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
Grace's Thank you note envelopeOriginal artwork by Grace adorns the inside of her 'Thank you' note.Artwork by Olivia, age 10The 'thank you' of an older child: Olivia, age 10Marco's 'Thank You' note, age 7
Grace's Thank you note envelope
Grace's Thank you note envelope | Source
Original artwork by Grace adorns the inside of her 'Thank you' note.
Original artwork by Grace adorns the inside of her 'Thank you' note. | Source
Artwork by Olivia, age 10
Artwork by Olivia, age 10 | Source
The 'thank you' of an older child: Olivia, age 10
The 'thank you' of an older child: Olivia, age 10 | Source
Marco's 'Thank You' note, age 7
Marco's 'Thank You' note, age 7 | Source

Kid Friendly Thank You notes

Buy or make 'kid friendly' thankyou notes.  This one comes complete with pen and stickers.
Buy or make 'kid friendly' thankyou notes. This one comes complete with pen and stickers. | Source

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!




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Comments 57 comments

Danette Watt profile image

Danette Watt 4 years ago from Illinois

Well, we know that gene passed along to us and then to our kids. I even had Sam ask me where the thank you cards were the day after Christmas. Of course, they've yet to be written but a little reminder from me ought to do it.

As you said, in this age of instant messaging and emails, a hand written thank you note is still tops. I gave someone a baby gift recently and gently chided her after she sent me a thank you email. She said her sister had also mentioned it to her. Ah well, she's young!


KrystalD profile image

KrystalD 4 years ago from Los Angeles

What we teach kids to do now, they will potentially practice for a lifetime! This is great way to teach them something that is SO important to me....GRATITUDE! Voted up and awesome :)


MarleneB profile image

MarleneB 4 years ago from Northern California, USA

Handwritten notes are so special. This electronic world of typed messages just begs for something more personal. It is not to be taken lightly, as, people really do enjoy the extra personal message. It's another way to reach out and touch someone in a meaningful way.


cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan

So sweet! What a great Mom she has! LOL I'm glad you enjoyed the note so much and that she took it upon herself to do it. Of course the new notecards helped! She has actually been working on one for you too Aunt Danette.

As I was posting this comment Grace saw the pics and said "She took a picture of it? While I was sleeping? That little sneak!" LOL


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

What a wonderful example for a lost art. I fear that writing may totally disappear with this upcoming generation. Your effort minimizes that fear. Voting this Up and Beautiful.


sofs profile image

sofs 4 years ago

Denise, I am so glad that you chose to write on this subject, my husband and I always insist that our kids do just this. In fact they know that we appreciate the anniversary cards and happy birthday cards that they have given us, that we have treasured them and show it to them many years later.

It is the effort that goes into it which makes these hand written notes and arts precious.

Happy new year to you Denise and may this be your best year so far :)


acaetnna profile image

acaetnna 4 years ago from Guildford

What a brilliant hub Denise. Ingraining this type of gratification is so, so great. This is so very special.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

I think it's wonderful to teach your children and Grandchildren how to write thank you notes. I received one from my Granddaughter Sara and was thrilled..Thank you for sharing..


Genna East profile image

Genna East 4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

I’m old school in that I refuse to text or instant message or even e-mail thank-you’s, and prefer the “old fashioned” thank notes written in long hand. I love technology, but it seems that we are becoming more out-of-touch with the personal touch. Your tips for teaching children how to write thank-you notes are excellent, and I loved the note to “GamoD.” :-)


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Danette-Yay! another generation of people who say Thank You through note cards. LOL Mom would be so proud of us!

Hi KrystalD-thanks for your comments. I agree-teach a child to be grateful and NOT entitled! It's one of my pet peeves.


Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

This is such a lovely hub Denise, it teaches children gratitude and that note becomes a 'keepsake' for us, I have kept and treasure all mine from the grandchildren.

Thank you for sharing and voted up.


Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco

Denise, this is such a great Hub topic and so important. I have many parents say, don't worry about writing a thank you note, but it's really more for the child at a young age to know the importance of saying thanks. I loved Olivia's "text-like" script. So funny. Your Hub is a great reminder to all of us parents to not let the little things slip by! Hope you had a wonderful holiday; it sounds like family was all together. ;)


jothankster 4 years ago

Great Post. I work with thankster.com, and hearing this just makes our day. We created our website to make it easier for the anti-snail mail crowd that prefers email and facebook to send cards to family and friends. They just choose a card, add their message and address (s), and we do all the rest. We even have a technology that allows users to create a font out of their own handwriting and it looks very authentic. I'd love for you to check it out and help us spread the word.


