Emily Wyckoff

Beyond coffee mugs – easy teacher gifts

Unless you have kids, this whole “teacher gift” phenomenon would not even enter your universe. It never entered mine pre-children and I can honestly say when I was growing up – in the 70′s and 80′s – it never even occurred to me – or my mother – to bring in a gift for my teacher. I was too excited to begin my Christmas vacation – I could barely get out the door fast enough, much less present a gift.

Times have changed. At my children’s schools, I come into school right before the holidays and the classroom is overtaken by gift baskets, elaborately wrapped presents, cards containing gift cards, etc. Makes me wish I had the patience to be a teacher.

Now thinking from the teacher’s perspective, how many more gift baskets do you really need? My kids however, love their teachers and insist on getting them a gift. Of course they all have multiple teachers so 3 kids x 3 teachers = 9 gifts! This can add up should you buy them at the store so the past few years my kids and I have made a batch of teacher gifts and the kids love it. Most of our ideas are edible, so there are usually leftovers for us too!

Here are some of our teacher gift ideas:

Candy! In the past my daughters and I have made candy – peppermint bark and toffee are favorites – and either put them in a clear bag tied with a ribbon or I will buy some of those take-out food containers from the party store or dollar store and the girls can decorate the containers too. Two of our favorite candy recipes:

Chocolate Peppermint Bark 

2  pounds white, dark or milk chocolate

30 small peppermint candy canes


  1. Line a large jellyroll pan with heavy-duty foil.
  2. Place white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave on medium setting for 5 to 6 minutes. Stir occasionally, until chocolate is melted and smooth.
  3. Place candy canes in a plastic bag, or between two pieces of waxed paper. Using a mallet or rolling pin, break the candy canes into chunks. Stir peppermint into melted white chocolate. Spread evenly in pan, and chill until set, about 1 hour. Break into pieces by slamming pan on counter.



  • 2 cups butter
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup finely chopped almonds


  1. In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the butter, sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the butter is melted. Allow to come to a boil, and cook until the mixture becomes a dark amber color, and the temperature has reached 285 degrees F (137 degrees C). Stir occasionally.
  2. While the toffee is cooking, cover a large baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  3. As soon as the toffee reaches the proper temperature, pour it out onto the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the chocolate over the top, and let it set for a minute or two to soften. Spread the chocolate into a thin even layer once it is melted. Sprinkle the nuts over the chocolate, and press in slightly. Putting a plastic bag over your hand will minimize the mess.
  4. Place the toffee in the refrigerator to chill until set. Break into pieces, and store in an airtight container.

Bookmarks – Cut strips of paper, have your kids decorate and cover with contact paper and trim. If you are lucky enough to have a laminator, even better.

Christmas cookies – Make your favorite Christmas cookies - put in plastic bags or other cute containers from dollar store (again decorated with stickers, glitter, markers, etc.)

A picture or note from your child

Cute Pads of Paper – Buy plain white pads of paper (again, dollar store) tie a bow from ribbon and glue ribbon to the top, put in cellophane bag and tie with a bow. If you are feeling industrious, you can glue a magnet to the back and make a pad to stick to the refrigerator.

Holiday CD – burn a CD of your family’s favorite holiday music – can you ever have too many Christmas cds? not me.

Have fun and post your favorite teacher gift ideas here!

48 Responses to “Beyond coffee mugs – easy teacher gifts”

  1. I have to say, I love these ideas. Teachers want you to put some thought into their gift and want to know the kid has thought about it too. I actually had my daughter give her teacher a book and I had my daughter sign it with a nice note. Her teacher’s eyes welled up with tears when she got it because of how well my 5 year old wrote for her and that she took the time to carefully craft a note. Now I know that was the best part of the present!

  2. Julia Jaeger says:

    I agree! Homemade gifts seem to be the biggest hit. This year I crocheted two dishclothes in Christmas colors for my kids’ teachers and attached with a ribbon a little kitchen utensil, i.e. mini spatula, coffee scoop, tea strainer, etc.

  3. LORI says:

    I bought my kid’s teachers big fleece blankets. This is a gift they could use often. What’s even better I got them on sale for $4.00. So now when they cover up they can think of my children.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    I noticed my Sons teacher will snack or drink cappucino during the day so last year I made a “survive the day” survival kit. It included snack packs of crackers and her favorite cappucino mix,insulated drink cups with lids. I put it all in a small shoe box rubbermaid container and put a survival kit sign that told her how much we apprecaite all she does.

