Most of my family is made up of teachers. Every holiday season they come home and I get to hear all about the presents they received from parents—some are huge hits and others are complete flops. Since the semester is winding down, I thought a list of the top 10 holiday gifts for your child’s teacher would be helpful (along with a few gifts they definitely don’t want). Hopefully this list can provide you with some ideas and inspiration!

1. All-purpose gift cards

You may think giving a gift card is impersonal. But if you choose the gift card wisely, that card could keep your child’s teacher from having to reach into their own wallet to find funds for special classroom projects!

Best choices:

  • Gift credit card: MasterCard, Visa, and American Express all offer cards that can be used at many retail locations—plus you can pick how much you spend!
  • Tango card: This gift card allows the teacher to purchase the gift card(s) they really want.
  • Known favorite: If you happen to have "insider knowledge" that your child's teacher frequents specific places like a certain teacher supply store or coffee shop—then you can feel safe purchasing one of these cards instead.

2. Donation towards a low-income child

Some of the stories I have heard from my mom and friends about their students' home circumstances have brought tears to my eyes. Not every child is going to have a very merry holiday season this year—and there’s a good chance your child’s teacher is trying to find a way to help out.

  • What to do: Ask the teacher if there is anything specific you can do to help out children in their classroom who may not be so fortunate this holiday season. There may be a specific need (shoes, coats, sweaters, etc.) or the teacher may have something more general in mind—either way, the teacher will appreciate your offer!

3. Your time

Offering to help with administrative tasks can be a great teacher gift. Holidays are a time when everyone is preparing for an end-of-the-year roundup.  For teachers this means testing, grading, reports, and a host of other extra work. So if you can donate an hour or two to help with routine copying, organizing, filing, or classroom decoration—you can really ease some stress for your child's teacher.

4. A thank you

Many teachers cite thank you cards—from students and parents alike—as one of their all-time favorite holiday gifts. You can enclose a note from yourself and a note from your child, or you can collaborate on a note. If you’re not crafty, you can simply buy a heartfelt holiday card—either way this is a budget-friendly gift idea and one that’s always warmly received.

5. Inexpensive classroom gifts for the students

The teachers in my family often buy small gifts for their students throughout the year because they said it often increases the students’ incentive to learn. These gifts that they buy are cheap—but not free. Pencils, pens, stickers, magnets, figurines, erasers—all of these make very useful classroom gifts for teachers during the holiday season.

6. Nominate your child's teacher for a teaching award

Nothing says "thank you!" like taking the time and making the effort to nominate your child's teacher for an award in his or her field. Awards may come with resume-boosting credentials, financial gifts (for the teacher and/or their classroom ), awards for classroom materials, and more.

  • Teachers Count: This website contains a list of awards that parents can use to nominate teachers.
  • An equally wonderful alternative: Write a letter of recommendation to the principal about your child’s teacher. Make sure to share specific stories about how the teacher has made a difference in your child's life.

7. A personalized gift basket

If you have insider knowledge of what your teacher wants, a personalized gift basket stuffed with favorites is always a winner.

Fun basket ideas:

  • School supplies.
  • Coffee and chocolate.
  • Teacher's night out (movie gift voucher and popcorn).
  • "Favorite things" (this one will require detailed intel from your child to assemble!).

8. A group gift

Whether you are a parent on a budget or just want to purchase more of a gift than you can personally justify—coming together with a few other families or even the whole classroom can deliver a stunning gift for your child's teacher.

  • HipChip: An online organizer that makes collecting for, purchasing, and even sending your group gift super easy!

9. A classroom-themed album

If you (or other parents) have photos of classroom activities from the preceding months, you can create a lovely memory book. Teachers are very clear about this gift—they love receiving hand-made presents that feature favorite memories from inside their own classroom.

10. Any gift that makes it clear your child was part of the selection process

Teachers love gifts that show your child's involvement. Let them get crafty with some paint and popsicle sticks to make their own ornament, let them make their own card, or just take them to the store and let them pick out whatever it is that reminds them of their teacher! The opportunities are endless with this one.

11. Bonus tip: what not to give!

The debate over what to give for teacher gifts—and what not to give—has become increasingly heated as more parents (and teachers!) take to the blogosphere to share their thoughts and concerns.

Steer clear of these items:

  • Teacher-themed gifts: Mugs, "#1 Teacher" shirts, anything with an apple on it.
  • Home-baked goods: Unless you know their food preferences (gluten-free, vegan, etc.) and their food allergies—it’s best to stay away from this one.
  • Specific gift certificates or cards: Unless you know your child's teacher will love it, stick to all-purpose gift cards (see #1).
  • Scented anything: You may love it, but the teacher might hate it, or be allergic to it.
  • Religious-themed gifts: Unless your child goes to a private, religious school and you know that his or her teacher shares those beliefs, steer clear of anything with specific religious meaning or symbolism.
  • Anything too pricey: A gift that reeks of expense can look more like a bribe than a heartfelt wish for holiday cheer.
10 Gifts Your Child's Teacher Really Wants (and a Few They Don’t!)