Originally Sent: 11/20/2014
November 20, 2014
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The holidays are just around the corner, and that often means gift-giving … and receiving—which necessitates a proper and appropriate show of appreciation: a thank-you note. Once our children are old enough to scribble with crayon on paper, they can help send a note of appreciation.
Who should receive a thank-you note? Well, the traditional rule of thumb is that, for starters, a note should always be sent to express gratitude for a gift opened when the giver was not present.
At the holidays, I kept a notepad nearby as children opened gifts from far-away relatives so we could record which gift was given to whom by whom. As the children got older, they were encouraged—and later, expected—to keep track of these themselves. To make it easier, since we lived far from our large, extended family, I had each child make a master sheet with the names of each person from whom she was likely to open a gift at the holiday—then when she opened it, she had only to find the name on the list and record the gift. This made it easier to write a specific thank-you note, when she could have a visual reminder of all that was included.
• Pick out stationery or cards in advance—better yet, let them make their own cards or note paper.
• Buy some festive postage stamps.
• Provide colorful pens or pencils, stickers, even monogrammed labels or sealing wax, to encourage creativity.
Make it an occasion
Make it a family affair, with all the children (and mom and dad!) composing their notes together. Finish the writing event with a game and hot cocoa or another treat.
Keep it age-appropriate
Rachel Ramey of Titus 2 Homemaker says:
For anyone in our household old enough to wield a pencil, [thank-you notes] are non-negotiable. The older children are taught to say thank you for the gift, say one thing specific about it (what they spent the money on, that they like the color of the shirt, etc.), and write (at least) one more sentence unrelated to the gift (I love and miss you; how is the baby—whatever).
The younger ones, just learning to write, generally just do fill-in-the-blanks: Dear ______. Thank you for ____________. Love, ________. It develops the habit, but doesn’t strain their limited writing ability.
When Grandma sends a present, you can prompt your toddler to narrate to you what he likes about the gift, then you write the thank-you note and let your toddler scribble at the bottom of it (then translate for Grandma!). Tell him he’s signing it for her. For your preschooler, write his name and let him try to copy it, but don’t push—simply make the tools available.
Later, you’ll write the note and he’ll really sign his name. Then a few months later, maybe he can write the thank-you part and you can add … “for the red truck you gave me. Love, …” and he can sign his name. Then by about age 6 or 7, he will likely be able to write the Dear Grandma part, the thank-you, and sign his name, and you just fill in the rest.
By early elementary and later, your child can write his own short letter of thanks, including a comment about the item itself, how he is using it, and a bit of personal information.
Ideas from other moms
I asked some moms: How do you encourage your kids to write thank-you notes?
I am very big on my kids writing thank-you notes. I want them to be grateful and not entitled …. When they were little, I sat down beside them and helped them think of a creative thank-you note. Now they easily do it on their own. Sometimes, if someone has done something for our whole family (had us over for a meal or something) then I buy a big thank-you note and we all include a sentence or two. —Kim S.
I have them write one thank-you note each school day, instead of their normal handwriting assignment, until all the notes are done. I usually just give them a few pointers on what to say, and let them take it from there. (Although by now they’re so accustomed to thank-you notes that they don’t usually need pointers anymore.) For the younger ones, I have them dictate the note to me, and then I write it neatly for them to copy—much easier than spelling all those words aloud to them. Integrating it into the school day definitely helps it to actually get done! —Jayme M.
Part of the “personal” in thank-you notes for us was to always “make” them. We made stationery or little cards with markers and colored pencils. Our [missionary] kids did this a lot, for people were sending them things from the U.S. all the time. Now our son, a junior in college, just sent a thank-you note and gift card to a friend’s family in appreciation for their holiday hospitality—yes, I think the habit stuck! —Sonya H.
My kids usually make a card and write the note. We use construction paper or whatever looks good to them to make it. When they are too young to write without help, sometimes I will write it and they sign it and draw a picture. As far as special formats, I have kept it simple so far. But my daughter is learning the correct way to address letters and envelopes now, so we will be incorporating that into her thank-you notes as she learns. I let them address as much of the envelope as they are able as well, and quiz them where to put the stamp and return address. Then we usually decorate the envelope with stickers. —Heather E.
My policy was that they did not get to use the gift or check until the thank-you was written. —Karen R. and Debra C.
Coloring pictures for someone is a great wait to start when they are too young to form letters. Toddlers are just as capable of learning a heart of gratitude! —Heather Y.
Have “thank you” rubber stamps, ink pads, and blank cards and various doodads, scrapbook papers, fancy-edge scissors and ribbons and stickers for them to use when they (the girls more than the boys) wanted to craft their own cards. —Debra H.
We buy fun, pretty cards and stickers at the dollar store. After birthdays and special outings or events, I help my kids write thank-you notes to family and friends. My daughter enjoys including art work, stickers, or ink stamps on the cards. —Faith B.
They definitely enjoy it best when they make the cards, whether we do it with stamps, clip art, or paper and glue. We always write the note on lined paper first to practice handwriting, etc. When they were younger, I would lightly line the card with pencil so they could stay straight, then we’d erase the lines. —Toni L.
I keep a supply of thank-you notes in my desk drawer. For Christmas gifts, I would recycle old Christmas cards (discard the back, saving the front for use) and have the kids pick the ones they wanted to use to send to grandparents. And we all pretty much did a “thank-you” day all at onceâ€”mom and dad, too, thus modeling by example. —Debra H.
Gratitude isn’t only for presents
Other occasions for thank-you notes include:
When someone has shown hospitality—Whether it was an invitation to dinner or out for ice cream, or a sleepover or a party at a friend’s house, or just lunch at grandma’s, a short note of thanks for the hospitality can endear your child to the host and smooth the way for future invitations.
When someone has done something helpful or kind—It could be a note to an adult who has been helpful, such as a co-op teacher who went out of her way to bring a lesson to life, or to someone who has done something kind, such as taken a child on a field trip or helped her learn a new skill. Or it could be to a friend who has said something thoughtful or stuck up for her—or how about a note just for being a friend?
When someone has extended an opportunity—The organizers of field trips, spelling bees, the county fair, classes, and other local events love to hear from children about how the opportunities have helped them to learn and grow. After all, that’s the reason they offer these events!
As your child gets older, he’ll have occasion to thank job interviewers for considering him, and teachers for teaching him, and elders for mentoring him. Most of these recipients don’t often get notes of thanks and will remember them—many will even treasure them. But most of all, they will appreciate that your child showed thoughtfulness, gratitude, respect, and good manners.
A few more resources:
“Thank-You Note Tips for Children” by Emily Post
“Script and Scribble Thank-you Notes” by Rachel Ramey
“5 Tips for Writing Thank-You Notes with Kids” by Catherine Newman
“Thank-You Notes: To Send or Not to Send” by Emily Post
“Really Easy Note Card Tutorial” Titus 2 Homemaker
“How to Write a Thank-You Note” by Jeanne Field for Hallmark
“What to Write in a Thank-You Card” (Hallmark)
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