My cousin once called me a “thank you card overachiever”—and she was right. I was taught from a young age to always send a thank-you card when someone has given me a gift or done something extra nice for me. It takes only a few minutes, it makes the recipient feel good, and it shows how much you appreciate their generosity. Unfortunately, in the age of e-mail and texting, writing and mailing an old-fashioned thank-you note is becoming a lost art.
Still, writing thank you cards is a habit I’d like to pass on to my children. So even though my twins are under 2 and they can’t yet write, I’m already getting them used to doing it! I’m hoping this means that when they’re 8 or 9, I won’t have to stand over them like a drill sergeant and force them to write thank-you notes while they come up with every excuse in the book not to do it.
To make writing thank you notes less of a chore for your kids, be sure to explain the value of it. If they know that it makes Grandma and Grandpa feel good, for instance, they’ll be more excited to do it. Allow kids to get as creative as they want, and make the session fun by playing their favorite music and sharing a special treat. And don’t force kids to write too many thank-you notes at once—doing them in smaller chunks will make the task more manageable.
Here are some tips on how to send thank-you cards from kids of all ages:
Pre-Writers — If your child can’t yet write, you can write the note for him on one side of the card and let him draw a picture or scribble on the other side. When I write a thank-you note from the twins, I give them each a crayon and let them doodle on the card. I then write their names in their respective crayon color so the recipient knows which boy did which doodle, and I make sure to date the card. Friends and relatives love to receive artwork from the boys that doesn’t take up a lot of space!
Early Writers — When kids are first learning to write, they can often write their names or initials and not much else. You can continue to write the thank-you notes for them, but have them “sign” their names. At that point, they can often articulate their thoughts, so have them guide what you write. Ask them how they feel about their present and what they like about it, and then write the note in their words. You may end up with a note that says, “Thank you for the silly truck. I love it because it’s yellow like cheese.” But I guarantee it will make the gift-giver laugh! Then, let your child stamp the envelope and put it in the mailbox.
Writers — Once kids learn to write, they can start writing their own thank-you notes. Encourage them by letting them pick out their own thank-you notes at the store, or by getting age-appropriate materials like markers, stickers, and construction paper. Their note can be only one or two sentences, but it should acknowledge what the gift is and include some kind of sentiment about it. If your child needs inspiration, you can write out a basic template, such as “Thank you for the ____________________. I really love it because ______________________.”If it’s a monetary gift, the child should specify what the money was or will be used for, such as, “I am saving up for a video game,” or, “I bought some cool books!”
Before you know it, thank-you note writing should become second nature—and even fun—for kids. It certainly is satisfying for me!