Story and photo by Liz Conroy
Teaching children about
JANIE VOSS HAS TAUGHT two- to five-year-old children in Athens, Georgia for more than three decades. She began her career at the UGA’s McPhaul Child Development Lab. She then taught in the Clarke County School system, and later worked with preschoolers in the half-day program at Emmanuel Episcopal Day School. Her kindness, patience, and knowledge were apparent as she worked with different pre-school groups. Her skills helped parents throughout the Athens area – including me and my husband – improve their own parenting skills.We learned better ways to interact with our children. Now recently retired, Janie Voss (JV) offered to share her expertise with Athens-Oconee Parent Magazine (APM) on teaching children about writing thank-you notes in their early years. APM: Why is writing thank-you notes such an important habit for children to learn? JV: It is always important to teach children the value and importance of saying “thankyou” whenever they receive special gifts from family, friends, or school acquaintances. First, talk with your child about what it means to be grateful to those who care enough to give gifts, share their time, or extend invitations to tea parties or other events. Second, explain that a good way to express gratitude is to write a thank-you note or even draw a picture to send to that person. APM: At what age can a small child begin learning about thank-you notes or thank-you pictures? JV: Even one and two-year-olds can be involved in these activities. It’s best to start when they are young. And, keeping things simple makes it easier for child of any age to enjoy the task. APM: What are some tips for teaching a young child to write thank-you notes? JV:When you sit down to write thank-you notes, include your child in the process by briefly explaining what it is you’re doing and why the note or card means a lot for someone to receive.
As the child sits next to you and watches the process, you are serving as an important role model for this positive project. Consider inviting your young child to add a scribble, a fingerprint, or a sticker to the card, as their contribution.They will enjoy being part of something special. Older children like choosing the card or paper to make thank-you cards or notes since this gives them some control in the activity. Allowing them to feel involved helps increase their excitement about taking part. It also helps to describe to them how excited the person will be to receive such a special card in the mail. Everyone enjoys receiving a thank-you note in the mail! APM: Can you recall some of your own experiences as a child in this activity? JV: My parents, especially my mother, encouraged my siblings and me to send thank-you cards.They provided us with pretty cards, stamps, and other artsy things. I really enjoyed writing to my grandparents. It felt like a special connection because they lived several hours away, and we only saw them a few times each year. I even remember becoming “Pen Pals” with my mother's mother after a time, and it’s a nice memory. APM: What supplies do you recommend for creating hand-made notes? JV:Today, there are so many creative supplies for children to use to make thank-you notes and cards.You may want to have a craft box filled with a few cards, paper to make cards, lots of writing/drawing tools (glitter pens, crayons, markers), stickers, scissors, and glue sticks for your children to inspire their creativity. APM: When a child refuses, how should a parent best handle it? JV:You know your child the best! He or she may not be ready to engage in such activities. All you can do is be excited, provide role modeling as you go, offer the supplies, and invite the child to join in the fun.Try to keep things positive so it doesn’t become a cumbersome chore.
FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: Karlin Silvershield, Ruby Nackashi, and Adah Nackashi use drawing as a way to convey their thanks through pictures.
APM: At what age will a child be able to write his or her own thank-you notes or cards? JV:When children are about six to eightyears-old, they can begin writing their thoughts on their own.The parent can write down what a younger child has to say. Sometimes these are the best-ever notes! After all, young children have their own ideas of what a thank-you note is all about and are willing to freely express themselves. Before mailing their cards, parents can take a moment to teach older children where to put the name, address, and return address on each envelope.Then let them stick the stamp on the envelope, too. APM: When are the best times to begin writing notes, such as after supper or on weekends? JV: A good time to suggest to your children to write thank-you notes is when a parent is going to do the same activity or a similar activity such as other paper work or paying bills.That way, it becomes kind of a group activity or project. Another good time is when you have just purchased new supplies for the craft box, and then the children are already excited about using them. APM: What are some final tips for parents who are teaching their children about writing thank-you notes? JV: Begin role modeling writing thank-you notes to children while they are young.This activity – especially when started in the early years – helps youngsters develop this life skill early on, and it may even become an enjoyable family tradition to do together. It’s a wonderful way to have fun while learning to express gratitude to others. ■ Liz Conroy is an Athens-based freelance journalist who always enjoys finding a thank-you note in the mailbox.