Thank you notes: quick ideas for kids

Amazon: Kid's Thank You Notes It's tempting to relegate thank you notes to the dustbin of outdated ettiquette. Busy schedules + email make physical paper notes (with actual postage stamps!) seem extra inconvenient. But the lesson they teach our kids is too important to ignore — that time spent expressing gratitude is time well spent.

A little forethought and a few good hacks can turn thank you notes into a natural part of receiving gifts. From Alex:

When we buy something with a gift card given by someone we don't see regularly, I cut the package into a postcard if possible. We then send the postcard with a brief note to the gift-giver. That way we can show them what we got without lengthy explanations or photos.
Another relatively quick thank you note idea: with a permanent marker, I draw a rough picture of a gift my daughter received on a piece of plain white paper. I add a few sentences of thanks, and then let my daughter color it in.

You can also buy (or make!) simple fill-in-the-blank thank you notes kids can fill in themselves. If you think ahead, you can have a stack of these standing by when gifts are being opened so the association is still fresh in everyone's minds. New birthday/holiday tradition: thank you notes get written and sent the day after.

Do you have a thank you note habit with your kids? Tell us about it!

More: Helping young kids get involved in writing thank you notes


  1. Hillary says

    Thank you notes are something that was drilled into my head as a child who had many distant relatives. It’s important to acknowledge what was given with the same thought and care. With close-relatives that live far away (favorite Aunt) sometimes we also share the moment by emailing a picture of the child opening the gift.

  2. Lin says

    I do like to email them that we got it and include a photo of my child with the card that they opened and email it to the giver. We tend to hold onto things for a bit so I think giving immediate thanks is more important than what we buy with the money or giftcard.

  3. Asha Dornfest says

    I agree. I also think that giving immediate thanks is more important than sending a paper note. In other words, if it’s email or nothing, email wins.

  4. says

    I pinched an idea from Mumsnet and persuaded my 2-year old to pose holding up a large white chopping board. Thanks to Photoshop, relatives and friends received a photo of her holding a sign saying “Thank you for my lovely present” and they loved it. Doubled up as a nice print for Father’s Day with “I love you Daddy!” text too…

  5. Jen says

    I’m not actually a fan of the fill in the blank cards. It feels very impersonal and forced to me. Coming from a family that never did thank you notes, but marrying into a family that ALWAYS does thank you notes, I’d much rather get a nice verbal ‘thank you’ than a fill in the blank card. Especially if it was filled in while gifts were being opened. Not trying to be critical, just my opinion.

  6. Sara Tetreault says

    Our family rule is that the thank you note gets written before the gift/item/toy gets opened, played with or used. This rule applies to the parents, as well.

    We make cards (we have an annual card making day!) and mail them. Writing notes and letters is a skill kids need to learn. As kids get older, they can address the envelopes, apply stamps, and walk to the mailbox! That has become a big time saver for me.

  7. Rachel says

    Notes were ingrained in me as a kid as well… I feel like the fill in the blank while better than nothing are a little impersonal. It is getting to be so rare that anyone sends thank you notes… but its something that I feel like taught me gratitude as a kid… so we will do them.
    I took a picture of my son in the bathtub with foam letters behind him on the wall spelling out THANK YOU. I had them made into notecards on snapfish and I just send a short note of thanks written on the card with his picture! With my daughter who is 3 I had her write very large on a piece of paper with marker, THANK YOU… then she sat at the table with her paper in the background and smiled for me.

  8. Kimberly says

    We have had an open house “splash party” the last 2 years for my son and with all the activities and people coming and going the presents never got opened during the party. So the next day I took a picture as each gift was being opened and made photo cards with a collage of EVERY picture. That way everyone get to see not only their gift being opened but every gift he got.

  9. Daphne says

    For my 3 year olds, I typed the note, created a border around it, then printed. I gave the printouts to the kids and had them cut and paste each box onto a card. They had a lot of fun doing it and typing is a lot quicker than writing!

    You can also have the children color the card for a more personal touch.

  10. Mandie P. says

    I buy thank you note stationary for my 3 year old. She colors and puts stickers all over the inside and I write a quick note as if she was writing the card. Everyone loves them!

  11. Tracy says

    I like to use my phone to video the actual opening of the present then immediately email it to the giver. It makes it feel like they are there. If the giver is a technophobe I take a pic of DS playing with it later and send.

  12. Maisha says

    At my 5-year-old nephew’s birthday party, I gave his big brother (age 7) the task of taking notes on which presents were from which people in his “spy” notebook during the gift-opening. It helped him feel included and important on his brother’s special day, plus it was useful for writing thank-you notes later!

