Clever Teacher Gifts Ideas

Looking for clever teacher gifts and ideas? You’re not alone.

Every year readers write to ask a variation on the same question about clever teacher gifts.

What are some inexpensive preschool teacher gifts?

How should I handle middle school teacher gifts?

What are the best gifts for high school teachers?

Do you have ideas on gifts for elementary school teachers?

What are some teacher appreciation day or teacher appreciation week gift ideas?

Basically, all these parents want to know is what they should buy a teacher as a gift and when.

When people ask questions about clever teacher gift ideas

These teacher gift questions happen three times a year.

  1. I get asked about the top 10 teacher gifts right before the December holidays.
  2. In May you’ve got Teacher Appreciation Day and Teacher Appreciation Week.
  3. Then in May or June, I get asked about end of school year teacher gifts.
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Parents want to know the etiquette of giving teachers gifts (do I give or do I not give?). They also want to know appropriate gifts for teachers, what are good gifts to choose, and how much they should spend.

Here is my guide to holiday tipping.

Tips for clever teacher gift ideas

To make my advice easier to follow, I’ve broken out tips based on the “level” of school your child attends. Read on for my ideas on what to give your favorite educator this year for the holidays, Teacher Appreciation Day or for the end of the school year.

Inexpensive Preschool Teacher Gifts

Most nursery or preschool teachers spend a lot of time in the classroom or out on a playground, using their hands. It’s true with teachers at daycare, too. Whether it’s pushing kids on the swings or washing out paint brushes, these teachers deserve a gift of pampering.

When you’re thinking about inexpensive preschool teacher gifts or teacher gifts for daycare, why not think about a gift card for a manicure, pedicure or massage?

This latter option would work best if you decide to make this a class gift for your child’s teacher. Then, you can ask other parents to give a small amount. The more people who can contribute, the bigger the gift you can give.

Buying pampering gifts on Etsy

If you don’t think the teacher would want to get a massage, pedicure or manicure, why not buy a pampering gift for your favorite preschool or daycare teacher.

You can find lots of homemade and unique teacher holiday gift ideas on Etsy. Plus, by shopping on Etsy, you’re supporting small business owners.

Teacher Gift Ideas Amazon

If you’d rather send your teacher something tangible from Amazon, there are plenty of pampering and other kinds of handmade gifts on Amazon as well. Yes, that’s right–Amazon has a marketplace for crafters, too.

Here is a link to my ideas list on Amazon. Below, I’ve highlighted some of my selections, too. Many of these include teacher gift basket ideas. However, I’ve got an entire section further down dedicated to teacher gift baskets.

Gifts for Elementary School Teachers

When my children were in school, often I would run into their teachers at the local java joint on school mornings. Then, it dawned on me that a coffee gift card to help them with their morning Joe just might be the perfect teacher gift idea.

With many people getting food delivered these days, a gift card for a local restaurant that delivers or a food delivery service might also make for a great teacher gift idea.

The gift of games for the classroom

Another clever gift idea for an elementary school teacher? A board game for the classroom.

My daughters’ favorite game when they were little was Connect 4. If you give the gift of games for the classroom, this gives the kids something new to play with during indoor recess.

When my daughters were in elementary school, I know that their teachers always appreciated a new box of board games or puzzles. And you can best believe that we gave a new Connect 4 game for the classroom at least one of their years in those lower grades.

Don’t forget staff and specials teachers

FYI, when my kids were in elementary school, I gave a gift to the primary classroom teacher. In addition, I gave school staff appreciation gifts. That would be for student teachers, classroom assistants and other staff in the school.

Also, I always gifted the specials’ teachers. I figured not many parents remembered those educators who are an integral part of your child’s school experience as well.

Maybe it’s because my mother was a physical education teacher and my father a music teacher. This could have been why I remembered little gifts for these teachers, too.

Middle School Teacher Gifts

Once again gift cards can come in handy as a teacher gift. Wondering how much to spend on teacher gift cards? Even if you can only afford $5 or $10 each, that’s enough.

