Learning to read is hard! And it can often become stressful and frustrating for both the child and the parents. Years ago, I stumbled on this neat way to help my daughters master reading while keeping things fun and making some special memories along the way!
When my oldest of four daughters came home from preschool after a Valentine’s Day party with a “mailbox” full of Valentines, that mailbox eventually ended up on her doorknob. That led to me leaving her “mail”, and she thought it was quite possibly better than having a visit from the Tooth Fairy (well almost…)! I never intended for it to become a tool to help her learn to read, but that’s exactly what happened.
That was eight years ago. Since then, I have used the same “system” with my middle two daughters, and with a two-year-old bringing up the rear, I look forward to doing this with her, too. It’s such a handy way to sneak in some learning without causing your child any anxiety. And even better, it provides some fun for the whole family!
HOW TO MAKE A DOORKNOB MAILBOX
Step 1: Cut 1/3 of a paper plate off and have your child decorate the “bottom side” of the larger piece that remains (the edges of the plate should curve downward). Set that on top of another plate to create a pocket as shown below. Punch holes all around the bottom (through both plates).
Step 2: Weave ribbon or yarn in and out of the holes, leaving some length on each end in order to tie it on the doorknob.
Step 3: Hang that work of art on your child’s doorknob! Let the fun (and learning) begin!
YOU’VE GOT MAIL!
Once the mailbox is ready to go, you can begin leaving your child notes. I bought a set of index cards and kept them by my bed to help me remember to leave a note at night (at least most of the time)! Surely your child will bound out of bed in the morning to see if any mail arrived during the night! Our girls used to burst into our bedroom with excitement to read their cards to us while we rubbed the sleep out of our eyes. Such fun memories!
START WITH FLASH CARDS
When my daughters were first learning their letters, I would create a “flashcard” for them as shown below. Over time, they had a complete set, and we would sometimes go through them at bedtime, too. They loved showing off how much they had learned! When certain letters/sounds would stump them, I’d “send” them that letter again until they had it down.
MOVE ON TO SHORT WORDS
Once they had their letters and sounds mastered, I began writing very short, simple words – on, in, cat, bat, sit, etc. You can help your child sound out the first letter and then the second letter – and then tell him/her to say it faster. Pretty soon, the lightbulb goes off! You will not believe the excitement (for both of you!) when that first word is sounded out!! We did lots of dancing and high-fiving in our house!
Little by little, your child will start to get the hang of it, and the picture you draw will help, too. Eventually, you can omit the picture if you think there is “cheating” going on.
WRITE REAL “LETTERS”
Things really get fun when you can start leaving longer notes. Your child will love starting the day with a letter from Mom or Dad! Your older children can have a mailbox, too. Who doesn’t love getting mail?!
FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
The entire family can enjoy sending one another mail. Perhaps even more than getting a letter from Mom and Dad, our daughters loved getting notes from each other! It was always adorable to see what our little one, in particular, would share with her older sisters. I kept a lot of those notes as keepsakes because they were too cute to discard!
Sometimes the mailboxes also served as a good place to say those two little words: “I’m sorry.” As I discuss in this post where I gave my 10-year-old a “Safe Journal” as her safe place to ask us even the most embarrassing questions, it’s often much easier to write our words than it is to say them.
Even though we didn’t leave mail for our older girls regularly, we would tuck a note inside their mailboxes occasionally so they didn’t feel left out of the fun. You could also put a mailbox on your door (your kids could make it for you!), and as your kids get older, you could even write notes back and forth. At that point, they’d also be working on their writing without even realizing it!
I hope this post has inspired you to give this a whirl in your own home! I bet your kids will LOVE it!
IS YOUR CHILD STARTING KINDERGARTEN SOON?
If so, please don’t miss this post: 10 Things to Think About Before Your Child Starts Kindergarten (That Have Nothing to Do With Academics). That’s one of the most popular posts on my Harvard Homemaker blog. Between the doorknob mailbox and the tips in that post, your child will be more than ready for school next fall!
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I look forward to sharing more ideas here at Somewhat Simple! This post is my first as a contributor, and I’m thrilled to be a part of this awesome blog! If you’d like to keep up with me, please visit my blog, Harvard Homemaker, or you can find me on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+. I hope to connect with you soon!
Until next time,