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Local grandparent creates learning by mail project

Living through a pandemic with three young children has been no easy task. We are doing our part to be socially responsible and taking all the precautions necessary to stay safe and keep those around us safe as well. What this means for us is a lot of together time at home! Some days are easier than others, but thanks to an inventive grandma, my children had something fun to look forward to each night and learned a lot along the way.

“Back in May, when the sheltering in place was somewhat new, I wasn’t getting to see my grandchildren at all and I was bored. So, I devised a game to play with them,” said Margaret Larsen.

Margaret traced a large map of the United States, about 3’ x 4’ and cut out each of the individual states to make puzzle pieces. She mailed each set of grandchildren a map, five state puzzle pieces and a letter telling them a few facts about each state she sent. She also put something in the envelope to represent each state.

“I sent a car sticker for Michigan, as they make a lot of cars, a tiny grass skirt for Hawaii, a scale “Great Salt Lake” made out of paper and salt for Utah,” added Margaret.

She did this every other day, until we received all the pieces. She also wrote letters to friends or relatives in 20 states, with addressed stamped envelopes enclosed, asking them to write a short letter telling about their state and to send something depicting the state.

Soon, the mail started to pour in. The kids were very excited to check the mailbox each day and see who had written to us and from where. In those long, slow early days when we didn’t leave the house, it brightened everyone’s spirits to “meet” new friends through hand written letters.

We didn’t just get a letter though, most everyone included a special surprise related to the state they were from. We received recipes using an ingredient grown in the state, an actual state flower, rocks, coloring pages and activity packets about the state, dehydrated hash browns from Idaho, a jar of Virginia peanuts and even plantain chips from Florida.

We hung our map on the wall and let the kids decipher where each state should be placed. My eight year old son, Archer, was surprised by how big and diverse our country is.

“It was so cool to see the things that they have in states that are different from what we have here,” he added.

The activity was so special because it helped the kids to see that each state wasn’t just a piece of paper on a map, but a real place with a real history and people who lived there who were eager to share the wonderful things about the place they call home. It helped our family to feel connected during a time when it was easy to feel isolated.

“I learned some things too! Like the longest name of a river in the US is Chargoggagoggnanchaggogoggchubunagungamaugg River in Massachusetts; the hamburger and Frisbee come from Connecticut; New Mexico has more cows than people; Tennessee has 3,800 caves; the tallest building in Vermont is only 124 feet and the US government owns 70% of Utah’s land,” said Margaret.

During these difficult and uncertain times, finding creative ways to stay busy and stay close to family has been key. Large scale projects like this are perfect. It gives everyone, from the creator to the participants, something fun to do. I’m still waiting to see what she will have in store for our winter activity.


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