From dinner time conversation skills to the lost art of the thank-you note, today’s parents are returning to old-fashioned, time-tested values. In developing gratitude, good manners, and every other life skill, children look to parents to lead the way. Here’s how you can do just that — no matter how young your brood is:
- Young babies (birth to 6 months):
Pictures are a worthy enough substitute for the words your baby cannot yet write. Snap photos of your adorable little one in her grandparent-funded layette. Your sister-n-law will know that you (and baby) appreciate the cute and useful gift of a teething ring when she sees a pic of your infant happily gnawing away. Tuck these precious moments into your thank-you notes.
- Older babies and toddlers (6 – 24 months):
More active babies might need a more active medium to convey their delight with a new gift or toy: video. Smart phones and small recorders make it easy to capture a special moment and email it within minutes. Older toddlers can talk enough and follow simple directions long enough to participate in the filming — you two can work together to produce a sincere, simple “thank you!” shout-out that will make the recipient’s day.
- Two and Three year olds:
Let the scribbling begin! Really. Your youngster can “ready, aim, scribble” on a piece of paper, so let her. On the first try, a two year-old might approach this task with the grace of Norman Bates, turned loose on another shower curtain; but by age 3, many children will have the muscular control to grasp a kid-sized (washable!) marker and copy the example circle that you draw. When she adds eyes and a smile to that circle, she will have written a powerfully accurate chronicle of how someone’s generosity made her feel.
If, at this stage of note-writing, your child asks you to be the scribe, it’s very helpful for you to go along. Just make sure the words are all hers. Kiddie thoughts move much faster than little fingers. Reading back the note you’ve written on behalf of your child reinforces the magical connection between ideas and the words that represent them.
We know that a kid this age isn’t often in touch with her “inner editor.” And you know what? She don’t need an external one right now. Let her experiment with letter-like squiggles, random letters, crooked letters, and invented spellings. That stuff is all developmentally appropriate at this stage.
Thank you for reading.
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