  5. Lee-Anne says:

    I agree that these gifts are always wonderful. I have my kids make cookies with me because they enjoy doing it and this year they also made freezer jam. I make a little gift basket of our home-made goodies for their teachers, grandparents and aunts and uncles from my kids. The family loves it because it is a gift from the heart and the kids add their special touches to their goodies for each individual and there is no clutter of gifts they really don’t need.

  6. Lisa says:

    I have a friend who makes gourmet chocolates so I purchase a gift box of those to give to the teachers. It’s delicious and they have all seemed to really love it.

  7. Alicia says:

    As a teacher, we love presents! We feel so beat down and unappreciated much of the year; it’s so nice when students remember you at Christmas…especially for the young teachers who are so overwhelmed when they first start. Personally, I started a mug collection and my students enjoy my funky ones. Gift cards are wonderful, note pads are super (we’re always hunting for paper to jot out a hall pass), and school supplies! Dry erase markers, good pens, pencils, tape…we all need it, and most of us love the smell (I’m not kidding…mmmm, fresh crayons!) Homemade cards are wonderful, especially if the student writes a note him/herself. Be careful with edibles for older students: teachers are much more careful about batches of goodies from older students than they would be from a 7 year old.

  8. Shannon says:

    This is fantastic!!! I always struggle with what to give my sons teachers. These are affordable ways to thank them for all of their hard work!!! Thanks!

  9. Liz says:

    I’m lucky to teach in a town where inspite of the stress of my job, I know the parents appreciate my collegues and I. We don’t ask for or encourage gift giving, but so many families feel that it is the only way they can express their gratitude. Over the years I received a lot of Christmas ornaments, coffee mugs, pads of paper, stuffed anmals, gift cards, and slippers. But, the best gifts are those that the children and parents write or make. Parents have also written letters of appreciation for me and sent them to the Principal and Superintendent. I so value the time it takes another person to do something special for you. Its like Rachael says, a home-cooked meals means far more to someone than even the fanciest dinner out, because you took the time to think about what they would enjoy and then make it for them.
    Our school for the past few years has been encouraging teachers to give to a charity in lieu of giving gifts to each other. Some parents have jumped on this band wagon as well. What a great gift to know that your gift is helping someone less fortunate than yourself.

  10. Tara says:

    Great ideas! I have also done gift certificates- like a movie gift certificate with a bag of microwave popcorn- for a night of relaxation! I like the idea of simple and inexpensive- thanks~

  11. Jodi says:

    I love the bookmark idea…I even sell them or could put a kit together for a child to make with siblings or mom and/or dad.

    With or without a kit…felt is another great craft supply to use…and a needle and thread or fabric/felt glue works great as well!

    Create from within! HappyHouseQuilts.com

  12. Stacey says:

    I am a teacher of 8 years and the best present that I get from students is just a note of how they have enjoyed being in my class over the years. That is all that I need from a student for Christmas!

  13. Becky says:

    At my kids school- all the teachers send home a list of gift ideas for the classroom. With many schools in our area, money is tight. We bring in craft supplies, books, puzzles, pet food for class pets, pencils, markers, games etc for the classroom. The teachers really appreciate it!

  14. Katie says:

    As a high school teacher, I can count on one hand how many Christmas gifts I have ever received from students over the years. I also teach in a less affluent section of the city. It is not at all about the value of the gift. The sentiment is what is important. I once was given a roll of Christmas ribbon from a dollar store from a student. Knowing that she spent what little she had to show her gratitude made this a tremendous gift. It is the sentiment, not the gift. Don’t forget your older child’s teacher! You know how frustrated you get with your teenager – try teaching them Algebra!

  15. Marie says:

    As a teacher, I realize that there are many teachers, staff and support staff who may not get recognized. I usually buy 2 or three crates of clementines and either a box of truffles or send a batch of triple chocolate cookies and put them in the staff lounge with a card from the kids. It is always a hit and something healthy, as well!

