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Milk and Cookies

with Kristen

I'm a mother of five, a bargain hunter, a recreational comparison shopper, and always trying to make more time - for me and for you, too. On this blog I'm sharing my favorite tools and finds to help make your work-life juggle a bit easier.

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Thank you notes for children

Categories: Learning activities


When Paul and I got married, I had to write all the thank-you notes for our wedding gifts. Not only had he not been trained to write them, he hadn’t been trained WHY to write them. Purely aside from WANTING to tell the person who sent the gift how much you appreciated their kindness and generosity, the thank you note is a practical acknowledgment: it says “Yes, the gift successfully traveled from you to me.”

(photo of Dinosaur silhouette card from Simplicity Papers on Etsy)

In the case of children’s parties, it communicates to the parents who were not there that the gift went as planned: it wasn’t lost under the table, it was opened with knowledge of who it was from, etc. And it is such an excellent teaching opportunity for one’s own child on a subject it’s hard to remember to lecture about and practice: kindness should be appreciated, and the appreciation should be communicated, and here is the practical information about what to put between “Dear ____” and “Love, _____”. Also, you may not play with the present until you’ve written the note, so get on it.

(photo of Personalized Butterfly Tree notes from Two Pooch Paperie on Etsy)

For children who can’t yet write, I have them draw a picture and dictate a sentence or two. Or I write “Thank you for the ____” on a piece of paper and let them color and decorate it. Children who have recently learned to write may draw a picture and write just one sentence: “Thank you for the _____.” Slightly-more proficient children write two sentences: “Thank you for the _____. I really like it!” And so on.

(photo of Personalized robot notes from Posh Girl Boutique on Etsy)

At William’s age (he’s 10), I expect him to start with a non-thanking sentence (example: “I’m so glad you could come to my party last Saturday”). Then he does the classic “Thank you for the ____” sentence, followed by 1-2 sentences going into more detail: “I’ve wanted one of those for a long time!” “And it’s my favorite color!” “I can’t wait to play with it / read it / put it together!” “I LOVE crystals / robots / magic!” Then “See you at school!” and the “Love / Sincerely/ Your friend, William” part.

(photo of Penguin thank-you cards from Piccolino Designs on Etsy)

It’s kind of a pain to supervise these things, but it gets easier as the child gets older: I had to practically sit on William a couple of years ago, but this year all I had to do was remind him of the format and then he cranked them out. And it feels good to add to their Social Skills Folder: as with teaching how to say “Fine, thank you, and you?,” there are certain societal navigation tools that help a child to be well- or poorly-received by the culture he’s growing up in, and considering how often my children pick their noses, I like to increase the other things where I can.

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12 comments so far...

  • very important lesson/skill indeed!

    Farrell  |  March 30th, 2011 at 12:06 pm

  • Yes, yes, and so very yes!!

    Jen  |  March 30th, 2011 at 12:40 pm

  • I was never taught why thank you notes are important nor had I ever thought about it, until I got married. I knew it was something that was expected and I found out my mother in law (and her mother) were very diligent about sending thank you notes in a timely manner. They were expecting a thank you note, and pronto!

    I now always write a thank you note if I am not there to thank the person face to face. My kids always write thank you notes both to family and friends for birthday gifts and I hadn’t thought of the “no playing with the gift until you write the thank you note” rule, so my children will thank you for that, I am sure! :)

    Chris  |  March 30th, 2011 at 1:16 pm

  • Very important! My Mom was vigilant about thank you notes and I’m so grateful to her for it!

    Jen in MI  |  March 30th, 2011 at 2:05 pm

  • This is why I love you. I started making Brother write notes and he took to it swimmingly, but the idea that my 4-year-old could also send notes via colored sheet and dictated thank you instead of ME sending the note is awesome.

    Misty  |  March 30th, 2011 at 3:17 pm

  • yes i have started thinking about this… mostly because my son is kind of card obsessed at them moment (at 4, apparently mail is very magical!) so i am thinking this is a great time to hop on that train and get it going! this years b-day will include thank-you notes from him directly. YAY!
    growing up we usually just thanked the person in person or called to say thank you… but i really like the idea of notes :)

    kate  |  March 30th, 2011 at 3:27 pm

  • Yes! When we got married 11 years ago, I had to shame, nag, and berate my husband into writing TY notes to his friends and family. Since we had 130 people at our wedding and only about 20 of them were my friends and family, the rest were his family, his parents’ friends, and his friends I was damned if I was going to write all of the notes. Still, it was clear he’d never written TY notes before so I had to do a template like I do for my kids now. It was ridiculous. If my kids whiff it after they are grown and out of the house I can’t help that, but they will leave our house knowing how and when to write a TY note. Sheesh.

    Maggie  |  March 30th, 2011 at 5:10 pm

  • My kid’s just two and (obviously) not writing yet. So when we do thank you cards/notes I take a piece of paper he’s drawn on, and write on the other side of it. Or give him a crayon to draw on the inside of the card. I’m trying to get him in the habit NOW of writing thank you cards so that when he’s old enough to write there isn’t any question of doing it. It’s just done, like washing his face and hands and tray after eating or saying please when he wants something.

    Brigid Keely  |  March 31st, 2011 at 12:58 am

  • I make my kids do thank yous for birthday party gifts and then other gifts where the giver did not see them open them. After 5 years they’ve decide that heck, they like getting thank you notes so they’ll write one for EVERY gift–even to grnadma down the street who saw them open the present AND gush over it in person. Also they have decided that it is not acceptable for their 11 year old cousin to send them a “fill in the blank” thank you card. (it really was pre-printed–said Dear____, Thank you for the __________. Love,____________). Their quote: “mom he’s *eleven* he can write a real letter!

    Jodie  |  March 31st, 2011 at 2:10 pm

  • I love the idea of having them draw/color and writing the one thank you or dictation! My son is only 15 months, but I am totally going to do this as he gets presents from his grandparents with no need for occasion. They love his scribbles and fingerpaint so much, they’ll freak out.

    Christy M  |  March 31st, 2011 at 2:23 pm

  • I am a pretty good thank you note writer, but have not been a good mom about teaching my kids this skill. Thank you for the reminder! Since my oldest is in 2nd grade, I guess it is not too late. My goal for 2011, my children will become thank you note writers!!

    Melanie  |  April 4th, 2011 at 2:30 pm

  • I love this! I do think lots of important things can be communicated by modeling and teaching children to write thank you notes. Thanks for all the cute ideas - I have to have Michael help me do the ones from his 3rd birthday.

    Kelsey  |  April 5th, 2011 at 1:59 am

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