Plus some tips on what not to buy.
If you've got school-age kids, you know what a huge impact teachers have on their lives. In elementary school, one teacher will spend about a thousand hours with your kids every year. They are probably the most influential person in your kids' lives, outside of a parent or guardian.
So it makes sense that you would be overflowing with gratitude for those teachers by the end of the school year. They are helping you raise a human being, after all. A great way to show that gratitude is with an end-of-the-year gift. But choosing a gift for a teacher can be tricky. You typically know your kids' teachers mostly as, well, teachers, which means these gifts often have to do with their role as a teacher. You can probably guess how many "teacher-themed" gifts teachers get every year.
So, how do you come up with a thoughtful gift to express your appreciation for helping you raise a decent human? And one that won't be something they already have twelve of? Here are some gifts to avoid (and what to buy instead), a few bonus gift suggestions, and keep reading to the end to find out the number one thing teachers want!
Don't Buy That; Instead Try This
Don't Buy: Bath Products. This is an easy default gift, but it's just not a great option. People like to choose their own soaps, lotions and bubble bath. Scents and skin sensitivities make these products incredibly personal, and it's just not a great idea to buy them for someone else. The odds it will end up on a shelf never getting used, or just thrown out, are fairly high. Plus, even though it's not a great gift, it's an incredibly common gift. So, teachers are likely to get more of these types of gifts than they want.
Instead Try: A Gift Card to a Spa or Salon. A gift card to a spa lets them choose how they want to spend it, on a facial, massage or manicure. Plus, it still acknowledges that you understand how stressful their job is and that they could use a break to relax.
Don't Buy: Teacher-Themed Items. You might think that #1 Teacher tote bag is adorable. But your kid's teacher already has fifteen of them. Also, a lot of teachers don't want every item they own to announce that they are a teacher. Sometimes they want a break from all that.
Instead Try: Classroom Supplies. Lots of parents avoid buying classroom supplies as a gift. They think it's impersonal or boring. But the teachers don't think so. The reality is that a lot of teachers spend their own money on classroom supplies. So, they really do appreciate getting classroom supplies as a gift, because that is money that doesn't have to come out of their pocket.
Don't Buy: Mugs. I guarantee you that your kid's teacher already has a favorite mug. And a second favorite mug. And a third. And a favorite travel mug, and a favorite school mug, and a favorite at-home mug. They do not need another mug. I repeat, they do not need it. No matter how cute a mug is, THEY DO NOT NEED IT.
Instead Try: A Coffee-Shop Gift Card. If there's a coffee shop within walking distance of the school, you can pretty much guarantee your teacher goes there. Even if they don't drink coffee, they probably stop in for tea or a snack occasionally. Instead of a mug, fund their caffeine fix for a couple of weeks with a gift card.
Don't Buy: Pre-Made Gift Baskets. You may think of a gift basket as covering your bases. There's sure to be something they like somewhere in the basket, right? But that also means there's a very good chance that there is something in that basket that they won't like. Probably even a few things. And given that pre-made gift baskets are often made up of things like soaps and lotions (which we've already covered), or snacks and edible treats (which can run afoul of dietary needs), they are best avoided.
Instead Try: A Custom Gift Box. Instead of a gift basket with a bunch of random things thrown together, a teacher is much more likely to appreciate a collection of gifts that is customized to their tastes. Eva allows you to send your kid's teacher a link so they can have a quick and fun chat about their likes and dislikes with a friendly bot. Then a perfect gift is created just for them based on their preferences, but the specifics are still a surprise. You'll get a peek at what's inside and can make changes if you think it's not perfect.
Don't Buy: Homemade Food. It's not that no one appreciates homemade food, it's just that it's such a personal preference, and you don't want to accidentally give them something they can't eat. Plus, it puts the teacher in an awkward position. What if your muffins were terrible? Better to forgo the homemade treats.
Instead Try: Gift Certificates for a Night Out. Gift certificates for a restaurant or movie theater are always appreciated. Teachers work really hard. They could use a night out to go to a restaurant, bar or movie. So a gift certificate is a great way to give them the gift of a break from the teaching stress.
Bonus Great Gift Ideas
If none of those gift ideas speak to you, here are a few more gift suggestions that teachers are sure to love:
Personalized Stationery. Teachers have to send lots of notes home, for all kinds of reasons. Some classic personalized stationery will get put to great use.
Miscellaneous Gift Cards. Gift cards to places that sell everything, like Target or Amazon, are a huge hit because teachers can choose whether to spend it on much needed classroom supplies, or on something for themselves. As one teacher put it, "Not a teacher on the planet that doesn't want a Target gift card."
One Big Gift. Instead of getting a bunch of small gifts, a lot of teachers appreciate it when classes pool their money and get one larger gift, whether that's an expensive item for the classroom, or something from their personal wish list.
Consumable Gifts. Generally, avoid things that are going to end up as clutter. Gifts that will get used up are a better option because they don't take up space.
Whatever They Want. We overestimate how much value gift recipients place on getting a gift that is a total surprise. Actually, people prefer to get exactly what they asked for. So, possibly the best gift of all is to just ask the teacher what they want, and then Get. That. Thing. Don't go off script.
The Number One Thing Teachers Want?
Teaching can be a thankless job. Pretty much every teacher has days when they are wondering what all their hard work is for, whether they are really making a difference. Virtually every teacher I spoke to said that the number one thing they want is a thoughtful note or letter about how they impacted the student that year, and what the student learned. A note from you and your child, expressing your gratitude will truly make your kid's teacher feel the love.
Avoid teacher-themed gifts, mugs, and bath products. Teachers usually want classroom supplies, gift certificates and consumables. Don't forget a letter telling them how important they are to you and your child!