14 years and 7 kids ago, we started a tradition. When little Ben (then 2 years old, now 24!) received a gift, we taught him to write a thank you note before taking the present to his room.
Opening 1 toy and playing with it (and setting the other gifts aside for later) helped with the “toddler-is-overwhelmed-because-he-now-has-15-new-toys-and-just-takes-them-all-out-but-plays-with-none” problem. It was a novel idea for this new mamma! And it led to us to the tradition of writing real, specific, genuine thank you notes. Only having 1 present out at a time helped me see what he loved about it… I’d write that in the thank you note, he’d scribble a red or blue dash across the page and we’d pop it in the mail.
Over the 22 years since, our 8 kiddos have expressed their thanks in some really fun ways. When Christmas rolls around and everyone receives gifts, we have a thank-you-note boot camp and writing party. Since we have kiddos from preschool to 3 adults (I still can’t believe that!), the Olsen fam has learned how to write a solid thank you note! <-That link is how-to write a thank you note. The rest of this post is 5 creative ways to say thanks. Allow your kiddos’ Thank You’s to shine with personality and gratitude!
Before You Start
Before anyone writes the first note, talk about gratitude. We start by sharing Bible verses about thankfulness to remind all of us that gratitude is a state of the heart. We can always find a reason to be thankful!!!!
5 Creative Ways to Say Thanks:
#1 Draw A Picture
You’ll need: Paper. Crayons.
Perfect for: artists, toddlers
With the gift on the table, let them create a masterpiece of gratitude.
For preschoolers, try cutting out part of the package and pasting it to their art work! You or a big bro can help little ones by dotting the letters T-h-a-n-k-s for them to trace. I always help add a few words of thanks… even better if they say it all jumbled up! Write it word for word to capture the memory moment.
Tip: Don’t limit this to your toddlers! Over the years, we’ve had incredible pop-up cards created, vibrant pop-art masterpieces and other creative thanks whipped out by the artists in our home. Encourage their creative endeavours… an “outside the box” thank you is always remembered!
#2 Let them Dictate
You’ll need: A cute notecard. Pen. Patience.
Perfect for: preschoolers, primary students
I learned early on that while my 6-year-old may have quite an experience to share, he doesn’t have the writing skills to keep up with his brain. If I ask him to write out his thanks, he may get:
Thanks for the Lego.
written down. If, however, I allow him to dictate his thoughts to me he’ll include details such as how he plans to play with it, how long he wanted it or that he’s looking forward to her visit so he can show her his newest Lego creation! Start writing and don’t use this as a chance to correct every grammar or pronunciation mistake… capture the whimsy of childhood in the note.
Tip: Offer a few prompts! Ask, “How will you use this?” or “Is this your favorite color?”
#3 Snap a Photo
You’ll need: Camera. Gift. A winning smile.
Perfect for: aspiring photographers, neurodivergent learners, busy moms
Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. A photo thank you can be such a huge blessing to far away family. They get to see your kiddo and the gift in use. You may print and mail… or text for a sincere-but-quick thank you note. Win-win!
Tip: Get creative! Snap an unposed action shot of your child using the gift or let the kids do an unexpected thank you pose. Another idea is to encourage your child to “stage” the photo (ie: your daughter may set her American Girl doll up in the outfit grandma gave and even draw a background to make the time period come to life!)
#4 Write a Story
You’ll need: A creative child who loves to weave a yarn.
Perfect for: writers, type-a moms who want to knock out a school assignment
Turn your creative writer loose! Allow her to make up a story about a magical scarf that whisked her away to a winter wonderland every time she wrapped it around her neck or let your son picture himself in the video game and tell about his adventures.
Tip: Don’t forget to keep a copy of this priceless thank-you in their school folder!
You’ll need: A talker & a phone.
Perfect for: all ages
Sometimes, unlimited time to chat with a cousin means much more than a hand-written note. While this southern mamma loves a good thank-you note, I admit that knowing the right way to say thanks to the right person is worth 1,000 gardenia scented, monogrammed cards. ;) Adding one more to-do truly is not the goal… remember, you’re teaching gratitude!
Tip: Chat before hand about the gift and the generosity of the giver then allow your child to call and share from his heart.
When the gift doesn’t fit
You’ll need: A tender heart and gentle leading.
You know it’s bound to happen… little brother gets an epic Lego set but big sis opens a plain pink T-shirt that’s 2 sizes too big. It can be hard to express gratitude when… well, when you’re not thankful! This is not an opportunity for correction but a chance to lovingly shape your daughter’s view of gifts and gratitude.
One year, the flop was so bad that instead of writing about the gift itself, we wrote how sweet it was to give and that we were praying they’d have a blessed New Year. You know- the old “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” bit. Now, looking back, we laugh about those gifts and remember them more than ones that were prized at the time!
Tip: Always try to look for the good in any situation. You may do this with humor or by keeping the thanks simple. Or perhaps she can share how excited she is about a trip to the store alone with Mom when she exchanges it for her size!
Remember Why You Started
However your child communicates their gratitude, remember this is one more opportunity in your parenting to train up your kiddo in being thankful. We’ve been given so much by our gracious Heavenly Father – saying thank you to those who give presents is one way to learn it is more blessed to give than to receive.