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Send Happiness Project – Uganda

Children everywhere LOVE to receive mail – it brightens their day and brings a huge smile to their faces. Our goal is to create MORE smiles in 2019 with the Send Happiness Project.

Send Happiness Project

Here at Petit Mail, in addition to our story postcards, I want to GIVE BACK to my community in the best way I know how – by creating FUN snail mail experiences for children at no charge. In January 2019, I created a Newfoundland and Labrador – Uganda pen pal exchange as part of my #sendhappiness project.

About The Send Happiness Pen Pal Project

  1. I created special pen pal stationery for the Send Happiness Project featuring all four Petit Mail characters.
  2. We gave approximately 300 elementary students in Newfoundland and Labrador special stationery and envelopes to write a pen pal letter to a student in Uganda. The stationery printing was sponsored by local printer Cre8iv Design & Print (thank you!)
  3. We coordinated the delivery of the pen pal letters (in partnership with Jorja’s Journeys) to children in Uganda and provided the approximately 300 students at the Ssuubi School with special stationery to write a letter back to their pen pal.
  4. Jorja’s Journeys delivered the pen pal letters back to us and we brought them back to the original schools to complete the exchange!
  5. Students in both countries got to learn more about each other – a once in a lifetime opportunity!

Watch More Of The Send Happiness Project In Progress

Images From Our Send Happiness Pen Pal Exchange

Send Happiness Project

The Send Happiness Project has been an AMAZING experience for everyone involved, including me! It has been so rewarding to see the images shown above and to hear the stories from teachers here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thanks to Jorja’s Journeys, local students got to see what school is like for children on the other side of the world – and communicate with them as well!

I delivered the letters in person back to our local schools, and I even got to spend some time with students in Ms. Pottle’s Grade 3 class at St. Theresa’s Elementary. We read our pen pal letters together, and looked at some of the amazing pictures of students in Uganda writing their pen pal letters. Thanks for a great visit Grade 3’s!

About Petit Mail

Petit Mail is an Atlantic Canada business owned and operated by mom and entrepreneur Alison Butler.  Our goal is to share the JOY of snail mail with children.

Story Postcards
Petit Mail story postcards are special stories delivered monthly by snail mail – designed for ages 3 to early reader. The double-sided, illustrated stories encourage reading skills, creativity, imagination, self esteem and more!

With so much of our days filled with technology, it is a wonderful treat to receive real paper mail.

Give your child the gift of a monthly snail mail surprise.


Petit Mail provides something to look forward to receiving together and encourages quality time together as a family. It’s fun, affordable, and gives you a unique way to spend quality time with your kids. Read together and let your story card inspire new ideas and new ways to play!

Pen Pal School

Pen Pal School

Welcome to Pen Pal School! The space for creative kids to learn more about letter writing and discover the JOY of snail mail!

Pen Pal school has EVERYTHING you need to get started with letter writing, including a stationery set AND a pen pal to write to.

It can be challenging to find a reliable pen pal for your child, so we are making it easy!
No more giving your address out to strangers, long response times, or no response from pen pals.

Watch The Pen Pal School Video

What’s Included With Pen Pal School?

As part of the this special membership club, your child will receive:

  • A children’s stationery set of your choice shipped for free to the address provided at checkout
    • stationery sets include:
      • 5 sheets of large lined, full color, illustrated writing paper (11 x 8.5 inch).
      • 3 bright coloured envelopes (size 10) perfectly sized for handwritten letters.
    • pen pal letter writing tips.
  • Lifetime access to the online pen pal school resource page with fun, age-appropriate letter writing instruction videos, including:
    • ideas for what to write in a pen pal letter.
    • how to write a letter.
    • how to address an envelope.
    • introduction to the Petit Mail characters you can write a letter to.
  • The opportunity to use your stationery set to write a letter to one of the Petit Mail characters (and have them write back!)
  • The chance to add-on more letters and responses from a Petit Mail character if your child is enjoying the experience.
Pen Pal School

Join the FUN!

There is so much JOY in sending and receiving snail mail.
Encourage your child to practice:

  • writing skills,
  • spelling,
  • sentence structure,
  • and so much more!

