This Christmas season may be remembered as the time that I frantically emplored my children to JUST. SLOW. DOWN. when tearing into gifts and utttered such phrases as don’t-dare-rip-the-card-attached-to-that-present and please-someone-tell-me-who-sent-that-gift-right-now.
I am the mother of two preschool children…two preschool children who are blessed by loving friends and family members who bestowed upon them mounds and mounds of Christmas presents. Being a lifelong subscriber to Southern Living magazine and firm believer in social graces, I fully intend to have the children (and myself) write thank you notes to all these generous realitives in our lives.
Thus the reason I manically dug through the discarded wrapping paper in search of lost gift tags so I could know who gave us the dinosaur book and who bestowed upon us the diaper bag and ringing cell phone set (not sure if I am truly thankful for the ringing cell phone, but a card will be sent nonetheless).
If you believe as emphatically as I do about having children write thank-you notes, gather the children and have them sit down to scribble out a few notes of gratitude for all the loot received this holiday season. Teaching kids how to write a note of thanks is an excellent way to instill a gracious spirit as well as practice those necessary writing skills.
Obviously, age plays a factor in children’s ability to write a thank you note. However even young children can get in on the action. Below is an example by age group of how children can participate in writing thank you notes.
0-18 months: Babies can help in the note writing process by simply being present while mom or dad write the thank-you note. Cheerfully say “Now we are writing Uncle Peanut to thank him for that toy he gave you for Christmas” as you jot out a quick thank-you to relatives. Although a six month old will not understand the process of writing thank-you notes, they will enjoy the one-on-one time with a parent. Involving a child in such actions early on sets a precedent for how things will be later in life.
18-36 months: Toddlers can use their newfound skills to help the note writing process. They can attach stickers to notes or create a drawing that can be tucked inside the envelope for the receiver to enjoy. Because this age group is on the go the majority of the time, it might be best to write the thank-you notes before sitting down with the child. Read the note to the child, talk about how nice it was for Nanny to give her a new doll, and then have the child decorate part of the note with crayons or stickers.
3-4 year olds: Preschoolers are aware of letters and words and can be a considerable help with writing thank you notes. Children this age usually can write their name so give them the opportunity to sign the bottom of each note. Some preschoolers can even write words and could write one or two in the note themselves. For example, the parent can write “Thank you, Papa, for the new _____.” and the child can fill in the blank with the correct word.
5-6 year olds: Depending on writing skills, this age group could write the note themselves. Let go of any anxiety of how most likely the note will be sloppy or unreadable, Just remember that the message of gratitude is being expressed from a child’s heart. 5 and 6 year olds might be able to write a simple sentence of “Thank you for the Lego’s.” or might need to use the fill-in-the blank method listed above. Either way, they are an active part of the thank-you note writing process.
7-10 year olds: Elementary-aged children can sit down and write out a thank-you note independently. The trick with this age group is actually getting them to accomplish the task. Make this more of a fun activity rather than a chore by setting up a thank-you note writing center, complete with blank cards, stickers, colored pencils, envelopes and stamps. If a child has several notes to write, break up this project over several days. Make a set time, such as after supper, that everyone sits down and jots out a few notes.
‘Tweens and teens: Getting teenagers to do anything can be a hassle. Approach sending thank-you notes by handing over all control to the child. Explain why the notes need to be written and mailed and then give teens free range in how they choose to get the job done. Perhaps they design a cool card on the computer or send out witty emails (Miss Manners might not appreciate electronic communications as a way of sending “thank yous” but she might also have never lived with a teenager). The key here is giving over control and then stepping back and let teenagers decide how they would like to accomplish the task. Do not criticize the harsh neon colors chosen or critique the wording. Simply smile knowing that the task has been accomplished independently.
Do not forget that children are not the only ones who need to respond with a note of thanks for gifts received. Adults should do so as well. Set a good example for children by sitting down and writing out a few thank-you notes while the family is relaxing in the living room in the evening. Let them see that even mom and dad need to be sure to express gratitude for the gifts they received…even when those gifts consume a large amount of batteries and spontaneously make terrifying beeping sounds in the dead of night.