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 end-of-year or Christmas gifts for your child’s teachers. But what are the best gift ideas that teachers will love and won’t break the bank?
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.
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. Teachers don’t have any more room in their cupboards at home, and the school lounges are overloaded with drinkware.
Skip the statues and ornaments. Same problem here – no room. Their holiday trees are loaded with teacher-related ornaments (and their 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.
Here are gift ideas that your teacher is sure to love — and earn you an A+ in the giving department. To make my advice easier to follow, I’ve broken out tips based on the level of school your child attends.
Top gifts for nursery or preschool teachers
Gift of pampering. 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 $25 gift card that easily covers a manicure and tip.
Books. Most preschool teachers are up to their ears in picture books, but might not splurge on novels for themselves. Another fun gift idea 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 they have a Kindle (or the Kindle app). Even better, a gift subscription to Audible would allow them to listen to good books on the go. A gift card to this service is a welcome gift for a teacher, who might need to retreat into a fictional fantasy world after changing diapers and chasing preschoolers all day long, and you can purchase a one-month subscription for just $15.
Homemade treats. If money is tight, a plate of homemade cookies – even the slice-and-bake variety – is wonderful. Teachers can share these with their colleagues or family. Cute packaging, or a hand-drawn card from your preschooler, will make the present even nicer.
Fun gift ideas for elementary teachers
Tea and coffee. 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 them a mug, I could give them something to put in the mug they already have. A gift card to help pay for their morning Joe just might be the perfect teacher gift idea.
Games. 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.
Chocolates and treats. Again, homemade goodies are also always welcome – especially in the break room. If you aren’t much of a baker, festive tins of candy, cookies, or pretzels are thoughtful gifts. Elementary-age kids are old enough to help you bake, and a note saying the brownies or Rice Krispie treats were baked by the student goes a long way to making the gift more meaningful.
When my kids were in elementary school, I gave a gift to the primary classroom teacher and any assistants or 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.
The best gifts for middle and high school teachers
Gift cards. 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 Christmas gift, even if you can only afford $5 or $10 each.
Many restaurants offer 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. Restaurants like Applebee’s, Panera Bread and Outback Steakhouse typically offer these types of deals.
Make a donation. 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.
Looking for the best cheap teacher gift ideas? 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. Special notes that students write or draw themselves are wonderful keepsakes for teachers. 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.
DIY craft gifts
Pencil cup. Decorate the outside of a small tin can with pencils to make a useful and memorable pencil holder. Throw in a few quality pens and pencils for an added bonus. Use this DIY pencil cup tutorial to get started.
“Thank you for helping me grow” flower pot. Pick up a plain clay pot from your nearest craft or outdoor store, and grab a plant to go in it. Decorate the pot with the phrase “thank you for helping me grow.” Or, if you’re worried about your lettering, have your kid write the phrase on a ruler and then stick it in the soil with the plant itself. Take inspiration from this “thank you” flower pot tutorial.
Decorated tote bag. Decorate a tote bag that your kid’s teacher can use to carry lesson plans, groceries or even beach necessities during summer vacation. Enlist your kids to help make this easy and cute block print tote bag that their teacher will use for years to come.
Gifts for $10 or less
Sweet treats to share. Most teachers 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. Bake or buy cookies, cupcakes and other treats and bring them into class for an impromptu party. Make sure to bring enough, so the teacher can enjoy one, too.
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.