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(who happened to be in the process of de-junking the office) and ended up with these signs on my mailboxes as well as out-of-date forms, ink stamps, and a variety of boxes, envelopes, and even letter carrier hats that were on their way to the garbage.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!