How to Write Thoughtful Kid Thank You Notes
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It’s that time of year again. The gifts have been given. The packaging tossed. And the kids are enjoying an assortment of carefully chosen objects from thoughtful friends and family.
Must be the time for the kids to write thank you notes.
I always approach these moments in parenthood with a little apprehension.
On the one hand, I know that writing thank you notes is good for them. The process teaches a life skill that will take them further in this world. And writing a thank you note let’s the gift giver know how much we appreciate their thoughtfulness.
As a kid, I was always forced to write thank you notes after any gift giving occasion. Christmas, birthdays, graduation. There wasn’t a moment that escaped my expression of gratitude.
Learning how to write thank you notes became a test of will with my mom.
As I’m sure many kids feel, at first I loathed the experience. You want me to spend my free time doing what exactly.
But over the years, I fell in love with the process of letter writing. It turned out, when given a chance, that I really enjoyed writing thank you notes. Something about creatively thanking someone for their generosity. And that they took the time to think of you.
There was also something beautiful about the act of writing a letter. Not an email or a text. Those didn’t really exist back then any way.
But placing well chosen words on a physical piece of paper, neatly folding that paper into an envelope and sticking a stamp on it. Then, sending it off in the mailbox for it to magically arrive at someone’s doorstep a few days later.
Alright, I admit it. Mail delivery has always fascinated me too. There’s a reason that I’m a snail mail advocate to this day. But that’s for a different blog post.
After so much practice as a kid, I still love writing thank you notes and letters to this day.
And it’s important to instill some of this love into my kids. Even if they grumble when I mention that it’s time to write their thank you notes.
We have been writing kid thank you notes after gift giving occasions since they were born. Except when they were babies, they always have been a part of the process. Even if it was just telling me what to write or signing a mark for their name.
Since we started so early on, writing kid thank you notes has become something they do. And much of the time they even look forward to it.
Why Writing Thank You Notes is Important
Writing thank you notes is a lifelong skill that kids will need when they grow up. It’s important that they focus on the idea that when they receive something, they say thank you. No matter what the gift or act of kindness. And one way to show this appreciation is in a handwritten note.
Most likely, your kids won’t understand the importance of this simple act right away. As they grow up, though, they will probably notice that their thank you card writing will get them places more quickly.
I first understood why you write thank you notes when I was looking for my first job. After meeting someone new or going on a job interview, I followed up the conversation with a quick handwritten note. Many of my friends didn’t know to do so and couldn’t understand why I did. Over time, I found my network of contacts grew faster. And people were more willing to be generous.
Whether that was because they liked our conversation or the thank you note that followed, I will never know. But I finally knew why you sent a thank you note in the first place.
Sending thank you notes makes the giver feel appreciated. They see that you noticed their thoughtful actions.
It’s important to show gratitude to others. And this is an easy way to do so.
Where Can I Find Pretty Thank You Notes
I walked into Hallmark the other day. I was searching for a set of basic thank you cards for my kids to write their holiday thank you cards. My printer was down and I didn’t want to take the time to get one of our designs printed.
After locating the thank you cards area, I was amazed by how few options their were. Maybe one of the reasons that so few of us send thank you notes is because there aren’t many choices. Or maybe there aren’t many choices because the stationery industry got used to us not sending them.
It definitely seems like a chicken and an egg problem some how.
Whatever the reason is, card shops don’t seem to be carrying much thank you stationery these days. Especially kids thank you cards.
So, where can you find adorable kid thank you notes?
We are excited to carry printable kid thank you card designs in our shop. You can print them yourself at home or have them professionally printed here (affiliate). They can even be customized with your child’s name. For younger writers, you can also add fill in the blank text to make the thank you card writing process easier.
When printing your cards, be sure to order more thank you notes than you need. That way you have stationery at the ready when an unexpected thank you comes up.
And if you don’t want to print your own cards, I have found fun kid stationery sets here (affiliate). From mermaids to furry friends, each stationery kit is filled with everything your child needs to make thank you card writing easy and fun.
How to Help Kids Write Thank You Notes (without complaining)
Set Aside Time to Do It
As with anything in life, to be successful kids need the time to complete the task. Thank you note writing rarely works if you are cramming a blank card at them right before they head out the door for school.
After the gift giving event is over, set aside a time for your child to write their thank you notes. I find that the first weekend after the holiday or birthday works well in our family.
Choose a time when your child is alert (tired children do not write the best thank you notes), interested – at least a little bit and not hungry. And don’t worry so much about timelines.
Spread Them Out
If your child has a lot of thank you notes to write, spread writing them out over a number of days. Your recipients will be thrilled just to receive a note. When they receive it doesn’t matter too much. A late thank you note is better than no note at all.
(That being said, according to Emily Post, you have up to three months after a gift is received to send your note. At least for weddings.)
To figure out a good writing pace, consider your child’s writing ability and speed. Keep in mind that if they are a slower writer, thank you card writing will take a lot longer.
