PARENT TALK TODAY: Putting the Fun in Writing Thank-You Notes

by Kathy Sena

Now that it’s January, do you, like so many moms, have the nagging thought: Did the kids write their holiday thank-you notes yet? Try these tips to make this post-holiday task a lot more fun.

°         Help younger kids get creative. Purchase colorful note paper, pens, glitter, stickers and stamps and help little ones make their own cards. Their original works of art will be treasured by the recipient as much as the scribbled “Thanks for the Barbie doll, Aunt Jennifer!” will be. Or visit, where your child’s drawing can be made into a set of 20 note cards.

°        Make movie magic. Videotape your child saying “thanks” and talking about the gift. Then send a link to the video or burn it to a DVD and mail.

°         Go high-tech. Let older kids use computer software to design and write their own notes, suggests etiquette expert Sharon Naylor. “Using software such as PrintingPress ( gives them tons of graphics ideas, fonts — even the ability to create their own monograms,” says Naylor.

°         Create a reminder sheet. Elaine Fantle Shimberg, mother of five grown children and author of Blending Families (Berkley Books) swears by the “rule sheet” that served as a reminder for her kids when writing thank you notes:

1.    Say thank you for the gift and mention it by name.

2.    Mention what you’re going to do with the gift.

3.    Write something about what you’re doing in school, sports or other activities.

°         Think of the recipient. “I want to motivate my girls to write meaningful notes,” says mom Eve Curran. “When we receive thank you notes from other people, I put them on our table so everyone can look at them during mealtime. I often read them and we talk about what we sent and what the person said,” she adds. “I hope this process will remind them, when they are writing, what it is like to be the recipient. Hopefully that will encourage them to put a little extra effort into their notes.”

°         Make it personal — even when the gift isn’t. When her then-16-year-old son received all cash gifts one year (not that he complained!), Sue Poremba suggested he send a note that focused on the people giving the gift, not on the cash itself. With that advice as a guideline, “he wrote the notes in no time,” she says. Of course, when receiving cash or gift cards (an increasingly popular option once kids turn 10 or so) kids also should be sure to mention how they plan to spend the gift.

°         Play show and tell. Ask younger children to draw a big heart on construction paper. Write “Thank You!” in bold letters next to it. Take a picture of your child holding the construction- paper “card” in front of her, and then write a quick note, right on the photo (Example: “Thanks so much for the adorable stuffed bunny. Amy loves it!”) with a photo-marker pen (available at scrapbooking and crafts stores). Let older kids create their own photo shoot, including the recipient holding or using the gift, suggests mom Kay Day. “When my girls were younger, they’d take special pictures and include one in each thank you note,” she says. “Part of the fun for them was getting all dressed up.”

°          Embellish a little. “My then-14-year-old daughter’s English teacher taught the class to embellish a bit when writing thank you notes; to say something like ‘Thank you for the pretty top. I plan on wearing it to the Rolling Stones concert with my mom,’” says Melanie Shepherd. “We gave the teacher a knitted scarf for Christmas, and her thank you note mentioned how she enjoyed wearing it while on vacation in Texas because it was so cold. What a great example to set for the kids!”

Share, share: How does your family say thank you?

Kathy SenaKathy Sena is an award-winning health and parenting writer and the mother of a 14-year-old son. Visit her website at and check out her blog, Parent Talk Today, at

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