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Do's and don'ts of kids thank you notes

Abbi Perets lives in Houston, TX, with her husband and five children.






The fine art of thank you notes

The gifts have been opened and admired. The boxes have been recycled. The toys are in use -- or, perhaps, already shunned in favor of candy, television, and time with friends and relatives. All that's left is the thank you notes. Teach your kids how to write one properly.

Mom helping daughter write Thank You notes

The same children who have no trouble making highly detailed wish lists in advance of the holidays may suddenly profess an inability to write, type, or otherwise create even the simplest of thank you notes once the gifts have been opened. But if the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends don't receive their eagerly-awaited missives, the Season of Giving can quickly turn into the Season of Celebrating Your Flawed Parenting, with participants clamoring to outdo each other with their complaints.

Although that does sound like a fun way to cap off the holidays, it can be avoided. Here's how.

Do your homework first

Before you start writing, take a few minutes to talk about what a thank you note is, and consider working together to create a template. Especially if your children have never written a thank you note, they may have no idea how to start. So ask a few leading questions: Why do you like this gift? What are you most excited about? How did you feel when you opened it?

Then explain how to put that into a note:

Thank you for the scooter. I was so happy when I opened it. I love the color. I can't wait to ride it in the park when the weather is warmer.

Do make this a learning opportunity

You can review the parts of a letter and make a mini-lesson for younger kids. Walk the kids through the first letter, talking about each part out loud before writing it. Then let them have the freedom to write on their own.

Do make thank you notes a family activity

Much though we'd love to think differently, children insist on learning from what we do. Telling them to write thank you notes while you play with your new iPhone doesn't really fly. So gather everyone together, sit down with pens and paper, and get to the task at hand. Put on some background music, but keep the television and the snacks out of sight until the work is done.

Next page: Thank you note etiquette -- when should you send them out?

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