Teacher Holiday Gift Giving Etiquette

WhatToGetMy Instructional Article

The holiday season tends to sneak up on us. Before you know it, it’s time to decorate the house and pick up some gifts for friends and family. Have you put everything on the list? Are you sure you haven’t forgotten someone to whom you should buy a gift? Family, friends, coworkers, that’s a standard, but what about the people who are responsible for your child’s education? Of course, you remembered teachers! Who can forget about those who are molding their children’s minds?

Still, the question arises: “What should we get? Is there any teacher gift-giving etiquette?” As a matter of fact, there is, and we are here to provide it for you. We know how difficult it can be picking things for teachers. Sure, you can always opt for some “The Best Teacher Ever” printed items, but let’s face it, they are not original at all. Most teachers have countless of those generic things piled up one on another in their home or office. It’s just not something that shows appreciation in the right way. It’s also not very useful. So, if you want to pick and give something that will really show how much you appreciate the teacher’s efforts in the classroom, stick with us. We have quite some suggestions for you, so you’ll be equipped with the necessary knowledge about the teacher holiday gift-giving etiquette in no time!

Here are some things you might want to consider before you start exploring your options:

  • When buying gifts for teachers, keep in mind the subject of their class, and their preferences. That can make things easier for you and help you narrow down the list.
  • Personal stuff can be a good choice, but try to maintain the well-set boundary. If you’re not sure whether something is appropriate or not, stick with the class-related items.
  • Honestly, teachers don’t like getting homemade treats, crafts, candles, lotions, mugs, and similar stuff. No, not even a number 1 teacher mug you eyed in the store. That’s actually the one thing you should try to avoid above all the rest.
  • Think about your kids when buying or making gifts. They might be uncomfortable with some of the stuff (e.g. some kids don’t like writing cards), so include them in the choosing process, and ask them for opinion.

Now that you have this to think about, let’s get to the actual suggestions, shall we?

Teacher Gift Giving Etiquette

When to Buy Gifts?

When it comes to teacher gift etiquette, the first and most important thing to consider is the occasion. Not every holiday is the same and the type will determine your choice of gift. Let’s take a look at these events:

Christmas and Other Religious Holidays

Christmas gifts are always welcome. You don’t have to wonder whether a teacher would appreciate it or not. He/she most certainly will! Maybe there’s even a small party coming up for the kids? Ask around and make sure to be well-informed about the school plans. That might help you pick a perfect gift. Also, check whether a teacher celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah, or other religious holidays. You can even consider getting a religious ornament, although you should first check whether the school allows such gifts.

Valentine’s Day

Some teachers like to organize events for kids on Valentine’s Day. They think it’s important to teach children to show love and appreciation toward others in their lives. It also helps to build a healthier and more-friendly environment in the classroom. If that’s the case, maybe a small thoughtful gift for the teacher would be highly appreciated for Valentine’s.


If a teacher’s birthday comes up and the class knows about it, you should definitely consider getting a gift. In this case, you can talk to other parents and ask them about their plans. You can give something together or gather up all of the gifts and make a birthday surprise!

What to Give?

Let’s be honest here, teachers don’t like generic stuff. If you’re thinking about getting mugs with prints saying “Best Teacher Ever”, you might want to reconsider. Most teachers say that mugs, candles, body care sets, and other similar stuff are their least favorite gifts. We know it’s the easiest option, but what’s the point if you won’t make a teacher happy?

What to get then, you may ask? Gift cards. Believe it or not, teachers prefer gift cards over material stuff. Sadly, most of them like gift cards because they can buy things for the classroom. We know, it’s horrible that some schools can’t afford the extra stuff for children. The other reason is the salary. Teachers don’t make much money, and gift cards give them an option to buy something they really want and need.

If you opt for gift cards, here’s an article that can guide you through the gift-giving part: Creative ways to give gift cards to teachers.

If you don’t want to give gift cards, you have plenty of other options. The key to choosing an ideal gift for a teacher is to explore options. Talk to your child and find out more about the person you’re shopping for. Maybe your kid’s teacher has a pet? Maybe he/she enjoys long walks in nature? Once you figure out the hobby, you can pick the gift accordingly. A collar for the pet, an insulated bottle for the walks. See? It’s simple! Another thing you can do is to pick a gift related to the class. If you’re shopping for an English lit teacher, you can’t go wrong with a book.