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I can't believe how many weddings and other big events I've been to where people did not send thank you notes. It is so important to do this! My husband and I do our best to send out our own and will pass this practice on to our kids someday. Thanks for the great tips!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

MarleneB-that is exactly right, a personal connection is much more heartfelt. Thanks for your comments.

Cara-that is funny what Grace said. You are funny, also!XXOO

Alocsin-I think that as long as there are writers, this 'lost art' will be saved. Even if it is just passing it down to the next generation one person at a time. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Sofs-I have a special place for my cards. It has grown from the ones I've saved from my children through the years to the ones I save from my grandchildren. Wonderful that we should instill this in our children-it teaches them awareness and consideration, doesn't it? So nice to see you drop by. :)

Hi Acaetnna-you are one sweet lady. Thank you for your comments. Happy New Year to you!

Ruby, it is so much fun being a grandmother, isn't it? Thanks for sharing your experience.

Hi Genna-I couldn't agree more with you. As for the special note-it is so precious! :)

Hi Movie Master-thank you for your comments. I do the same thing-I think I have every thank you note and other cards received from my 4 grandkids. :)

Hi Robin-thanks for stopping by and leaving your thoughts about this. I'm glad that you have not listened to other people who seem to think this activity is not important. My holiday with my Michigan family was short but well worth the trip. I was able to spend some time with each daughter and my four grandkids. Plus, we shared a wonderful Christmas meal together as a family, with LOTS of baked goodies from Cara, LOL

jothankster-what a great reason to create a hub and promote a company. I am a firm advocate for sending snail mail and 'saving' the U.S. postal service from becoming obsolete. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment.

Hi randomcreative-I know what you mean. My 'latest' rant last year was after several people graduated and I acknowledged this with a monetary gift never to hear from some of them and hearing from others months later. I still have to prompt my nephew to write these notes and it irks me he has the attitude that he shouldn't have to. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


Suzie ONeill profile image

Suzie ONeill 4 years ago from Lost in La La Land

What a heart warming hub! I was also taught to write thank you cards as a child. It's a shame that so few people send them anymore.

Btw-- I loved Grace's card and drawings!

Voted up and awesome!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Suzie-thanks so much for your sweet comments. I appreciate them. Thanks for the vote. :)


ruthclark3 profile image

ruthclark3 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

I'm glad that the art of writing isn't totally lost. My granddaughter writes to me all the time. And, I have everything she has ever written or created. From the time she was a toddler scratching marks on a piece of paper to now, when she's ten. I treasure all the little notes she has given me. My grandsons also make things to hang on the fridge but not as often. Great hub and a thumbs up to you.


Rosemay50 profile image

Rosemay50 4 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

This is a lovely hub, it teaches children gratitude and it is so nice know that what we do for them is appreciated. I have kept little treasures from my children and grandchildren.

Thank you for sharing


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Ruth-thanks for adding your treasured story here. I can relate-I have a special drawer of all the cards received. It's fun to see how their handwriting 'scrawls' develope.

Hi Rosemay-thanks for reading and adding your comments. We grandmas have much to be proud of, don't we?


debbie roberts profile image

debbie roberts 4 years ago from Greece

When I see anyone child or adult not say thankyou it really winds me up. Good manners cost nothing and if we teach our children from young then it becomes a natural thing and as you've pointed out, they are never too young.

A good hub.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Debbie-thanks for your input. I can understand you getting wound up. I'm the same way when I bump up against one of my pet peeves. Thanks for stopping by. :)


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

This is dear to my heart. It has become a lost art in today's society and the spark needs to be re-kindled. Your wonderful hub has done just that. Thank you dear Denise. Voted up!

vocalcoach~


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Audrey-so nice to see your smiling face. :) Thanks for your input. I couldn't agree with you more about it being a lost art. I will contact you about my nephew a bit later. Thanks for the vote.


