easy summer activity for kids

Looking for an easy summer activity to do with the kids? How about sending some good old-fashioned snail mail? It’s one of those things that seems a little magical to kids in Generation Z. Handwriting an address. Licking stamps for the envelope. Taking a walk to drop it in a mailbox on the corner, or lifting the red mailbox flag on your curbside mailbox at home. And it doesn’t even really matter what’s in the envelope. It could be a drawing, a page from a coloring book, or any random bits and bobs from around the house that are flat enough to fit inside. 

Putting together a little something to mail off to a friend or relative (even one that lives nearby) can be a satisfying task that can occupy a whole summer morning for a kid. It could be fun to make it a weekly activity to help fill up the calendar — like, on Tuesdays in June, July & August, we send mail to someone. And of course, receiving an unexpected package in the mail is at least 10 times as exciting, somehow equivalent to Christmas morning or a trip to Disneyland.

Ten years ago, my friend Rebecca told me about the random little packages her parents send, and the idea of “Good Mail” that she read about on a blog. This is what Rebecca wrote:

I think that one of the reasons that I love to shop online is because I love getting things in the mail. Who doesn’t? Especially in our age of instant gratification communication (e-mail, crackberry, cell phone cameras, text messages. . .) I appreciate something tangible. Nothing is as good as ripping open a package in the mail and wondering what is inside.

My first experience with this was from my parents. When I moved away from home to go to college, I would often find funny things in the mail. Sometimes it was just a picture with a post-it note sized letter on it. Once it was a package of chili powder (I am still trying to figure that one out). When I lived in England, my dad would send me my favorite pens and cinnamon gummy bears (both cinnamon AND gummy being things that they just don’t appreciate over there). Lately, the mail comes for my kids. A few times a month a small box or envelope will show up on the door step.

Most of the time the box contains some sort of treasure from the dollar store or the local thrift store. Nothing fancy, but something that they know the kids would like. Even baby Norah gets mail. Sometimes, it isn’t even anything fancy. Lately, the kids have been getting the free address labels that come in junk mail to my parents. When they come from Grandpa, they become treasured STICKERS!!!

A few months ago I ran across a blog post that talked about “Good Mail“. It’s written by a woman named Kristi, who explains that a friend of hers started this. It began as a circle of friends that went to college together who would send each other things in the mail. Sometimes it was a book or a cd compilation. Other times the recipient was the beneficiary of a wonderful creation. The point was to send an “I am thinking of you” type package. Soon Good Mail expanded to their friends from various grad schools. Then, as they all moved across the country and settled into life, the circles expanded even more.

Be warned that some of the stuff you will see on that blog post is pretty crafty and amazing and there is A LOT of it. You might come away feeling like you don’t have many friends and you aren’t as clever or crafty as you thought you were. I am only kind of kidding. What is evident from the posts is that they get as excited at getting a little something in the mail as my kids do. In fact, I left a comment once on Kristi’s blog and someone that I don’t know sent ME Good Mail. It was so thoughtful and sweet.

For most people, the only stuff that comes in the mail is bills or junk. If you are lucky, you might have parents like mine. If you are REALLY lucky, you will find someone to send Good Mail. It is like the mail boxes version of blog comments.

I just sent my own first batch of Good Mail. I am not that organized. I didn’t spend a lot of money and it didn’t take that much time, but it was really fun to think about some people in my life that I have been meaning to touch base with. I wrote them each a little note, put in a little treat and off they went. I hope that when they get it, they will get that same little thrill. I hope that they will know how much their friendships mean to me and help me to remember to be playful, humble, responsible or kind. I hope that they will then send some Good Mail of their own. It is a great way to spread the love. Couldn’t we all use a little more love?

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Isn’t that a fun little write up from Rebecca? It makes me want to stop right now, and take a 10 minute break to stick something in the mail. I also love the “crackberry” reference. Can you believe how much has changed in a decade? When she wrote this in early 2007, iPhones and “apps” didn’t exist yet! It also brings up two questions:

1) How often do you send mail these days? Currently, it’s very rare for us. Since our bills are paid online, pretty much the only mail we send is thank you notes for birthday gifts, and packages to our oldest son Ralph, who is on a mission in Colombia. Though I would say that the rarity of it all definitely adds to the magic of mail for the kids.

2) Related, do you have what you need at home right now to send mail? Meaning, do you keep stamps and envelopes on hand? We have lots of stationery and envelopes, and probably one sheet of stamps. But stamps are definitely not something we buy regularly anymore.

How about you? Do you ever send or receive little packages? Do you happen to have parents like Rebecca? Or have you ever been part of a Good Mail circle? Do your kids get super excited about mail that is addressed to them? What would they think of this easy summer activity? I’d love to hear.

P.S. — The concept of Good Mail reminded of Pipsticks — a monthly sticker subscription for kids (or grownups). Would your kids be into a little sticker package each month? I love that stickers are basically a sugar-free treat. : )