Guardian Childcare & Education

PenPalPlatform Keeping Children Connected

6th May 2020

Children from Guardian Childcare & Education Phillip Street have been working with their educators to connect with the wider Guardian community during COVID-19. As a result, Centre Manager Harriet Wilshaw McAllister has set up a national pen pal program.

Dubbed PenPalPlatform, the online group was created with a vision of connecting with hundreds of children and families across the country via handwritten letters, an activity Harriet remembers fondly from her own childhood.

When driving home from work one day, she was reflecting on the differences in the way children today communicate, compared with when she was growing up. Being reliant on digital technology means many children today miss the excitement of opening the letterbox and reading a reply from a penpal.

“I started to think about how we could create a Guardian pen pal program, and how special it would be for children to connect with others across the country, especially at a time like this,” she added.

Centres from around the country responded favourably to the idea, using the intranet to set up requests to be involved. From there, the PenPalPlatform group was born, and it took off from there, Ms Wilshaw McAllister said.

Children were initially confused about how mail and letters worked, but soon became curious about writing and posting letters, and about mail in general, which led to research into mailboxes of the world, and the variety of stamps in different countries.

This curiosity has led to some interesting questions, with one child asking “Harri, were you alive in the olden days when people used to send letters?” followed up with “are you more than 100?”

Since launching in the past fortnight, the children from Phillip Street have sent letters to Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. This week, the children will be writing to sister centres in the ACT, while eagerly awaiting their responses.

Phillip Street have received some wonderful images of children opening their mail. “The look of wonder on their faces was amazing, and they have already written and sent their response. We are eagerly awaiting for the post man to arrive. The children are extremely excited!” Harriet added, saying the children at Phillip Street are at the door each day looking for the postman.

“I believe that writing letters and drawing pictures stimulates children’s creativity and opens up their imagination, particularly as they haven’t yet seen the people they are writing to. The element of dreaming and wonder is just fantastic.”

As the platform grows and evolves, Ms Wilshaw McAllister is open to “seeing where the adventure takes us”.

“I think that we will continue to progress as we are with the PenPalPlatform. Long term, it’s really open to any Centres who would like to be involved. Educators can connect with educators, children with children and so on. Currently, all children in the centre are involved in this inclusive activity, however, the children who are more actively participating are those from 2-6 years, as they have a more thorough understanding of what is happening,” she said in closing.

To learn more about Guardian Childcare & Education Phillip Street, please see here.

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