Teacher Gifts, Floater Gifts, and More

Teacher Gifts at the Holidays | CorporetteMoms

Holidays bring a special stress for parents: teacher gifts.  So let’s discuss, ladies — what gifts are you getting for your child’s teachers, floaters, and other folks? If there is one “group gift” to which you’ve contributed money/energy, are you done with it? Do you feel stress to “keep up with the Joneses” in terms of end-of-year gifting?

For my $.02: In Brooklyn it seems like every time one of Jack’s little classes end (karate! science class! Paint and Glue Crew!), mothers have an envelope with money for the teacher. At first I had no idea (the classes are mindbogglingly expensive anyway!), and then I would dutifully send him with an envelope for the last day.

It gets even more complicated for school teachers because there is the holiday gift and the year-end gift.  For Jack’s preschool last year — where we loved the teachers — it almost seemed as if any gift was never going to be enough because they really did mean so much to us. So we contributed to a group gift for both December and May, and I didn’t want to go above and beyond because, well, if that’s the group’s gift, that’s the group’s gift. And yet, sure enough, lots of people were giving the teachers personal envelopes and more on the last day of school.

I don’t know — it’s a tough thing to wrap my head around. How do you ladies think about it — and what do you get them? Do you dislike the idea of “tipping” being customary for salaried professionals, or do you think a bonus or other material form of thanks is necessary?




  1. I’m glad there’s a whole post on this, because I’m sure we’re all thinking about this issue right now! For me, the complication is that my son just started at a new daycare last week. At his old daycare, all the families did a group gift (of cash), distributed to all the teachers. There’s nothing in place like that at the new school.

    I’m inclined to still give cash, and I was thinking $50 each to his two teachers and another floater teacher who takes care of him sometimes. Is that a good amount? And should I do anything for the director? Or the on-site owner, who also cuddles him when he needs it?

    • Two Cents says:

      When I was in a similar situation, we still gave the teacher a gift even though she had barely been with him 2 weeks at that point. I figured that it was a gesture of goodwill and she was incredibly appreciative. I think I gave around $50. To the teachers who had been with him longer, I gave $75 or $100, I believe. Nothing to the director.

      I absolutely believe that daycare teachers should get a holiday gift. They are barely getting by on their low salaries and you’re entrusting them with your kids.

      • I completely agree! Daycare workers are incredibly underpaid considering they spend as much (or more) time with our kids during the day. I think crafty gifts are cute, but let’s be honest, I’m certain they would prefer cash. If cash makes you uncomfortable, get them a Visa gift card.

  2. NewMomAnon says:

    I would be ticked if there was a group gift and someone gave their own personal (financial) gift on top of it. That’s just showing off. A personal card or piece of art from the kid, or a small treat (we always gave Xmas cookies to teachers) on top of the group gift, I can understand.

    In an ideal world, our daycare teachers would be paid more (which would of course drive up tuition and drive me out of the workforce, but a girl can dream) and then I wouldn’t feel the need to give a gift. As it is, I know our daycare teachers are barely earning living wages, and if I can cover a week or two of groceries or gifts for their kids at the holidays…well, I can afford that.

    I also generally donate a big box of diapers around the holidays to my center, because I know there are families that carefully ration diapers and the teachers appreciate having some extra.

  3. anne-on says:

    At our previous daycare (much smaller, we’d been there since he was 6 months old) each of my son’s main teachers got a $30 gift card and each of the other teachers, who all floated through the entire center, got $5 starbucks cards, plus a big platter of treats for the break room. The director got about $30 of a consumable gift (candle, candy, etc.) We also just flat out gave cash for the yearly fundraiser and/or asked the teacher want they wanted for the class and bought it.
    We just moved and my son’s new daycare is much larger, so we’re giving $50 cash plus a $5 coffee card to each of his 3 teachers, and contributing $20 for a luncheon and gift for the entire center staff. Its nice to have a more organized ‘PTA’ of sorts at his new place as I’d honestly rather give money and have someone else coordinate making treats/catering a luncheon.
    No other classes that he’s been in long enough to do a ‘gift’ type thing, but I will also probably send a platter of cookies to his pediatrician (we are there all.the.time).

