Useful Junkmail-An Oxymoron

I hate wasting things. I’d probably be a hoarder if I didn’t hate clutter so much. Because of my unique combination of personality traits that God has created me with, I try to find non-traditional uses for things that I would otherwise just throw away (If I can’t find an alternative use for something I still throw it away, so in case you were wondering, no, I don’t have a big ball of dental floss hidden in a cupboard somewhere in my house). One of the items that keeps coming into my house, that really has no traditional usefulness, is junk mail. Since we have such a plethora of it, I have through the years come up with a few creative, educational uses for the junk mail I am constantly receiving.

Blank Paper

I must admit that most of the paper my children use to draw pictures on or for crafts, is already used on one side. When I get an 8 ½” by 11” paper advertisement, I check the back to see if it is blank. If so, then it goes in the “blank” paper bin. Rarely do my children get a pure white piece of paper to use. This is just normal in our house.


For my preschool aged child, I have him circle all of a particular letter on a piece of junk mail. Political letters usually have larger font and work well for this. If he is working on the letter D, I have him circle all of the capital and lowercase D’s that he can find. I might even have him circle all the capital D’s in green and all the lowercase D’s in red.

For a kindergarten aged child, I might have him circle all the vowels he can find, or a specific sight-word that he is learning. Circling sight-words in junk mail is great because he has to learn to recognize the same sight word in many different fonts.

Though I haven’t used circle-its for math much, I suppose I could use this same approach for the math concept my child is working on as well. If my elementary aged child is working on decimals, I could have him circle all the numbers he can find that contain a decimal or a fraction.

Scissors skills

My kindergartener loves to cut. I have him cut out coupons for me often. When he was first learning to cut on the lines, I would have him cut out coupons that I didn’t want to keep. That way I didn’t mind if he cut through the middle of them. Now he cuts out the coupons I want, so it saves me the time of doing it and he gets the practice of cutting. I also have him cut out different pictures that he likes, so he learns to cut irregular shapes as well.


I use junk mail in addition to old magazines for art collages. My boys especially love the grocery ads when making colleges because they like to include pictures of snacks on their collages. I also use this type of junk mail for origami. Yes, paper airplanes count as origami, but I also have a book of real origami that I bought at a garage sale that I bring out on occasion. In addition, there are entire books written on creating art from recycled paper. Many of those projects would apply to the use of junk mail.


Of course having my child read the junk mail to me is an obvious educational use. In addition to the obvious reading skills being practiced, he often encounters new vocabulary and ideas this way. I use this as an opportunity to discuss these new vocabulary words and ideas (both good and bad) with my son.

My children are not old enough yet, but when they are, I plan to have them proofread the junk mail for correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. I am amazed at the amount of grammatical errors I notice in the junk mail and the newspaper. For instance I frequently see the word “there” used in places where “they’re” should be used.


My children aren’t old enough yet for this one either, but I keep it in mind for the future. I could have them convert different mathematical units that they read. This could be done different ways. If they read a decimal number, I could have them convert it to a fraction. If they read an english measurement (for example miles), I could have them convert it to a metric measurement (for example kilometers). There are lots of possibilities here.

Obviously there are many different types of junk mail (newspapers, ads, political letters, credit card offers, etc.), so the specific type of junk mail that I get dictates the possible uses of it.

What creative ways do you use your junk mail that I haven’t listed above? Have you used circle-it’s for math? If so, how have you done it?



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