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Grace & Courtesy Lesson: Gift Receiving

At our house, we have been practicing some gift receiving with one another.  I feel this is a valuable lesson with little children, so that they aren’t corrected or prompted while they have the spotlight.  “Say thank you.”….”Don’t be rude.”….”What do you say?”  Preparation is the key.

To a child, its hard not to state the obvious when opening a gift…..”I already have this.”….”I’m too big for Elmo”…..”Clothes, again?!”   Children aren’t trying to be rude, they just know these things to be true;  so they say it.  Sometimes the side effect of many gifts comes in tossing gifts aside for a better one. Truthfully, at our birthdays, we wait until the party is over.  It gives us time to go over the gifts on our own schedule and write hand written thank you notes for each. Its more calm, and not so post-cake sugar crazed. Of course, it’s okay to not love a gift, but it is the adult’s role to help a child learn to wait until the appropriate time to express these notions.

We give this lesson before the holidays and birthdays, but it is a good idea to review it often. Gifts tend to come to little kids when life is a circus, during holidays or birthdays, at a time when there is a lot of stimulation.  Regular practice may ease the moment.  We like to play this after grocery shopping, which happens regularly, while many bags are handy.  Often, we use play silks, a furoshiki, or reusable shopping bags.  Then, we  fill it up with things from around the house. The receiving child slowly opens it, looks carefully at it, and then makes on observation about it.  “It’s purple, my favorite color!” or “I have a book about this character.”  Go over the possible comments with your child, so that they are armed with some language for the big event.  The most important part, the receiving child looks the giver in the eye and says, thank you.

Be sure that you model the same grace and courtesies that you hope your child to gain.   


 Jessie is a Primary Montessori Teacher and Mom to twin three year olds and a four year old.  Jessie has a Montessori blog at The Education Of Ours, and can be found on Twitter.



  1. You are a very wise woman. What a good lesson for your children and many adults to learn! I have a relative that complains about everything. Someone once offered her a Christmas orange and she snarled, “Well, is it sweet? I don’t want it if it’s not sweet.” I now often say to her “The proper response when presented with a gift is “thank you!”

  2. Jessie, we did this work a lot this past week to prepare for our daughter’s birthday. It is amazing what practice can do!

    Great post!

  3. Such an important lesson!!! Great job, Jessie!

  4. Apparently I was such a brat at my 2nd or 3rd Christmas that my parents told me Santa wasn’t coming the next year. All year long they reminded me. So when Christmas morning rolled around, and I GOT PRESENTS, I was the most gracious creature imaginable from then on. Later, as a tween, my siblings were such pains (by then my parents had 4 kids!) one year my mom said if anyone complained about a gift, they lost it. No second chances. They’d always had a generous exchange policy – they would gladly either ‘buy’ back an unwanted gift for cash, or take us to the store to exchange. But this year, if you weren’t gracious about it, it was gone. My sister complained about something in her stocking and WHOOSH! My mom swooped in and that was that. No more complaints that year.
    My daughter was 2.5 last Christmas, and she’d clutch every gift to her chest and exclaim “I love it! It’s just what I always wanted!”… before even opening! Probably the best Christmas I’ll ever have, from her! :)

  5. Debbie Kennedy says:

    I remember trying to teach my 3 year old about please and thank you and you’re welcome. One year we planted avocado pits and they grew. We decided that we would give daddy and each grandpa an avocado plant for Father’s day. I mentioned to a fellow at work that we had done this and I had some extra plants. He was interested in having one. Prior to bringing my co-worker the plant, I was practicing manners with my daughter. I said to her , “Now when you give this to “John,” he is going to say thank you. Then, what are you going to say? My daughter then said “Happy Father’s day!” I can’t tell you how happy I was that we had practiced at home first. I could just imagine the rumors if my daughter had said this to him at work……………out of the mouth of babes!

  6. Jessie, great reminder that those skills need to be practiced throughout the year! It’s interesting how much more courteous children appear when they’ve been prepared well beforehand. And I love your last sentence: “Be sure that you model the same grace and courtesies that you hope your child to gain.”

  7. Oh…I LOVE this! We practice saying “my favorite part of this is…” when they give each other drawings or “gifts”. They also love to “wrap” presents for each other using tin foil…then they thank each other for the “gift”. It’s cute because they are always so thoughtful in what they give. Great post, my friend.

  8. Love this! So important and an amazing life lesson! I agree, we are their first teachers in life. We need to set the example!

  9. Great idea to do this. We will need to practice this a lot before their birthdays. Thanks for the idea.

  10. Such a valuable life lesson! Great for this season too!

  11. Chandra Christine O'Connor says:

    I always made my kids be appreciative of their gifts, sometimes the kids couldnt afford gifts so we usually said no gifts required on card so they didnt feel left out. then afterwards I would let my kids pick something out at store for being kind.

  12. Elva Roberts says:

    September 13-I absolutely love Jessie’s method of teaching children the grace involved in receiving gifts. This is a lost art, not only for children but for adults as well. Good manners never go out of style. What a wonderful way to encourage our children, and ourselves, to be gracious and thankful when receiving gifts.-el03ro

  13. Grace and courtesy…such an important lesson. And I loved reading your approach :)

  14. angie andrews says:

    Such an important lesson to learn, we try and practice this as much as possible too

  15. Christy Martin says:

    We switched up the gift giving protocol yesterday and avoided doing it after the cake and at the table. The birthday girl got the attention she deserved and if toys were given, they were able to be shared and played with. It was a good distraction and actually let the the adults visit with each other.

  16. DARLENE W says:

    We have taught the kids to always be gracious, practising helps

  17. Elizabeth Matthiesen says:

    a great lesson for children and they can’t learn it early enough. I’m sure that practising this is also very helpful. I vividly remember my parents telling us that if tried to see Santa leaving presents we wouldn’t get any, since that was exactly what they said happened to our older brother – we didn’t dare get out of bed after that! Not quite the same but it was still a lesson well learned. I’m also pretty sure my mother would have gone ballistic had we turned our noses up at a present, or not shown enough gratitude – it would have disappeared straight away. She was tough but fair too, although of course we didn’t think so at the time :-)

  18. Elizabeth Matthiesen says:

    I have written this once already but I don’t see it anywhere so here we go again :-)
    I think that this is a very important lesson that every child should learn and practising will no doubt help. I know that my mother would have gone ballistic had we ever not shown the appropriate gratitude for a present we’d received. I remember the years of writing thank you letters to Aunties and Uncles for presents and we had to write in Italics too. It seemed such a bind at the time but I am extremely grateful that we were taught this lesson early in life.


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