While writing their very own letter to send to one of the Petit Mail characters – Audrey, Milo, Olivia or Oliver.

Then, check the mail and wait for a return envelope from your pen pal! A great chance to practice reading skills in a fun and unique way.

What are you waiting for?

5 Tips To Simplify Kids Clothing

5 Tips To Simplify Kids Clothing

Being a busy working mom with two kids (or any number of kids) is NOT easy.

If we haven’t “met” yet, hello!

I’m Alison, I create Petit Mail, a snail mail subscription experience for preschoolers and early readers, work a full time job at a local non-profit and have two munchkins. Around the time I was pregnant with my son, simplifying and minimalism became regular words in my vocabulary.

I’ve learned so much and I have so many tips, ideas and resources that I want to share with you. These are the tools that I use at home every day to keep my life from feeling totally out of control!

5 Tips To Simplify Kids Clothing

  1. Accept Previously Loved Clothing – this helps to save so much money. You don’t have to keep everything you are given, and can donate or pass along items if you feel you have enough.
  2. Shop At Children’s Consignment Stores – you can find clothing at a fraction of the price, sometimes with the tags still on! Plus this keeps clothing out of the landfill. This works particularly well for babies and toddlers, when clothing is usually in excellent condition.
  3. Purchase Handmade Clothing (Or Make It Yourself!) – if you have less items, you can invest in beautiful, quality, handmade pieces. Support local makers and small business!
  4. Don’t Have More Than What You Need – Anyone ever notice that a lot of children will wear their favourite outfits all the time? Many children are natural minimalists at heart! Get your kids involved – they might be better at simplifying their closets than you are.
  5. Donate or Consign Frequently – I pass along our previously loved children’s clothing to other families regularly. We keep a bag/basket at the top of each child’s closet – as soon as something comes out of the laundry that we know is too small, it gets placed in the donation area. When the bag is full, we try to pass it along right away. We bring gently loved toys and books that our children have outgrown to a local consignment store.

This is just ONE of the areas where I have made changes to make our life at home easier.
You can also read more about how we have reduced our screen time at home to make more room for FAMILY time!

I often feel that weight of working mom guilt, but, one of my solutions has always been to spend short, quality amounts of time with my children – reading, creating, doing “special projects”. I wanted to share that experience with other families, so I created Petit Mail.

It’s an easy, fun experience for families of preschoolers and early readers.

Petit Mail story postcard subscriptions arrive once per month in bright, fun envelopes, addressed directly to your child. The illustrated stories are perfect for reading out loud together, and have activity suggestions and inspiration. Our themes include art, science, nature, imaginative play, and more!

You can get started by trying your first story postcard for just $10 (postage included) in Canada and the US.

Learn more about Petit Mail or about trying a story postcard.

Can’t wait to have you join our snail mail family!

-Alison

Learn About Chanukah with author Lauren Ranalli

If I’m being honest, I start thinking about December sometime around mid-summer. As part of an interfaith family, with my son’s birthday at the beginning of the month, December has always been a Birthday-Chanukah-Christmas extravaganza. And not always in the best way! The prospect of gift buying and giving can be frustrating and I get overwhelmed by the idea of SO. MUCH. STUFF. 

After a few years of turmoil and failed attempts with well-meaning grandparents to limit the influx of new toys, I decided on two things.

  1. Let Christmas be Christmas, in all it’s big-piles-of-presents-glory. The magic and the anticipation is something that won’t last forever. So I’m not going to mess with it.
  2. Remember that Chanukah is not “the Jewish Christmas”. As far as Jewish celebrations are concerned, Chanukah is not considered a major holiday. Growing up, presents were definitely involved, but what I remember most is food and family. 

Last year, those memories were translated in my first children’s book, “The Great Latke Cook Off”- a Chanukah story about family tradition, friendly competition, and delicious recipes (and not one mention of gifts).

Reading the finished book to my kids for the first time was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life! Now that the book has been published, I have started to hear from readers across the country. Many people have shared that this book reminds them of their own family experiences or that it has inspired them to start new cooking traditions. I couldn’t ask for better feedback!

