Pen Pals for Kids

Valorie Delp
Contributor: Mary Beth Adomaitis
Boy Sitting Writing In Class

There are many pen pals for kids' organizations that offer safe, reliable and friendly websites. Children, with parental approval, of course, can e-mail, join chat rooms or list messages on forums regarding pen pals.

Resources for Finding Pen Pals for Children

Many of these pen pal programs for kids require a completed application and prior approval. Once that happens, kids can receive names and e-mail addresses or addresses of others in the organization who are of the same age and share similar interests.

International Pen Friends

International Pen Friends pairs kids with new friends in their own age group from countries around the world. Pen pals correspond through snail mail and the group does not use the Internet to match pen pals.

An excited class pointing at a world map

Virtual Pen Pals on Students of the World

Students of the World looks like a dated site but is actually teeming with options for international penpals. Kids or classrooms sign up, creating an 'ad,' and then look for students who share similar interests, etc. It's a great site if you are looking for international penfriendships. It's also a resource to find free penpals for kids.

Circle of Friends for Girls

Circle of Friends Pen Pal Club is an international club for girls only who are looking for pen pals. E-mail is exchanged, but members may communicate through other means.

ePals for the Classroom

EPals is a teacher-supervised, online group connects classrooms globally through the Internet. Besides letter-writing, students share and exchange classroom projects.

Any Soldier

Any Soldier is a program that connects willing letter writers with soldiers. You choose a specific soldier on their list or write a letter addressed to 'Any Soldier' and the mail is given to someone who doesn't necessarily get a lot of mail otherwise. The site gives a list of specific things you can and cannot send, as many pen pals also send along care packages. However, the care package component is not required. It's great for kids because everything is monitored, however, parents should note that the site is intended for anyone to get involved and so it may be best for older kids or families.

PenPal Schools

PenPal Schools is an award-winning site that connects students, teachers, and classrooms from around the world. You can only sign up as a teacher or student and you must be verified. The site works a little differently, with pen pals choosing a project or current event to work on together. Projects range from topics like fake news to global warming. The pen pals then collaborate and chat via the PenPal School platform to discuss the idea at hand. Personal emails, etc. are not exchanged.

Snail Mail Pen Pals

The idea of pen pal relationships has been around for generations. In the eras before the Internet, friendship letters, as they were often called, were written out long-hand and mailed through the post office. If your pen pal lived on the other side of the world, it would take weeks for the correspondence to go back and forth. Friends exchanged letters, pictures, and other miscellaneous items or "tuck-ins" including:

  • Postcards from their hometown or native land
  • Postage stamps
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Any other flat item that could fit in an envelope.

One of the oldest pen pals for kids' clubs dates back to the 1930s. The Student Letter Exchange is also the world's largest organization of its kind, with more than 500,000 participants each year. This group was founded when a teacher wanted to add spark to his classroom, so he started a program where his students wrote and exchanged letters with other schools around the world. The Student Letter Exchange has matched students in more than 100 countries, some of whom have stayed in touch through their adult lives.

Mother and daughter checking the mail at home

Safety Tips for Pen Pal Exchanges

With most kids having Internet access at their fingertips, having an online pen pal or "e-pal" can be easy to do, but a child's safety must be the main concern. Parents, educators and other adults who are allowing their students and children to have pen pals -- both online or offline -- should enforce these safety tips:

  • Children should use only their first names.
  • Personal information, including your hometown or school, should not be given to anyone.
  • Never agree to meet your pen pal in person unless a parent or teacher is present.
  • Obscene messages should be immediately forwarded to a responsible adult.
  • Do not send any photos unless parental approval is given.
  • Do not share any computer or Internet passwords with an online pen pal.
  • If you are unsure or uncomfortable with the Web site or organization offering pen pals for kids, check with your parents or teacher.

A Great Learning Activity

The age-old art of letter writing is still alive and well with pen pals for kids. Whether it's online or through the mail, children of all ages can correspond with others through a variety of pen pal programs. When it comes to today's pen pals, kids can stay safe and have fun by using reputable sources and having adults be involved in the process. Being a pen pal is a great learning activity and an awesome way for teachers to help increase literacy in the classroom.

Pen Pals for Kids