AEvans profile image

AEvans 4 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

'Thank You' notes are a beautiful thing! We do it in our home. I am so glad you wrote a hub about it and hope more people begin to teach their children. Voted Up! :)


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi AE-thanks for reading and commenting. It definitely is an important etiquette skill for parents to teach their children. :)


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA

It is a lost art - it's been a long time since I've received (or given) a thank you note. Voted up.


teachertalking1 profile image

teachertalking1 4 years ago

Wonderful hub! I try to use every possible opportunity to stop and write thank you letters with my students. It's a great excuse to practice the "friendly letter" format! In the 3rd grade, students are excited about writing thank you notes. They know that is is proper to send a thank you letter to express thanks for a visit, gift, presentation, etc. They often draw a picture to go along with their letters and I usually get an email expressing how thoughtful and appreciated the letters were! My hope is that the upper grade levels, right on through high school, continue to encourage students to adhere to proper etiquette and write thank you notes when ever the opportunity presents itself. Perhaps thank you letters/notes will become second nature for our students and they will continue to do so throughout their adult lives! Thanks for sharing!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Millionaire Tips-well, thank you for reading and voting it up-now go out and buy some cute thank you cards and send them out to all of your friends reminding them, (and you), how valuable their friendship is. :)

Hi Teachertalking1-what a great habit to instill in your students...I second the 'hope' for the continuation of this measure of etiquette. Thanks for reading.


Derdriu 4 years ago

Denise, What a charming, endearing sharing of your grandchildren's forays into maintaining the cherished tradition of gift thank you cards! It's great the way you start with a family anecdote on the impressive commitment of your mother to etiquette, pass into your own experiences as a mother and grandmother, and then finish with tips for those who tend to rely on mousing and texting instead of writing.

Thank you for sharing,

Derdriu

P.S. Your photographs are so charmingly revelatory of each grandchild's efforts. In particular, I love the artwork, which is always so colorful and imaginative when done by children. It makes me think of Pablo Picasso saying that he'd like to create art on par with that carried out by children.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Derdriu-your comments tickled me this evening, after a very stressful night at work. Thank you for your insightful observations, I appreciate them.


Sunnie Day 4 years ago

Dear Denise,

This is such a timely hub! This is not talked about really. I was raised to sit down and write a thank you notes right away..I know it made my grandparents so thankful..it is the right thing to do. So many just expect things...they dont teach their children to do this...It is part of learning how to be thankful and appreciative. ...I taught my kids to write thank you notes and still do gentle reminders to thank the eldeerr family members of their generosity..I think most of the time they have done really well. I hope they will pass this on to their little ones too.I am going to facebook this and tweet. Thank you again.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

Denise it really never even crossed my mind but it's actually the right thing to do.. hand written notes to express thanks is perfect.. and I bet heart felt.. and touched up and useful with a side of awesome!!!!!


pedrn44 profile image

pedrn44 4 years ago from New Berlin Wisconsin

Thanks so much for writing this hub. I used to have my kids make thank you cards when they were little. They had so much fun with these little "appreciation" art projects. It's true that in this day and age the personal touch seems to have been replaced by emails and text messages. It is good to instill this bit of etiquette in one's children and hope they will continue it into adulthood and pass it on to their kids. Loved the artwork pics you shared:)


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

It is good to know that people like you and others are still keeping this important value alive and well. Many others, sadly, seem to have forgotten the relevance of hand written thank you notes. Nice job on this hub!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Sunnie-I think many of us pass this on to our children and take it for granted that everyone does this...only to find this isn't the case. Thanks for sending it off into other directions, LOL I appreciate it.

Hello Frank-thank you for reading this and the votes!


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

This is a great hub Denise and my children were always taught and encouraged to wrote thank you letters. Great work and an 'up up and away.'

Take care ;

Eddy.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Sandi-thanks for your comments about the 'art of writing thank you notes'. It is helpful to support our young ones in this effort, and I applaud all parents who do.

Hi Peggy--been a bit of delay in my response...had my shift work and it is a bit difficult swinging back into a day time mode of operation. Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate it.

Hi Eddy-Thanks for the cheery votes up-I felt 'lifted' LOL good for you in the parenting dept. Kudos.


radhikasree profile image

radhikasree 4 years ago from Mumbai,India

'The art of writing thank you notes' is something that parents should teach their kids from childhood itself. You've described its importance very precisely in this hub.