For myself, publishing the book helped me focus in on what I love about Chanukah- family traditions and food! Here are a few of the ways my family celebrates during this busy time of year:

  • Involve others: Each year, we pick one night of Chanukah to invited friends (of all faiths) over to play dreidel and make latkes. I love sharing my grandmother’s recipe with our neighbors, especially those who are enjoying it for the first time! 
  • Focus on experiences: I love to give gifts that allow us to spend time together and help my kids learn new skills. It’s fun to find creative ways for them to unwrap swim lessons, movie tickets, or a coupon for a special dinner out. I round out the others nights with gifts of books and games, things that can be enjoyed again and again.
  • Give back: Tzedakah, or charity, is an important part of Judaism. So we choose one night of Chanukah to not receive gifts, but to donate gifts to others. My kids love going to the store to pick out presents that a child their age will enjoy. And we also take the opportunity to clean out the house and donate items to local non-profits for families in need of assistance (a win-win!). It has become one of our favorite nights of Chanukah and something we all look forward to. 

Whatever your religious or non-religious affiliations, I hope that you’ll find ways to create your own traditions of time with family, friends, and good food. Definitely good food! 

Lauren Ranalli is a children’s book author, public health professional, and mom to two high-spirited, fiercely lovable children. Her books include “The Great Latke Cook Off” and the forthcoming “Snow Day at the Zoo”, “Places We Have Never Been”, and “Tap Dance Ninja”. You can find out more about her work at laurenranalli.com or follow her on Instagram: @lauren.ranalli_author, Facebook: @Lauren Ranalli, author, or Twitter: @LRanalli_author

DIY Liquid Watercolor Paint – Make Paint With Your Preschooler

We are discovering some really simple ways to PREP for art exploration – like making this really simple DIY liquid watercolor paint together.

I’ve been wanting to try liquid watercolor with my 3 year old and I found this simple + inexpensive idea via Katie at Preschool Inspirations (thank you so much!)

This project cost about $10 to make 6 different colours (pretty great, right!)


I purchased the glass jars from our local dollar store, but you could also use containers you have around the house. 


The BEST thing is that creating paint was an activity itself (perfect for a rainy day).


I’ll be sharing much more inspiration for subscribers as part of your story bonus material. We’ll do an art project together inspired by Oliver’s adventures this month. Can’t wait to get started!

DIY Liquid Watercolor
DIY Liquid Watercolor

Looking for more FUN and easy activities to do with your preschooler or early reader?

Petit Mail story postcard subscriptions arrive in bright, fun envelopes, addressed once per month. The illustrated stories are perfect for reading out loud together, and have activity suggestions and inspiration. Our themes include art, science, nature, imaginative play, and more!

You can get started by trying your first story postcard for just $10 (postage included) in Canada and the US.

Learn more about Petit Mail or about trying a story postcard.

Can’t wait to have you join our snail mail family!

-Alison

Kids Pen Pal Ideas (For Littles)

Inspired by our Olivia’s Pen Pal story postcard, I decided to try a kids pen pal exchange between preschoolers and the results were so fun!

Since we are still at an early writing stage, I wanted to keep things fun and simple so I created this pen pal letter template (available as a free bonus download for our subscriber community along with February’s bonus materials – so exciting!) so that we could write a letter to a friend.

Kids Pen Pal Ideas

So far, our pen pal exchange is exceeding my expectations, and has led to all kinds of playful learning and exploration. We have learned:

  • How to look places up on a map
  • Letter and word practice
  • How to address and letter (subscribers will find a video tutorial for kids in our bonus online membership materials for this month’s theme as well!)
  • Scissor practice (to cut out a photo)
  • and so much more!

Story postcard subscriptions from Petit Mail make it so easy to explore the pen pal experience. For just $10 a month* you create the opportunity to bring so much learning and fun into your home! Every month, you will find: 

  • a bright fun envelope addressed to your child, arriving in your mailbox.
  • a colourful, illustrated story from Oliver, Audrey, Milo and Olivia sharing about art, science, creativity, nature and imagination.
  • the opportunity to cuddle up and read together and be inspired by new ideas.
  • bonus surprise items like stickers and bookmarks.
  • activity ideas, tutorials and videos available to subscribers online in the monthly BONUS link (included with your envelope).
  • the chance to be present and spend quality time with your child.

