Sending your child off to camp introduces him to a wonderful world of diverse experiences and adventures. It also requires you to relinquish sharing in these experiences or to find out about them many days later.

Communication methods have drastically changed in the past few decades. Living in the age of instant messaging, e-mail and mobile phones, many children find sitting down to hand write a letter an obsolete and inefficient option. They would rather pick up the phone or sit at the computer to communicate instead of writing a letter or card. But many camps do not allow cell phones or instant messaging, and children need to communicate the old-fashioned way.

This year, as you pack your child’s camping bags, why not add a few creative tips to spark an interest in writing while promoting strong communication? Incorporating handwritten letters and notes in his communication repertoire will enhance your child’s vocabulary and confidence in his abilities.

Whether your child is at camp for a week, two weeks or two months of adventures, explore these appealing alternatives to help you stay connected.

  • Start a sharing journal. Take your child shopping for journals or notebooks that you both can write your ideas, hopes, daily frustrations, etc., in. While you’re apart you each can jot down your thoughts to share when he returns home. You’ll both gain insight into each other while promoting a fondness for writing.

  • Set an example. Before camp begins, spend time together writing thank-you notes or birthday cards for events that will occur during camp. Your child will realize your passion for writing letters to friends and loved ones and will want to model your actions while he’s away.

  • Make it memorable. Explain to your child that his letters or notes from camp are valuable keepsakes that you’ll treasure. Enlist his help to construct and embellish a special box, envelope or bag to keep the letters he sends from camp. Knowing that his work is cherished and appreciated will help encourage his enthusiasm to send letters home.

  • Find out why he doesn’t like to write. A child’s creativity can be spurred once you know what is stifling it. Sometimes children refuse to write letters because they are insecure about their penmanship, spelling errors, vocabulary or sentence structure. Talk to your son to uncover any insecurities or writing blocks. Perhaps he feels there’s no time to write a letter, or he sees it as more of a chore than as communication.

  • Make writing fun. Introduce your child to a variety of ways to use the written word as a form of expressing himself and his abilities. Offer him the chance to work themed crossword puzzles, mad libs or word games to encourage him to keep in touch with you. You can create your own at Encourage him to make up silly rhymes, riddles and stories for you to decipher about his camp adventures.

  • Pick a word for the day. Use tools, such as a calendar that features a word of the day or a handwritten list of words, so he can choose one word a day to incorporate in his correspondence to you. Your child will gain confidence from learning new vocabulary words to use in his writing, as well as his speech, while he has fun writing cryptic messages to you.

  • Keep supplies handy. If a child has to hunt for writing supplies, he’s likely to lose interest in communicating. Pack an interesting assortment of writing tools to stimulate his writing energy. Send him to camp with personal stationery, an array of pens, pencils, erasers and colored paper, and ask for his input when purchasing different types of writing implements to further promote his enthusiasm.

  • Don’t be an editor. If your child writes you a letter, remember that the message and motive are often more important than the delivery. Although it may be tempting, resist the urge to edit his spelling or use of punctuation. Give him the freedom to express his personal thoughts without the fear his work will be criticized.

  • Ask family members to help. Enlist his favorite aunt or cousin or a sibling who is also away at camp to be a pen pal. The responsibility to respond to Grandpa’s recent letter increases a child’s interest to author a return letter. He’ll keep in touch with family members while he realizes an alternative to instant communication.

  • Dear Diary…Encourage your child to keep a diary or private journal to write his feelings in while he’s away. Expressing his emotions offers the chance for him to highlight experiences he can share with you once he’s back home.