It's that time of year again. Actually, when you have children at school it's that time of the year, twice a year. Christmas and the last day of school year. Along with writing out cards for all the children in your child's class, making 50-odd cupcakes, and getting a costume together for the Christmas show, there's also the gifts for the teacher and teaching assistant.
In the US, this is a small industry. There's half a dozen online retailers alone dedicated to gift ideas for teachers, teaching staff and related workers like school bus drivers. Thankfully things aren't as over the top in the UK.
So, what can you buy or make for the teacher that's inexpensive (if necessary), but still useful? Facing this dilemma myself, I have spent a lot of time online. And here's a round up of the best ideas I found! I have to say, I'm pretty impressed. Some people are amazingly creative. Thank goodness they are willing to share that creativity with the rest of us!
Do or don't?
First off though, do you or don't you buy a gift for the teaching staff at Christmas? I have missed this one before, simply because it didn't occur to me! But the truth is, it means a lot to my son. Last year he went in beaming away, almost over whelmed with the pleasure of giving Miss a gift. She'd put in such a lot of hard work, it felt important to at least say thank you.
The good news, for parents anyway, is that as your child gets older, they're less likely to want to do anything other than simply die of embarrassment if you tried to give the teacher a gift for Christmas.
And then there's always that nagging feeling, it isn't necessarily wanted. How many bubble bath mixtures, body lotions, or plates of cookies does one person need? The teacher will get a shed load of gifts anyway, so one less isn't going to make a difference. Earlier this year the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) found that 93% had received gifts.
Heartfelt thanks in a card will mean as much. So never feel bad about not doing the whole gift thing!
Idea 1: The big bake
A plateful of Christmas cookies, cake, gingerbread, chocolate brownies. A little bit of presentation with some cellophane and ribbon, and you've got a lovely gift. This idea is one of my favourites. Although make sure you do a taste test before you wrap it all up. One teacher comment I came across while trying to find out if they really do like all this home baking was about how she'd been given a plate of cookies where clearly the butter or margarine used had gone bad. Yuck!
Idea 2: Theme basket
This one came from an American site. The idea is that you get a basket, or a wicker type box, and put items in it according to a theme. So, it could be a hot chocolate theme - mug, marshmallows, hot chocolate.
Other cool ideas include an ice cream sundae kit - a nice tall glass, ice cream scoop, toppings. I also really liked the 'Day at the Beach' theme that included sunscreen, sand bucket, and one of those 'magic' beach towels that are really tiny but sort of expand and mop up a lot of water. But perhaps that's one for the summer term.
Idea 3: DIY Christmas Cracker
This one ticks all the boxes! It adds the personal touch from the children by getting them to help make and decorate the cracker. It's also inexpensive. You can just put in a few items inside the cracker, but really its the presentation that makes it special. So this one is ideal if you're feeling the lack of funds this year. I really liked this guide on the BBC website to making one. I don't think I'll try to put a 'snap' inside mine, but it is a nice way to make it looks personal.
Idea 4: The whip around
If you can get organised with the other parents in your class, you can all club together to buy something. I think it is important when doing this not to set any minimum amounts. Some people will be able to afford a lot, while others will have less. A whip around is a way for parents you might only have a pound or so to spare to put their money into the pot and get something significant for the teacher. Gift certificates or cards are always a good one. The cards you can get from places like Sainsburys or WH Smiths that can be used in a number of different shops will mean that you can be sure the teacher will be able to get something they really want.
Idea 5: Giving for the school
This one is the most popular in the US, where state funding for schools is a lot lower than it is in the UK, and a significant proportion of the school's financial support comes from the local community. So gift certificates that can be used in places like office supplies stores are quite popular. A recent survey in the US found that nearly three quarters of teachers buy all their class supplies themselves! Things aren't quite the same in the UK but even so, all the forums I looked at suggested that books for a class book corner are always a good idea. So a gift certificate for Amazon perhaps, or other book seller.
Idea 6: Christmas decorations
This is almost two ideas, buying and making. Either you could buy a nice bauble, maybe something special from the Christmas shop in your department store. Or you could get your offspring to make something. Salt dough decorations are always good. We also looked at making your own here.
Idea 7: Booze
You might not feel comfortable giving alcohol to a teacher, and it is possible that the school has rules against it. But really, you can't go wrong with alcohol. And personally, if I had spent the last three months in a class with 30 five year olds every day I'd really want to have a drink. BOGOF deals in the supermarket are good to keep an eye out for. Sainsburys recently had Baileys on offer for half price!
Idea 8: Notepaper or stationary
This isn't something I'd have ever thought of myself! But it came up several times in posts by teachers when I was researching this post. Personally, I'm not so sure myself. But some teachers like it for writing notes or letters to parents, for example.
Idea 9: Poetry
This seems to be very popular. Teachers loved receiving poems or stories that the children have written about them. They love the personal touch, and the effort involved. And the way it makes them feel particularly appreciated!
Idea 10: Chocolates
And last but apparently, by no means least, the good old standby - a box of chocolates. It seems a bit of a cliché but teachers find them very handy especially for re-gifting purposes. A nice box of biscuits also goes down very well if they're going to a large family gathering for Christmas!