This is a fun spin on the tried and true awesomeness of writing to a pen pal. But we aren’t just going to send our pen pal a letter, we're going to send them a custom excavation kit we made just for them to get in the mail, dig in, and enjoy.


Excavating Adventures Pro Tip: There are many online websites and resources to connect pen pals. Be sure to do a little research and make sure you are using a reputable source. You can also ask friends and family for pen pal recommendations.



Empty Altoids tin

Sand – You can even use colored sand!

Plaster of Paris

Measuring cup

Mixing bowl

Wooden spoon


Excavation items – You will want to choose something that you think your pen pal will enjoy finding in the excavation. Pretty rocks, gems, crystals, fossils, shells, special coins, plastic toys or trinkets, and even inexpensive jewelry are all great ideas of things to add to your pen pal excavation.

Optional – Glitter, paint, paintbrush, stickers, sequins, and other ways to decorate the tin.

Popsicle or wooden dowel that you will send with the excavation as a dig tool.

Bubble wrap

Padded envelope


Not ready to make your own excavation, but still want to send one to a pen pal or friend? Check out our awesome selection of excavation kits for sale!



  1. This step is optional, but you may want to paint and decorate the Altoids tin. You can even decorate the tin with stickers.
  2. Place your excavation items in the tin.
  3. Mix a 1/2 cup of plaster with 1 ½ cups of sand.
  4. Add ½ cup of water and mix thoroughly.
  5. Pour the mixture over the excavation items and fill the tin nearly to the rim. Leave about a ¼ inch of space between the rim on the tin and the mixture.
  6. Place the excavation in front of a fan for at least 24 hours until it is completely dry.
  7. While you are waiting for your excavation to dry, write your pen pal a nice letter. Be sure to explain the excavation and instruct them to use the popsicle stick as a dig tool. Be sure to let them know they must wear safety glasses while digging to avoid getting dust and debris in their eyes.
  8. Once your pen pal excavation is dry, close the lid and wrap the tin with bubble wrap.
  9. Put the address on the envelope.
  10. Place the tin, excavation tool, and letter in the envelope.
  11. Take the pen pal excavation to the post office and purchase postage. This is to ensure the correct amount of postage has been purchased so that the letter reaches its destination. The postage should be less than five dollars if you are shipping from a US address to another US address.
  12. Mail your pen pal excavation and wait to see if your recipient responds.


Here is another fun way to send a custom excavation to your pen pal without making it yourself. Check out our Build Your Own Excavation kit and add your own selection of items to send to your pen pal. Want to know something even cooler than this? You can get the Build Your Own Excavation for free by earning points with our Digital Dig program!