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10 Unique & Inexpensive Holiday Gift Ideas for Teachers

By Kristia Ludwick

teacher students classroomAs my children grow older, more people are becoming involved in their lives through school and extracurricular activities. These teachers and coaches have had quite an impact on my children, and I want them to feel appreciated during the holidays and at the end of the year. But as the list grows, the financial impact adds up, especially with more than one child.

In today’s economy, parents shouldn’t feel obligated to give an expensive gift, as teachers are not expecting one. However, personalized, handmade gifts are a great way to show the teacher or coach that you and your child are grateful for their hard work. It will also teach your children that gifts do not need to be elaborate or costly to be heartfelt and enjoyable.

Gifts From an Individual

1. A Handwritten Poem

A poem written by your child especially for their teacher makes a wonderful gift. Have your child pen a poem about the teacher or a specific event that happened during the school year. Use heavy card stock and have your child draw a picture that relates to the story or poem. Lastly, display it in an inexpensive frame from the dollar store.

2. Homemade Food or Baked Goods

Give a homemade treat, such as cookies, fudge, brownies, or Oreo cheesecake truffles packed in a decorative tin or box. Or maybe bake a loaf of homemade bread and pair it with homemade jam. Did you can your summer harvest from your garden? You could wrap up the home canned goods and recipes as a gift. Be sure to include a handwritten note from your child.

3. Cookie Mix in a Jar

If you don’t have time for baking, give cookie mix in a jar, an inexpensive gift that the teacher can use at their leisure. In a quart sized, wide-mouthed canning jar, layer the following ingredients in order: two cups flour, one teaspoon salt, one teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 cup brown sugar, and 3/4 cup sugar. Then pour in chocolate chips or holiday M&M’s until you reach the top of the jar. Be sure to pack down each ingredient tightly before adding the next.

Decorate the lid with a ribbon and include the following directions on a gift tag: “Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine one cup of butter or margarine, one teaspoon vanilla, and one egg in a large bowl. Add the ingredients of the jar and stir until well blended. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto a non-greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.”

chocolate chip cookies

4. Hand-Painted Terracotta Planter

Give a house plant potted in a hand-painted terracotta planter. Simply wash a terracotta pot and saucer and wait for it to dry. Then, have your child decorate the outside of the pot with acrylic paints.

Choose an easy to care for houseplant, such as Christmas cactus, spider plant, English Ivy, or aloe vera, and transplant this into the terracotta planter. Match the size of the house plant with an appropriately sized terracotta pot. Finally, attach a handwritten note from your child thanking their teacher for their hard work.

5. Handmade Christmas Tree Ornament

Making arts and crafts with kids is fun at any time, and this year, my kids are making their teachers homemade Christmas ornaments. There are seven teachers at the school who instruct both of my daughters on a daily basis.

Recently, I found a foam activity kit on sale at a craft store, which included all the pieces needed to make picture frame Christmas ornaments. But there are a myriad of other foam kits available from which you can choose different ornaments, such as Christmas trees, reindeer, and Santas. The cost of my entire project was just $6.

6. A New Storybook for the Classroom

One year, my daughter’s preschool teacher asked the parents to forgo gifts to the teachers and instead buy new books to update the classroom’s library. This was a win-win for both the teachers and the kids. The teachers received some needed supplies, and the kids benefited with new books to read. Ask your children’s teacher for book donation ideas that would be appropriate for class.

7. Homemade Gift Basket

If you opt to assemble a homemade gift basket, choose a theme that the teacher would enjoy and purchase a basket from the dollar store. Have your child help you find items to fill the basket at the grocery store, the dollar store, or craft stores.

Finally, wrap your homemade gift basket will cellophane or place it in a gift bag. Your homemade gift basket will be about half the price of a store-bought version.

Ideas for gift basket themes include:

  • Spa Items: hand lotion, foot cream, shower gel, an exfoliating bath glove, a nail file, and nail polish
  • Coffee or Tea: flavored coffee or teas, flavored creamers, biscotti, a chocolate-covered spoon, and a travel mug
  • Health Food: fresh fruit, a water bottle, nuts, and granola bars
  • Desk Supplies: Post-it pads, markers, pens, white-out, note pads, stamps, colorful paperclips, and an attractive paperweight

gift basket

Gifts From Multiple Children

Chances are, other families are in the same predicament you are: They don’t have a lot of money to spend on gifts, but still want to show teachers that they are appreciated. Collaborate with the other parents to give a class gift.

8. A Class Memory Album

Create a photo album of all the students in the classroom. Ask each child to tape or glue their school picture on an 8 1/2 x 11-inch piece of paper, and write their favorite memory from the school year to date. Decorate the cover of a three-ring binder or folder, and insert all of the pages.

9. A Class Recipe Book

Create a recipe book in which each child contributes their favorite dish. Have each child write the recipe by hand, and even include a photo or hand-drawn picture of the dish. File the recipes in a three-ring binder or folder.

10. Gift Card to an Educational Supply or Office Supply Store

Many school budgets are so tight that teachers may spend their own money for much-needed classroom supplies. Depending on the number of students involved, ask parents if they would contribute $1 to $5 to go toward the purchase of a gift card at a local educational supply or office supply store.

teacher student apple

Final Word

Regardless of what you decide to give to the teacher or coach, involve your child in the planning and creation process. Remember to include a handwritten note from the both of you expressing your gratitude and best wishes.

Giving gifts with a personal touch will mean a lot to the teacher, and it won’t cost you a dime. Plus, it’s a great final touch to what will be a heartfelt, personal, and custom-made gift!

Do you have any inexpensive gift ideas for teachers?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Kristia Ludwick
Kristia writes about family finances, frugal living, and food at Family Balance Sheet. She spends her offline time raising her two daughters, helping her husband run a small business, and training for her first half-marathon.

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