  16. Misty says:

    As a preschool teacher, parents often ask what they can send in for a gift. Honestly, a game for the room, or age-appropriate toy is the best. For those parents who insist on something personal, a gift card from Dunkin’ Donuts helps to jump-start my day every time!

  17. milagros says:

    The best gifts come from the heart
    It’s a great idea to do crafts and have children a paret of it

  18. mmunchie says:

    As a teacher I appreciate every gift a child has ever given me, from the tree ornament (that I put up every year), to the coffee/teas, to the bath products. Homemade gifts are fantastic, especially when you know the child has helped make them, however, I would stay away from edible home made gifts. Our school has asked parents to stop sending them in from home as birthday treats b/c of the obesity epidemic as well as sanitary and hygenie issues (you don’t know where all of the items have been made).

  19. Carrie says:

    A few years ago I started doing the movie rental gift card, movie candy and a microwave popcorn tied with a nice ribbon. Something personal but something they can use. This year I also got my daughter’s kindergarten teacher a gift card to the Dollar Tree. I know she spend a lot of her own money on supplies and I thought I would help out. I know they love the knick knacks and coffee mugs but after 25 years I can only imagine how many they have.

  20. Heather says:

    I love using the aladdin create-your-own mugs (www.aladdinlunch.com) to create one of a kind mugs that have recipes on the outside or photos.

  21. KARLA says:

    Every year my daughter and I make home made gifts for her teacher and fellow students. Last year we made her teacher a sterling silver charm bracelet. For the students we made mini gift sets using holiday cups. We loaded the cups with home made candy, cakes and school supplies. They were a hit.

  22. Krista says:

    I have been a teacher for over fifteen years. Two of my favorite gifts from students have been a little (and gently loved) unicorn from a girl named Nicki when I student taught and a $1 bill from a boy named AJ. I used the dollar to buy a little Winnie the Pooh figure that I displayed on top of my filing cabinet. He knew I used his gift to purchase the figure. They were both very sweet to want to give me something. :-)

    I use all of the teacher and holiday mugs I have been given. I share the homemade and store-purchased goodies that I am given. I put up all of the holiday decorations I have been given and, for the most part, know exactly who gave them to me. I have all of the nice letters and cards that students and parents have given me during the holidays and at the end of the school year.

    It is nice to be rememebered. :-)

  23. VIcki says:

    I am a wife and mother of four (ages 18, 16, 12, and 9). I am also a full-time Customer Service Rep (which is NOT always easy) and, since August, a full-time student.

    I just wanted to sy THANK YOU all for your amazing ideas…especially the teachers! For the first time in all my years of mothering, I am now unable to help out in the classroom and, I am sorry to say, I barely know their teachers this year.
    I am so grateful for the helpful ideas. I just signed up on this site today (I am home sick-going too fast for too long, I guess) and I’m grateful to have turned on the TV out of sheer boredom and found Rachael’s show. I now have ideas about what to do for our teachers, whereas a few hours ago I was at such a loss! Usually, by this point in the year, I have spent enough time volunteering in the room or on field trips that I know the teachers pretty well.

    Thanks again…and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

  24. jan says:

    Each and everyday the gift we receive from parents is the opportunity to teach their children. The child who is loved and eager to learn entering a classroom is the best! Listen to their stories, encourage the questions and enjoy your child. That is a gift for all, the teacher, yourself and your child.

  25. Jamie says:

    What wonderful ideas! I have 3 kids in school and I’ve been racking my brain on what I can do for their teachers thats inexpensive.
    Now I know!

  26. Karen says:

    As a teacher of 26yrs. I can honestly say I think it is important to remember your child’s teacher. We are afterall with them most of the day. Several of my students even call me Momma. Of all the gifts I have received I think the most memorable are:
    1. the ornaments with child’s name and date handmade or store bought(after 25 yrs of gifts it is easy to get them mixed up)I still place them on my tree.
    2. a goodie box with Christmas snack plates and coffee mugs,homemade Jams and Jellies and Cappachino
    3. Crocheted topped Kitchen towels
    4. A Christmas book: Teacher’s Night Before Christmas, or any Christmas novel or new release ( Just ask at the Book Store)

    Also, I think I would rather have my gift at the end of the year when I am going home for a relaxing restful much needed break. This way I can enjoy the gift and it doesn’t take away from your family during these hard times. A card signed from your child and even one from you would be very appropriate if it is tight at your house.
    Just don’t forget the teacher at the end: it is very important for you to remember how your child’s teacher has touched her/his life throughout the year. They will be greatly missed and it will help your child adjust to the separation also.