*for a 1 year subscription

If you love the idea of a snail mail subscription for the preschooler or early reader in your life, you can try your first story in Canada or the US for just $10 (postage included)

Alison shares more about the benefits of a preschool pen pal.

More About Our Preschool Pen Pal Exchange

To make the experience a little more educational, I added a hand-written note from me, telling a little bit more about our family, where we live, and the things we enjoy doing together. Given that it is still WINTER, one of our letters got a little wet when it arrived in its destination mailbox, and our package turned into a little bit of a rainbow, but that’s ok, we are embracing the wild color combination!

Pen Pal Letter Template for Kids

NJ was so excited to read something from another little girl her own age. We looked up Michigan on a map, and compared it to where we live in Newfoundland and Labrador.

One of our pen pals, Madelyn, wondered about what it’s like to live near the ocean (quick answer: our ocean is COLD and often stormy, but it’s still oh-so-beautiful) so our project for our next pen pal letter will be to find a nice day and to take some pictures (if we are REALLY lucky, we’ll find a day to get our picture taken with an iceberg in the background as it’s almost iceberg season when pieces of ice start to break off in the Arctic and float their way South). Maybe we will also share some fun facts about animals that we find here, like Puffins and Whales.

Overall, I loved this project and can’t wait to write more pen pal letters!

Kids Pen Pal

Pen Pal Tips For Young Children

  1. If you are exchanging a letter with a child or family you don’t know very well, add your own notes to their letter. Share more about where you live, your family and how your family enjoys spending time together. This really helps to spark their interest in the overall experience.
  2. Add stickers to your letter! Stickers are always a HUGE HIT, in fact, both of our letters were covered with stickers from top to bottom!
  3. Not sure who to write to? Send your letter to a family member or friend with a child around the same age. Or, send mail to a relative of any age and encourage them to write back.

Be sure to check out Petit Mail story postcards.  Available in 3, 6 and 12 month subscription options and delivered every month in bright, fun envelopes.

Learn more about subscriptions here.

4 Tips For Creating Art With Your Preschooler

As part of my quest to spend quality moments with my children every day (even if we don’t have a LOT of time between work, daycare and meals/bedtime routines), I’ve been working on simplifying the ways that we explore together, especially with art!

I’ve put together some practical tips from one mom to another to encourage your child to explore and LOVE art!

1. Don’t be afraid of creating art with your preschooler!

I don’t believe that creating with our littles needs to be complicated, scary or unattainable. YOU CAN be a “creative mom” EVEN if you don’t feel like you are! At this stage, it’s more about the exploration than the outcome BUT that can be hard to remember as a mom in our Pin-tastic world of perfect projects! It’s OK to love all those Pins and use them for inspiration, but our child’s projects don’t have to look like that all the time.

2. It’s OK to be messy!

The key is to be prepared for messy art. Put down some garbage bags or purchase an inexpensive tarp or drop cloth from the dollar store or a local hardware store (these can be reused!)

Be sure to get your children to wear old clothes or painting smocks (I always wore an old shirt of my dad’s when I was little and working on messy “projects”

3. Have a few SIMPLE supplies on hand (here are mine)

You don’t need to have a lot of supplies at home to create art. A few things that I keep in our house for art projects are:

  • A large roll of white paper
  • Paintbrushes
  • Washable paint
  • Scissors
  • Coloured Paper
  • Crayons

Be sure to check out this tutorial for making your own DIY liquid water color paints. It’s a super simple project and we had so much fun creating it together!

4. Use Helpful Resources To Guide You

My goal is to make it really easy for you to connect + create together. Our story postcards arrive in your mailbox in a bright, fun envelope and have an illustrated story, perfect for reading with your preschooler or early reader.

Petit Mail stories always encourage you to learn and discover together with simple, age appropriate activity ideas perfect for learning at home.