Darden is the parent company of many restaurant brands you know. This includes Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze and Yard House. This year you can choose contactless gift giving with Darden E-Gift Cards. This way you can buy them online and email them to the teacher/recipient.

Here are some unique ways to give gift cards at Christmas or even at the end of the school year.

Best Gifts for High School Teachers

One of the best gifts I could give my daughters’ high school teachers was a way for them to give back. In our school district there is an education fund that allows you to make a donation in the teachers’ names.

The teachers are notified of your donation. Then, they are able to apply for a grant to use this money to somehow better their classroom or their students’ educational experience.

It’s one of those perfect little gifts for teachers that doesn’t cost a lot but can make a huge impact.

If your school district doesn’t have a foundation, then many of the middle school teacher gifts work for high school teachers, too. So think restaurant gift cards or some of the pampering gifts I found on Etsy or Amazon.

Subscription boxes for teachers

Another idea for teachers’ gifts would be some kind of subscription box. First, you should check out Cratejoy. It’s a subscription box marketplace. I guarantee you’ll find something a teacher will like there.

After that, you may want to check out my blog post on the most popular subscription boxes by state. You may find something specific to your region, in the form of a subscription box, that you can give as a teacher gift. 

Teacher Gift Basket Ideas

I love putting together gift baskets for people. You can get really creative with a theme when making a gift basket at home or ordering one from a service.

When it comes to teacher gift baskets, I’ve discovered there are a few occasions when one makes sense. You may want to put together a teacher appreciation gift basket for teacher appreciation week in May.

In addition, you might want to create holiday gift baskets for teachers during the December holidays. Also, you might want to give an end of year teacher gift basket.

Finally, if a favorite teacher is retiring, a retirement gift basket would be 100% appropriate. So, here are some ideas to consider.

Holiday teacher gift baskets

Whether you go with a DIY approach or use a service, your holiday gift baskets for teachers can be all about pampering or hobbies. When you pick a theme it makes things so much easier.

For example, I’d mentioned earlier about putting together a coffee-themed gift for a teacher you know loves their coffee. A gift basket could include a bag of beans (or box of K cups if you know the teacher has Keurig), a mug, maybe a bag of biscotti and a gift card to a local coffee shop. You get the idea.

You can do the same with a spa day gift basket or something similar. Again, you can make your own or buy pre-made gift baskets from Etsy or Amazon.

Teacher appreciation gift basket ideas

Whenever I helped out at teacher appreciation events at my daughters’ school, it was always about feeding the teachers. That is, parents would make a dish and pretty much create a smorgasbord for the teachers to enjoy during Teacher Appreciation Week.

While I’m not sure that putting a lasagna in a gift basket would necessarily work as an idea, there’s nothing wrong with putting together a meal- or food-based gift basket. Is there a specialty food store in your town that sells fancy pasta and sauce? You could buy that along with a loaf of bread, get red-and-white checked napkins to line the basket and, voila, an Italian meal gift basket for a teacher and their significant other.

End of year teacher gift basket ideas

When I think about a teacher’s summer vacation, I think about time to finally relax and recharge. So with that in mind, here’s what I might put in a DIY end of year teacher gift basket:

  • pampering products, such as hand creams or foot scrubs
  • books or gift cards for a local bookstore
  • sunscreen and beach towel

Teacher retirement gift basket ideas

To be honest, I think that you can borrow ideas from an end-of-year teacher gift basket for a retirement basket. Because, ideally, in retirement, the teacher will be able to rest and relax.

The one item I might add to a retirement gift basket is something to do with pickelball. People are going crazy for pickleball and chances are a retired teacher might take it up. So check out some of these pickelball necessities I found on Amazon.

New teacher gift basket ideas

I decided to throw in these ideas for a new teacher gift basket. This is more about prepping a teacher for their first year in the classroom–or a new school–than celebrating a holiday.

Think of this kind of gift basket as being filled with classroom necessities for the teacher themselves. So you might include some of the following:

Teacher Gifts in College

Just kidding–you’re finally off the hook. Now it’s up to your kids (now adults) to figure out how to come up with teacher gifts for their professors!

