When I’m putting together my annual gift guide for you, I look for gifts that engage children’s creativity, imagination, and problem-solving. In the course of that quest this year, the girls and I have discovered what has turned out to be one of their favourite gifts of all time: the gift of intrigue and adventure in a Mail Order Mystery!
Basically, Mail Order Mystery is a story for kids told through a series of installments that come in the mail. That description doesn’t even begin to cover the magic of the whole thing though. Once a week, a mysterious envelope or package arrived in the mail addressed directly to each of my daughters. Each mailing contained handwritten letters, secret missions, newspaper articles, and book pages, along with old keys, mysterious objects, puzzles to solve, codes to crack, and clues of all kinds.
I didn’t tell the girls that I’d signed them up for their very own Mail Order Mystery. Instead, they were both very surprised to receive mysterious letters in the mail one day. Hmmm. What could this be about? Who had sent them? Both girls were over the moon excited to get their very own mail, and they could barely wait long enough to get home to open them.
Tee’s Treasure Hunt! Mystery started with a letter from a stranger on the other side of the world, along with an old key and a note from a long-dead pirate who just happened to be her great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather. She’s spent many hours over the last few weeks reading her mail, breaking ciphers (hers and her sister’s), reading maps, solving clues, and wondering, “Is it real, Mommy? I think it’s real.”
Kay’s The Enchanted Slumber Mystery opened with a letter from Sir Homer, a knight whose only task was to guard a sleeping princess. With time running out, Sir Homer wrote to Kay asking for her help to wake the princess. Kay needed some help with all the reading, but she was just as enchanted by the unfolding story as the unfortunate princess. From the first wax-sealed mission in her first letter, she was eager to practice her daily conditioning routine and prepare herself for the adventure to come.
Part of the fun was their breathless anticipation for the next installment to arrive in the mail.
Every week brought some answers to the previous week’s puzzles, but also more questions. It wasn’t until the final mailing that everything was revealed, and each girl received a unique keepsake of their experience that they will treasure long after their letters have come to an end.
Mail Order Mysteries are designed for kids 8-11, but the stories we tried would also work for kids as young as 6. Honestly though, I was almost as into it as the kids were. I only wish that this had been around when I was a kid! Actually, the whole family got involved. We took turns reading the letters out loud and worked on deciphering the puzzles together. I wasn’t expecting that when we first started, so the family time was a welcome bonus!
Need another reason to love this idea? Think of it as a fun way to help motivate a reluctant reader. They’ll be reading, writing, problem-solving, and exercising their critical thinking skills without even realizing it.
The attention to detail was outstanding. Each envelope was meticulously prepared with carefully aged papers, handwritten notes, ciphers and riddles, and even an entire made up magazine, many of them personally addressed to the girls.
You can choose to have all the envelopes mailed to you at once (perfect for doling out on a daily basis over the winter holidays) or one envelope once a week for six weeks. They even sent me an email before the first installment went out, and another email when the last one was mailed so I knew to keep an eye on the mailbox.
Mail Order Mystery has created a completely immersive experience that every child will love. I can’t recommend them highly enough, and my girls both agree. These truly are a gift of wonder, magic, and mystery for Christmas and year round!
Mail Order Mystery currently offers three different mysteries: Treasure Hunt! ($99), The Enchanted Slumber ($99), and Spies, Lies and Serious Bad Guys ($109). After you purchase, you can download and print out a gift note to put in your card or under the tree.
Disclosure: I received sample items to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed are completely honest and my own, based on my personal experience. Your experience may differ.