She wipes your child's tears, talks him out of his tantrums and makes him feel loved when you can't be there. Your child care providers are part of the team that keeps your family running, whether you hire an occasional weekend babysitter or rely on the entire staff at your child's school. Writing a heartfelt note of thanks makes your care providers feel appreciated.
Etiquette and Timing
Send a thank-you card at the end of the school year, when one of your providers is leaving her job or whenever you child's day care arrangement changes, like when he's leaving the infant room at day care to move into the toddler room. Writing a note of thanks is also appropriate at the holidays as you reflect on the past year.
You can also mark milestones in your child's life by thanking the provider/s who helped him progress. Send a note to the person who helped your toddler use the toilet for the first time or showed your daughter how to tie her own shoes. And Provider Appreciation Day always warrants delivering a note of thanks -- it's observed on the Friday before Mother's Day.
Hand the note to your provider in person. If you're writing a note intended for multiple staff members, hand it to an administrator and ask that it be shared with everyone who cares for your child.
Save the raunchy card for a friend's birthday. When you're dealing with your child's caregiver, play it safe by choosing a card that's silly -- think cartoon animals -- or sincere. You may find a card specifically intended for thanking a caregiver, opt for a blank card or select a card with a pre-printed message of general thanks.
If you opt for a card that has a pre-printed message, choose one that has plenty of blank space for you to add notes. Look for a card that has a message such as "I/We appreciate you for all you do" or "You make a difference in our lives."
Alternately, skip the stationary store altogether and have your child make a card using a piece of card stock or light construction paper. Ask her to decorate the front of the card with drawings and leave one of the interior flaps free for your writing.
Personal Notes and Tone
Try to mimic the tone you use with your child care provider in the card. If you're very close and joke together, you might open the card with a funny or self-deprecating comment such as "I can't believe Charlie's teething didn't send you running for the hills!" or "Without your help during potty training, I would be even more nuts than I already am." If your relationship is purely professional, open with a serious note such as "I can't tell you how grateful I am for everything you've done for Charlie."
Next, list one or two specific things the provider or providers have done that's been meaningful for you and your child. Say something about how much she enjoyed a particular field trip or talk about a way in which your child has grown during her time with her caregivers; for instance, write that her language skills have blossomed under their care.
Finish the note with a few sentences of sincere thanks. Use a sentiment such as "Thank you for being so reliable and loving" or "We're so thankful that we found you." Sign off by writing "With thanks/appreciation," and the names of all your family members.
Your Child's Input
Include your child in the creation of your card to make it a thanks from both of you. If your child is old enough to at least scribble, point to a section of the card where she can add decoration. Ask an older child to make a drawing of a memory or favorite activity she shares with her caregivers. If she can write, have her sign her name or write a personal message to the teacher.
Take the card a step further by snapping a photo of your child holding a sign that has a message of thanks for the provider. Tuck the photo into the card.
To E or Not to E(Card)
A handwritten note is your most thoughtful option and gives the provider a keepsake to hold onto. However, when you're pressed for time or won't have the opportunity to deliver a physical card -- say, when it's the last day of the school year and staff members are dispersing for summer -- sending an electronic card or email is better than sending no note at all.
This method is also useful if you want your message to reach a lot of people who work in different parts of a building and might not all see a card if it was displayed in the main office. You may already have the email addresses for everyone who works with your child in your school paperwork; if not, look for an employee directory on the school's website or ask an administrator if she can send you the relevant addresses.