The best part? You can try your first story for just $10 in Canada and the US (postage included)

This month, Oliver Explores ART and in our bonus subscriber videos (link included with your story postcard), I’ll be walking you through an art project that you can do together (no complicated materials needed!) – it’s going to be so much fun and I can’t wait for you to receive your cards this month.

Send Happiness Project

Send Happiness Project

Children everywhere LOVE to receive mail – it brightens their day and brings a huge smile to their faces. Our goal is to create MORE smiles (at least 500 in 2019, to be exact) with the Send Happiness Project.

Here at Petit Mail, we want to GIVE BACK in the best way we know how – by personally delivering snail mail to children who might need an extra smile in their day.

What is the Send Happiness Project?

  1. You purchase a “Send Happiness Project” story postcard or letter (we’ll choose one based on the child’s age).  Every postcard and letter purchased is delivered directly to a child.
  2. We will match EVERY purchase with a donation (1 purchased = 1 donated)
  3. We deliver a Petit Mail story to a child, in person, to brighten their day.

Card and letter themes for the Send Happiness Project include:

  • Audrey The Superhero
  • Milo Loves Reading
  • Oliver Explores Art

Petit Mail’s chosen mail delivery locations for 2019 include:

  • Janeway Children’s Hospital, St. John’s, NL
  • IWK Children’s Hospital, Halifax, NS (with corporate partner Unified Health)

EVERY purchase of a story card or letter makes a difference and will bring a smile to a child’s face!  

Cards and letters will be delivered between January and April, 2019.

The send Happiness Project is not affiliated with any religious or charitable organization.  Petit Mail is an Atlantic Canada business owned and operated by mom and entrepreneur Alison Butler.  Our goal is to bring smiles to the faces of children. 

We are also supporting the Send Happiness Project – Uganda

About Petit Mail

Story Postcards
Petit Mail story postcards are designed for ages 3 to early reader.
The double-sided, illustrated stories encourage reading skills, creativity, imagination, self esteem and more!
Story postcards are delivered in a bright, fun envelope.

Letters

Petit Mail letters are written for children ages 6 and up.
The double-sided, illustrated letter encourages reading skills, creativity, imagination, self esteem and more!
Letters are delivered in a bright, fun envelope.

Overwhelmed Mom? Learn How I’ve Changed and You Can Too

Overwhelmed Mom

For years I was an overwhelmed mom.

After I had my children I felt so much guilt around not doing “enough” and not being “enough”.

As a mom who works outside the home, I struggled constantly with feeling like I wasn’t spending enough quality time with my children during those few precious hours in the evenings.

I was so tired of feeling this way so I created a simple way to slow down, take a breath, and create those quality moments I felt like I was missing, and you can too.

 

The first step is simple and easy. Sit down to read together and explore small creative activities connected to the things you read.

It doesn’t have to be complicated! I will help guide you through the process and give you step-by-step activity ideas.

Are you the Mom of a Preschooler?

I invite you to read along with “Olivia’s Acts of Kindness” – a free story sent to you by e-mail and personalized with your child’s first name.

This story is the perfect way to make reading with your preschooler fun and interesting PLUS the story encourages new skills, like empathy and kindness.

Overwhelmed Mom

So forget about the overwhelm and sign up below to get your story.

No More Overwhelmed Mom – Take the first, simple step to feeling more connected to your littles today.

Screen Free Time: Activities, Tips & Inspiration

Screen Free Family

Why Screen Free Time?

Becoming a mother seems to have successfully brought out every ounce of guilt that’s in my pores.

Do you feel the same?  It’s like no matter what…..BOOM, there’s the guilt, lurking around every corner just waiting for me.

I banned the word “busy” from my vocabulary and spent the past few years simplifying our lives, and I feel like things are so. much. better.

but there were still a lot of days when I wasn’t taking the time to CONNECT with my children.  
I felt like I wasn’t getting that QUALITY time with them (especially on weeknights).

Evening hours with my family are SUPER important to me, but, they are also my HARDEST time of day.
In addition to everyone being tired after a long day, my husband and I are also attempting to prepare a healthy meal and all sit down at the table together.