  27. Sue GF says:

    Hi all, I think the fudge wreath is a great idea for a teacher who loves Chocolate! But I wanted to try the white choc. cranberry wreath. Question: do we still include the Butterscotch chips in this one?

  28. one of the best gifts I’ve ever done was a plate of inividal pkgs of crackers and bread sticks etc with a container of spreadable cheese. It is not sweet,and at christmas when sweets are so popular the change was loved. (It helped that I knew the LANCE distribuator)

  29. Christine M. says:

    I am only 16, but I already know alot about teachers and what they want as gifts. My mom is a teacher and as a kid I practicaly grew up in the class room. The first thing you have to know, is that every teacher is different, so during the year I try to keep an eye out for anything they say they like or enjoy. Then when I go to choose a gift I think of some kind of inside joke or something I noticed that stood out to me about them. Then the first thing I do is write a thank you note from the heart (if you don’t mean it, it will show). I find that the teachers really apreciate the thanks and that you remembered even the smallest details. I know that my mom is always worried about her kids and makes sure that she can do everything she can to help them learn.

    The greatest gift that you can give to your kids teacher is a thank you card that basically says,”Thank you. what you did this year made a difference in my life and I greatly appreciate it”. I also think that parents should write to the teachers about how much they have helped their kids. I know that there is nothing my mom appreciates more than knowing that she helped one of her students.

    For all of you who have high school kids, since there are anywhere from 6-7 teachers, I find the best gift for them is a heart felt thankyou note and little bag of (gormet)coffe (make sure they like coffe, not all teachers do).

    Also remember those in the education system who are not teachers: the crossing gaurd, principal, secreatary, lunch lady. Buy a set of cards that are only a dollar and just tell them thank you, they deserve it.

    oh and please don’t go crazy on the sweets most teachers are trying to loose wait not gain any (trust me).

  30. Amy says:

    I love the gift ideas! Our PTO puts up the Helping Hands Quilt every holiday season. The quilt has a pocket with each teacher or department’s name on it and then the teachers are asked to fill out index cards with classroom wishes. This way parents feel like they are contributing to their child’s class but the teacher’s love it and get just what their room needs…more markers, tissues, games…the list is endless.

  31. cory2992 says:

    This is not for Christmas, but when my daughter graduated from Elementary School and was leaving 6th Grade, I sent a personal note to all of her teachers, thanking them for being a huge part of her life. I remembered something that happened each year and reminded them. For her First Grade teacher I gave her a baby from a Spider plant that my daughter had brought home from her class all those years ago. It let her know that what she does endures for a long time. She said it was the best gift she ever got!

  32. Debby says:

    Several years ago I realized that I couldn’t afford to give gifts to ALL of the teachers / staff that work with my kids at school I started a schoolwide GROUP GIFT collection where ALL families contribute money (whatever they can afford) and we pool the money and split it between the Art/Music/Gym/Spanish Teachers, Librarian, Principal, Secretary, etc…. We give them a SCRIP (our school gift card fundraiser) “gift certificate” and they can get a gift card for ANYWHERE they want. In the past these gifts have been used to purchase Home Depot gift cards for a home improvement project, Barnes and Noble gift cards for classroom books (or even a trashy novel for the teacher who is tired of reading See Spot Run! LOL), gas gift cards for the teacher who lives a ways out of town, or restaurant gift cards for a night out. Individually we couldn’t have afforded to give them as much, but together they get a GREAT gift, one they appreciate, and one that can make a differene in their lives. It is very well received by the recipient as well as the sender.

  33. Joanne says:

    My favorite is the cd of holiday music. Every year we look to add one to our collection; what a nice way to add to a teacher’s collection, adding a little more music to her life!

  34. Deborah says:

    I recently cae across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  35. phil says:

    An nice book for the classroom makes a great teacher gift.

  36. karen says:

    The ideas are great on here!! My husband has been a school bus driver for 10 years and he is so pleased when his riders and parents write a thank you to him!! He is a part of the large framework that makes up a school day, welcoming and smiling to many kids each day. Please remember your kids schoolbus drivers too!