Votes up!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thank you radhikasree, for your comments, the vote up and your fan mail. :) Nice to meet you.


oceansnsunsets profile image

oceansnsunsets 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

Hello Denise, I thought the card your grand daughter gave you was so sweet! What a cute story too! I have tried to teach my children to write some kind of thank you note for their gifts, be it a paper card, or e-card.

Awesome hub, voted up, useful, awesome!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks for stopping by to read the 'Thank you' card hub Oceansnsunsets. It was a fun hub to write. Thanks for the votes. :)


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

Hi Denise, I wish someone had taught me to write "thank You" notes when I was young. I think I might have had better relatins with my own grandparents if I had done such things. I never knew how to relate to them. I wrote letters to friends and to siblings and may have included thank you's in letters. My wife has sort of taken over the funtion of sending cards and such. Much of this is done on Facebook now but for me it is not quite the same.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Dahoglund. I was fortunate that my mother did teach us the art of writing a thank you note. I appreciate your comments here. :)


TeachableMoments profile image

TeachableMoments 4 years ago from California

Denise, thank you for such a lovely hub. Teaching children the importance of appreciating gifts and how to express their gratitude seems to be fading in our society. Children now text or send a quick email instead of taking the time to write thank you cards. I am trying to show my daughter how important it is to show appreciation, even for the smallest gestures. She enjoys making her own thank you cards and she loves dropping them off in the mail. She feels good doing it. Thanks for writing this wonderful hub.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Teachable Moments-Thank you for your kind comments. I agree with everything you said about the lost art and the importance of reestablishing that. Thanks for reading and commenting.


Janine Huldie profile image

Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

Denise, I couldn't agree with you more on this one and even wrote a similar Hub about the importance of indeed writing Thank You notes. I really loved the story of your granddaughter here, too. I am going to backlink this article if you don't mind to my thank you card hub article. Have also voted and shared too!!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks for the link, Janine. I'll do the same. I'm very proud of my daughters that they have taught their children the importance of saying 'thank you' in many different ways.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

Your mother taught you well. It is such a nice gesture to return a thank you with a card. I do get emails and e-cards from people, but a hand written note is so special. I like your idea of pre-printed cards for the littlest writer. Wonderful post.


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks Dianna. I also enjoy getting cards and letters. I still get excited when something besides bills or ads are in the mail. I know what you mean about the email stuff-it isn't the same and unless you print it out, you can't return to look at it. Well, I'm still one of the few in my circle of friends who sends out Christmas and other holiday cards.


KDuBarry03 4 years ago

You did an awesome job with this, Denise. I also love how you kept it so basic that people can understand how to teach children to say "thank you" in accordance to their culture. Awesome Job!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Hi Keith, nice to see you. Thanks for your feedback here. Glad to know you are feeling much better. :)


Vellur profile image

Vellur 21 months ago from Dubai

Your granddaughter is so sweet and thoughtful. Teaching children how to write thank you notes is a great thing to do. Great hub!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 21 months ago from Nashville Tn.

I was impressed with this hub last year and I'm thinking it's time to pass it around again. Children these days hardly know what a thank you note is. The story of your granddaughter is so precious. Take care sweet lady and thanks again.

Audrey


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 20 months ago from North Carolina Author

Hello Vellur, how are you? I just know you are doing well and are joyful in your work. :) Thank you for reading this and offering such a kind comment. I appreciate it. Take care.

Audrey, you are so sweet. I appreciate you and am still holding out for a trip to CA and tea together. :)


acaetnna profile image

acaetnna 20 months ago from Guildford

What a brilliant hub. I am completely incensed by the fact that people do not write thank you notes. I was always taught as a young child the importance of writing to someone to thank them for a gift. These days I begrudgingly receive a thank you note by text ... completely out of order I think!!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 20 months ago from North Carolina Author

Hello lovely acaetnna, so nice to see your bright smile-like a shining light. :)

I completely agree! What is the matter with the world of (lazy) adults! Sometimes, I don't even get the text thank you's. When I meet someone who is very grateful and polite it almost seems out of place.

A thank you note, handwritten and mailed, or delivered to the person, is such an intimate and connecting gesture! In fact, any hand written note or letter is. I am always delighted to receive real mail.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject, acaetnna. God Bless.

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