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Make Thank-You Notes Fun

Try these tips to get your kids writing

It’s that time of year again, when a nagging thought stirs the minds of moms everywhere: Did the kids write their thank-you notes yet? (And no, you’re not the only mom on the block who puts her foot down and declares “You can’t play with that toy until you write the thank-you note!”) Try these tips to make this holiday task a lot more fun.

Start a tradition

“Trace your child’s hand on construction paper and cut it out to make a thank you card,” suggests Stacy DeBroff, founder of Mom Central. Be sure to include the date. Family and friends will look forward to watching the note increase in size each year.

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 KidsArt Inc, 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 download the tape to your computer and burn a CD to send, suggests Jennifer Bogda Lomeli, the mother of a 12-year-old son who loves to create these. (No CD burner on your computer? No problem. Just bring the tape to your local photo shop and they’ll create the CD for you.)

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 (MountainCow; $29.99) 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 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 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!”

Remember the address labels

My son’s enthusiasm for writing thank you notes increased when he received his own set of baseball-themed address labels. Current Labels and Colorful Images offer inexpensive labels with kid-friendly themes.

One more thing … Be sure to make thank-you-note writing a family affair and take this time to sit with your kids and write your own notes, too. Don’t forget the holiday music, cookies and cocoa!