Do you have a child in school? Whether you have a preschooler, elementary school student, middle schooler, or high school student, you likely are thinking about getting gifts for your child’s teachers. It’s a quandary parents face every year.
But first, let’s talk about items that are NOT good teacher gifts. After asking a few teachers I know and love, they all agreed on these tips:
Please, no more mugs. We don’t have any more room in the cupboard at home, and even the school lounge is overloaded.
Statues and ornaments. We have the same problem – no room. Our holiday trees are loaded with teacher-related ornaments (and our families aren’t thrilled with the theme).
But don’t worry – there are other ways to show your teacher you care and stay under budget at the same time.
Lucky for you I have advice on teacher gift ideas that are appropriate, based on your child’s age, and a teacher’s likely likes and dislikes, and that take your budget into consideration.
This information should put your mind at ease — and make your gift shopping much easier. To make my advice easier to follow, I’ve broken out tips based on the “level” of school your child attends.
Nursery or preschool
Most nursery or preschool teachers spend a lot of time in the classroom or out on the playground, using their hands. Whether it’s pushing kids on the swings or washing out paintbrushes, these teachers deserve a gift of pampering. How about a gift card for a manicure? And it doesn’t have to be pricey either.
One of the ways to make this gift affordable is to find out if your favorite spa or salon employs any apprentices that know how to do manicures. Apprentices who are just learning the trade often charge much less than full-time staff. You should be able to get away with a $20 gift card that easily covers a manicure and tip.
Another gift option if you’re not a fan of manicures, or don’t think the teacher would be, is to give the teacher a book to read (for herself, not the classroom) or a gift card to a local bookstore. Find out if she has a Kindle or Nook. A gift card to this service is a welcome gift for a teacher.
If money is tight, a plate of homemade cookies – even the slice-and-bake variety – is wonderful. Teachers can share these with their colleagues.
I still love the notion of a gift card to a bookstore — especially if I can support a local business — as a gift for an elementary school teacher. However, after running into my children’s teachers at the local java joint on school mornings, it dawned on me that instead of giving her a mug, I could give her something to put in the mug she already has. A gift card to help pay for their morning Joe just might be the perfect teacher gift idea.
Another great idea for an elementary school teacher gift? A board game for the classroom, so the kids have something new to play with during indoor recess. Depending on the grade, you can find several games that are inexpensive but still great go-to items for rainy or snowy days. Uno comes in a metal tin for easy storage in the classroom. Splash is a fun, fast-action game that won several family game awards.
Again, homemade goodies are also always welcome – especially in the break room. If you aren’t much of a baker, candy crates filled with candy from a forgotten era, chocolate truffles in a holiday tin, or peanut-free, treenut-free cookies are thoughtful gifts.
FYI, when my kids were in elementary school, I gave a gift to the primary classroom teacher and any assistants/student teachers. I also always gave something to the specials’ teachers — figuring not many parents remembered those educators who are also an integral part of your child’s school experience.
Middle and high school
Even when your kids move into middle school and high school and don’t have just one teacher all day long, I believe that you should still find a way to recognize the teachers and staff at the holidays. Once again gift cards can come in handy as a teacher gift, even if you can only afford $5 or $10 each.
This year many restaurants are offering free bonus gift cards when you buy a certain amount of gift cards, and this may help you get the gift cards you need at what amounts to a discount. I know that restaurants like Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Maggiano’s, and Outback Steakhouse all have these deals going on.
Another great option we have here in our school district — and you may, too — is an education fund that allows you to make a donation in the teachers’ names. The teachers are notified of your donation, and they are then open to apply for a grant to use this money to somehow better their classroom or their students’ educational experience. Best of all, I don’t have to donate a large amount to make a huge impact. And because this education fund is a legitimate 501(c)(3), my donation is tax deductible.
Rose Overbey, a former Living on the Cheap networker who left to become a kindergarten teacher, offers these gift suggestions for teachers:
Notes or pictures are wonderful keepsakes. I have a box of special notes my students have written or drawn over the years, and they’re sweet memories for teachers to keep. Make sure to spread the love to everyone who has touched your child’s life at school – office personnel, librarians, teacher’s aides, lunchroom workers and other employees are often forgotten.
Mini-books: These work better for kids in the lower grades. Simply staple together a few pieces of paper and have the child write or draw on them: One page can highlight the student’s favorite memory of the year; on another page, the student can share what he or she liked the best about school; another page can be about the best thing he or she learned. Creating a book of this type doesn’t take long and many teachers would treasure that type of memory.
Gifts for $10 or less
Sweet treats to share: Most teachers I know enjoy the occasional impromptu class party, or giving out treats to deserving students. But at the end of the school year, it’s hard for teachers to justify another classroom expense. I would love if my students’ parents baked cookies, cupcakes or brought in any treat that I could give out to the kids. If there are any leftovers, I might even sneak a treat myself.
Pictures and frames: A sweet desk decoration that also holds a class picture is priceless and a precious memory of a wonderful year.
Remember: Gifts don’t need to be extravagant to be appreciated, just heartfelt.
What gifts do you like to give teachers? Teachers, what do you like to receive?