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Sunday, December 9, 2012

mail and children :: ideas and resources

Do your children love getting and sending mail? Mine have had a deep love of the postal system since they were old enough to understand what the mailman was bringing everyday. 

In fact, my daughter even went as a ballerina-mail lady one Halloween, because ballerinas and postal workers were the two coolest jobs she could think of. 

We have been having some mail time fun around here recently, so I thought I would share some of the different ways we have had played with the mail over the years. 

Reading and writing letters is particularly useful for reluctant writers, but more importantly, the open ended and imaginative qualities are spectacular. You can create any world or character with letters and maps. The possibilities are endless. 

Here are 7 ways to have fun with the mail.

{add your own suggestions in the comments!}

1. Participate in a nature exchange

Nature exchanges can be amazingly fun. Basically, you pair with someone from a different geographical region and swap a box full of nature items from your area. Leaves, shells, seed pods, rocks and pressed flowers are among the most popular bits. You can also send a little note, a regional folk tale, photo of your family, and handmade treats. 

I have done several of these and love them. You can sign up different places on line, but I have had the best luck organizing them one-on-one. You might send out a request to some of the Facebook groups you belong to or just email someone you "know" online to ask if they would be interested. 

I am considering running one through Mama Scout this spring, so make sure you are signed up for my newsletter and Facebook page to get the information. 

2. Put a mailbox in the house (and the yard)
One of the best things we ever did was install a real mailbox in our house (the photograph at the top of the page). It is positioned upstairs in the landing between all the bedrooms and receives mail year round. We have also had an outdoor one for  children to leave messages to each other and the bigger outside world. 

These are magic making. And so easy you can do it NOW. 

And of course, be sure to use those mailboxes. I have had long conversations with my children through the mail. Something about writing the letters makes the communication different, more thoughtful and deeper. 

3. Make your own address labels, stamps, supplies and more.
This is so easy and obvious, but you would be surprised at how custom stickers and stamps add to the excitement. I just buy Avery labels in different sizes and make each kid their own return labels with fun fonts and pictures. You can also make stickers that have warnings or funny sayings on them. And of course, just coloring and drawing on the labels and turning them into stickers and stamps is fun too. 

We love making our envelopes from magazine pages. I use this template because it is little and cute. 

4. See what you can mail 
Can you mail a soda bottle? A hula hoop? A ball? A Flip Flop? Try and see! While you are at the post office asking and finagling, set up a tour for you and your friends. This classic field trip is always educational and interesting. 

5. Start a stamp collection 
Maybe it is only natural that our love of mail turned one kid into a budding philatelist. My daughter has a super cool collection handed down from her Great Grandfather. She is interested in the images and where the stamps are from instead of building a complete collection. She recently received this book and loves the creative ways it suggests collecting. 

6. Sign up for Mariposa Forest letter service
There are all sorts of subscription services for kids (magazines, craft kits...) but this is by far my very favorite. 

When you join,  your child receives biweekly letters from the forest creatures of Mariposa Forest. The letters include a gorgeous photograph and maybe a even a map. My kids were instantly smitten when we first tried a few dispatches from the forest and begged to get it year round (which they will for Christmas). 

This is one of the best gifts I can think of this year. It is imaginative, lasts all year and supports creative women (which is huge in my book!)

7. Get a copy of JRR Tolkien's book Letters From Father Christmas (immediately!).
I saw this recommended by Lori at Project-Based Homeschooling and fell in love as soon as it arrived. 

For over 20 years, Tolkien wrote his children a yearly letter Father Christmas. They included delicate drawings, hand-painted stamps, and hilarious tales of all the mischief happening at the North Pole. There are characters and languages you might now have know were up there. I promise, you will love this book. It is pure magic and a testament of the power of letters between parents and children. It might even spark your own creative project with your children. 


  1. Thanks the info. Another good one is It's free and it links you with someone around the world to send a postcard to and you'll get one in return. Once the person receives yours you can send another. Great way for kids to learn geography and about other cultures.

    I also signed my son up for the Lego Club which is also free and he gets a Lego magazine in the mail every now and then :)

  2. Thanks for the ideas. My sons love getting mail, I'm always trying to think of new ways for them to get something in the mailbox. I like your idea of creating return address labels and personalized stickers.

  3. We are so in love with real mail. We have been doing pen-pal programs for years. Actual pen pal matches and writting cousins. I did one homeschool year of That was fun and super different. Last year we did a mommy foodie pen-pal for almost six months. It was for mom but we all had fun putting local foods together and sending it off. Then, we would get one in returen and enjoy food from some other part of the country.
    I am not sure where y'all live but maybe we can do a pen-pal package to each other and introduce ourselves my kids are 16,14,10,7. Let me know vial email?
    melissa david at juno dot com


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