We are always on the lookout for the best teacher gift ideas every year, and it may in fact be one of the top gift questions we get from readers every year about this time. (Then again in May.) And hey, I get it; if there are any people on my holiday shopping list that I’m most grateful for, it’s my kids’ teachers. They’re with my kids all day every day, and go above and beyond the job description, from purchasing supplies for the classroom from their own wallets to sending personal emails and notes home to let me know how my kids are doing.

(Let alone, dealing with the outbursts and whining from twenty-something children. Is there a gift big enough for that?)

We like to think we’ve done a decent job of recommending great teacher gifts over the years, but this year, we went right to the source, polling our Cool Mom Picks Facebook fans and asking teachers themselves just what they love receiving. And…what they don’t. Wow, did we learn a lot!

Let’s just say, hold off on the coffee mugs mugs and the apple-themed paraphernalia–unless it’s actually Apple related (iPad joke)–and check these teacher gift ideas that make your own kids’ teachers extra happy this holiday. Because of course it’s the thought that counts. But when your recipient truly loves and appreciates the gift, that’s even better.

This post has been updated for 2018

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1. Books books books!

I like any books for my classroom. I think it is nice if students pick out books that look interesting to them or that are special to them. I have the students sign the books so I can remember who gave them to me. I also appreciate gift cards so I can fill in the books I need for my library. -Erin R.

What Can a Citizen Do? The wonderful new picture book from Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris | coolmompicks.com review

What Can a Citizen Do? By Dave Eggers

One of the top gift requests from teachers by far, is a book. We found so many teachers who would love to receive something for their library or even a book store gift card so they can purchase what they need for their classroom. We especially loved Erin’s idea to have your child sign the inside of the gift book with a special note to make it personal.

You can also support your classroom by purchasing through their Scholastic Book Club, check out an Amazon wish list your teacher might have, or pop into your local bookshop and give twice over by shopping local. And if you need book suggestions for kids, we’ve got tons, from picture books for early readers to YA novels for middle graders, tweens and teens.

Related: Wonderful ideas for teacher gifts to let them know how much they’re helping our kids grow

2. A charitable donation in a teacher’s name

I love notes from my students, but if the parents really want to spend money, lately I’ve been suggesting they have their kids choose a charity and make a donation instead of buying me a mug or lotion. That way their kids get into the spirit of giving. -Jessica F.

Charity donations as gifts via Donors Choose

 

With so many charities in need of support this year (and well, every year), this is such a wonderful sentiment. And like Jessica said, it’s a fabulous way to get kids into the spirit of giving. A charity gift card is really cool, because it allows the teacher to choose his or her own pet cause to donate to. Or if your kids support something meaningful (ours love the Nature Conservatory and the World Wildlife Fund) that also feels personal and teach your children the spirit of giving, too.

Of course, it’s a fantastic idea to support other classrooms who may be more needy than your own;  Donors Choose is always a teacher favorite because you can give back to a classroom in need in your teacher’s name. Pick a project by sorting by region or even project type. So that awesome science-loving teacher of yours could help make a fantastic junior high chemistry project or an Audobon field trip a reality, thanks to your gift.

 

3. Gift cards. Even small ones.

Gift cards all the way! I’m always needing something for the classroom! -Jill B.

The best teacher gift ideas: Give a gift card, even a small one

Gift cards from Starbucks can be ordered from Amazon, or picked-up in store.
Or get a gift card to the local coffee place that’s closest to school.

 

While different schools have different policies about giving gift cards, we did find that overwhelmingly, teachers love receiving them. And you overwhelming like giving them! Perfect fit.

But what’s really important to note is that you do not need to spend a lot of money on a gift card for a teacher. At all! So many teachers suggested that a small $3-5 gift card that buys them a special cup of coffee is just perfect. (No need for that sterling silver Starbucks gift card.) And it seems no one will turn their noses down at an Amazon or Target gift card where they can opt for school supplies, or just something a little special and personal.

 

Printable Target gift card holder for teachers | bitz and giggles

Printable Target gift card holder for teachers from Bitz and Giggles

 

Of course, you can always get creative with the presentation of the gift card; we’ve got lots of ideas for printable gift card holders for teachers that can be great like the one above that’s perfect for your favorite coffee shop. Or the printable Target gift card holder we found via bitzngiggles. Alternatively, attach yours to a small poinsettia or flowerpot, tuck it in a special journal, or just include in a handmade card from the kids.

