Object of the Month: Railway Service Car

2 (2)On a recent trip to the Postal Museum, I was reacquainted with how perfect the National Postal Museum is for young children. Throughout the experience, there were two things that stuck out to me – hands-on objects and imaginative experiences.

It is too difficult to highlight the whole Museum, so I will focus on the Railway Service Car located in the Atrium. You step into the train car and immediately you are in another world. It is a child friendly space (although at times, you will need to pick your child up to see everything) that allows children to move their bodies and engage in tactile experiences. The car recreates what it would have been like to sort mail on a moving train in America following the Civil War.

2Within this small space there are a lot of opportunities for your child. The letter sorting is a fun way to spy a letter – V is for Virginia or D for DC.  Caretakers can lift up children to allow little hands to practice placing the mail into the slots. It is also a great way for a few young children to build their team working skills. You might want to play a game of passing, sorting, and delivering envelopes from the train. You can even watch this video beforehand for inspiration and it is great for adults who are interested in learning more.

1Though the bags in the exhibit are secured, a clever caretaker might bring a few small bags and give the children a chance to carry the bags or even compare weight — all of the sudden your visit into a STEM lesson!  Those letter bags are also a great place to stop and do a simple sorting activity. You can sort blocks by colors or shapes to explain how the bags were used to sort mail by location. This a simple way to introduce some math too!

1 (2)Consider using the train as an anchor object to compare with other forms of transportation in the hall. With some Velcro and photos, you can create a visual timeline showing the progression of a carriage, train, plane, and truck. You can actually get inside the truck and steer – they will love it. Of course, you can also introduce your young child to the concept of mail and how it moves from one place to another. Its a great opportunity to have them help you compose a postcard to a loved one and then send it off.

End your visit with a stop to say hello to Owney the dog and read more about his post office travels.