Love notes help kids learn to write

I had just arrived home from a late-evening meeting and was brushing my teeth in preparation for bed, when I glanced up and saw a tiny heart cut out of paper taped to the bathroom mirror. Inside the heart was a message, ''To Mom, I Love You, From Laurel.'' That note made my day!

The next evening, while Laurel was setting the table for supper, she said, ''Don't watch.'' When we came to the table, our napkins had been decorated with markers and contained notes, ''For Dad'' and ''For Mom.''

Writing little notes to each other has become a tradition in our family. It began when our daughter was just learning how to read and write. We would write love notes to her on a memo board or leave them by her place at the table. From them she learned that writing communicates.

But the tradition didn't end when she had learned how to read and write, because our family enjoyed the written messages so much. Today Laurel, now a first-grader, requests a note in her lunch box every day. Usually it is a little note hastily written on a pad of paper, but sometimes we buy or make special note cards. Her dad sends a poem in her lunch box from time to time.

Laurel, in turn, has enjoyed copying our model. Once I received a note in my brown-bag lunch, and her dad found one in his wallet.

There are many uses for writing as well. We have received invitations to doll shows, plays, puppet skits, and performances, usually with handwritten programs as well as homemade tickets.

In the summer we send each other invitations to picnics. Laurel invites us up to her tree house. Once I made Laurel and a friend each a coupon. After they had eaten their picnic lunches, they could redeem their coupons for ice cream cones. Since then her dad and I have received coupons that we can redeem for kisses and hugs, paintings, and the like.

At holiday times (especially Easter and Valentine's Day), we have a treasure hunt, with little notes hidden in progression around the house leading to a surprise gift. Not long after one such treasure hunt, I arrived home from work to find a treasure hunt that Laurel and her baby-sitter had made for me! At the end was a special drawing with a note on it.

There is no end to the imaginative uses of writing to provide family entertainment and warm feelings. If parents write to their children, they will be pleasantly surprised at how thoughtful their children are in returning written messages.

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