The best time to teach your preschooler to say thank you for presents received over the holidays is beforehand. In Montessori education, grace and courtesy is an important part of the practical life lessons. And the aim is to give children demonstrations and practice with proper etiquette before an etiquette technique will be needed.
Here are some ideas to help your child learn how to say thank you for presents:
Demonstrate How to Receive a Present with the Proper Words and Actions
- You could introduce a lesson on receiving a present by saying, “I’d like to show you what to do when you receive a present.” Demonstrate the actions along with the appropriate words.
- Say something like, “I don’t ask someone for a present. I never ask, ‘Where’s my present?’”
- Have your child give you a present you prepared for the demonstration. Demonstrate the proper words and behavior. “When I’m given a present, I look the person in the eye [or whatever is appropriate for your culture], smile, and say, ‘Thank you.’”
- Open the present. Then say, “After I open the present, I again say, ‘Thank you.’ If the present is something I already have, I don’t say, ‘I already have one.’
- “I try to say something nice about the present.” Give an example of something nice you could say.
- If you want your child to feel comfortable hugging a relative or friend, you should demonstrate that as well. It’s recommended that you tell your child he or she doesn’t have to hug someone.
- “I put away the gift wrap from the present.”
- Finally, say, “Later, I write a thank-you note to the person who gave me the present.”
Give Your Child Opportunities to Practice
Repetition is essential for young children to learn social graces. You should give your child as many opportunities to practice as possible before your child is actually given a present. Be creative.
- You could have a gift bag or box with a lid that can be used over and over. You could put different toys, clothes, or books your child already owns in the gift bag or box and role play giving the gift to your child. The object will be a surprise, and your child will have to think of something nice to say about it.
- You could have gifts of small presents for your child to practice saying thank you throughout the holiday season. Some parents have small daily gifts throughout December, especially to focus on teaching their child to say thank you.
- You could role play with a pretend present.
- If you have more than one child, they could take turns giving and receiving real or pretend presents.
- After your child is given plenty of role-playing opportunities, you could have discussions about “What should I do when I receive a present?”
Be Specific in Your Encouragement when Your Child Remembers the Proper Etiquette Technique
- “I was so happy to see the way you smiled at Aunt Ellen and told her, ‘Thank you.'”
- “I appreciate that you remembered to say what you liked about Aunt Ellen’s gift.”
- “You cleaned up every scrap of wrapping paper!”
Don’t Criticize or Embarrass Your Child in Public if He or She Forgets the Etiquette Technique
- Remember that young children need lots of practice.
- Repeat the lesson again later.
- Give more opportunities for practice.
Learn more about my eBook Montessori at Home or School: How to. Teach Grace and Courtesy!
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I like the idea of practicing to say thank you, you sort of reinforce the urge to express gratitude by making your child repeat the whole process multiple times. Just telling them not to forget is not enough because they get all excited and all the words slip their memory. However if they physically “rehearsed” receive-gift-say-thank-you procedure it will resurface during the actual act.
Deb Chitwood says
Thanks for your comment, Dana! My children were figure skaters and were used to practicing their programs over and over and over again throughout each competitive season. Then they didn’t have to worry when it was time to compete because they could just count on their muscle memory to remember their program regardless of how big the event or audience was.
I really think the repetition in manners instruction does the same thing – gives a way for good manners to be at the top of a child’s mind even during a situation that is new or stressful.
Hello, Deb. Thank you so much for this post. I am glad it is still on time for me. My kids are quite good at saying thank you, but I still think they could do better, like adding something about the present. I was considering preparing the thank you cards with them this year. I still will do, but you gave me the idea of preparing them beforehand. We can do the decorations and leave the message for after Christmas, so we can add something special about the present itself. Every time I come here, I learn a new thing. God bless you!
Deb Chitwood says
Thanks so much for your kind comment, Hilra! I like your idea of preparing thank you notes beforehand but leaving the decorations and message for after Christmas. God bless you, too!
I will have a look around to see if I find a post on “eye contact”, but if not, I will be back to ask you some advice 😉
Deb Chitwood says
Thanks so much for bringing attention to the topic of eye contact. I just started a discussion thread in Blog Frog called “Do you think it’s appropriate for children to make eye contact and/or offer their hand to shake hands with an adult?”: http://theblogfrog.com/1378313/forum/69966/do-you-think-it’s-appropriate-for-children-to-make-eye-contact-and-or-offer-their-hand-to-shake-hands-with-an-adult.html. I’d love to hear about your cultural traditions and anything you find online about eye contact!
From the number of comments, it seems that people agree with you that this is important – and I do, too! My son and I had fun the other day practicing receiving gifts. I had him pretend to open a gift from me and said, “It’s spinach!!” to test his courtesy when getting a gift he didn’t exactly want. He passed the test, grinning. But this is a comprehensive list that I will have to use as a model next time we do it. I hadn’t thought to tack on putting the wrapping paper away and reminding him that he writes a thank you note later. This will round out our role play!
Thanks so much for your kind comment, Kristy! I love your idea of having your son say, “It’s spinach!” 🙂
Little Wonders' Days says
You know I loved this post last year and I love it every bit as much this year! Thanks for the wonderful reminder and for linking up to AfterSchool.
Thanks, Kelly! And I’ve always loved your related post, which I’d added to https://livingmontessorinow.com/2011/09/13/grace-and-courtesy-games-at-home-or-school/. 🙂
This is such great advice! Thanks for joining in the Afterschool Blog Hop!
Thanks, Julie! I’m definitely an advocate of preparing children for events in advance. Have a wonderful holiday season! 🙂
Great ideas, I especially liked the suggestion of practicing through pretend play. Visiting from Afterschool!
Thanks so much, Natalie! It’s nice that kids can have fun while learning good manners! Have a great holiday season! 🙂
Thanks for the nice tips. Being a teacher it will helps me lot. Great article.