Pretend Play: Post Office and Mail Carrier | Activities for Kids and Toddlers
Pretend Postal Workers
Pretend Play seemed like an interesting concept to me. After all, my kids are always playing with their toy kitchen and pretending to be little chefs, but I'd never pursued the concept any further - until I saw a photo of a homemade mailbox. How fun! My mother was a letter carrier (back in the day), and this would be a great way to introduce my kids to the Grandma's old profession!
I made this pretend play set of a mailbox, hat, and mailbag along with letters to "mail" from mostly what I had lying around the house. Then, I picked up some blue ball caps and blue canvas bags at the dollar store. So, overall, this project was incredibly affordable. Best part: my kids have a blast playing with it.
I've included step-by-step photos of how I made everything, as well as a few suggestions of things to accompany the activity, like storybooks about the post office. Enjoy!
Here is a photo of my daughter playing with her post office. She making the letters. We added "stamps" and labels for both the addresses and return addresses.
The "stamps" were envelope seals with perforated edges that resembled stamps. The kind you get in the mail from charities looking for donations. (A close-up photo is shown below.)
The return address labels were just that: return address labels we had received from another charity looking for donations.
The address labels were actual labels that we simply filled in with titles like "Mommy," "Grandma and Grandpa," and the girl's names.
My daughter is drawing pictures on the letters that will be placed inside the envelopes. We used some old greeting cards that had been purchased but later forgotten about, some random stationary sets of matching paper and envelopes that had been collecting dust, a few old postcards that we didn't remember the origin of, and a pack of blank cards I picked up at the dollar store.
Here is a close up of the letters, cards, and postcards I mentioned. I bought one pack of blank cards at the dollar store because they had a cute picture on them, but everything else was collecting dust in the corners of drawers. Now they could be put to good use!
We also had some Priority Mail sticker labels and packing tape lying around from an old order from the post office. These are the types of things you can pick up at your local post office to make your pretend play a little more authentic. Or you could draw your own.
Another close up of the mailbox, hats, and mail bags, along with a couple of "finished" letters. One was actually just a postcard that we wrapped in priority mail packing tape.
Placing a stamp on an envelope.
After she slipped the letters in the front, she opened up the slot in the back to see where her letters went!
A close-up of our "stamps," provided by the American Lung Association.
Making the Mailbox & Accessories
To make the box, hat, and bag like I did, you'll need:
An empty box
Blue painters tape
Blue construction paper
Foam letters to spell "Mail"
USPS logo printed on paper
I wanted to add a "door" to the back of the mailbox so they could easily retrieve the mail inserted into the front slot.
I left the existing hole that was the box handle and cut around it to form the door. I cut the top and sides, and sliced only halfway through the cardboard where it would need to bend.
Then I cut a slot in the front of the mailbox, removing the section around where the other box handle had been.
I wrapped all the cuts with blue tape, to smooth them.
The blue painters tape came in handy, and sped up my work, because it helped the box to resemble the mailboxes here in the States. There are many other colors for mailboxes all over the world, however, so if you want to make a post box that's not blue and you can't find something like the painters tape (or colorful duct tape), my suggestion for quickly transforming your box is spray paint.
I covered the entire front with blue painters tape. Now, this type of tape isn't meant to be permanent, so you'll later see that I covered all the edges with clear packing tape, too, just to secure it.
I decided that instead of covering the entire box with the painters tape, I would add pieces of construction paper to the top and sides, using the painters tape to adhere it. I placed the paper on the box and taped down all the edges. This way, my girls could use crayons to decorate their mailbox.
Here you're looking at the bottom of the mailbox because I'd put it on the side while I stuck on the foam letters spelling "MAIL" over the mail slot, which you can see in the earlier photos.
I printed 4 USPS logos, 2 large, for the bags, and 2 a little smaller, for the hats, but they all fit on a single sheet of paper. I cut them out and attached them with a mixture of half white (Elmer's) glue and half water that I painted over the backs of the paper before sticking them on to the hats and bags. You could use Modge Podge, but I didn't have any. The glue mixture will bleed a little, so you may get some discoloration around the edges, but my kids didn't care.
Also, before adding the label to the bag, be sure to put something (like cardboard) between the layers of the bag if it's canvas because otherwise the glue will bleed through.
Or, you could try printing the labels on sticker paper instead. Or just paint the logo right on the hat and bag.
The labels drying.
I also cut a piece of construction paper to cover the door on the back. Then I added a priority mail sticker. Later, my daughter added a few stickers to the sides, too.
In this photo, you can also see how I added clear packing tape around all the edges and corners for extra support and to make sure the painters tape doesn't start peeling off.
The box has proved to be remarkably durable. I'm really happy with it and, luckily, so are my girls!
Ready-To-Go Mailbox Play Sets
In case you don't have the time or patience to make your own. Scroll down and you'll find ready-to-go costumes, too!
Melissa & Doug Mailbox Play Sets
This set comes with 6 letters and 6 removable stamps that slip into a mailbox that you open with a key.
This mailbox has a working flag and door and comes with 2 reusable postcards.
A Softer Side of the Mail
This is sooooooo cute ... for those of us who can crochet. You can get the pattern on Etsy from CrochetNPlayDesigns. If I could crochet I would seriously buy every pattern in the store.
Costumes for Your Letter Carrier
Don't Forget the Mail Truck!
This sturdy truck will please any young mail carrier! It's 4 1/2 inches long and has a back door that actually opens.
Great Post Office Storybooks
Stories For Your Young Postmaster - My recommendations:
This classic has charming illustrations as we follow the progress of a letter that a little boy mails.
This book contains a cute, lyrical poem telling of a mailman who delivers letters to fairy tale characters.
This book explains how the mail works, with plenty of seemingly simple and yet intricate illustrations for the kids to explore.