  4. This is our first year in a group daycare in a HCOL area. Given the amount of financial aid the center extends, there are families of all income brackets. Our 11-MO has been in the baby room since August.
    The room parents are collecting for class gifts: each teacher gets a small gift to unwrap plus a cash gift. There were no suggested amounts but one of the room parents I asked told me a general guideline is $5 to $20 per teacher (for 4 teachers).
    We can afford $20 per, and honestly, since we can afford more, this seems low given how great they are and how much we appreciate them. I don’t want to give anything on the side, which seems obnoxious, but I also feel self conscious about contributing a larger amount to class gift (the teachers won’t know, of course, but some parents would). My husband says we should give $100 total to the class gift and call it a day.

    • anne-on says:

      Give $100 total to the class gift and write each of his teachers a heartfelt letter to them (with a photocopy to the center director for their files maybe?) about how much you appreciate all that they do for your child.
      If you want to do more maybe ask the teachers if there is a piece of equipment or a toy/copies of books they’d especially like for the class and give that as well?

      • Thanks, I like the idea of getting something they need for the classroom. Have been doing this with Kleenex already.

      • As the child of a kindergarten teacher, this is a great idea.

        My mother has so much soap as gifts from students. If your kids are old enough to speak, they might have some ideas as to what their teachers like. She really appreciates it when students are perceptive and notice she drinks tea and hot chocolate, rather than coffee.

  5. Famouscait says:

    This is our first round of holidays at daycare. A couple parents organize a parent-provided potluck lunch for the teachers and for the first time, are also collecting $0-$20 *per family* to be distributed evenly among the teachers (I believe there are ~20 teachers). I am contributing to both of those, and am also doing a family Christmas card attached to a nice chocolate bar with a bow for each of kiddo’s current teachers, as well as the teachers in the first room he was in (I didn’t do anything when he transitioned). I’m mainly doing the Christmas cards because I want to write a note to each of them about how much we appreciate their loving care. I also really appreciate the group collection of money, so that they are all gifted equally.

  6. MDMom says:

    Ah so timely. Our center doesn’t do class gifts (at least for infant room). Our kid has been there since September. I was going to give 20 to the assistants, 30 to the lead teachers, plus cookies or something. Thoughts on cash vs gift cards? Amazon gift card maybe? Cash feels awkward for some reason.

    Similar question for the cleaning lady at my office. .. she does a great job and watered my plants for me while I was on maternity leave (on her own initiative).

    • I agree that cash feels awkward, like you are “tipping” rather than “gifting.” But that said, I prefer to give cash. When I put myself in the teachers’ shoes, receiving gifts from 8-10 families, I think I would prefer to receive cash gifts versus 8-10 separate gift cards of different denominations to different stores.

    • anne-on says:

      I know cash can feel awkward, but as the daughter of a teacher (and with many teacher friends) you wind up with more chocolates/hand cream/candles/etc. every year than you know what to do with! Gift-cards and cash can at least be used for other things. If you’d prefer, maybe pair it with a nominal ‘thing’ – nice candy bar, coffee gift card, cake pop, etc.

    • I think cash is fine, although an Amazon gift card wouldn’t be bad either, as Amazon makes them super easy to use. I personally hate Visa gift cards (both buying them due to the fee, and getting them because I feel like they are a pain to use), so my secretary gets cash every year.

    • Give cash. I’ve been in these “Holiday Gifts aren’t tips” kind of jobs and Amazon gift cards can’t go to your student loan provider or to the credit card company. And if they’re hourly and the center closes for a few days around Christmas they may need cash to cover rent.

  7. Maddie Ross says:

    I’m on my third year of this, and due to the timing of my LO’s birthday versus the holidays, she’s always been in the room for a significant amount of time by the holidays. I have always given $50 gift cards to the main teachers (2 each time), but what to do about floaters? I’ve never figured this out. There are a whole slew of floaters at her current school, most of whom I recognize as being in her room at sometime or another, but some of them I don’t even know their names to put on a card. How does one handle that? In the past, I ignored one year altogether and did donuts for all in the breakroom another. Thoughts?

    • Jenny says:

      I’m in the same boat- each main teacher seems to have 1-2 assistants plus a slew of floaters who move throughout the classes all day long. I’d love to hear how others handle floaters.

    • I’m in the same situation, with 3 at various ages/programs at the center. I give $50 to the main teachers, and then bring in coffee and bagels one morning in December for all the staff. Just ask the director how many there are, and a good day where most of the staff will be there. Word gets around that it’s from us without having to make a huge deal about it, and the staff seems appreciative.

