Getting Kids to Write Thank You Notes

Christmas thank you notes
Homemade cards are a good place to use up paper scraps.

If you want another holiday miracle to happen at your house – getting kids to write thank you notes – then read on. Admittedly, it has taken years of beating the thank you note drum but it finally paid off. Last year, by 10am on December 26th, all thank you notes had been written, signed, and were ready to be mailed off.

See what I mean by miracle?

Getting Kids to Write Thank You Notes

What’s the secret? It’s easier than you might think…

Homemade Valentine's Day card
Simple cut-outs and folded card-stock make sweet cards.
  1. Draw the line: There’s no playing, using or opening the inside packaging of a gift before a note has been written. Period. No exceptions. Gifts from Santa Claus don’t require a thank you note – but – my kids are old enough to know who to thank for those.
  2. Ready the materials: Having all of the homemade cards organized and in one spot and the letter writing materials (stamps, return labels) together and easily accessible, it’s much easier to get the job done. If there is any energy spent on rounding stuff up, especially when kids are involved, momentum can be lost. When kids (and adults) have a system in place, things get done.
  3. Lower the expectations: Thank you notes don’t need to be dissertations or book length long. Keep in mind children’s ages and go with colored pictures if that’s what is age appropriate.
  4. Start young: It’s easier to get kids to do something if it’s something they’ve always had to do. When kids are younger and enthusiastic about writing and drawing, that’s the best time to get them in the thank you note habit.
  5. Snail mail: If you are pressed for time than by all means, send an email thank you. If you can turn this into a project, write the card out, and snail mail it. Kids aren’t taught to address envelopes or where the return address goes on a letter in school any longer – well, not at my kid’s school anyway – but everyone needs to learn this.
  6. Take notes: While we open gifts, I jot down who gave what to whom. That way, when it comes time to write the notes. I’ve got a list ready. This also makes our gift opening frenzy a little slower.
Kids writing thank you notes
Not fancy but a little cheat sheet for notes.

Need some more inspiration?  Check out the book, “The Guide to Good Manners for Kids” by Peggy Post. [amazon_link id=”0060571969″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Emily Post's The Guide to Good Manners for Kids[/amazon_link] We read it out loud and discussed it – and shared our own stories of mannerly-flub-ups or thank you notes we forgot to write but months later did.

What’s your secret to getting kids to write thank you notes?

Go Gingham related links:

Kid’s birthday party gifts that are budget friendly and very sweet
How to handle the group gift for teachers – bowing out gracefully
Frugal and easy gifts to give – very easy
Frugal and green wedding gifts – simple gifts with an upgrade element, too
Displaying holiday cards – don’t put them away, just leave them out to enjoy

5 thoughts on “Getting Kids to Write Thank You Notes

  1. Happy Holidays Sara.

    I have managed to eliminate almost all teen gifts, thus eliminating all thank you cards. At this point they are able to buy almost everything they want and we provide them with all their “needs.” I asked everyone who we exchanged kid gifts with if they were interested in ending the tradition. All were glad to do so. They still exchange gifts with their peers, but that is with their own money, and so I don’t demand thank you notes be written.

    Quite honestly I got tired of sending gifts to cousins et. al. and never receiving thank you notes even when my kids sent notes to their parents. That was what prompted my decision to end the gift swap. I never knew if the kids liked or even got the gift. So, my question to you is, what do you do in that circumstance; when you don’t receive thank you notes and feel slighted?

    My mother always made me do thank you notes and while I occasionally dash off an e-mail, I still enjoy sitting down pen in hand to express my gratitude.


    1. Hi Melissa,
      I’m with you – I enjoy sitting down and writing a note – thank you or otherwise. 🙂
      Honestly, I don’t always receive thank you notes when I give gifts but that’s not why I give gifts. I like to give them and really enjoy finding just the right item – or book – or whatever it is. We just gave long white gloves (from an estate sale) and henna tattoos to our darling nieces for Christmas.
      There’s not much to be done about other people’s kids and what they’re learning or not learning at home. Give the gifts you’d like and don’t worry about the thank you notes.
      Happy New Year, Melissa! Thanks for always leaving good comments.


  2. What a good mom you are! My kids are also required to send a thank you and it has taken a quirky turn. They both like to write stories and draw pictures and typically that’s what their thank-you’s are–often with a picture of the gift talking with a speech balloon–sometimes they forget to write the actual words, “thank you”, but the receivers know that is what they intend to say! I’m hoping to instill gratitude and I’m willing to live with the quirkiness if it makes them more willing to send the note. Sara, you get the prize for having your kids write them in a timely fashion.


    1. Kris,
      What a nice tradition and yes, that definitely counts as instilling gratitude! I really like the idea of pictures if that’s what the kids want to do.
      The kids getting their notes done quickly completely motivates me to get mine written, too. It’s win-win!
      Thanks, Kris! Happy New Year to you. 🙂


  3. Hi Sara,

    After previous strong reluctance on my seven year old daughter’s part to write thank you notes, I decided to take a different approach. Although I’d written my share of thank you notes as a child, I realized that my daughter had never seen me write one. So this time, I modeled the “good” behavior and we wrote our thank you notes together. It was so much more fun this way for both of us and created a nice family memory. The recipients of our notes were also pleasantly surprised.



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