Teachers’ Gifts Like You’ve Never Seen

Mid-December has arrived and, chances are, your gift list is growing rather than diminishing.

One of the toughest groups to buy for is your children’s teachers. When I was a child, I remember giving my teachers a coffee mug, an apple or an ornament. I’m sure some year, a teacher got an apple ornament in a mug.

Those days are over. Teacher gift-giving has gone up several notches. Scour the Internet for ideas and you’ll see teachers chiming in on what to give and what not to give.

(Psst: mugs, ornaments and knickknacks are out. Teachers’ cupboards and trees are filled with them, and they’re not afraid to tell us they don’t want that stuff!)

What’s a parent to do when their go-to gifts are unwelcome? Step up! Our teachers are often with our children for more waking hours than we are. Also, if carefully chosen, the item might be something the teacher can use as a gift of her own — saving an overworked, busy professional time and energy.

If you’re tapped out for ideas, look no farther.


While this idea isn’t necessarily appropriate to give in a school setting, think about how you feel after a day with your kids and their friends. Now imagine them and over a dozen more at your house for hours every single day. There is nothing wrong with putting a favorite bottle in a pretty wine bag and discreetly giving it to the teacher. It will be appreciated. Even if the recipient doesn’t drink, you’ll save her from yet another trip to the store. She can take it to a dinner party or re-gift it.

If your child has really been a handful, you might want to consider personalization, all in good humor and fun, of course.


Who doesn’t love free food? But this can be a tricky gift. There is so much of it at this time of year. If you’re buying something, considering going the nonperishable route so it can be consumed in the New Year. If your child is helping you make cookies, bring a tin to his teachers with a copy of a recipe and a card that explains how little Timmy helped. One year, I made homemade granola for my son’s team as a healthier alternative for everyone to snack on. If you can swing it, a gift certificate to a favorite local cafe or diner is great, too.


Cut flowers are fine, but they whither and make a mess; then we throw them away. A timely alternative: amaryllises and paper whites. They’re affordable, they’re everywhere this time of year and they’re easy. If the teacher isn’t a fan, he or she can always turn it into a classroom project.

Goodie Bags

If you have many teachers to buy for, the costs can add up fast. A goodie bag is a great option. Think of things everyone uses or loses on a regular basis: hand sanitizer, lip balm, mints, Kleenex, tea, instant coffee. Buy them in bulk. Get a gift bag or a reusable, festive store bag, then fill it up. You could throw in mittens or a scarf. It’s thoughtful, affordable, and different.

Travel Mugs or Water Bottles

Coffee mugs are passé, but travel mugs are usually a welcome alternative. Pair one with a box of tea and you’re set. Stainless steel water bottles are all the rage now, so you can’t go wrong there. Both items typically get left behind, so replacements are welcomed. And the re-gifting potential is endless.

Gifts Outside the Box

Tuck a couple of movie passes into a popcorn box with candy and drinks. Lottery tickets could be fun. Car wash coupons or a gas gift card always come in handy. A meal-delivery service is great for anybody. If you know anything about the teacher’s hobbies, try to tap into that for fun ideas. A gift card to a Michael’s crafts store, perhaps, or a pet store might be just the thing.


In our children’s many years of school, you are bound to run into a teacher or two you just don’t like. One parent said she’s had several years when the teachers were so difficult that she felt like they should be givingher a gift. If that happens, why not get something that will benefit the students? Find out what supplies the class needs and put a bow on top. Or give a gift certificate to a learning store. Find something that helps the teacher, but really benefits the entire classroom. Often, our teachers are using their own money for supplies, which is never OK.

Gift Cards

It might seem like a bland alternative, but you can’t go wrong with gift cards. It’s the classy way to give cash, and who doesn’t want cash? Even if it’s just $5, enough of these from other students’ parents would pay for a teacher’s coffee for a month or two. Keep it simple and just sign your child’s name. You can include a holiday card and a photo. Or, you can take the elaborate route and give a Starbucks card in a travel mug, a Target card attached to a pair of gloves, or an Amazon card with a book light. Just make sure the gift card is for a generic store unless you know the teacher’s specific tastes.

Cards with Kind Words

You don’t have to give a gift. Between the holidays, teacher appreciation day, and the end of the school year — the costs for presents adds up. Sometimes the most sincere gesture is a smile and kind words. A heartfelt card to your child’s teachers telling them how much they mean to you and your family might mean more to them than one more gift. If your child can sign it, write it, or make the card — even better. The season isn’t about how much you spend. It’s about letting others know you care and that they’re appreciated.

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