Here’s where you can check out some more similar suggestions: High School Teacher Gift Ideas.

How Much Money to Spend?

Most parents are not sure how much to spend on teacher gifts. It’s a tricky question, honestly. You don’t want to spend less or more than appropriate. The question is, what would be the appropriate amount? Opinions differ, but most parents spend around 30 dollars on teacher gifts. The math is simple: if your child has the same teacher throughout the entire day, the appropriate amount would be from 25 to 50 dollars. If a teacher only holds one to two classes, anything between 10 to 25 dollars would be just fine.

If you’re wondering how much to spend on teacher gift cards, things are just the same. Stick with the price range we listed above, and you can’t go wrong.

Just remember that you’re not obligated to give money or buy a present. A lot of parents worry that they might be perceived as rude if they don’t give anything. You shouldn’t think that way! As a matter of fact, most teachers don’t really expect any gifts. The majority of them say they get surprised and appreciate the gesture, but they don’t expect their students to get anything. Almost every single one of those who we talked to said that they enjoyed the cards from students the most. They like to hear that some kids got inspired by their class and lessons. There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing that you managed to reach some of those little heads and make them love school!

Other Things to Consider

Who Else?

You should keep in mind that you don’t have to buy gifts for all the teachers in the school. Even if your child has several teachers throughout the day, you shouldn’t feel obliged to give gifts to all of them. Talk to your child and see who he/she likes the best. It’s completely normal to give a gift only to one teacher, and no, people won’t think you’re being rude.

However, if you and your child want to get gifts for other people who are working in the school, here are some suggestions:

Principal. Yes, you can give a gift, and no, it doesn’t have to be well thought out as the one for the teacher. Flowers or cards will do.

Teachers. If you do decide to surprise several teachers, you can always opt for a group gift. Give something to all of them or make it a group thing with other parents.

Assistant/secretary. If your child is close to an assistant or a secretary, he/she can always give a small gift of appreciation such as a card or a flower.

Daycare staff. A group gift would be the best option here, so talk to other parents and see what they think about it.

What Else?

Another thing you can do is to try to pull off unique gift-giving. That is to say, organize it for the children! They can surprise a teacher in many ways, from sending a gift to the mail to making a gag in the classroom. For example, they can pretend to be skipping the class and wait for the teacher in the hallway to surprise her/him. Sounds fun? We think so, too!

If you want to keep it simple, you’ll find some suggestions here: How to Give Someone a Gift Without Being Awkward.

What Not To?

To save you from making some common mistakes, we made a few remarks on what not to give as a gift for a teacher. These are the main part of the proper etiquette for giving gifts to the teacher.

First and foremost, no mugs or T-shirts with “#1 Teacher”. We mentioned it already, did we? Well, it’s something very important to keep in mind. Teachers already have tons of that stuff laying around the house or office, unused. It piles up during the years, and some people just don’t know how to give up on cliché gifts. If you want to be original, skip these!

It might come as a shock to some parents, but teachers don’t like homemade cookies and crafts. First of all, it’s completely normal to be concerned about where the food came from. Don’t take it personally, you would be concerned too! Secondly, it’s hard to guess who likes what food type. Some people are even allergic to some of the basic ingredients. Others are on dietary restrictions. It’s just hard to figure out all these things when it comes to your child’s teacher who you don’t know that well at all.

Although personal stuff can be an excellent choice, there are some things you should avoid. Clothes, for example. Even when we are buying clothes for the closest people in our lives, we can pick the wrong size, color, and design. Things are even harder with people we don’t know that well! Besides, you want your child to give a gift, and giving clothes might get a little awkward.


We hope you have found all the information you needed about the teacher gift-giving etiquette. We tried to make it simple and highlight the main things you should follow or avoid when choosing gifts. With our suggestions, you’re all set to go shopping with your child. Just remember, the purpose of giving gifts to teachers is to show appreciation for what they’re doing in the classroom. However, it’s also about teaching children they should respect the teacher’s efforts and think of the ways to show it themselves. Teacher holiday gift-giving etiquette is all about finding a proper way to surprise those who are trying to educate little heads and prepare them for the world. Of course, parents should be included in the gift-giving plans, but children need to think of these things too. They should learn to pay attention to people who are helping them and show their gratitude and appreciation!





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