In Please Write Back! Alfie writes a letter to his grandma- going through all the steps of letter writing addressing and stamping by himself- and then waits anxiously for her reply. Finally, he gets something. But it’s not the letter he expected, it’s a package!
After reading this simple story, extend the story and support sensory skills by doing a feely box activity. Just as Alfie was anxious to find what was in his box, the children can take turns feeling an item in a box and guessing what it might be. You can simply use a box and hold it high enough that the children can’t see – though someone will always try to peek! You can create a simple feely box by securing a sock around the top of an empty oatmeal canister. Then, cut the end of the sock, so that a hand can reach through it and into the box. You could also make one with a small square box, using an inexpensive (and/or outgrown) stocking cap in the same manner. Stretch it around the sides and then cut a slit in the top for a hand to reach through.
Gather items Alfie’s grandmother might have sent (toy car, toothbrush, ball, marker, etc.). Talk about the items so that the children have a reference point. Then conceal them and stealthily add one to the box before giving the children turns to feel and guess.
Feely boxes enhance cognitive skills and the child’s sense of touch. It also taps into some sensory integration as the information they are gathering through their hands is compared with visual images they are recalling through memory. Building sensory skills is important because we gather and process information through our senses. It’s part of the process of inquiry or scientific method. So what seems to be fun guessing game is actually building cognitive skills! I love it when that happens.
For more mail themed activities, check out the Valentines, Friends, and Communication Unit here!
Who doesn’t love getting a letter? To preschoolers the mail ranks up there with other anticipated special deliveries like their Easter Baskets and Christmas stockings. Perhaps the one thing more exciting than receiving mail, would be getting to be the all-powerful letter carrier! Here’s an activity that lets your children in on the fun of delivering the mail, while also reinforcing the basic math skills of numeral recognition and counting.
Create letters by writing the number name in the address spot. Place the same number of 1 cent stamps in the stamp corner. For the group I was working with, I did numbers 1-10, but you could adjust that to meet the needs of your group. Next, create houses or mailboxes by writing the numerals corresponding to your letters. These can be simple pieces of paper as I show here, or you could make actual house or mailbox drawings. (I wrote mine on colored paper, and we began by putting the numbered papers in order, and then pointed out the abc pattern created by the colors.) Put these numbered papers in your pocket chart or in the center of your circle of children. Place all of your letters in a bag like a mail carrier. Have each child take a turn being the letter carrier (add to the effect by giving them a postal hat to wear during that turn). Each child will reach into the bag to select a letter and then place it in the appropriate spot by matching the number of stamps on the letter to the numeral written on the house/mailbox. After the children have experienced this activity, you might consider putting it in your dramatic play area along with your post office theme!
Have you ever looked at those darling mailboxes designed for dramatic play in the supply catalogs, and just wished that you could rationalize a few hundred bucks for such an investment? Well, stop trying to rationalize because I have a more budget-friendly alternative.
These mailboxes were made from “Costco-sized” diaper boxes. I spray painted them blue, cut a letter slot by cutting the three sides of a rectangle. On the fourth side, I made a crisp bend (may be aided by making a shallow cut through the first layer on the inside with a razor) and reinforced it on the inside with packing tape so that it wouldn’t wear out from being opened and closed. The handles were leftovers from a kitchen remodel, but you can also buy simple handles pretty inexpensively at your hardware store. Poke holes through the cardboard, basically “pilot holes”, and then thread the screws through like you would on a cabinet. Cut a similar slot at the bottom of the back for the letter carrier to retrieve the mailed letters. (I skipped the handle in the back and cut a notch instead.)
Decorate with homemade signs, or contact your local post office and ask if they have any post office items ready to discard. I contacted someone I know (who happened to be in the process of de-junking the office) and ended up with these signs on my mailboxes as well as out-of-date forms, ink stamps, and a variety of boxes, envelopes, and even letter carrier hats that were on their way to the garbage. It’s always surprising what you end up with when you’re willing to ask!
A few additional things to keep in mind when making and using these boxes:
- Allow plenty of time for the boxes to air out after being spray painted. Letting the project sit in your garage over the weekend is ideal for getting rid of the potent spray paint scent.
- For use in your dramatic play area, set up hats and bags for your letter carriers, as well as a post office area complete with a desk, computer, cash register, 1 cent stamps, forms, etc. Supply your writing area with envelopes and plenty of paper, and you’re ready for a steady stream of mail!
- When these boxes are not in use, open the flaps on the top and bottom and fold the boxes flat for storage. Reassemble and tape the flaps back down when you’re ready to use them again!
Using these props in the dramatic play area encourage language development, and are particularly motivating for writers. They also introduce or reinforce the social construct of the postal system and the prosocial skill of friendship through communication. Incorporate math skills by playing the Mail Match Math game! Take your class on a field trip to your local post office to really spark interest. It also works well as a theme during February to connect the ideas of Valentines (letters), friendship, and communication!