Despite the internet’s always-on availability, it hasn’t taken away the appeal of receiving information in more old fashioned ways, such as through the mail. Subscription boxes have taught us that. But what if your kids are looking for something that is more of a storytelling adventure, rather than a box of “cool stuff” or electronics or cooking ingredients? Mail Order Mystery will keep your kids interested, engaged, and wondering what will come next for weeks.
Mail Order Mystery is a series of six mailings that are sent to your recipient, once per week, from a location in Canada. The first one introduces a pirate-related mystery that will unfold over the six mailings, with each subsequent one adding more and more clues as to what is going on. Though children are encouraged to search for clues and solve puzzles as the mailings arrive, the story is brought to a close with the sixth and final mailing (which comes by parcel post instead of in an envelope), regardless of what kind of work the kids have done in the meantime.
Rather than spoil the fun by detailing what’s in each of the sixth mailings, I’ll sum it up by saying that there are treasure maps, letters, newspaper articles, artifacts, and red herrings. If you are looking for more detail to see if it would suit your child, visit the Mail Order Mystery site to read a more thorough description. But do it when your kids aren’t looking! No sense in spoiling their fun.
A perfect activity designed for kids age eight and up, my kids were just shy of 12 and 15 when we had the opportunity to try it out this spring. What did they think?
Both of my kids already had code cracking experience, and my daughter ran straight to her code-cracking books and materials after we received the first mailing. This helped them dig right in, but not to worry, the second mailing gives you what you need to sort out what comes in the first one if you don’t have any deciphering tools already. External resources, other than paper and pencil, aren’t required.
By the time we got to the final mailing, my kids were satisfied by the story’s resolution and enjoyed thoroughly the contents of mailing number six. Both thought the whole experience was fun, but I do think they would have enjoyed it even more a few years ago. So I’d recommend it for kids aged five to twelve, probably, assuming you, as parent, are participating as well. For kids to do alone, probably age eight to fourteen would be a good range, depending on your kid.
A few bits of advice:
- Number the envelopes as they come in, so you can always keep them in order.
- When a new mailing arrives, review with your kids what has already been covered before they open the new envelope.
- Depending on their age, help your kids through the mystery, but always allow them to speculate. Keep your theories to yourself until the end.
- There is a lot of reading to do in this mystery, so offer to read to your kids if they struggle.
- Though the storyline isn’t at all scary, know your audience well in regard to their preference regarding pirates.
- Since you will hold all of the pieces of the mystery at the end, you can bring it all out again from time to time to re-experience the storyline, or share with younger siblings when they are old enough.
If you have more questions, check out the Mail Order Mystery FAQ page.
The price of this Mail Order Mystery is $77, plus about $9 shipping. The quality of the materials they send is pretty decent, on quality paper with good printing. The non-paper items are also quite nice. You can tell that a lot of effort went into making it an authentic experience, so I think that the price holds up compared with the value of what you get. Especially since it’s the gift that keeps giving, for six whole weeks. You can start the mystery on whatever day you choose for your recipient, which makes it a great idea for a birthday or other kind of gift. In addition, the company will be making new mysteries in the future, including one for Spies. Ooo!
So, give your kids a reason to turn off their devices and engage with you and each other. Give them a reason to look forward to getting the mail. Mail Order Mysteries is an exceptionally fun experience, and I’m very glad they’ll be making new mysteries in the future.
Note: My kids received the series of mailings for review purposes.