My preschoolers have been in “writing heaven” lately! I try to set the scene to encourage writing skills and fine motor skills on a regular basis, and this is one of those “jackpot activities.” It’s always a great feeling when I’m having to tell them they need to pause on the writing…to eat lunch…and then they can write more afterward.
Do you remember going out to get the mail while growing up? I thought it was the coolest thing ever! Usually I didn’t get letters, but if I did, that’s all it would take to make my year. I was driven each day to go to the magical box in hopes that I too would have my own letter, and it was OK if I had to do this 100 times before it happened. It was always worth it! I can even remember my mom sending us letters through our own mailbox (with a stamp and all), so that we could enjoy the pleasure of receiving a letter in the mail a little more often. This momentous childhood experience was my inspiration for this particular writing activity. I wanted my preschoolers to find enjoyment in writing and sending letters to their classmates and to relish in the excitement of finding mail in their very own mailbox. Hence, our friendship letters.
First, I made a very simple, cardboard class mailbox. I just took a larger cardboard box that wasn’t very deep and cut off the flaps. Then I cut the flaps to make them into dividers. I added a little bit more support to some of them with packing tape. I’m going to say that this very basic mailbox is certainly not going to be winning me any Martha Stewart awards, which is why it is almost hiding in the background. It took an hour to make it in the most basic form (although I imagine almost anyone else could do it in less time!), and that’s about my limit for these sorts of things.
Next, I set the scene. I added buckets that I found at the dollar section inside of Target and filled them with everything they would need. These adorable buckets themselves scream to my preschoolers “come investigate me.” We have various colored paper and pens available. Pens are so enticing and almost impossible to resist. I feel that they make writing feel more like a treat. I’m trying to be brave and start offering Sharpies to my older kiddos too. Who doesn’t love a great Sharpie?! I mean as long as it’s not all over the furniture.
I also like to offer items that will enhance fine motor skills without using a pen or crayon. So that’s this bucket. It has stickers, heart cut outs (which require glue), glue sticks, ribbon, and scissors. Since this picture was taken, glitter glue has also been added per their request, (and it was a good one, I might add!) Some of my students have very little interest in writing letters, and I am not here to force it on them. All I am going to do is offer a fun and exciting way to explore letters. At the very least, they will be using the muscles needed to write, and they will naturally be learning how to have proper pencil grip.
Throughout this activity, I encourage a lot of name recognition. We identify whose name is on each mailbox and how many friends have names that start with ‘A’ or ‘L’ and so on. I also ask them to write the name of their friend on the letter, then to sign their own name so that their friend knows who it is from. For children who are not quite confident in writing their full name, I tell them to write the first letter or however many they can write. By about the 20th card, my daughter had gotten to the point of wanting to write to her grandparents. The translation of this letter says “I love you Nana and Poppy.”
Here’s another sweet card that a preschool friend made.
I just love how special these friendship letters are to each child! Before they leave to go home at the end of the day, they are just thrilled to check their mailbox and find what special items are waiting to be taken home.
Please keep in mind that many of these materials require close adult supervision.