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Creative ideas for children's thank you notes:
for baby, toddlers and young children

Helping young children to produce thank you notes that they enjoy writing and/or making, and that the recipient will be pleased to receive, is not so hard especially if you're willing to be flexible in your methods.
Remember that, as long as there is evidence of some effort having been made, it really is the thought that counts. And sending something (however poor the penmanship etc.) is always better than not bothering at all.

Baby and very young children

Friends and relatives love to buy gifts for newborns and babies, so the chances are you'll have a lot of thank you notes to write in the first months of baby's life. Many parents start sending thank you notes in baby's name pretty much from the day of birth. This can be cute, although be aware that some people find notes written in 'baby's voice' a bit much!

It's a busy time for most parents, so keep things simple and enclose a photo of baby, perhaps snuggled up under that new blanket, or wearing the gifted outfit. Consider having some custom note cards printed with baby's name on them there are plenty of beautiful designs available for boys and girls. If you have the energy to get out an inkpad or paints then adding a print of baby's hand or foot is a nice touch, and makes your note or letter that bit special.

Once your child is old enough to hold a crayon, let them add their own personal touch to your card or note. Even very young children enjoy decorating cards with stickers. It may be just a scribble, and the stickers may not be positioned to your taste, but the recipient will likely be charmed.

Toddlers and younger children

So long as you keep things relaxed and fun, most younger kids will be happy to play along with producing thank you notes. As soon as your child can write his/her name encourage them to add it to the note. Don't insist on 'neat' writing, or be critical if some of the letters turn out backwards or misshapen the recipient won't care, and you don't want to risk putting your children off thank you notes at this tender age! If your child isn't keen on writing their name (or if they have a long name), then how about just an initial? On the other hand, children who enjoy writing may also like to copy out 'thank you' onto the card or note, and even write the recipient's name.

Encouraging dictation

For the text of the card, try to elicit a sentence or two from your child about the gift in question and write it for them. The best way to do this is by playing together with the gift, or at least placing it where the child can see it. Try asking leading questions for example: Why do you like it? What do you like best about it? Where are you going to keep it? Are you going to do something special with it? Write down the answers. It's OK to paraphrase!

This dictation gets easier, of course, as children get older. So whereas it's worth a try as soon as a child can speak, certainly you shouldn't push it until he or she is a few years older.

Thank you drawings & paintings

For a child who is uninterested in writing or dictating their feelings about a gift, doing a special thank you drawing or painting, or posing for a special thank you photo, is a great idea. If you child is artistic (or simply enjoys drawing) then allow them to be creative with crayons, pens or paints. If it isn't clear what the resulting picture represents and it often isn't at this age! then ask them to describe what they have drawn, and write a few explanatory lines on the back. If your child prefers coloring to drawing then cut a favorite page out of a coloring book, or print out a coloring sheet from the Internet (an image search for 'thank you coloring sheets' brings up lots of options). Look out for packs of color-in thank you note cards for kids (often themed: i.e. Christmas, fairies, animals etc) that some stationers carry.

Pretty much any drawing can be made to look extra special with the simple addition of a mount or frame of colored card. In fact, it's so effective that even the simplest toddler's scribble can be worth hanging on the wall when treated this way. Note that mounts are easier to cut than frames, as you only have to get the outer edges straight. If you're cutting a frame then you need to get the inner edges really straight and take special care with inner corners, or you risk spoiling the effect a steel rule and a box cutter are your best bet. If you're feeling ambitious, experiment with oval, or even circular mounts and frames (bowls and plates make good templates).

If there are several thank you notes that need to be produced at one time, creating a stack of drawings or coloring multiple pictures can feel overwhelming. In this case, a great idea for children who enjoy painting is to get them to paint all over a large sheet of construction paper or thin card (making sure that they paint into the corners, and that pretty much all the sheet is covered). Colorful abstracts work best. Then cut the resulting artwork* into pieces, and get your child to write 'thank you' and their name on each one. In this way, a whole batch of thank you notes can be done quickly and easily. It's also a great idea for creating thank you notes to give out at the end of a kids' birthday party.

* Of course, you could use any of your child's drawings and paintings for this; no need for it to be a specially produced 'thank you painting' unless you particularly want it to be.

Thank you 'placards' and photos

Another idea that gets neatly around the issue of having to produce 10 or 20 individual artworks is for your child to create one big elaborate 'thank you' picture. Take a photo of them holding it and send a copy to everyone on the thank you note list. You could, for example, sketch out the words 'THANK YOU!' in block writing and get your child to fill them in with crayons, paint, collage or even glitter... Or paint a big smiley face. Whatever takes their fancy!

Another idea for a 'thank you photo' is to take a picture of your child together with the gift they have received perhaps playing/reading/wearing it as applicable. My son likes to hold up the gift with one hand, point to it with the other and give a huge grin! Mom and Dad can always add a few lines along the lines of:

Just to let you know that Tom absolutely loves the 'Big Machines' book you sent. In fact, he spent pretty much the whole evening yesterday looking at it (we wondered why he was so quiet!). Here's a snap of him engrossed in the section on tractors.

These days, with most of us having access to a digital camera and a printer, this is such a fun and easy option! Of course, the photos are staged, but that really doesn't detract from their charm. OK, so they're not the formal handwritten thank you notes demanded by Miss Manners, but they certainly do the job in other words, they acknowledge the gift plus show that it is appreciated.

Saying thank you for gifts when the child doesn't like them

This isn't a big problem when children are young: it's simply up to you, the parent, to word a suitable message and get the child to sign their name and/or draw a picture. Even if the present was a real dud, it's unlikely that a young child will object, even if you ask for them to pose for a photo with the item in question.

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