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The journey of a letter

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By Sue Smithregistered childminder

Discover how a fun visit from a post worker can help to extend children’s knowledge and understanding of the world

Children with post worker

It was a wet and miserable morning on Thursday 12 August 2010; however, we were convinced the sun would shine as the group of children I look after were treated to a visit by the Manager of Ely’s Royal Mail Sorting Office.

I had planned the visit to help the children gain a fuller understanding of the important role of the city’s postal delivery service. I hosted the Royal Mail event at my setting with ten of my own minded children, as well as a number of visiting childminders and their children. In total, 23 children and minders arrived for a fun-filled morning, during which the Manager of the Royal Mail Sorting Office, Peter Ashcroft, gave the children a rare insight into the interesting and complex journey of a letter from post box to door mat!

At 10.30am the sun came out, the wet pavements soon dried and 23 very excited children made their way to the front of the setting to be greeted by Peter Ashcroft in a large red Royal Mail delivery van. The children listened to my brief talk about the safety elements of our morning and I ensured they understood what would happen during our activity.

Children learning about the process of posting a letter

We made our way, in pairs, to the bright red post box situated just a short walking distance from the setting. Holding a very large bunch of keys, Peter explained to the children that there was a key to open every box in the city – to an audible ‘wow!’ from the children! Peter asked them to guess which key from over 150 on the bunch they thought would fit this particular posting box! Using one of the keys, each of the children attempted to open the post box – unfortunately without any success! Peter proceeded to choose the correct key and open the box as the children gathered around to see inside. Peter explained how to ‘read’ the information on the outside of the post box and, holding the scanner, the children were told how the letters are transported in the sacks to the sorting office and then scanned by machines that read the postcodes.

The children had lots of questions to ask Peter, ranging from the number of letters that are received each day at the sorting office, to how many staff members are employed at the premises.

Children in a post van

With the arrival of the photographer from our local newspaper the children enjoyed having their picture taken with Peter for the Ely Weekly News and the Cambridge News. We all returned to the setting – but not until after Peter had invited the children to sit in the back of the delivery van to have their picture taken! With much excitement they all climbed in!

The morning’s session continued at the setting with a DVD showing the ‘Journey of a Letter’, from its posting into the box to its final destination through a numbered letter box! This film followed a cartoon character called ‘Lenny the Letter’ and the children were fascinated throughout. The film answered many of children’s questions as it showed the machinery that reads the postcodes and sorts letters and parcels into sizes. The children saw the scanners, staff and different equipment that are used in the sorting process, and it inspired them to talk about this daily service.

Prior to Peter’s visit, the children had been invited to write a letter to someone they knew; these letters were collected by Peter as he explained to the children that they would be put into the system on his return to the sorting office and would be delivered to their destinations the very next day.


‘Children saw the scanners, staff and equipment used in the sorting of mail, and it inspired them to think about this everyday service’

To further enhance their development and learning, the children were each given a goodie bag containing ‘My Busy Book’ – a small pad made from recycled paper and ideal for taking notes, making a list of favourite books, names of friends, birthdays or even noting down special things happening at home. Along with the note book children were also given a bookmark and colouring sheets showing key people in the story of the ‘Journey of a Letter’. Sequencing story sheets and colouring activities were given to the childminders for use in their setting, which met the Every Child Matters framework and elements of the Early Years Foundation Stage. This event supports the Early Years Foundation Stage framework in many ways, as well as meeting one of the Early Learning Goals: Knowledge and Understanding of the World.

I was lucky enough to be provided with a resource pack from the Post Office, which was aimed at Reception and Key Stage 1 children. Developed in conjunction with teachers, the pack contains role play cards and visual items from a Post Office counter to enable the children to learn through play. The pack covers key curriculum areas, including Numeracy, Literacy and Citizenship, and contains everything needed to set up a Post Office in a setting. Story role play cards suggest scenarios, allowing the children to familiarise themselves with everyday services available at their own local Post Office. The scenarios and characters offer a wide variety of opportunities for creative role play.

This is the third year that I have organised activities to enable the children to engage in experiences relevant to their own local community. Providing opportunities away from the setting enables children to develop more varied learning skills. Preparing children with new and additional life skills is an important part of their learning and development. Offering them a fun and engaging activity makes the experience rewarding for both the children and myself. We offered our huge thanks to Peter Ashcroft for giving his time to spend with the children and also for the support from Royal Mail in this activity.

More online

I am a postman poster

Find out lots more about the postal service with this great poster, available to download now. There are also useful related poster activities and a fun interactive ready for you to download!

Images © Sue Smith