone, you should still consider forging a connection the old-fashioned way--through writing letters.

The Advantages of Writing Letters

We live in what has been dubbed the Electronic Age. Why would anyone resort to writing letters, utilizing what is sometimes sardonically called snail mail? Actually, there are a number of reasons:

  • Letters last. They can be read, reread, saved and treasured.
  • Letters have a physical presence. They can be held and examined, unlike electronic communications.
  • Letters come in the mail. Everyone, young and old likes to get something in the mail.
  • Letters reinforce experiences. If you write to your grandchildren about something you shared with them, they will relive the experience and remember it longer.
  • Letters are easily adaptable for grandchildren of all ages. You can send simple greetings to young grandchildren and have philosophical discussions with older ones.
  • Letters lend themselves to creative variations. Write a poem, draw a picture, put in some stickers or insert a photograph. There are a million ways to make your letters special.
  • Letters are educational. Put in an unusual word, write about a historical place you have visited or identify a new bird you have spotted at the feeder. Your grandchild will be learning as well as bonding with you.

    These are all excellent reasons for writing letters, but the very best reason of all is that letters are sometimes answered. There's nothing to equal the thrill of getting a letter from a grandchild.

    Writing Age-Appropriate Letters

    Children can enjoy receiving letters before they are even a year old. Begin by using simple vocabulary and short sentences.

    You can gradually increase the level of language until your grandchild starts to read. At that time, you'll want to revert to simple language so that your grandchild can read the letters with a minimum of help. It's okay to throw in an occasional hard word. As their reading level increases, you can use harder words and longer sentences.

    You will need to think about your use of cursive. Children first learn to print, so it makes sense to print your letters at first. Many schools are no longer teaching cursive, so your grandchildren may not be able to read cursive, even if they are in the upper grades. Ask so you will know. An alternative, of course, is to word process your letters, but I don't think there's anything to compare with a hand-written letter, whether hand-printed or written in cursive.

    What to Write About

    Many grandparents wonder what to write about. Grandchildren will enjoy hearing about your activities and also the activities of other family members. Don't forget the pets!

    Another good strategy is to remind the grandchild of some recent activity that you shared. The act of reading about the experience and remembering it will make the memory more vivid. If nothing especially noteworthy is going on in your world, write about something that happened to you as a child or make up a story for your grandchild.

    You can also write about something that you plan to do with your grandchild the next time that you get together. It's best to focus on modest activities that your grandchild has enjoyed in the past, such as taking walks, making pancakes, playing a game or feeding the ducks. If you discuss big plans, such as visiting a theme park, the anticipation may be too much for younger grandchildren to handle. With older grandchildren, you can discuss interests that you share, such as books, music, movies or sports.

    Enhance Your Letters

    There's a reason why picture books are popular with young children. Pictures are more meaningful to them than words. You can harness the power of pictures with these techniques::

    • Draw pictures. You don't have to be a talented artist to jazz up your letters with some drawings. Almost anyone can draw a flower, a cat or dog, a stick figure, or a house. If you're truly hopeless as an artist, trace or copy the image you want.
    • Use unusual stamps. The next time you go to the post office, ask what kind of stamps they have. You could spark a grandchild's interest in philately. 
    • Use decorative stamps. Stick a few decorative stamps on your letter, and include the others in the envelope. Children love stamps!
    • Decorate the envelope. An embellished envelope really makes a letter special. Letter writers should stay clear of the areas around the stamp and the address, but to feel free to add drawings and cheery greetings to the rest of the envelope.
    • Add photographs. Create you own stationery by adding photographs or clip art to plain computer paper. You can also tuck in a photograph or two.
    • Use cut-out pictures. If you have been somewhere interesting, cut a picture out of a brochure or send a picture postcard. Many grandparents enjoy sending picture postcards even when they are not traveling. Check out the picture postcard racks in your own town, or buy them at the museum or card shop.
    • Communicate in code. Most codes are actually ciphers, strictly speaking. But no matter what you call them, using them will thrill a certain type of grandchild. Learn about six kinds of codes and ciphers that are suitable for grandparents and grandchildren to use. 

    Another way to make your letters special is to create a personalized signature that you use each time, perhaps incorporating a sketch or drawing. A signature salutation or stock phrases will also enhance your letters. Children love repetition.


    Some grandparents worry about their handwriting or their writing abilities. Don't stress! Just as your grandchildren do not expect every meal you prepare to be a gourmet feast, they won't expect your letters to be masterworks. Just like the foods that you prepare for them, your letters will be special because they were created by you.