Thursday, March 11, 2010

How to host a Flat Stanley friend

Let's say you've received a letter in the mail containing a Flat Stanley (or Flat Sarah, or Flat Fulano, or whatever) and you've never played host to a flat friend before. What kinds of things should you do?

Make sure you know how long you should play host to your flat friend. You should also ask whether the flat friend is to be returned to the original sender or passed on to another host when your time together is over.

If there isn't already a return address written on the back of the flat friend, make sure to write it down. In case the flat friend is lost, an address improves the chance that he or she will eventually be found and sent home. Likewise, when you first get a flat friend, consider creating a stunt double just in case -- accidents can and do happen. (If you don't have a scanner and color printer to make a copy at home, you can take the flat friend to a copy center and make a color copy on heavy cardstock.)

Find places to go that are fun to photograph, would interest children of the age group that sent the flat friend, and are free or low-cost to visit. Or just take the flat friend and a camera in the car with you and take photos as the opportunity presents itself. We have taken flat friends to dinner, to the Space Needle, to a local waterfall, to grocery stores and chocolate shops, to Pike Place Market and Westlake Center, to toy stores, to the beach, to the local park, even (on April 1) to the moon!

A quick trip to the moonMany people create scrapbooks of their adventures with a flat friend. But if you're not into scrapbooking, consider keeping a blog. Blog software makes it easy to update just about any time you want from anywhere you can get an Internet connection, and it's available immediately to non-flat friends who have Internet connectivity and who want to know what their flat person has been doing lately. If you're concerned about inappropriate comments showing up on the blog, you can choose to disallow them or to screen them before they can be posted. Or you can keep the blog private and allow only friends to visit. (If you do keep a public blog, it's wise to use nicknames instead of real names when possible in order to preserve privacy.)

Be creative and go nuts! One of our flat friends was dressed in clothing that was more suitable to the warm-weather place from which he came, so we made him a coat and hat for the cold, changeable spring weather so common to Washington. We also made him a Seattle Mariners baseball cap. Other flat friends have sent home postcards detailing their adventures, and have sometimes sent "souvenirs" to be shared with classmates. Some flat friends have had their adventures captured on video. There are all sorts of possibilities, depending on your creative strengths and the amount of time you want to devote to the project.

Have you ever hosted a Flat Stanley or other flat friend? What kinds of things did you do?

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