Have you ever thought about keeping track of the Chinese words your child has learnt in one place? Would you like to make learning Mandarin Chinese or any second language FUN for your little one? We do. Our solution is to create a DIY wooden mailbox (or alternatively a DIY cardboard mailbox if you don’t know how to make wood toys) so to encourage playful learning.
If this is your first time reading my blog, we’re a bilingual family speaks English and Mandarin Chinese. We live in Australia, where English is the dominant language. I’m homeschooling my daughter Mandarin Chinese, and we like to create DIY wooden toys to make learning FUN for our child. Find out more about us here.
Let’s get back to making a DIY mailbox with wood or cardboard.
You have two options:
Optin 1. If you suck with woodwork like me, you can use cardboard to make one.
Optin 2. If you are good with woodwork like my hubby Mark, try to make one because a wooden mailbox is more durable.
We’ll show you both ways in this post. Either way, your child will be guaranteed loving it.
What? I hear you ask. Hold on a sec. What’s a wooden or cardboard mailbox toy got to do with leaning?
Well, we use the wooden mailbox as a word box to collect all the Chinese words my daughter has learnt over time, to play word games and for future revisions of those words.
I’ve detailed how we encourage playful learning by using this wooden mailbox in my read-and-learn blog post ‘I Broke My Trunk 长鼻子折了’. So do check it out.
Having said that, it’s a toy mailbox, you can play whatever way you like with your child.
So, without further ado, let’s get right into it.
In this post, you’ll see two step-by-step guides in two parts:
- Part 1 is how to make a wooden mailbox.
- Part 2 is how to make a cardboard mailbox.
Feel free to jump to the option/part that works for you.
Part 1 – How to make a DIY wooden mailbox.
Before jumping into it, I highly recommend that you watch our video tutorial below first. Then, come back read this post for more details and download the label templates.
Please note: by following our tutorial, we assume that you are familiar with woodworks and the electrical tools. If not, take the second option and go to Part 2 to see how we made a cardboard mailbox.
Step 1. Get materials ready for the wooden mailbox.
- 1 x piece of plywood ( size: 1meter x 1meter, 12mm in thickness)
- 2 sets of hinges with screws (hinge size: 20mm x 35mm)
- 1 x M6 50mm long bolt
- 2 x M6 nuts
- 2 x M6 Brass washers
- 1 x flat steel (size 15mm x 40mm with one M6 (6mm) hole only, 1.2mm in thickness). Note we didn’t buy this piece. Instead, we cut this piece off a steel bracket. You can do that too. Remember you only need to drill one M6 (6mm) hole.
- 1 pack of 25mm Bullet head nails ( we bought a pack of 100, but you won’t need that many. Use as needed).
- 1 bottle of white spray paint for an undercoat.
- 1 bottle of red spray paint for the topcoat.
- 1 bottle of PVA wood glue(250ml).
Step 2. Prepare the two side pieces.
- Measure two exact pieces on the plywood in this size: 220mm x 350mm.
- Measure 110mm from the top on both pieces. See photo or tutorial.
- Draw the 1st 110mm radius on both pieces.
- Draw the 2nd radius, 12mm in from the first radius, on both pieces.
- Mark 130mm in from the left side of the panel and draw seven little squares on both pieces.
- Cut both side pieces off (see our tutorial). Trim and sand the sharp edges.
- Cut out 14 pieces of little cubes (12mm x 12mm) from the plywood.
- Glue seven pieces each on the squares you’ve drawn before on both parts – 12mm from the edge.
Step 3. Prepare the front piece,
- Measure one piece on the plywood as per the sizes in the image.
- Drill a 10mm pilot hole.
- Cut out the door starting from the pilot hole. (Note, after the door is cut out, you will need to trim 2mm off the door on the 4 sides so to make the door to 138mm x 138mm. By doing this, the door can fit in the 148mm hole later on).
- After cutting out the door, drill a 6mm hole on the right-hand side 15mm from the edge (see photo).
Step 4. Prepare the curved and back piece.
- The curved top and back piece is one piece (see photo).
- Measure one piece on the plywood as per the sizes shown in the image. Please note that the 60mm offcut length on the left is for off cut / precaution. When you assemble wooden mailbox later, you will need to cut some wood off the 60mm length when you curve the top to fit.
