5 Fun things to do with Junk Mail and Magazines

...that help with development too!

Do you get lots of junk mail or buy lots of magazines?

Well, we get loads and I buy loads, so we always end up with plenty of recycling.

But, before it goes out to the bin, there are lots of ways to use print material to help development along. Here are just a few really simple suggestions:


Suitable for: All ages
Work on your child’s language skills by looking at the pictures together. Point to things and label them. After a short while point to something your child knows and ask them “Do you know what that is?” Encourage him to take the lead and start identifying things he knows by asking “Can you see anything else you know?” Children will soon be volunteering information and asking questions. Your baby will benefit from looking at objects he is familiar with, a toddler will enjoy talking about what he already knows and a pre-schooler will enjoy learning new words and also a little bit about the world he lives in as well as volunteering what he has already worked out.

How this helps development:
Children learn language primarily by listening and practicing. This activity gives your child a chance to practice words he already knows and also gives him the chance to learn new ones.

Suitable for: Toddlers and Pre-schoolers
Cut out pictures from a catalogue of food and grocery items. Get two pieces of paper and some glue. Toddlers can sort the items into “Things you can eat” and “Things you can’t eat”. Pre-schoolers can sort the items into “Healthy foods” and “Unhealthy foods” or “Fruits” and “Vegetables” or “Grains” and “Meats”, any categories that are of interest.

How this helps development
This helps develop your child’s ability to sort and classify objects which is a very important mathematical skill. It also helps him to think a little about the world and how it is organsied. It is also a great opportunity for him to learn and think about nutrition and where foods come from.

Suitable for: Older babies, Toddlers and Pre-schoolers
Look at the faces of people in magazines. Talk to your child about the different expressions on peoples faces. You can start a conversation about it by saying “That person looks happy/sad/angry/embarrassed” Ask your child why they think the person looks that way. Offer some suggestions yourself. Try to look at a wide range of emotions and encourage your child to talk about them. After a little while ask your child “What makes you feel happy/sad…etc”. You could also ask him to show you what he looks like when he feels those things. You could pull some funny faces yourself if you're in the mood!

How this helps development
Being able to identify, label, express and manage emotions is a crucial part of your child’s emotional development. Looking at the emotions of others teaches empathy and helps your child to think about the fact that everyone has feelings that are influenced by outside influences. Seeing the feelings of others also makes him feel better about his own feelings. Also, a secure, non-threatening conversation about feelings with you makes him aware that feelings are important and can help him to feel safe to discuss feelings at other times.


Suitable for: Older Toddlers (with supervision) and Pre-schoolers
Give your child scissors, glue and paper and allow him free reign to cut and paste things that are interesting to him. Talk to him about what he's cut out and why they have chosen certain pictures. (Make sure you supervise younger children when using scissors, but remember, the best way to master a new skill is to practice, practice, practice)

How this helps development
This helps the development of the smaller muscles in your child’s fingers and hands which are very important when your child comes to learn to write. It also helps with eye-hand co-ordination and builds on your child’s confidence as he works on mastering a new skill.

Suitable for: All ages but particularly babies and toddlers
Allow your child to flick through the pages, feeling the textures, crinkling and tearing the pages. The pages of magazines and catalogues have many different finishes to them, some are glossy and some are matte, some pages are hard to tear or turn and others are easy but all pages make a great noise when they are crinkled or torn.

How this helps development
Your small child uses his senses to explore the world. Allowing him to use these senses is very important to his sense of security and comfort and is really important for brain development. Ripping and tearing paper and turning pages provides him with many different sensations and allows him to explore his environment. This activity also does wonders for strengthen fine motor muscles in the fingers, hands and wrists

Come over and play at the 'Childhood 101' 'We Play' link up

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  1. This is great for the home setting but also for the preschool setting. Love to see adults interacting with children. All of this interaction is so important to their development!:)

  2. How awesome is this! I love a play idea that works on a number of levels for different ages. Will have to try these ideas with my 2yo and 10mo.

  3. We often 'read' our junk mail whilst enjoying breakfast together, I don't need to worry about anything getting spilled on our reading material and we can have some fun conversations over our cornflakes :)

  4. Thanks for your comments everybody.

    Erin - I love the fact it's free too, and that something so simple can keep kids so busy and engaged

    Jeannine - you're right, these activities are all great in a pre-school setting. I used to love sitting with my pre-school kids and talking about what we found in catalogues. It was especially valuable when it came to initiating discussions about food and nutrition - a matter close to my heart

    Lara - glad you like the ideas. It's really tough finding things for children of different ages. I'll try to share some more of my multi-age activity ideas over the coming weeks

    Christie - We read catalogues a lot over mealtimes too. Our other favourite time to do it is when I'm busy in the kitchen and the kids are sitting at the table or up at the breakfat bar. That way, they're busy so I can get a few things done, but I'm easily accessible to have a conversation about what they're seeing

  5. Hi Belinda,

    Love your site and this post!

    I have included it in my (no-cost activities for kids) post on my site www.savingmummy.com.au.

    Hope this is okay.

    Kind regards,

    Julia :)