Have you noticed the number of Random Acts of Kindness stories doing the rounds right now? From paying food bills to funding new tyres and rescuing dogs from frozen lakes, the gestures are endless. Is it the time of year? Or is something more magical going on?
A mum from Australia received a particularly special gesture this Christmas. While visiting a café with her foster child, a stranger passed them a hand written greeting card with a heart-warming message inside. Enough to send you fuzzy!
The power of the written word never ceases to amaze me. It's rare these days to receive something non-electronic that's had a real human touch.
Take the humble Thank You card. Writing them post-Christmas tortures most children and sends many of us parents crazy. But I'm sensing a change is in the air this year.
I've noticed parents and children alike are taking delight in using beautiful paper, pens, envelopes, stickers and more to carefully write thoughtful notes of thanks - I've been on the receiving end of several and each one has surprised and touched me.
When you can Skype, FaceTime, text, send a photo message, write an email, Facebook, Tweet, use Instagram, YouTube or Periscope (and goodness knows how many other forms of social media) to say thank you...writing it down seems oddly charming, unique and truly authentic.
The teacher in me, despite enjoying the advances in technology, loves any excuse to encourage children to write, write, write.
Here's why I think hand writing Thank You letters is so important - and my top tips for making it happen.
Manners and Meaning
It's easy for kids to be overwhelmed by presents at Christmas and forget the sentiment behind each gift, tearing one open before quickly moving on to the next. Ensuring they write a letter of thanks helps children appreciate the intent and thoughtfulness behind each one.
Top tip: Ask kids to keep a note of which gift came from which person. It will help them make connections, slow the pace of the activity and make writing the letters far less confusing!
Letter writing can provide a moment of calm and reflection that's very valuable for children. It's something I always nurtured in the classroom - taking a moment to reflect and gather your thoughts. Letter writing helps you articulate those thoughts.
Top tip: Young children will need guidance to write the letter but as they get older, encourage kids to reflect independently about what they'd like to write and then share those thoughts with you before writing.
Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar
Above anything else, writing a letter by hand helps kids practice writing skills, spelling, punctuation and grammar. It may feel like torture, getting your kids to sit down and write a few lines, but it's one of the most valuable and transferable classroom skills.
Top tip: Draft letters with your kids to help them craft the message and spell difficult words. You'll build a connection with them here, plus gain an insight into their development needs. (Some special stationery in their Christmas stockings helps too!)
The UK postal system is the most unique and sophisticated in the world. Teaching children how addresses and stamps work is a really useful skill to embed early on.
Top tip: Simply the practice of writing an address on an envelope and fixing a stamp helps children understand the postal process. But there's a wider story here - include the post box, the postman, the letter box and so on, to tell the journey of letter writing.