4B, being a boy, isn't a huge fan of writing. He also inherited 4Daddy's sloppy handwriting, and 4B hustles through all writing tasks. The result? Work that is sloppy and not quite his full effort. Both his AMAZING K and 1st grade teachers recommend practice, however we can get it.
4B is also the only of my children who seems to need entertainment. Odd because he is, on some level, the easiest of the bunch, but he seems to need the most busy management...as in manage his ass to stay busy so we don't come to blows! ;)
Hence, the creation of our FAMILY POST OFFICE!
It'll probably help make this seem more awesome if you envision artful photos taken with a super nice camera and beautifully done/coordinated product. Our life just doesn't work that way. Plus, the KIDS did the work (as they should, in my opinion).
Here's how our family post office works. Anyone can send mail to anyone at anytime. Mail includes notes, drawings, trinkets, money, candy, you name it! If you can find it and you want to part with it, send away! 4B even put together a helpful list of hints for his sisters about what they could send. (Truthfully, I don't know if I've ever seen this kid so jazzed about one of my ideas!).
Mail MUST include a "to" address, a "from" address, and a "stamp." The five-and-under crowd is excused from this rule. However, I have printed out labels for her with everyone's names before.
Outgoing mail is placed in our family mailbox, which we keep by the front door on the main floor. (Please excuse the mess; four children live and play here.)
Once a day, usually before bed, the postmaster empties that family mail box, checks the mail for to and from addresses and stamps, STAMPS it as received, and delivers it into the individual mailboxes, which we house on a bookshelf in our bedroom.
That's it. Easy peasy, and the kids LOVE this. So much. SOOOO much.
Here are a few recommendations/ideas that we learned along the way. But, of course, you absolutely MUST embellish, elaborate, and redesign as to make it fit for your family.
How to make your family's post officeI wasn't interested in buying a bunch of stuff to make this fly. Sure, it would've made the pictures so much cuter to have it all match-y and uniform. But, cheap and easy and kids working solo were more important to me.
Accordingly, our family mailbox is a shoebox with a hinged lid. 4B really needed it to be "covered in bricks," so one morning over breakfast, he colored the bricks onto white paper, and I trimmed and folded and taped his bricks so as to cover the box. Our flag is card stock with a brad so that it can be raised and lowered (it's non-laminated and flimsy, but we don't care!).
Our individual mailboxes were made from empty milk cartons and granola bar boxes. We covered them with wrapping paper and/or drawings and stickers. Except that 4B used his trinket box that he made at his ill-fated stint at Cub Scout camp last summer. He wanted Mario to sit up top, for some reason. 4C had made a paper mailbox at preschool for Valentine's Day. Some wanted flags and some didn't. 4B wanted to make everyone's name tag for each box. 4A wasn't havin' it (of course), so she made her own.
To make it "official," I made a family post office sign with freebie clip art.
Being postmaster ROCKS!
By far, hands down, the most enticing part for everyone is being postmaster. I bought a date stamp at Walmart, which has a "received" setting and lets us reset the date every day. Oh my goodness! You would have thought I bought them a bar of gold! Best $16 I ever spent, my friend. The bigs are serious as a heart attack about that stamp. If mail doesn't have the requisite to or from address or stamp, it goes back to the sender as undeliverable. Dead serious. Our way cool stamp looks like this one...
I had toyed with buying a super cute "postal cancellation" rubber stamp on Etsy, but the thought of an accessible stamp pad and a super investigatory toddler made me weak in the knees. There are also really cute rubber stamps of a "postage stamp" that the kids would've loved, too. Dig around and find what works for you.
Supplies for your family post office
To start out, we filled our supply bin with index cards and neon notepaper that we bought at the dollar store. Pens and pencils and some stickers. We also save those "send your payment" envelopes that we get in bills after we pay them electronically. When those run out, we use cheapy dollar store envelopes.
For stamps, I downloaded a few free printable stamp coloring pages and then printed them as contact prints. 4C, who is VERY seriously practicing her scissor skills for Kindergarten this fall, cut them all out. We use a glue stick to affix them. I draw my own stamps on mail that I send, but the kids REALLY love sticking on these "official" ones.
You can find ones to adapt to your use here.
Whenever I find junky old note cards at the dollar store or a garage sale or we get free cards from a charity, I throw those into the stash. We also cut the fronts off of greeting cards and birthday cards that we receive and then use those as postcards (on the backs, I draw a "to" line at the top, a "from" line at the bottom, and leave the center blank for drawing or writing).
What to mail
For the bigs, I ask them silly questions, asking them to reply back to me through the mail. They also love a list of items that they can check off as yes or no. 4B and I play tic tac toe through the mail, too.
They draw lots of pictures of LOTS of horses for 4D. ;)
For 4C, who is almost 5, I draw a picture and write the word, and then I leave her a line to copy the word. Her siblings usually read her notes to her, and she LOVES to write the word and send it back to me. She and I also take turns embellishing a scene through the mail. I"ll draw sunshine. Then she sends it back with a tree added. Then I send it back with a flower added. Then she sends it back with a bee added. Ad infinitum.
The kids LOVE to receive pennies and quarters, sticks of gum, temporary tattoos, and band-aids from me. They send each other little trinkets (erasers and silly bands from their own stashes). I've also sent "get out of chores tomorrow free!" cards. BIG hit! I've also mailed them a picture from when they were babies with a little note about the outfit or stage of their life or event. They LOVE those! I've also printed off connect-the-dots pages or mailed pages torn from a workbook or coloring book with a note asking them to complete and mail back for a special treat (a coupon for 15 minutes of extra reading time after lights out, usually).
We make free printable coupons here.
There you have it, my friend. Super fun, super easy, super cheap, and keeps them super busy. Happy mailing!