- Cut the groove lines to 9mm depth on the lines that you’ve drawn. But, DO NOT CUT THROUGH! Leave 3mm uncut or connected because you will need this to curve the wood for the top of the mailbox.
Step 5. Prepare the mail slot piece.
Measure and cut one section on the plywood as per the sizes in the image.
Step 6. Prepare the top front piece that’s will be connecting the mail slot piece.
- Measure and cut one section on the plywood as per the sizes in the image.
- Bevel both the longer sides (i.g.200mm sides) of the front piece to 20-degree angles.
Step 7. Prepare the base piece.
- Measure and cut a separate part of the plywood (size: 250mm x 250mm) as the base of the wooden mailbox
Step 8. Door handle.
- Measure and cut another part of plywood in this (size: 20mm x 45mm)
- Drill an M6(6mm) hole.
Step 9. Prepare the door handle stop.
- You can either buy or make this piece yourself (size: 15mm x 40mm with one M6 hole only).
- We used what we had around the house by cutting an old steel bracket. That’s why you see two holes. But, you only need one M6 (6mm) hole.
Step 10. Prepare the two front door stop pieces.
- Measure and cut 2 x pieces (size: 40mm x 200mm)
Step 11. Trim and assemble the wooden mailbox.
- Trim and cut the excess wood to fit, particularly when curving the top.
- Glue the pieces you’ve prepared so far, EXCEPT FOR THE DOOR, THE BASE and the DOOR HANDLE, using the PVC wood glue. You may need to clamp the glued pieces to hold the box in place after glue. Please wait for it to dry.
- Once the glue is dried, use the 25mm bullet head nails to secure around the edges.
- Sand off the sharp edges so it’s smooth for the little hands.
Step 12. Spray a WHITE undercoat inside of the mailbox, the base, the door and door handle.
- Mask the edges of the base – that is, the four sides where you can see outside of the box when you have the main body of the wooden box on.
- Spray the white undercoat inside of the box, on the base, the door and the door handle. Let it dry.
- Don’t take off the masking tape on the base because we’ll need to spray the red topcoat next.
Step 13. Spray a RED topcoat inside of the mailbox, the base, the door and door handle.
- With the masking tape on the 4 sides of the base on, spray the base, the red topcoat inside of the box, the door and the door handle. Let it dry.
- Once the red topcoat dried, take the masking tape off the base.
Step 14. Glue the base onto the main body of the wooden mailbox (see video tutorial). Let it dry.
Step 15. Spray a WHITE undercoat outside of the mailbox.
- Mask the door opening
- Spray the white undercoat outside of the box. Let it dry.
Step 16. Spray RED topcoat outside of the mailbox.
- Spray the red topcoat outside of the box. Let it dry.
Step 17. Put the door on.
- Fix the door on the box with the two hinges.
- Put the door handle on.
Step 18. Stick the mail labels on the mailbox
- Download the label templates from this blog post. If you don’t want to have the Chinese text, you can use the English only labels.
- Print them on A4 white sticker papers in colour.
- Cut and stick the labels on the mailbox.
Voila. It’s done! Your child will love this DIY wooden mailbox and it will last for many years to come.
Part 2 – How to make a DIY cardboard mailbox.
Comparing to the wooden mailbox, making a cardboard mailbox is EASY!
Step 1. Find a cardboard box that’s slightly bigger than a shoebox. We used 240 x 360mm box in the photo. But you can use what’s available in your house. The process is the same.
Step 2. Tape all the open edges to make the box taller if your cardboard box is small.
Step 3. Draw and cut the mail slot and the door as we did.
Step 4. Paint or spray WHITE undercoat. Let it dry.
Step 5. Paint or spray RED undercoat. Let it dry.
Step 6. Glue the labels on. Then you are done!
As I said earlier, not everyone can make a wooden mailbox. But you can at least make one mailbox with cardboard.
The goal here is to make learning FUN for your child as well as to show your child toys can be made with two hands, not just buying from the shop. Having your child involved in the processing of making a toy is a creative and sensory play itself.
Give it a go. I know you can do this. Keep me posted.
How do you encourage your child learning Chinese and making DIY toys at home? Love to hear your story. Leave your comments below or go to Panda Mama Chinese community to start the conversation. Happy learning and happy creating!