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Invitation to Play | Sending Letters

Invitation to Play | Sending Letters

I am a writer!

Ever since I’ve been a mother (3 and half years), I’ve been experimenting with “invitations to play,” whether it is setting out a bug match game before I go to bed, or puzzles in the bedroom before bedtime. Today River went to ballet class and while she danced I set out supplies for writing letters to friends and family who live far away. We have many people we love all over the country and abroad so it seemed fitting to let them know we think of them.

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An invitation to play is just that - leave some items where your little one plays. Something that makes them wonder. Makes them curious.

I feel River is ready to start “writing.” She expresses interest in letters, asks how to spell her name, recognizes some letters like “R” “B” and “H.” Another reason I enjoy “invitation to play” is it allows me to gage her readiness for more complex skills. I’m an English teacher and have been working with teenagers for 11 years. I often challenge the “rules” of writing with my students, because it’s rules that often paralyze them. “How long does it have to be?” “Five paragraphs?” “Is this a long enough sentence?” It is exhausting work to constantly un-write these expectations. So I begin every school year with the mantra “I am a writer!” Then we play! We look at mentor texts and our own stories, exploring and trying on different writerly moves, all while working to redefine the notion of what it means to be a writer. Why should my 3 year old be any different?

For her, writing is pictures. She draws whatever her heart desires and I watch and color alongside her. When she is finished I ask her what her drawing is about. She’ll tell me, “it’s a princess!” (Subject) Then I ask, "Oh! What is she doing?” (Verb). She responds with “wearing a long long dress.” (Direct Object) And just like that, my 3 year old is a writer.

Today we explored sending letters: Why we send letters. Who we send letters to. How we send letters.

Here she is tracing the name of her friend Violet.

Here she is tracing the name of her friend Violet.

Some supplies: paper, writing/drawing utensils, envelopes, stamps. River added scissors and glue. She likes to get crafty.

Next we needed someone to send it to so we had a conversation about friends and family who live far away. How do we know they live far away? We drive in a car for a long time, ride an airplane, take a train. It takes time to get to them. Then we talked about why we’d want to write to them. Because we are thinking of them, we miss them, and want them to know we love them. Initially we were just going to write to our friend Harrison who lives in Pennsylvania, but she loved doing so much everyone we know who lives far away got a letter.. Oprah style! Ha!

She drew many pieces of work, and when she decided more letters had to be sent she searched her art bin for her older paintings and drawings. She beamed every time she chose something for someone! Friends, what I thought would be a 15 minute play ended up being hours of work! And it was glorious.

Now, onto the new skills. How do the letters get there?

Terms and Concepts:

Stamps - stickers that pay the mailman or mailwoman money to bring our letters to our friend.

Envelopes - how we wrap our letters for our friends. They protect our note, and also give directions on where to send it.

Addresses - these are the streets, states, and zip codes of our friends homes.

Return Address - the street, state, and zip code for our home (in case they need to send it back to us.)

Mailman/Mailwoman - the post office worker who collects the mail.

Mail - another word that means letters.

Post Office - The place where the mailman/mailwoman brings the letters. Then they go in a mailtruck or airplane depending on how far and how much time is needed to deliver.

Teachable moments (skills I didn’t expect) - talking about where the addresses go on the front of the envelope, where to place the stamp, how to seal an envelop. I also appreciate any moment when we must practice “waiting” - once we put the letters in the mailbox we had to talk more about how long it would be before the mailperson would arrive and then not really knowing when our friends would receive it. We just had to have faith and trust that it would get there. Big, valuable concepts for such a little person.

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So that’s it! A small invitation; a big learning experience! Do you invite your little one to play? If so, please share your ideas in the comments! Or find me on Instagram to chat more! How might you use this in your own life?

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