Creative Ways to Connect Your Child and Your Soldier

August 29, 2011 · Filed Under Deployment, Fun, Military Parents, Relationships 

Fun with Flat Stanley

It’s never easy for children to be separated from their parents and loved ones, whether it is for military duty or something such as serious illness or injury. Keeping connections between close family members can be just a little bit easier by using a new twist on the traditional Flat Stanley project. Instead of just one Flat Stanley having adventures with lucky individuals, children and their beloved soldier will both get to have adventures and make memories with this Flat Fellows activity, easing the physical and sometimes emotional distance separating them.

How to Make Flat Fellows

If you, your child, or your soldier, have never read the classic Flat Stanley, by Jeff Brown, begin by sharing this story together. You can read the book aloud to your young child, recording your voice, or your older reader can record his own voice. Send the audio file to your soldier, or if it is easier, send the actual paperback book and let him read it for himself.

Once everyone is familiar with the tale, the new twist on the project, Flat Fellows, can begin with these first steps.

  • Take a full-height picture of your child or have her draw one of herself on cardstock paper. If you are using a photo, print the picture on white cardstock or other heavyweight paper. A sheet of 8.5” x 11” is an easy size to mail when folded in thirds.
  • Arrange to either receive a full-height picture of your soldier, have your soldier draw one himself, or have your child design one.
  • Take 2 folders with brad bindings on the inside (add paper to the folders), 2 journals with pockets, or even 2 scrapbooks, and add a Flat Fellow to each one.
  • You can copy the following phrase into the journals or on pages in the folders, have your child write it out, or come up with your own (just make sure to do it for both journals).

I am your new Flat Fellow friend

And I can’t wait to see where you roam.

Take me along wherever you go,

And bring me back to your special home.

Make sure to write about it for                           (fill in with name of child/soldier)

He/she can’t wait to hear all our tales.

Even though we can’t always be right there

Our special love never fails.

Once you have your new poem inscribed, you can explain to your child and your soldier how this is going to work. Your child will keep the journal with the Flat Fellow who looks like your soldier, while your soldier will get the journal with the Flat Fellow of your child.

Why Flat Fellows are Important

The idea behind this project is that your soldier and child will each record notes about what the Flat Fellow saw, what the Flat Fellow might have eaten, and anything the Flat Fellow might have done. Your child can take pictures of her Flat Fellow going down the slide at the park, sitting in your child’s bike basket, or riding in the car going to Grandma’s. If you go to a movie, your Flat Fellow can take the ticket stub and add it to the journal. Let your child be creative. Your soldier can be inventive as well about his activities, perhaps taking a picture with his Flat Fellow in a bunk or writing about how many friends the Flat Fellow has met.

The main goal of doing this activity with your child and your soldier is to build another opportunity for them both to feel connected with each other. Even though they are far apart, their Flat Fellows can be witnesses to the little things in life that make all of the difference. You can continue this project for any length of time, but doing it for at least 2-3 weeks should give you a good supply of memories for the journals, but the longer you continue the project, the more interesting the adventures might become. It can also make a great Christmas present for both your child and your soldier to receive the newly created Flat Fellow journals or scrapbooks so they both know what the other has been doing. Separation from loved ones can be difficult for children (and adults), but finding positive ways to form new types of connections will help bridge those distances and keep kids thinking about new ways to have their Flat Fellows share their own adventures.

Photo credit: Jason

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