Related: 8 of our favorite DIY teacher gifts from the whole classroom

4. A lunch delivery for the teacher

I’ll tell you what my dream present would be: a lunch delivery. We have very short lunch breaks and are stuck in our classrooms for the most part. Find out the teacher’s favorite lunch spot, send her a menu and tell her you’re bringing her lunch (or having it delivered.) -Elaine N.

Printable fill-in-the-blank holiday coupons for teacher gifts via Kona Designs on Etsy

Well, this is one teacher gift we’d never considered before but it certainly makes sense. Of course, it depends on where you live and resources you have nearby, but you could certainly grab a gift card to a local restaurant or deli that delivers. Or, grab these fun printable fill-in-the-blank holiday coupons (above, from Kona Designs) and let your child or your classroom make their own coupons for one free lunch during a specific month–that you’ll promise to deliver yourself. Or one of the class moms, depending on who’s available during the daytime.

We can only imagine how nice it would be for a teacher not to have to worry about packing their own lunch one day–or maybe even for a whole week.

 

5. A handmade teacher gift from the kids

My favorite gifts are the ones students make for me. I have kept those gifts in my classroom on shelves. Every time I look at them I think of my students. When kids come back years later they see the gifts they made me around the room and they know they are still in my heart! -Melissa Y.

Semi-Homemade Embellished Holiday Candle

Semi Homemade Embellished Candle with printable card from Skip to My Lou:
One of many cool, easy DIY holiday gifts kids can make

So many teachers told us that they love receiving homemade food gifts or handmade gifts from the kids. One dad whose wife is a teacher suggested that if the school requires a lanyard, a handmade one is always a welcome gift. But whatever it is — a batch of homemade Christmas cookies or an outrageous homemade pan of brownies or a DIY gift from a child’s own hands and heart — it’s greatly appreciated.

We’ve featured lots of sweet handmade gifts that kids can make can make on Cool Mom Picks that would all make wonderful teacher gifts plus plenty of cool handmade teacher gifts from the whole classroom that can jar some ideas.

Just be sure to know your teacher; there were quite a few on the diet wagon who said, “Please! No cookies!” Not because they didn’t want them, but because they did.

Related: 7 easy DIY craft gift ideas for teachers 

6. A teacher gift that’s truly personal but inexpensive

A (high school) student knew how much I like Diet Coke and bought me a 12 pack! Something thoughtful means more than all the expensive things in the world. -Rebecca S.

 

The best teacher gifts according to teachers: Affordable personalized pencils from GoHobo on Etsy

Personalized pencils from GoHobo on Etsy

This is such a fun way to get your kids involved in the gift for their teacher: Ask them what their teachers like, what their interests are. As you can see from Rebecca, your gift certainly does not need to be fancy. My own friend and special education teacher once told me that his favorite gift of all time was a really cool beach towel, because his kids knew how much he loved going to the shore in the summers. Whatever it might be — personalized pencils (above) for the teacher who’s always losing hers, or a donation to a wildlife preservation charity for your penguin-loving first grade teacher– adding that extra bit of thoughtfulness goes a long way.

We would just caution not to overdo it; Liz still remember a teacher when she was a kid who loved Charlie perfume. Every year, she must have gotten ten bottles of it!

Related: 23 ideas for practical DIY teacher gifts from the kids – no heavy crafting required.

7. A personal note for your teacher from the students

I am a teacher and a parent and my favourite gifts to receive and give are letters from parent and child thanking the teacher specifically for something they have done that made a difference in your life. Cheap, easy, and doesn’t take up much space! -Josie Y.

 

Personalized journals from kids' artwork at Minted make great holiday gifts

Personalized journals from kids’ artwork at Minted

 

By far, there was one gift suggestion for teachers that pretty much trumped them all: a special note handwritten by the student. You could certainly have your kid write a note inside the flap of a nice journal (perhaps one made from their artwork, like this one), or in a special card that the child has made herself.

It’s such a wonderful reminder that most teachers don’t need Birkin bags or extravagant gestures to feel appreciated–what they want to know is that they’re making a difference. And there’s no better way to express that than in a note that simply says, “thanks.”

Oh…and let your child write it him or herself. Errors and all. As one of our readers Liz H. pointed out, Handwritten, unedited cards from kids are awesome.  But we of all people know whether or not your 1st grader can write, “Dear Ms. H, I hope you have a wonderful winter break, With love and appreciation, _____”

For more of the best teacher gifts ideas, make sure to search our archives. We have tons!

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