Helping your child write thank you notes

interesting thank-you notes, writing center, avoiding procrastination

THE PARTY is over. Balloons have popped, streamers are down, and birthday presents spill out of gift bags across the floor. Do you and your child find yourselves dreading what comes next? Perhaps you whisper the words and cringe: thank-you notes.

Why Does It Matter?

Writing sincere, thoughtful thank-you notes is a valuable habit. As any college graduate or young bride knows, this skill is still highly relevant in our electronic age. My mother, my grandmother, and even my first employer taught me that nothing replaces the personal touch of a hand-written note. Remind your children that just as they enjoy receiving mail, their friends and family do, too! Oh, and don’t forget that April is National Card and Letter Writing Month. That should be enough of a reason right there.

When to Send Thank-you Notes

It’s tempting to forget about mailing notes when time and energy are limited. I can’t claim a perfect track record, but I’ve loosely adopted this rule of thumb:

  • If the gift-giving is mutual (a friend and I exchange presents at a Christmas party), thank-you notes are optional.
  • If the gift giving is one-sided (a relative sends me a check for graduation), thank-you notes are mandatory. Gifts for elementary children are usually one-sided, so your kids should probably be writing a lot of notes.

Avoid the Procrastination Bug

Most kids would rather do almost anything than write their thank-you notes. There are ways parents can avoid turning these little notes into power struggles. Try these tips, and the grandparents and great aunts will happily receive their notes in the mail long before next Christmas.

Set Up a Writing Center

Nothing beats distraction and procrastination like a well-stocked writing center. You can transform any corner of your house into a writing center with a few simple steps:

  • Make sure the area is well-lit.
  • Arrange the seating and writing surface in a comfortable way that encourages good posture.
  • Keep thank-you note supplies in easy reach (colorful stationery, pencils, stamps, address book, etc.) Let your child know that everything is ready to go.

Make It a Family Activity

Write thank-you notes alongside your children. Youngsters want to be part of mom and dad’s activities, and they will remember what you do long after they forget what you say. If a friend sends you a surprise package, or your neighbors bring a meal when you’re sick, sit down next to you children and write a thank-you note.

Decide on Standards Ahead of Time

Decide ahead of time if you’re going to correct grammar and spelling. Inventive spelling is cute when a child is six, but you may not be ready for every relative in town to critique your 10-year-old daughter’s writing skills.

Just remember that writing two drafts of the same note by hand can be overwhelming for a young child. If your son is not a strong speller, perhaps you can let him dictate the rough draft. Then, allow him to rewrite it in his own handwriting.

Tips for Writing Interesting Notes

When it comes to creating a personal touch, our words are just as important as careful handwriting and a first-class stamp. Teach your children simple ways to make thank-you notes fun to write and entertaining to read.

  • Include interesting verbs to tell how I used the gift or how I plan to use it.
  • Include a surprising fact about the gift, such as I’ve always wanted a butterfly net, because I want to be an entomologist when I grow up.
  • Include a personal reflection about the gift-giver, such as You always choose the perfect gifts for me, and I really appreciate your thoughtfulness.

What tips would you like to share about writing thank-you notes? What ideas have worked for your family?

Daniella Dautrich is a WriteShop alumna and a graduate of Hillsdale College. She and her husband fill their home with books on writing, literature, and computer science. Daniella blogs at www.waterlilywriter.wordpress.com.

Photo: Kate Hiscock courtesy of Creative Commons.
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