  13. Priya says

    I have a question: How late is too late to write a thank you note? My daughter’s birthday was in late October, and I am ashamed to say, that we haven’t written thank you notes yet. Time just got away and the holidays just made everything crazy. Is it too late to have her write them now? I still have the list of gift givers and what they gave her…

  14. Anat says

    I come from a culture that doesn’t send thank you notes, and I LOVE the snail mail thank-you card practice here.
    We have a printer that prints pictures at home, so I take a picture of my son with the gift that he received, glue it on the front part of a card (we have many cards with my husband & my name on them). My son dictates the thank you note to me and then decorates it. I use Apple’s “Comic Life” software to add a “bubble” on to the picture saying “thank you”.
    We do it immediately upon receiving the gift, because I feel that receiving a thank you note too long after giving a gift is almost pointless.
    The big advantage of taking a picture with the gift is that it also helps remember who he received it from.

  15. Cassidy says

    I have always told my children that thank you notes are very important. I send a few thank you emails, but we mostly write out the thank you notes. The first step is just having the child draw a picture and signing the note with the first letter of his/her name. Then I would write a note on the back of the drawing. My 3 year old did that this year. Hopefully next time she will be able to sign her own name. When she is able to write more, she can write “thank you” and then sign her name. My son is 5, and he writes out a short note. He writes who the note is to, then “thank you for …., and then he signs his name. It is not a lot, but it teaches him that it is important to thank someone for doing something nice for him. This year he wrote one note per day. We also send pictures of the children with their gifts. It is a nice touch.

  16. Gina says

    I’m a big believer of thank you’s and we’ve done them a few ways that make it fun for the kids and easier on me.

    One year, they took some big poster paper, my older son wrote thank you in giant letters across it, and my daughter drew flowers and hearts all around it. We took a picture of them holding it and used that in an email to everyone.

    Another year we took some of my daughter’s big sheets of finger paint work, cut it up into 4″ x 6″ pcs & glued each to card stock for postcards. My parents still have that one since it’s her artwork.

  17. Julia says

    When my daughter was a beginning writer and not able to produce handwritten cards very quickly, I would have her work very hard one nice card that was fairly non-specific (“Thank you for the great birthday gift!”). Then I would copy that card on the color copier at my library and send it to everyone. (Once I got a scanner, I could scan and print the cards from home.) I realize that its somewhat generic, but everyone still received the benefit of her handwritten thanks and she understood the value of politely acknowledging gifts.

  18. Lori S. says

    For my 3-year-old, I use the copious artwork that comes home from day care, and write a thank you note on the back. I ask him to write his name at the end of the note (which is just scribbles at this point, but I want him to be a part of the process.) My older children write thank you notes to some people and call to thank other people, depending up on how we believe each giver would prefer to receive their thanks.

  19. Asha Dornfest says

    Ugh, the dreaded “open loop” of something not done! We all have those, and it’s the worst. I ALWAYS think it’s best to close those loops…and not just because it’s polite, but for your sake! The self-scolding just isn’t worth it.

    I say a note/email/call of thanks with a brief apology (after all, everyone’s done this at one time or another). Then tell yourself “good job,” wash your hands of it and plan ahead for next year.

  20. Asha Dornfest says

    What a fantastic idea. It’s not easy for most siblings to watch as their brother/sister opens a bunch of gifts, so having a job to do must help.

  21. Alex says

    To clarify: I actually always give thanks for gifts of money or gift cards right away. Unless I have a good guess as to what it will be spent on, or what we’ve just bought that I can say they paid for, and can say so, I always follow up with info about how we used it later. Granted, I have 1 kid and a sadly small family, but I know it makes people happy to know how they made my kid happy. When I later print photos for the grandparents, and realize there’s a gift or handmedown from someone in the photo, I’ll sometimes print it for the giver.

  22. Lindsey says

    I completely agree. I know everyone’s busy these days,however, if someone took the time to pick out and purchase a gift, the receiver can take the time to write a note. It doesn’t have to be long, but fill-in-the-blank seems tacky and impersonal.

  23. urbanmamas says

    Thanks, Asha, for posting this. We are just today finally doing our thank you notes, and I got some great ideas from this.

  24. figmental says

    For the last couple of years I’ve had my now 4-year-old “dictate” her thank you notes to me. We’ll go down the list of gifts she’s received, discuss what they are, who gave them to her and what she liked about each one. Then she’ll tell me what she’d like to say to the giver. I type while she speaks. A couple of sentences is usually all we need. Later I’ll transfer her thank you notes to Microsof Word in text boxes that are slightly smaller than the blank area of store-bought thank you notes. I use a childlike font in a color that complements the colors of the card. I print the notes, cut and paste them into the cards. My daughter then signs the cards, adds stickers or colors pictures on blank parts.

    The process sounds pretty involved, but it’s really pretty simple and it’s much quicker than hand-writing them. Each card is unique and in her own voice. I like that it’s a relatively quick project so she doesn’t see it as a long arduous chore and will enjoy writing them throughout her life.

  25. Calories in alcoholic drinks says

    We make very similar ones but use a stamp to finish the border quickly, gets a bit messy but all’s fun in love and playing!

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