Teacher gift tactics

It’s that time of the year when parents let out a collective groan—and not for the upcoming winter break when your kids will be looking to you for daily entertainment. No, I’m talking about that holiday teacher gift.

If your child is in preschool or elementary school, you’re likely in one of these two situations: You’ve got an over-anxious classroom parent who has just started sending secretive messages home in backpack mail about chipping in for the teacher gift and she hasn’t given you a lot of time to think about how much you want to contribute. Or, you’re anxious all on your own because you have no idea what to buy the person who spends six hours or more a day educating your child.

Fret no more. Here are a few ideas for teacher gifts that are appropriate, based on your child’s age and her teacher’s likes and dislikes.

Day care

When my girls were in day care, we gave their teachers and the classroom aides each a gift certificate for a manicure. I figured these teachers were using their hands all day long, either changing diapers or doing hands-on projects, and they could use the pampering. At most strip-mall manicure shops, you can treat a teacher to a manicure for less than $20.

Nursery or preschool

While preschool or nursery school teachers might enjoy a manicure as well, when my daughters were in preschool, I would give the teacher a book or a gift card to a local bookstore. Each would come with a personal note.

Elementary school

Now that my children are in elementary school, I’ve expanded my teacher gift repertoire. I still love the gift card to a bookstore—especially if I can support a local business. However, these days I might choose a gift card to the local coffee shop instead, whether it’s a chain like 7-Eleven, Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks or the mom-and-pop shop by the school.

Another gift idea is a bit of a twist on the traditional, thanks to my daughter’s first-grade teacher. Believe it or not, on back-to-school night in September, she talked about, of all things, teacher gifts. During her presentation the teacher told the parents not to plan on getting her any gifts at the holidays or at the end of the year."I’ve been teaching for 30 years and really don’t need anything,” she said. What she did need, though, were new board games for the classroom—games the children could use during indoor recess. She then pulled out a Connect Four box that was haphazardly taped together to prove her point.

That year our family bought a new Connect Four for the classroom and many other families selected the gift of board games as well. We made the same choice in second grade.

Leah Ingram is a freelance writer and mother of two.

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