For example, if your child needs to write 15 cards and can complete 3 cards a day, you should give them 5 designated moments to write the cards.
The most important thing is that you don’t want to overwhelm them. Think about what a long list of names or stack of cards looks like from the eyes of an eight year old.
The one thing my kids hate the most (beyond thank you note writing) is when I say it’s time to do something, but I’m disorganized. Before declaring that it’s time to write thank you notes, get your supplies together.
For thank you card writing you will need the following:
Kids Thank You Notes (check out our shop for some awesome designs)
Nice Ballpoint Pen (affiliate) or Sharpened Pencil
Straight Line Guide (affiliate)
Return Address Labels or Stamp
Stickers and washi tape (optional, but fun for sealing envelopes) (affiliates)
I keep all of these supplies in a basket for letter and card writing. This helps us send all kinds of cards and letters throughout the year.
Have an Incentive
As much as I would like to share that my kids adore thank you note writing and can’t wait to write them every season, that wouldn’t be exactly truthful. Although my kids have a pretty positive attitude to writing thank you notes, a little incentive never hurts.
When I was a kid, my mom wouldn’t let me play with the gift until I had written the thank you note. I would have to stare at it in the packaging until I got the card written.
I started our thank you note writing journey with this policy in place. But the kids pointed out that they have trouble writing the thank you note when they haven’t played with the gift yet. Supposedly, just looking at the gift from afar doesn’t give them enough content to put in the note. They need to physically experience the gift.
I definitely understand this. It’s like having to write a review about a restaurant, but you haven’t tasted the food yet. Just looked at photos on their website.
So, these days the kids can enjoy their gifts before they write the thank you notes.
Unfortunately, that takes away any incentive to write the thank you note. So, depending on the attitude towards writing the cards, I will slip in a cookie or other treat for when they are finished writing. This usually helps get the job done.
Choose the Right Card
Reality check time. A three year old is not going to be able to write a blank thank you card on their own. Unless you have a writing prodigy on your hands.
The important part about thank you note writing is that you make the process age appropriate. Between ages 1 and 3, I would write the thank you notes for my kids. Sometimes they would sit next to me. Sometimes they wouldn’t. I wasn’t too picky.
At 4, my kids became more involved in the thank you note writing process. They would “sign” their name at the bottom. And I would have them sit next to me and share ideas about what to write. I’d ask them about what they liked best about the gift or what they looked forward to doing with it. Then, I wrote these ideas on their thank you card.
When ready (every child is different), we started using fill in the blank text on the thank you notes. The pre-printed text let’s your child fill in specific portions of text to make the thank you note more personalized. There are sometimes even check boxes.
These types of thank you notes are really fun for younger kids and they look forward to writing them. You can find some examples in our shop here.
Nowadays, they write most of the thank you notes on their own. They enjoy expressing their gratitude for a gift and telling the gift giver how much they are enjoying it.
Don’t Be Too Perfect
I always found thank you note writing a huge chore. It wasn’t because of the writing part, though. I love to write.
My problem was that my mom expected my thank you notes to be perfect. Free of spelling issues, punctuation mistakes and other writing mishaps that come when young writers are learning to write.
There is no real need to be that perfect. Remember, that they are still learning to write. And you want them to find some joy in the process. So, stand back and let them do it themselves.
If the comma isn’t in the exact position or a word is spelled wrong, Great Aunt Lucy will understand. And if she doesn’t, hopefully she will appreciate the effort your child put forth to send appreciation her way.
Write Alongside Them
Many kids like to have you near when writing thank you notes, but not hovering completely over them. To give your child more independence in the process, write your own thank you note or letter close to them.
Just like how kids enjoy when everyone is reading a book together, they also enjoy when everyone writes together.
By sitting near them too, you are accessible to answer any questions. From helping them spell a person’s name correctly to reminding them what gift they received, being nearby can help thank you card writing go a bit more smoothly.
A Recipe for a Thoughtful Thank You Note
Like a lot of things in life, thank you notes have a simple format that needs to be followed. One reason that I work on thank you note writing with my kids is because I want them to get used to this skill (and format) early on so they can easily write them later on in life. It helps them learn how to write thank notes successfully.
To start their thank you note, they write “Dear [NAME],”. This is the greeting part of the note.
On the next line, your child thanks the gift giver for the gift. “Thank you for [insert item].”
From there, the writer needs to tell the gift giver that they love (or really like) the gift and why. This is the part where my kids love to get creative.
Finally, they need to thank them for attending the event (birthday party, special occasion, holiday celebration). If the thank you note is for a gift that was sent and they couldn’t see the gift giver in person, then they can tell them how much they were missed.
To close the thank you note, the writer can let them know how much they miss the person and hope to see them soon.
Then, they can sign a closing of their choice. Some options include “Love”, “Your Friend” or “Sincerely”.
What to Write for Gift Cards and Money
Although kids love receiving gift cards and money gifts, they can sometimes be hard to write a thank you note for. “Thanks so much for the cash.” doesn’t always fly as the first line.
