How Do You Write “Love”?

By Kfirah HaLevi and Kristin Zeldes, WHC Early Childhood Educators

When we reopened our doors to our Early Childhood Center in January, we wondered how our class would adjust as children came back to school in person. For many, this would be their first in-school experience. Others would be returning to a familiar space but a very different experience.

With protocols in place to help keep the children and staff healthy and safe, we were able to focus on supporting the children’s social-emotional development as they made the transition to our school environment. Throughout 2020, feelings of loneliness and anxiety existed alongside the enjoyment we felt spending this special time at home with our families. This dichotomy was apparent in the children: they were thrilled to be back in a social environment and have friends to play with, yet they missed their homes and families while they were at school.

It was important for us to support the children as they learned to communicate with their new friends while they simultaneously adapted to being away from their families. In years past, we encouraged children to write a note to their parents if they missed them during the school day. Now, we began to encourage the children to write notes to their friends in the classroom as well.

Soon, we had a full-blown mail system going! Each child had their own box to receive mail, and we had an outgoing mailbox for letters to home. The mail system provided children with a way to express and communicate their feelings, both with their peers in the classroom and their families at home. What began as letters to Mommy or Daddy became a tool for children to reach out to someone they wanted to befriend. “Go check your box!” they would tell each other, proudly waiting for their peer to notice their mail. We witnessed the children putting in the time and effort to show each other how much they cared, learning to write the word “love” so they could tell their friends how they felt.

young children mailing lettersAs the interest in mail grew, we provided the children with name signs, so they could choose a friend to write to. While the older children would copy the letters, the younger ones would use the signs as well, seeming to enjoy the physical reminder that this drawing was for a specific person. The children began to notice who in the class may not have had as many letters and worked together to make sure that everyone felt the joy of receiving one. They began to ask each other, “What is your favorite color?” or “What do you like to play with?” to tailor their letters and drawings to their new friends.

In just the few months that had we have had in-school learning, the children have shown astonishing resilience and growth. They’ve learned to negotiate with peers, communicate their feelings, and listen to each other. The mail system supported their initial outreach, helping them learn how to make new friends and providing them with a comfortable tool to express their feelings within developing relationships. Reflecting on our work with the children, we wonder, what can we learn as we ease back into a world of social interaction?