13 November 2008

Helping young kids get involved in writing thank you notes

I love how Rabia got her daughter involved with thank you notes, even though she's just learning to write:

My daughter just turned five and I wanted her to be very involved with writing the thank you notes for all her birthday presents. I took a sheet of computer paper and folded it in half. I named a person and reminder her of the gift if needed. Then I had her dictate a thank you note to me. They don't always make complete sense, but they are genuine. Then I gave her the note and had her draw a picture on the front-usually of the toy and the person who gave it to her. After I put them in the envelopes I drew a straight line where the address label goes and a square where the stamp goes. Then I let her put on all the stamps and address labels herself. She was very proud of herself for doing all of her thank you notes. We did a few a day until they were all done.

Wonderful. How many activities provide writing practice, art experimentation, life skills (how to properly address an envelope), quality time with Mom or Dad, and a lesson in gratitude? The perfect post-holiday task, especially if done next to the fireplace.

Another (much less personal but also less time-consuming) option is to use fill-in-the-blank thank you notes. My five year-old daughter used these over the summer. She filled them in, added her own personal embellishments, stuffed and stamped the envelopes. She loved them.

I also have a soft spot for Color n' Kids note cards (see the related hack).

Related: Color 'n Kids: cards that turn writing thank you notes into a fun activity

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We just celebrated our daughter's 6th birthday. She can write and spell some. I took a picture of her writing "Thank you" on a piece of paper and made a note card out of it on Shutterfly. When we got the cards she wrote the persons name inside (I helped he spell them) than wrote "Thank You" and signed her name. I wrote something about the gift at the bottom.

We involve our toddler son in thank you notes by tracing his hand: http://babytoolkit.blogspot.com/2008/07/showing-of-hands-pre-literacy-notes.html

Now he wants to add something to most written correspondences that leave the house (birthday cards, etc.). He's actually excited about being able to contribute.

The last few years I have collaged togegther some photos of her opening gifts on her birthday and added 'Thank you from xxxx' to the image (in Photoshop), then printed them out 4x6 and just had my DD write her name on the back.

I always wonder why my (wonderful) mom never made us do thank-yous. I think the first time I ever wrote a thank-you note was for my wedding!

My girls, on the other hand, at 3 and almost-2, LOVE doing mail for people. 3 dictates notes. And almost-2 colors for the front of a card. 3's notes go something like this "Dear Whoever, thank you for the nice present. I liked opening it. I also like red and I love kitties. From, 3" Hilarious? I think so.

When my oldest was 3, I started her on drawing thank you cards. We had various packs of computer gift cards around; you know the kind that you "print your own gift cards and save lots of money". Anyway, instead of taking up space, they got used; and they had envelopes that fit them, too. I think we are down to 1 package left, but my daughter loves to draw cards of all kinds, even did her own valentines last year for preschool. Also, a perfect way for kids to use some fun stickers without sticking them all over the furniture.

I am a big advocate of having my kids write thank you notes and have been helping them with it even before they could form letters. Even if it was just scribbling, I'd ask them what they had drawn or said and write that on the page for the recipient's benefit. My son loves drawing a picture of the present he was actually given. Often, we include a picture of the kids too which makes it even more personal.

when my girls were each five i wrote their thank you notes and had them sign their names. as my first daughter gets older, i have her write the whole note now, helping her with the words when i need to. the younger one likes to decorate the envelopes and they both love putting on stamps. doing a few a day certainly helps avoid burnout.

I have two boys. Thank-you notes are like my ideal and their misery. But I plough on. Sometimes I just can't face fighting with them to write the cards, so we skip them. Usually, though, I become the dragon-lady-mom until they're done. One way which has worked is to not allow my child to open the gift (or play with it if the wrapping paper was ripped off within the kid-swarm at the birthday party) until the thank-you card has been signed.
Now that my eldest is 12, thank-you cards are definitely getting easier. My persistence has paid off in that he doesn't question having to do it - and usually just needs reminding to get it done. But it was a looong road to get here.
whew!

I know traditional etiquette says you don't need to send a thank you note if the giver was present when you opened the gift and you thanked him or her personally. I've always been too scared to practice that, though, because it seems that most people send a thank you note even if you watched them open the gift (e.g., a party or a shower). Is that the way most viewers this hack feel?

My 4 year old can write most of her letters, but tires of doing it long before she's done writing all of the thank-you notes. So, after her birthday, I had her write and decorate one basic thank you note with her name signed on it, then made color copies of it to send to everyone.

I'm blown away by how quickly some families get their childrens' thank-you notes sent out, because it's such a procedure in my household. When my eldest turned 7, I had him draw a thank-you card cover and inside, with Dear_____. Thank you for ________________________; then room for him to write more and his signature. I made color copies of it so he had less to do in the long run, and they were still personal.
On the other hand, my six-year-old is developmentally disabled so even writing his name is really difficult. We got a few thank-you notes out after his last birthday but missed a few... I ended up emailing and calling a few parents to say thank-you but felt really bad about it. Agh!

I had a "rule" with my children as they were growing up. They could not play with, spend or use the gift until the "Thank You" note was written. I would explain to them how much time and effort a person would put into picking out just the right gift for them. It was just as important for them to put time into being a gracious receiver and letting the giver know how much they enjoyed the gift.

To this day both my daughter (25) and my son (23) write the most hearwarming notes and I am constantly complimented.

There is no excuse for NOT sending a thank you note.

A Mom

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