When writing this special kind of thank you card, I have the kids imagine how they would like to spend the gift. Ask them to think about some things they would like to buy with it. Then, they can share their plans in the thank you card.
Also, we do not allow the kids to spend the gift cards or money until after the thank you note is written. I find they often forget what they spent it on and have even more difficulty writing the thank you note once the gift has disappeared.
Tips to Making your Thank You Notes More Thoughtful
Snap a Photo
When the gift giver can’t be present, I like to share the moment with them via a photo or video. As the gift is open, I snap a quick photo. This way I capture their excitement and surprise at the gift.
When we send the thank you note, I will slip the photo into the note. This way the gift giver feels like they were a part of the action. Even if they couldn’t be there in person.
Add a Personal Touch
When I’m writing the kids thank you notes, I make sure they still add a personal touch to the note. Sometimes they decorate the card and envelope with stickers. Or seal the back with pretty washi tape (affiliate).
Sometimes, we also add stamps or even make the cards ourselves. There are lots ideas to add a personal touch to your stationery.
Draw a Picture
If your child is too little to write their own thank you card, they can always draw a picture. I encourage my littles to add a drawing of themselves playing with the gift or the gift in action.
They can draw a picture on the back of the thank you card or the picture can be the thank you card itself. Just write “Thank You” on the bottom and sign their name.
Although the act of writing a thank you note is important in itself, it’s always a good idea to make the note as personal as possible. When writing, include a reference to the specific gift and what the child enjoyed about it.
Another idea is to include details on how the gift is being enjoyed. If your child received new model cars for Christmas, it’s okay to share that he’s playing demolition derby with them. The gift giver wants to hear this stuff. It makes the gift seem even more appreciated.
Short Cuts to Make Thank You Note Writing a Bit Faster
Although writing thank you notes is a really important exercise, my goal is not to draw the process out any longer than necessary. It should be smooth and simple. Here are some short cut ideas to make kid thank you note writing a bit faster.
Joint Card Writing is Fine
Sometimes we receive one gift to share or a family gift to enjoy. For these thank you cards, each child writes a quick, short note on the top of the card. Then, I will write a little longer thank you below.
Another idea is to split the writing of joint gift thank you notes between your kids. So, one child writes the first one and the second writes the other.
It turns out Grandma prefers a phone call than a handwritten thank you note. She just likes to hear the kids voices.
So instead of writing a handwritten note after we receive a gift from her, the kids call instead. They get to tell her all about the gift and what they are doing with it. And Grandma gets to spend time on the phone with them. Everyone is happy.
If you have family or friends that like a phone call over a handwritten note, say thank you over the phone. Sometimes an auditory remembrance of thanks means more. And it can cut down the number of handwritten notes that your child needs to write.
We don’t send handwritten notes to everyone we receive a gift from. We only write kid thank you notes to the gift givers who didn’t see the gifts opened in person. These are the givers who we couldn’t say thank you right away to. (This may not be in line with traditional etiquette, but it works in our house.)
I mentioned above to make sure that you have all of your thank you note writing supplies in order before you start writing. It’s also important to know who you are writing to and what you are thanking them for.
When your kids are opening gifts for holidays and birthdays, keep a list of the gifts they receive and whom they are from. Snapping photos can also serve as a visual memory. If the gifts were sent from Amazon or other gift giving service, I grab the gift notes to reference who gave what later on.
It also helps to have stamps on hand so your thank you notes are ready to hit the mail. Nothing can ruin momentum more than spending all of that time writing a thank you note and not being able to send it right away.
How to Make Thank You Note Writing Fun
If you’re finding a lot of whining and complaining when you bring up thank you note writing with your kids, it might be time to have a party. I know. I always find a way to turn everything into a celebration. But kids love parties. Much more than thank you note writing.
For this party, set up a space in your kitchen or dining room (a table surface is a must) with all of the thank you note writing supplies. Then, invite your family to the celebration. Everyone can write their thank you notes together – including the adults. (If you don’t have thank you notes to write, you can write notes of appreciation to friends and family. These are just as meaningful.)
You can even play some music to make it feel more festive.
This is a great way to get all of the thank you note writing completed at one time. And you’re available to answer questions for your kids and keep them motivated.
After you’ve finished writing, serve some refreshments. I love baking a spinach artichoke dip or party nachos while everyone is writing. By the time the is out of the oven and cooled, everyone has finished writing their thank you notes.
One of the most important skills that I want to teach my kids is showing gratitude to others. Being grateful for the things that we receive and telling others how much their actions mean to us can take them a long way in life.
I start that gratitude teaching through writing kid thank you notes. It’s an important skill to learn and a simple way to show others that we appreciate them.
In case you are looking for other ways to be kind and show gratitude to others, check out our Free Printable 30 Days of Kindness Calendar. It’s full of ideas to show acts of kindness every day.
Love these ideas for writing kid thank you cards and want to save them for later? Pin this post here.
And if you are ready to start writing kid thank you cards, but need some stationery to get started, check out our thank you card collections in our shop here.