  8. We give money to day care providers (ask the owner for a suggestion or generally try to do about the cost of a week in total, divided among the different workers) – cash – in a card. Preschool class gift will be money and we might do some small handmade card or ornament if my son has interest, but money is the real gift. I’ve never given a gift to a class instructor. For those in the NYC area, Park Slope Parent’s annual nanny survey covers holiday gifts and tips for childcare providers (I think) – just in case you want to know what the Joneses of Park Slope are doing.

  9. Katie says:

    Interesting topic! What about other service providers? Babysitters? House cleaners? Hair dressers? Even our garbage man sent us a tip envelope! Our school does a combined gift from all of the parents. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but contributed $100 this year. Last year, I missed the deadline and wound up giving each of my son’s teachers $25 gift cards. They seemed to be very appreciative and I got the sense that my contributions to the group gift in previous years were too anonymous to really register with them in any meaningful way. (I hate to be THAT cynical, but there’s something about group gifts that just doesn’t work.)

    • mascot says:

      We do the class pooled gift too and got a really nice note from my son’s teacher about how she was using the money to buy herself a certain piece of sport equipment. So maybe it varies by recipient? Personally, I love the idea. I don’t know all of his teachers very well (art, music, PE, etc) and this gift covers everyone that works with the class.
      House cleaner- I’ll tip 50%-100% of the normal service cost. Hairdresser, I usually tip more at the holiday visit, but I tip her regularly already. For a regular baby-sitter, I’d probably add a small gift to a generous tip.

    • This is what I do:

      House cleaners – one service ($120)
      Dog walker – one week ($100)

      I only get my hair cut 2-3x per year (sigh), so I don’t give a special Christmas tip.

  10. What about smaller in home daycare? Our daycare has about 8 children only and the other parents haven’t said anything about a group gift. Googling I see people suggesting giving cash in an amount equal to a weeks worth of daycare. Does that seem right?

  11. eh230 says:

    What do people do for kids in school as opposed to daycare? I am thinking $50 Amazon gift card to the Kindergarten teacher and $15 Amazon gift card to the “specials” teachers (art, music, spanish, gym).

  12. Christina says:

    I give gift cards with a nice note (and some crayon scribbles) for Christmas and in May. I also give smaller gift cards for the teacher’s birthday and $5 Starbucks gift cards for Halloween and Valentines as little treats. There is no way I can thank the teachers enough for caring for my children. I want them to know throughout the year how much I appreciate all they do. They don’t get paid nearly enough and they have such an important job.

  13. Babyweight says:

    Daycare workers are not likely to be “salaried professionals.” Ask your school’s director what the average worker/teacher makes at your center.

    After you do the math, then you’ll gladly fork over useful cash to them as a meager way to say thanks.

    That said, I do not tip the ballet teacher, swim coach, etc. I do give a holiday gift of around a month’s pay to our housekeeper and always tip my hairdresser 20% because I adore her and she comes in at the crack of dawn for this busy mommy.

  14. KateMiddletown says:

    Weighing in late, but my 5 y/o has grand ideas for doing something like PJs and slippers for her teacher. I feel like that might be a little too intimate :) so maybe we’ll compromise with a Lands End gift card for like $50 so she can grab some cute stuff for herself. My SO is an administrator at a private school, and he often gets visa and restaurant gift cards. While I like cash for practicality and flexibility, I am still a teensy bit uncomfortable with the idea for most occasions. (Even wedding gifts, it just feels like I’m paying you.)

  15. Mom of middle schooler. says:

    Tipping employees who make these salaries is an entirely different thing than tipping someone in Big Law or a doctor.

    Anyone have any good ideas for presents for middle school teachers? There are eight on my kid’s schedule, most of them excellent, so I can’t give them each the $10-$20 gift I used to do.

    • Mom of middle schooler. says:

      Should’ve mentioned what I’ve done in the past–One of those fruit salads arranged to look like a bouquet for the entire [his grade] team and a smaller one for the front office when he went to a small, private middle school. Last year a teacher mentioned at conferences that she was planning to write a grant to get stress balls for the class to use during exams. I looked them up on a party supplies website; getting a set for the class was totally affordable, but then I skipped a couple of really good teachers.