It’s mid-May, which means that summer vacation is right around the corner for nearly 56 million pre-Kindergarten through high school students in the US. While things like sun protection and pool safety are top of mind for many parents, staving off summer learning loss should not be overlooked. According to a recent study, student may lose between an average of 25 to 30 percent of what they learned during the school year over the summer months. Keeping a child’s mind as active as her body over the summer months is one way to lessen the potential backslide.
That’s where Mail Order Mystery can help. When GeekDad reviewed Mail Order Mystery’s initial product, Treasure Hunt!, back in 2016, that was the only scenario the company offered. In the two years since, Mail Order Mystery has added two more adventures to their line. In this post, we will take a look at The Enchanted Slumber, which is aimed at the lower end of the recommended age range of eight to thirteen years old that all Mail Order Mystery products carry.
How Mail Order Mystery Works
Parents, grandparents, or anyone who is interested can go to the Mail Order Mystery website and select the product they want to order. The prices are listed on the website. At the time I am typing this, Treasure Hunt! and The Enchanted Slumber are both listed at $77 and the company’s third product, Spies, Lies, & Serious Bad Guys! is listed at $85. Shipping runs about $9 for each.
During the order process, the purchaser indicates the name of the recipient of the mystery. Shortly after the order has been processed, the recipient will receive an envelope in the mail addressed to him or her. Another envelope arrives approximately a week later, until the recipient has received all six envelopes in the mystery. The materials included in each envelope are addressed to the recipient. The contents of the six envelopes are broken down below.
The first envelope contained a letter from the latest in a line of knights tasked with protecting and attempting to wake a princess who has fallen into an enchanted sleep. The knight is asking the recipient for assistance. Should the recipient decide to help, there is a contract between the knight and the child, which the child is to sign. Included in the first envelope is the first cipher for the child to decode.
I’ll admit that my eight year old daughter and I were a little disappointed at first. The letter was age-appropriately charming and funny, as the knight sure seems to think a lot of himself and his position, but there was no way we could decode the cipher. We weren’t given the key. It was a bit of a disappointing introduction in that respect.
The second envelope contained what felt like the proper introduction to the adventure. Enclosed was a letter from a troll who is also working on the task of waking the princess. The troll included three riddles in his letter, which drew my twelve year old daughter and thirteen year old son to the table. Between the three of them, they worked out the riddles. Also included in the second envelope was the key to the cipher in the first envelope. Finally, the second envelope contained a small burlap sack. Inside the sack was a piece of a charm–the puzzle piece border suggesting it was the first in a series–with the same symbols engraved upon it as the original cipher.
Between the riddles, deciphering the original cipher, and figuring out the message on the charm, the second envelope rekindled my child’s interest in the adventure. Had the first envelope included a message that told the recipient that it is okay if they can’t decipher the original cipher and that following envelopes would help, then I don’t think the initial frustration and disappointment would have been as big a deal. Additionally, we had received all six envelopes in the adventure at once (to expedite this review) so we were able to move from envelope one to envelope two immediately. Had we been required to wait a week for the second envelope, I don’t know whether the disappointment would have faded in light of having another envelope to open or whether she would have lost interest altogether.
The third envelope contained the answers to the riddles in envelope two, a new cipher that we don’t have the key for (although puzzle-minded kids might be able to figure out the key in the week between envelopes, maybe), and a second charm engraved with symbols from the original cipher.
While the story was still fun and engaging, receiving ciphers we can’t work without further clues, instruction, or the key was still a bummer. At this point, my daughter’s interest was purely in piecing together the charms and finding out the full message engraved on them.
The fourth envelope is where the story started to come together. My daughter’s eyes lit up as she read the letter aloud. This envelope included an interactive piece, where the recipient received three new (and slightly more difficult) riddles and was encouraged to write the answers on the paper and send the answers back to the company, represented by an ogre in this adventure. Also included was the key to deciphering the cipher from the previous envelope.
The fifth envelope contained the answers to the last envelope’s riddles, a new puzzle to work through, and the final charm.
The sixth and final envelope was oversized. Inside was a book that told the story of the sleeping princess, the knight, the troll, the dragon (did I mention the dragon as one of the former keepers of a piece of the charm?), and the recipient of the adventure who worked to figure out the puzzles and free the princess from her sleep.
There were a pair of envelopes glued into the book. One contained a necklace for the recipient to wear (since the necklace made by combining the charms doesn’t really combine into a solid piece) and a final contract from the knight whose letter started the whole adventure.
Overall, my daughter really enjoyed working through The Enchanted Slumber. The only criticism was that receiving the unworkable cipher right off the bat in envelope one was a drag. Had envelopes one and two been swapped, then it would have been a less frustrating experience.
The story was funny and engaging. The riddles were workable, but required thinking. Having an older brother and sister to bounce ideas off of helped, and the riddles continually drew the older kids back into the adventure. The pieces were well crafted. Goofy as it might sound, one of the touches my daughter absolutely loved was the “wax” (rubber) seal on some of the small envelopes included within the larger envelopes and within the book.
The Enchanted Slumber is a fun product on a number of levels. Simply getting a letter in the mail can be a treat for a kid. Working out the story over a series of weeks, figuring out the puzzles, and piecing together the charm are a great way to keep a child’s mind active over the summer. The Enchanted Slumber would make a great gift, particularly for kids who grew up with Gravity Falls and its like.
Disclaimer: A copy of The Enchanted Slumber was provided for review purposes. All opinions are my own.