Teaching Children the Art of Writing 'Thank You' Notes
Letter writing etiquette
It is never too early to begin teaching a child the fine art of writing ‘Thank you’ notes. Etiquette never goes out of style, and it appears, in today’s society of fast paced, instant messaging, that this writing a formal ‘thank you’ has gone by the wayside.
I love to give gifts and it is always a pleasure to receive a handwritten note from a recipient expressing his sincere gratitude. When parents neglect to teach their child that letter writing, i.e. sending off thank you notes for gifts and hospitality, is important, valued, and necessary, they are doing their children a disservice. How parents can teach this form of etiquette to children is two-fold: first, through role modeling by their example, and second, through their guidance with their children, in the writing process.
My mother grew up poor, raised by a single mother. She read etiquette books and high society magazines and by the time she was married with children, made letter writing mandatory as a form of a thank you. It was not enough to say ‘thank you’ to the person bearing the gift, or to follow it up with a phone call. And, in cases such as spending a weekend or more with a friend’s family, a mere note was not good enough. In those situations she would have us send a bouquet of flowers to thank the hostess.
I am proud of my two daughters who have followed suit on their own and have passed this obligation down to my grandchildren. When the grandkids were too young to write their own notes the cards would come from my daughters, naturally. But, once the children were able to proudly scratch out their names, the process would become more the kid’s project in gradual increments.
My Post-Christmas surprise
This past Christmas I woke up at my daughter’s home Tuesday morning with my four year old granddaughter eagerly at my bedside, note in hand, waving it exuberantly in front of my sleepy eyes.
“Open it, open it!” she demanded joyously.
I went along with equal enthusiasm, “Oh, mail for me, how wonderful!” Then I noticed the hand scrawled address on the front of the envelope, ‘GamoD’ and below this, ‘Grace’. It was adorned by cat stickers wearing Christmas bells and reindeer antlers. Inside was the simple message: ‘Thanyou’ and her signature again, ‘Grace’. The inside was also adorned, but this time with her own personal art work: ‘the family’, including me.
Of course I loved every bit of it, what grandparent, (or ‘Gamo’) wouldn’t? It had all the makings of a keepsake-handmade, original artwork, original penmanship…you know what I mean if you are a sentimental grandma like me. What I also loved was that she did this all by herself, without any prompting from Cara, her mom.
Self-initiation for writing a thank you note without hesitation or prompting is a huge celebration. Here was a four year old doing what most adults fail to do-express gratitude in the written form.
Examples:Click thumbnail to view full-size
Kid Friendly Thank You notes
Tips for teaching children how to write thank you notes
If you are wondering how to start this process with your own children here are some tips:
1. Be an example-sit down with a set of thank you cards and begin writing while your child observes. Don’t make it a ‘task’ for him or her to tolerate, just a natural part of receiving.
2. Talk with your child about the importance of giving thanks and the many ways to do this.
3. Take your child to the dollar store to pick out some child oriented ‘Thank you’ cards that she will associate with. My daughter bought a kit that included pen, stickers and notes.
4. Assist your child with writing, if he is just learning his letters, and keep it simple. ‘Thank you’ is eight letters that he can handle at age four or five.
5. Be sure to encourage your child to add decorations or art work, as her attention holds.
6. Stop the activity when your child loses interest or gets tired. If there are more than two cards to write, do a partial activity and wait for another, fresh day to start once again.
7. For early beginners, buy cards with a pre-printed message for an easier transition. Have your child merely sign his name and decorate with artwork or stickers to make it ‘his’.
8. You can have your child get very creative by making cards that will fit in a standard letter envelope with construction paper or plain paper that is decorated.
The important thing is to enjoy the process while teaching your child good etiquette skills.
As the child gets older you will see a more sophisticated message, and improved handwriting, with each note written. Included here are two other grandchildren examples. You can see the difference of Grace’s simple thank you, at age four, to her cousin Marco’s note, which has a few more words, (age seven), and finally, with his sister, Olivia’s elaborate message and artwork, at ten years old.
Happy ‘thank you’ note writing!
Books to teach kids how to write a letter
More: How to write letters
- Thank You Cards--How to Write them
This hub article details how to write personalized thank you notes. Also details why you should do this, as well as a bit of history of how I learned how to write them as well.
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