One More Idea for Clever Teacher Gifts

Still stumped about clever teacher gifts? I know that a handwritten note from your child can go a long way.

Have your child tell a teacher how they feel (in a good way) about being in that classroom. That might be the best gift of all that a teacher could receive.

In fact, many teachers tell me that the best gift they can receive from a student is a note from a student.

Here are stores and brands that offers teacher discounts.

Teachers Who Ride Peloton

What are the chances that the teacher you’re buying for likes to ride a Peloton bike? If so, then you should definitely check out my article on gifts for Peloton lovers. I offer a lot of gift suggestions for Peloton users that you can get affordably and easily on Etsy. 

If you’re a teacher or an educator and I’ve missed any great ideas you’ve given or received, please post a comment below.

Finally, here are some overall smart holiday shopping tips.

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  1. Many of my friends are teachers, and I see them get gifts that they find touching, but there is just no place to put them. A picture frame with puzzle pieces, for example, is a cute idea but multiplied by 20 students — that eats up a lot of space and one runs into the problem of different tastes. Best bet, I find, is something edible or drinkable or gift certificates for those things OR some kind of book or stationery gift card. Teachers end up spending a lot of their personal money on their classrooms, and even if the teacher chooses to buy a book for the classroom rather than themselves, it is still benefitting the teacher.

  2. We’re also doing handmade gifts this year. Fancy cookies and chocolate-dipped pretzels, and magnets, and possibly coasters made from felted reclaimed wool (aka from thrift shop sweaters!)

  3. I love the idea of homemade and handmade gifts, and I’m thrilled to hear that so many of you are choosing this option. If I was a bit more crafty and could do things like can jam (maybe I’ll have my friend DeeDee teach me), I would do the same. Actually, you just reminded me–years ago, I did choose homemade/handmade gifts, which I’d completely forgotten that I’d done. That year I made picture frames for the girls’ teachers. I got a stand-up, lucite frame for each teacher, and hot-glued colorful puzzle pieces around the border. Have glue gun, will gift!

  4. My daughter’s teacher will be getting a jar of homemade strawberry jam this Christmas. I picked the berries this past summer at a local farm ( which, btw, uses a flock of guinea hens as its main source of pest control) and was canned in my kitchen with a supply of jars that I buy at yard sales and collect from friends. (Seals are new, of course) A gourmet gift that is kind to the planet and kind to my wallet. My daughter will make her own card with a personalized message. In these difficult economic times, I just can’t spend big bucks but I want to let my daughter’s teacher know she is appreciated.

  5. I'm really excited about the teacher gifts I purchased this year — and I think that you'll like them, too!

    I bought these for each teacher, monogrammed:

    It's a reusable tote bag that folds into a small pouch. Perfect for keeping in your purse or bag for a trip to the grocery store, library, etc.

    Since I've made an effort to be green in this way, I thought it would be a cute and fun way to promote it! 🙂

  6. Luckily for me, I come from a family of teachers (my mother, sister, brothers, BIL, and SIL), so I’ve been told what is and is not good for teacher gifts.

    I usually get the teachers a gift card and then a small treat (usually local gourmet chocolates) to with the card.

    For teachers’ birthdays, I send each child to school with a bouquet of flowers tied with a big ribbon bow and finished off with a hand-written note from the child.

  7. I have two elem school teachers and one speech teacher to buy for. So far I’ve purchased three Amex gift cards (through a deal at CVS where I got $15 in a gas card for buying $75 in gift cards). AND I am giving each teacher a bog of chocolates from Walgreens (which cost me nothing via rebates).

    I try to gift through the year too — during hte book fair, I bought a small book and a $15 gift certificate for the teacher who runs the patrols and the teacher who runs the environmental club that my kids belong to. And I gave some music note paper clips to my daughter’s chorus teacher. And whenever I find free or super cheap chocolate deals at the drugstores, I leave them in the teacher lounge.

    And like you, I gave my son’s 1st grade teacher a book of Mad Libs. It’s for her and the class, but it’s because my son adores them. And I remember my daughter learned a lot about the parts of speech by playing them when she was his age.