Family traditions are important to us. Ice Cream Friday has been a thing since our first daughter was born. (Yes, real ice cream. Don’t judge!) We always bring a rock home whenever we go on vacation despite the fact that it always seems to get us delayed in customs. We leave a quarter in a secret place whenever we travel just in case we ever return. We sleep under the Christmas tree in sleeping bags the night before we take it down. We always watch the movie together after someone finishes the book. (I’ve been forced to sit through the entire Harry Potter series twice now. Just one more kid to go!)
But, our favorite tradition is probably our mailbox treats. We started doing this when our first daughter was a baby more than 10 years ago, and it is still going strong today. We ordered some personalized mailboxes for each kid. (I got mine from PotteryBarnKids). At night, after the kids fall asleep, we slip a little treat in their mailbox. Sometimes it is just a note or drawing. Sometimes it is a pack of raisins or sugarless gum. On special occasions it might even be a small toy or a book. It’s not everyday. Keeping it completely random adds to the fun. Nothing is more exciting for them than waking up to see the little flag raised on their mailbox alerting them to the fact that a special treat awaits!
You’ve Got Mail!
This doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. Your “mailbox” could simply be a jar or shoebox. I find that those cardboard, cylinder oatmeal containers work particularly well. Just have your child cover the outside with construction paper and decorate. Wah-lah! Instant mailbox.
Letters with a special message from mom or dad are my favorite but small books, stickers or healthy treats are fun too. Sometimes we do mailbox treats that give away a big surprise like a picture of Mickey announcing an upcoming Disney Cruise. Mailbox treats are a great way to support important milestones in your child’s life too, for instance – handlebar streamers after your daughter learned to ride her bike without training wheels or a pair of goggles after your son learned to dive. You could give them a pretty hair bow on school picture day or a blow-up beach ball on the last day of school.
The idea is to keep it simple and random. And don’t give too many “big” surprises. Your goal should be to remind your child that they are special and loved, not spoiled.
Mailbox Treat Ideas to try:
- A short letter or note from mom or dad or another family member
- Crayons, markers, chalk, colored pencils
- Coloring book, activity books, educational prep books, MadLibs
- Toothbrush (Make it from the “tooth fairy” after your child loses a tooth!)
- Playdoh or silly putty. Make your own!
- Keychain (great for after you move to a new house)
- Small stuffed animal (to announce you are going to the zoo)
- Jump rope
- Finger paint, bubbles
- Bubble bath
- Small flashlight
- Hair accessories: clips, ribbons, bows
- Small toys: Matchbox cars, Legos, Petshops, slinky
- Stickers or temporary tattoos
- A small jar with holes in the top (for lightning bug season!)
- Journal or Diary
- Disposable camera (before a trip!)
- A flower or flower/vegetable seeds
- Money (for their birthday)
- Bike accessories (horns, pom-poms, streamers, etc)
- Tickets (movie, sporting event, concert)
- Magazine such as National Geographic Kids
- Drawing or photograph
- Sugarless gum, pretzels, sunflower seeds
- Painted rocks or other gifts from nature
- Healthy treats: apple, banana, orange, raisins, or a a mix of strawberries, blueberries and other small fruit with an invitation to “bring to kitchen – let’s make a smoothie!”
- Kitchen spatula, whisk, etc with invitation to “help mom cook”