connect + adventure while distant: a little project for explorers or anyone

Last Fall a friend of mine asked if I would be willing to host her daughter’s Flat Stanley version of herself, as part of a school project. I live for this kind of thing, and my friend clearly knew that, so I accepted without hesitation. I love the Flat Stanley idea in general, and our Flat Child came along before coronavirus was even a word in my vocabulary. But I especially love it right now because, one, it is such a great way for kids and their distant important people to stay connected, by sharing an experience, even if current events keep them apart. Two, you, or the child can “travel” to a new place and learn about what its like there, without leaving home. Flat Stanley is fun in pandemic times, and all the time.

Flat Stanley is a children’s book-turned-series, in which the main character, Stanley is tragically flattened as thin as a pancake. He soon discovers the advantages of this situation and proceeds to have many excellent adventures, including mailing himself to people far away. I received my Flat Child, Molly, in November. She arrived in an envelope with a notebook and a letter, asking me to take her on my daily outings, to take pictures of Flat Molly partaking in various activities, or in different locations. In the notebook I noted two facts about each place or activity. I emailed photos as I went along, and at the end of the project, mailed a more cultured, and extremely well-traveled Flat Molly and her notebook back to real Molly, to be turned in for her second-grade class project.

We loved hosting Flat Molly! I mean, of course we did. Its right up our alley. Miles would “walk” her along as we wandered together through cities and hold her up to see out of the window. Flat Molly went Polish pottery shopping on a girl’s weekend in Boleslawiec, she ran errands with us via tram in town, she went to holiday markets in December and on our Euro road trip where she took up absolutely no extra space in the diaper bag. She visited Amsterdam, Brugges, Normandy, Paris and beyond. Flat Molly hit the adoptive family jackpot. If I may say so myself.

I believe there’s never been a better time to create a Flat version of yourself, or your children. There are many ways you can do this project, get creative! If you have children, print off a Flat version of them. There are a zillion templates, do a Google search and find one you like. Have them color it, then mail it to a family member, cousin, grandma, aunt, bestie who moved away, whoever. You could also ask a friend who lives in a different country and likes to travel. If you yourself are grandma or the cool far-away aunt, send yourself to your grandkids/nieces and nephews (and their parents for assistance)! It will be fun to see the world through their eyes, as they show you around. If you are the host, show Flat Child where you shop, what you eat, the landscape, things that make your community unique, etc. Jot down little notes about each location and send them along with the photos. Print it all off and mail it back at the end of their stay for a keepsake. The idea isn’t necessarily to bring your adopted Flat Child to exotic and exciting locations, if you can, thats great! But more importantly, find a way to connect. If you are grandma hosting your Flat Grandchild who lives far away, send them a picture of their Flat Self enjoying one of their favorite special treats they only get at grandma’s, or playing with their favorite toy they love when they visit.

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Flat Stanley is a pretty lucky guy, if you ask me. He can go anywhere and do anything. He is impervious to germs. He can travel the world at the cost of a stamp. Use him to virtually travel to a new place and stay connected with those important to you, while you aren’t able to go on a trip, or see the people who you love. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to mail myself to my Mom.

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