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mailing thank you notes {early writing skills}

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Early writing skills begin long before a child can either write sentences or dictate a story.  These skills are developed through free play and free drawing.  Children can create stories through speaking.  And children can create stories through drawing.  I have been challenged, as a parent to a child who doesn’t love to draw or color, to create experiences for my son to express his ideas.  When I gently press him to tell a story, I am amazed by his thought process and creativity.

For the activity illustrated in this particular post, I asked John {who just turned four} to draw pictures for the family or friends who provided gifts for him at his birthday party.  He isn’t new to my asking him to “draw a picture” — we began this work with creating “I’m sorry” notes to his sister or a friend when poor decisions were made.

Thank you notes are a way of life here at our house, so it’s best to get children accustomed to this courtesy early.  We had many to write, so we had to spread this work over the course of several days.  I had written cards and addressed envelopes, all that was missing was John’s picture — which I knew would be the most precious part of the note for the receiver.

At first, John was eager to get started.  His first note was to our neighbor’s son who gave John his old bike.  It is so exciting to see John’s formation of a bike — two wheels, him riding, Oliver riding, and some other lines that were well explained as he drew.

I have an upcoming series on how we document and record memories.  Here, I write exactly what John dictates, so John will know that his words are being written on the paper, and the receiver will understand the picture as well.  I also include the date.  If we are keeping the picture, I do the same — half the time, I take a picture of the treasured work of art, so I don’t have to end up keeping every picture!  


The next note was to a pair of brothers.  It was sweet to see John draw the two brothers with wild hair, while John had no hair {which is the opposite of reality — John is the one with the wild hair in real life}.  He put a circle around one of the friends and said that they were all playing together in the picture.

He tells a story through his racing thoughts and little fingers scribbling.  This early writing — including holding a marker with proper tripod grip — should always be encouraged and expanded upon by the adult.  Talking about the picture, and dictating a sentence below with permission of the child, helps the child know his work is valued.

Here are some phrases you could use:

“Tell me about your picture.”

“What is happening here?”

“Can you tell me more?”

“What else are you saying?”


Next is a sweet picture of John and Nana.  Nana is taller, with a lot of hair, and again, John doesn’t have hair here.  He’s added arms, instead of legs.  “What are you playing?”  “How does that make you feel?”DSC02020

“GG” is my grandmother and John’s great grandmother.  We are so blessed to have her in our lives.  This picture brought tears to my eyes as he shared it with me.  John’s arm is coming around GG for a big hug.
DSC02021I’m not including every picture here, but I hope this gives you an idea of John’s hard work in completing his thank you notes!  He helped fold and seal the envelopes, as well as bring them out to the mail.  Even though the work became tedious towards the end, he was very proud of what he had accomplished.

Creating notes like this, and especially writing his exact words below the picture, show children that his words and thoughts can be written down and have intrinsic value.  We are continuing to organically weave in writing experiences like this into our days.  {Just this week, we created a Treasure Map after John expressed interest from reading a book.}  This early writing will only progress and I can’t wait to continue this learning with him!!


Connecting with my son and how boys learn

Creating “I’m sorry” notes


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  1. Interesting post… Why didn’t you post a pic of my TY note…??? ;)

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