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Exploring junk mail

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Suitable for children: 
Young boy getting the junk mail out of the letter box

There’s something in the letterbox!

Junk mail that arrives in your letterbox might look like rubbish to you, but children love it. Next time you find catalogues in the mail take some time to look at them with your child.

Let’s see what these are about. What can you see on this page?

You can use food catalogues to plan your meals for the week. Talk with your child about favourite foods and new foods.

What should we have for lunch tomorrow? Do you want strawberries or mangoes?

Look at the different prices together.

The big bag of pasta is on special this week. It costs less than the small one.

If there is a toy catalogue you can talk about which toys they like. They could cut them out and make wish lists for birthdays or other special occasions.

Look at all those outside toys you’ve cut out. I can see 3 trucks. What about a magnifying glass or a kite?

Materials you will need

  • Paper
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Shopping catalogues
  • Junk mail

Why does this matter?

Looking at catalogues is one way of learning to read. Catalogues have information which can be read. Children learn to recognise symbols like the names and logos of supermarkets or stores, and numbers, letters, and dollar signs. Children learn to compare, analyse and sort. 

What does this lead to?

When exploring junk mail children are engaging with the process of reading. They are learning that when we add pictures to words they enhance the meaning of the written word. As children view the catalogue they are also learning to decode or make meaning of the symbols placed alongside the pictures and words. Children learn that symbols also carrying meaning and at times will add to or enhance the information contained within the picture or the written words.

Language to use

  • Catalogue, brochure, pages
  • Sale, special, cheap, expensive, price, value
  • Sizes, quantity, food, weight, kilograms
  • Buying, shopping, list, voucher
  • Fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy

Questions to use

  • What is the catalogue about?
  • How do you know where to find things in the catalogue?
  • What do we need to buy? Have we run out of anything?
  • What tells us how much it costs?

Useful tips

Remember to talk to your child in your home language.

Variation by age

Birth to two year olds

  • Your child can cut pictures out of junk mail and make collages.
  • You can read the junk mail together and ask your child to find pictures of different things.

Three to five year olds

  • Your child can cut pictures out of junk mail and make collages.
  • Your child can cut out letters and make words with them. 
  • You can talk about recycling. 
  • Together you can make shopping lists from the junk mail.
  • You can talk about how the food catalogues are designed. Talk about the placement of fruit and vegetables together, frozen and cold food together etc.
  • Together you can cut out the pictures from the junk mail to use for pretend shopping games or for playing matching activities.

Questions to use

  • Can you find the milk?
  • Where is the pineapple?
  • What could we use pegs for?

Questions to use

  • Why are all the vegetables grouped together?
  • What do the symbols mean?
  • What do you think this catalogue is about?
  • How do you know where to find things in the catalogue?