When it comes to picking up teacher appreciation gifts for the holidays, a well-chosen gift card is an easy choice that will probably be more appreciated than a coffee mug that says “World’s Greatest Teacher.” But still, handing your kid’s teacher a gift card to the Cheesecake Factory can feel a little impersonal given all the time they spend with your kid. Here are some ideas that you can making using simple materials and a computer — from real teachers — that combine homespun appreciation with practicality.
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Erin Dealey, a California teacher and author, is thankful when students give the teachers a gift the whole class can enjoy, “like a multiplication game or an inspirational poster.” If you go the game route, get your child in on the act by helping you pick out a game or work together to make one (do not let this become as situation where you are making the game, however.) You can have your child draw something by hand, scan, and print multiples. Or you can have them use a graphic design program on the computer to draw and edit something unique.
Teachers love visible reminders of how much they’re appreciated. “I have gotten pictures students drew for me that were then framed by the parents.” says Len Saunders, a motivational speaker with 35 years of teaching experience. “They are heartfelt and sincere gifts that have meaning to them.” Then, scan a picture of the art and adding a heartfelt message with a cool font using photo editing software.
Personalized calendars are another collaborative parent-kid gift that teachers have mentioned being special to them. Have you kid pull his or her favorite 12 drawings or projects from the school year (or make new ones). Photograph them (Shutterfly has tips on how to do this well) and upload them to an online service like Walgreens. Or if you prefer to use originals, check out tips on putting together a calendar using a blank template here. Bonus thoughtful addition: Write down a date early in the new year indicating that you and your child will bring lunch for your teacher that day. Dealey says something homemade, like tamales or banh mi sandwiches, beat store bought or take out any day. (Just don’t forget to write it down on your own calendar.)
Teachers do get a lot of snacks around the holidays, so keep that in mind before you start filling up your cart in the fun food aisle. However, if baking is best for your budget — and it’s something that you and your child truly enjoy doing together—teachers appreciate it. “I’ve had home baked goods that the kids helped with that came with a handmade card,” says Sarah Mondl, a Chicago-area preschool teacher. Create the card on your computer (for maximum neatness), and make it personal by mentioning how your child helped or why he thought she would like this particular recipe..
Then, whether you’re making morning granola or zucchini bread, take your baked gifts up a notch by making personalized stickers and gift tags. Have you child design or draw a logo and use a service like MOO or Zazzle to print them out and stick them to your baked goods. Or you can print your own stickers on address labels using your home laser printer or label printer.
Teachers have to do a lot of writing. Use your kid’s design skills to create and print a series of custom cards and paper for their teachers. You can do this by having your child draw or designing a custom logo and saving it as an image file. Then, add that image to a blank document in Microsoft Word or Paint 3D and print out as many pieces of paper as necessary. You can also use Microsoft Studio to print on envelopes and cards. Bonus points for creating custom pens and pencils to go with the gift.
Make Them Laugh (or Cry)
Sometimes parents only have time for a last-minute gift, but wherever it comes from, your child’s teacher will kvell if it comes with a heartfelt note from the kid. “I save [the notes] for a rainy day,” says Katie Reap, a middle-school teacher in the Chicago suburbs. A little humor also goes far. “I love the bottle of wine with the kid’s picture on it and a note saying ‘I might be the reason you need this,’” says Reap.
Remember that even the last-minute gifts have a touch of personality if you have your kid design a series of custom labels and cards.
Claire Zulkey is a freelance writer and mother of two in Evanston, IL. You can learn much more about her by going to Zulkey.com
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