Teaching Kids to Write Thank You Notes

thank you note for teens

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).

Elementary 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.

Teaching Kids to Write Thank You Note

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.

nice thank you note

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?


7 thoughts on “Teaching Kids to Write Thank You Notes

  1. I feel strongly that thank-you notes should be written and I taught my girls to do that. I love to get thank-you notes but I get very few even when my gifts are generous. I appreciate a short phone call or even an email to let me know the gift was received. An email is so fast and costs nothing, but I get few of them also. When I write a check, at least I know it was received when I get a copy of my cancelled check! I loved reading the ones you’ve gotten and I am so glad your students have such wonderful manners! And that is what acknowledging a gift or deed is all about – good manners!!

  2. Everybody appreciates being thanked when they do a favor for someone. Tuesday I went to the Jackson County Dress Revue at the Fair. Two times the people in charge admonished the 4-Hers to PLEASE write notes thanking people who provided their awards. Seems kinda sad that people have to be publicly reminded to do it! Students I gave graduation gifts to this year were faithful in thanking me with written notes. One was especially meaningful for me! I know when my girls were in 4-H one lady who always gave trophies once told me how she had taken note the Barnett girls ALWAYS sent thank you letters! That makes a mother feel good!

  3. I once spent half a month’s salary to send my then little niece and nephew Christmas gifts from AFRICA. You guessed it. No thank you. Never heard a word. Didn’t know until I got home more than a year later that they’d even received them! My pet peeve are those HORRIBLE pre-printed “Thank you for your gift” post cards. UGH. Especially from weddings. It’s your wedding, your choice to ask for gifts. Be decent and acknowledge the gift.

  4. I, too, have sent gifts on occasion and not even known if they were received. That is so frustrating. I HATE writing them, but love getting them, so I know it’s a task that needs to be done. I’ve led a ladies’ Bible study for 14 years. In that amount of time, I could literally count on one hand the number of times I’ve gotten a hand-written note thanking me for the time I put into preparing the material for them. I don’t do it to be thanked, but when someone does, the note is so special, I keep it. In fact, I have a note sitting on my kitchen counter right now from someone who took the time to thank me for the time I’ve spent preparing for the Bible study. Thank-you notes count!

  5. Your take on Thank You notes really resonated with me! It should be common courtesy to write them promptly in a heart-felt way. My Mother taught me to do such notes, then I taught my own daughter to do the same kind gesture. Now it makes me proud that my granddaughter Christie always sends me a thank you note, even for the smallest things. I’m sure that she will do the same for Layla, who has always said “Please” and “Thank you” from the minute that she could talk.
    I believe in handwritten thank you notes, which to me are much better than e-mail ones. However, e-mail ones will do rather than no response at all. I especially hate it when I’ve given a nice wedding gift and still have not been acknowledged or thanked two years later! The social graces have dropped dramatically since technology rules so many lives these days. It is very sad!

  6. It has become all too common to skip thank you notes entirely, and that is so sad. I’ve had a variety of gifts for a variety of occasions with no acknowledgment at all. It’s not that we give *for* an acknowledgement, but it’s just polite and a show of appreciation to thank people when they do or give something.

  7. I wholeheartedly agree with teaching children to write thank-you notes early. In my class at school, we did this frequently and created our own stationery (thumbprint designs, etc.) Hope they are carrying it through in their adult lives. Yes, it’s my pet peeve too when my gifts are not acknowledged.

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