Today’s Hint: Pretend Junk Mail is Your Kid’s Mail

My daughter gets mail every day. How could a toddler get mail you may be wondering? Well, besides the occasional holiday card and letter from the library telling her that a book is overdue, her mail isn’t actually addressed to her. Instead, it’s junk mail, from catalogs to charity appeals to credit card promotions, for my husband and me.

“You’ve got mail. Here’s your mail,” we tell my daughter as we pass off letters, cards and catalogs to her that otherwise would have ended up immediately in our recycling bin.

We have found that these junk mailings, which we store for my daughter in two shoeboxes in her play area, make great non-toy toys. In fact, my daughter can spend anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes flipping through her mail, pointing at, and talking to, the images she sees (like the kids in the Mini Boden catalog and the skeleton costumes in a Party City catalog); sorting through envelopes and papers; and of course, ripping the pages. So that’s why today’s hint is to turn junk mail into a pretend play prop.

In addition to letting my daughter “read” her mail on her own, we also play with the mail with her, using the catalogs as teaching tools of sorts to point out the names of the various objects on the pages she’s flipping through (a Victoria’s Secret catalog did make for some funny explaining). And we also do the junk mail games of sorts outlined by the sisters blogging at 4Eighteen.

To be sure, not all young kids may be as into mail as my daughter is. Still, because junk mail is free, transforming it into a toy is worth trying. Parent Hacks, for instance, notes that free address labels make great “stickers” and fake credit cards make great toddler credit cards. What about little kids eating the paper, you’re probably wondering? My daughter did do that at first but rarely puts the paper in her mouth now (though we make sure to throw away ripped off pages after every mail play session).

And passing junk mail off to your child doesn’t just work for toddlers, though pretending the mail is for your kid may stop working once your child can read. The good news is that once your kid is older, you can use junk mail as a prop when playing post office, as Kara Fleck over at Simple Kids recommends (and there are variations of this game that you can play with younger kids as well). Finally, junk mail can also be used to practice the art of using scissors and for reading lessons.

How do your kids play with junk mail? What games have you come up with?

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  1. says

    I would always hand my toddler the “Current Resident” mail! Now she’s 4 and recognizes her name, but she still loves to play with the junk mail. We made her a cardboard mailbox and she plays with the junk mail with that. :)

    • Hint Mama says

      I love the “current resident” idea. The mail could technically be for your daughter :) I may just copy that cardboard mailbox idea (that sounds like a good upgrade for my daughter’s shoeboxes).

  2. says

    My boys love to do the same as well!! They play with the grocery store papers and pretend they are coupons for when they play the “buying game” where they go shopping in my pantry! :)

  3. says

    I love this idea. Children love the idea of getting mail and there is so much they can learn. Thanks for stopping by and sharing on Toddler Idea Tuesday, so glad to have you stop by.
    I hope to see you back again. You have such neat ideas.

  4. says

    I just wanted to let you know that I featured your your Pretend Junk Mail on this week’s Toddler Idea Tuesday along with several other wonderful ideas for young children (including your play food post). I have pinned this and will definitely be doing this with our children.
    Thanks again for stopping by, I really appreciate it. I hope to see you back again. This week’s linky will stay open all week.
    Have a great evening.


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