Thank you notes — they’re important. No, they’re not a matter of life and death. But, they’re part of the “grease” that keeps the engine of our society running smoothly and pleasantly. And if there’s something we could use a little more of in today’s world, it’s a little pleasantness.
Teaching Kids to Write Thank You Notes
I’ve always felt strongly that it was one of my duties as a parent to first help, and later encourage my kids to write thank you notes. This came from some observations I’d had. Once, I helped a friend give a baby shower for her daughter. I did a lot of work for this event, and bought a gift too. Yet mom-to-be never wrote a thank you note! I found this to be in really bad taste.
Now let’s travel up to just two years ago. I was invited to two graduation parties. For each grad, I found out where they were attending college, and bought bath towels for them in those schools’ colors. In each case — no acknowledgement of the gift at all. Really? Someone goes to the effort to choose a gift for you, and you don’t even take five minutes to write a note? Not good, kids. Not good.
How to help kids write thank you notes? Here’s what we did in our family.
Preschoolers and Young Kids
For the youngest kids, who can’t even write, I encouraged my kids to color a picture for the gift giver. Then, I would write a brief “thank you” note on the back of the picture, perhaps asking the child what they like about the gift (or making an observation myself for really young kids).
Once kids are in elementary school, all excuses are gone. These kids can write! They may not be writing novels, but that’s okay. As a teacher, I love the idea of kids writing thank you notes because this is more practice writing! And yes, we teachers do love it when kids write 🙂
What to say? I always instructed my kids to begin by thanking the giver for the gift, mentioning the gift by name. Then, add in a sentence or two about why they enjoyed the gift, a time they were using it, etc. Close by thanking the gifter again for his/her thoughtfulness.
Middle and High School Kids
Teens are the same as elementary school kids, but they can add in a bit more detail. Recently my girls’ 4-H leader was exhorting the kids in the club to write thank you notes if they earned any awards at the fair. She told the kids that the notes could be short, “Just say thank you for my award and sign your name.” She also said that she’d sponsored several awards, and very rarely received thank yous.
I found this a little sad. I would be happy to receive any thank you, but for a child older than, say, 7 or 8, really I would expect more than just saying thank you and signing a name. I would encourage kids to put a little bit more effort into their notes. As a piano teacher, I know that the notes from students that I have saved aren’t those with a simple “thanks.” They’re the ones where the student has gone to a bit more effort, putting in some detail.
I’ve included here photos of some nice thank you notes I’ve received: keepers. Do you have any tips for helping kids (or anyone, really) write meaningful thank you notes?