There’s A Time For Screens 

Screens play a really important role in our world.  I believe there are many benefits of using screens, such as:

  • helping with homework (games and apps for math, science and reading)
  • learning about the world
  • staying connected with family and friends

However I feel that balance and moderation are the keys to success with screens and screen time in general.  Not just for my children but also for MYSELF (and changing our own habits is always the hardest part, right?)

Screen Free Time Is For The Whole Family

I don’t know about you, but when I’m tired, I find it so hard to be creative, and it’s so easy to just go the simple route and turn on the TV for the kids, or mindlessly stare at the glowing screen on my phone, because then I don’t have to think….or do….or feel.

It’s EASY, but most of the time it doesn’t FEEL right, and out creeps that guilt again.

So, I came up with a plan.

I decided that the solution is to make screen free time easy for myself and my family and turn screen free time into a routine.  No thinking.  Very little preparation.

We have chosen to have screen free time in the afternoons when we get home (I have lots of activity suggestions below), and also plan special “screen free days” on the weekend (about once a month or so) where we can focus on spending time together as a family.

Watch Alison’s 4 Tips for Screen Free Time For The Whole Family

Planning Your Screen Free Time: Summary

1. Put It In The Calendar
Having set times for screen free activities helps makes it easier to follow-through and be consistent with your screen-free schedule.

2. Prepare Your Children In Advance

Talking about your screen free time in advance can really help your children be prepared and prevent negative attitude around screen free activities. I prep my 7 and 3 year old to know when screens will and won’t be allowed.

3. Make A Plan

Make screen free time FUN! Plan fun activities and things to do together as a family.  See some of my suggestions below.

4. Tell Important People About Your Screen Free Time

I encourage everyone in the family to be screen free and that includes phones.  If there are people who might be trying to reach you during your family time, it’s a great idea to let them know in advance “hey, I won’t have my phone nearby on Sundays because it’s family time…if you need to reach me in an emergency, do X”

Screen Free Time For Kids: Activity Ideas

  1. Go for a Family Walk or Hike – My children LOVE exploring.  It’s so easy, and doesn’t cost a thing.  Find some nature near you and explore.  I am always amazed at how much learning my daughter does while we are hiking (leadership, safety, counting, observing, wellness and more!)
  2. Build Together with Legos or Blocks
  3. Play Board Games – some family-recommended games for younger children include Trouble, Uni, Connect 4, and Guess Who.
  4. Do Age-Appropriate Puzzles Together
  5. Go To The Playground or a nearby Park
  6. Build A Fort
  7. Try A Science Experiment
  8. Go To The Library – bonus, find out if your local library has a free storytime.  We love going to our local library
  9. Make homemade cards or write a kindness note
  10. Bake or cook together – even really young children love to be “kitchen helpers”
  11. Visit friends
  12. Make your own play dough
  13. Play dress up and use your imagination
  14. Make puppets or shadow puppets
  15. Make a collaborative family painting – have everyone paint on the same piece of paper or canvas
  16. Read together
  17. Paint Faces
  18. Look at Family Photos Together – my children love to look at our photo albums and at their baby pictures
  19. Help Out Around the House – my 3 year old loves helping with laundry and my 7 year old loves helping with cleaning (squirt/spray bottle fun), if they ENJOY doing tasks, let them help!
  20. Have a fancy tea party
  21. Make a Craft
  22. Plant Some Seeds
  23. Take Silly Photos of Each Other
  24. Go To Your Local Farmer’s Market
  25. Build Something From A Cardboard Box – use your imagination – a house, a car, a spaceship – the sky is the limit!

Screen Free Time Tools & Resources

I created Petit Mail story postcards as a way to slow down, take a breath and create those quality moments with my child that I felt I was missing. It’s a simple and fun way to start focusing on screen free time with your preschooler.

Listen to Alison’s interview on the Raiseology Podcast with Dr. Sharon Somekh.

Do you have a hard time thinking of activities for screen-free time like we do? Tune into this episode of the Raiseology Podcast to hear Sharon interview Alison Butler on her trick to make screen-free time SIMPLE. We know that this tip will work even on those tired days when it would be easier to just turn the TV on.

Book:  The Joy of Missing Out by Christina Crook

Screen Free Time