  37. Jo Anna says:

    As a teacher, I love homemade goodies! One year a student walked in with warm biscuits and homemade jam – hmmmm! Some of my favorite and most memorable gifts I have also received were homemade salsa with a bag of chips, fudge wrapped in a small table top bird bath, a homemade stepping stone w/note thanking me for shaping the “step” of their child’s future, and a pack of homemade cards that I could give!! Also, I love to get ornaments. Every year as I decorate my tree at school I think of the student who gave me the ornament (I mark them all)- many of them are homemade.

  38. Jill says:

    As a middle school and high school teacher at a very affluent school, I have received many gifts (also from seniors who I helped through the college application process). While gifts are lovely, I like the cards and notes best. When a student asks what I might like, I always say a note. I have received the greatest letters of appreciation from students, and these are more precious than gold. I actually keep them in an album and look at them on the days when teaching is especially difficult. A note, from the heart is the best gift to give.

  39. JWisecup says:

    I too am a high school teacher, and I can say I remember each of the little gifts given over the last fourteen years; all five of them. It seems that when kids grow up, they forget about all of the time their teachers spend helping them earn the skills they will need for their lives after school.

    Every year the ornament I got my fifth year goes on my tree. The outfit given to me by an aide when my son was born was one of my favorites. A gift card to the book store in town was much appreciated last year. The potpouri my fifth year scented my classroom for the rest of the year. The recipe in a jar was used as a decoration.

    Personally, I crochet scarves for my sons’ teachers. I make sure to ask my sons what colors they should be. It takes some time, but it does show how much my sons and I appreciate their teachers, and doesn’t cost much more than the time spent in front of my tv in the evening.

  40. Sher says:

    When my son was little & in our local preschool disabled program, I wanted so bad to thank his speech teacher. She was the reason that he was able to talk. My son had verbal apraxia. His first year with his teacher I picked up a recording photo frame. I put in his school pic & had him say (as audible as possible) “I love you Miss Winson”. And every year since I did the same thing & had my son say the same thing over & over. Miss Winson told me that this was her most meaningful present she ever received. Years later she still plays the recordings to her new parents of her students.

  41. michele says:

    I am a teacher and I love getting school supplies as a gift. Teachers lay out so much of their own money its nice to be thanked

  42. Brenda Poole says:

    I have been a teacher for 18 years and before that, was a teacher assistant for 12 years. I have always appreciated anything given, but I also suggest that their child can donate to the Hummane Society or St. Judes’. Even the tiniest bit of money can add up for any of these worthy causes. I think any donation in honor of you is truly a wonderful gift.

  43. Brenda Poole says:

    I have been a teacher for 18 years and before that, was a teacher assistant for 12 years. I have always appreciated anything given, but I also suggest that their child can donate to the Humane Society or St. Judes’. Even the tiniest bit of money can add up for any of these worthy causes. I think any donation in honor of you is truly a wonderful gift.

  44. Tiffany says:

    I love the ideas… My toddlers are in preschool and my Mother-in-Law is a retired teacher. I cant count how many coffee cups she has!

    We always make homemade treats and add a gift card (dinner or coffee)… also adding a Xmas ornament adds a personal touch!

  45. Baylee says:

    For a GREAT Holiday gift, Bid on Rachael Ray’s custom made Lunchbox for Foodbank of NYC!!!

    The Lunchbox Auction presented by Gourmet to benefit hunger relief organizations Food Bank For New York City and The Lunchbox Fund of South Africa. More than 50+ celebrities from film, television, fashion, art, music and the culinary world are uniting to remind us that food matters and that hunger is an on-going problem. Each is creating a one-of-a-kind lunchbox that will be auctioned off online just in time for the holidays!

    This spectacular fundraiser goes live on the World Wide Web on 12/12 at midnight at http://www.thelunchboxauction.org and will run through December 18th (at 12 p.m. EST). A sneak preview of some of the celebrity lunchboxes to be auctioned can be seen at http://www.thelunchboxauction.org.

    Among the “power lunch-boxers” are: Alice Waters, Beastie Boys, Cameron Diaz, Conor Oberst, David Chang, Diane Von Furstenberg, EDUN, Ellen Page, Eva Mendes, the cast of Gossip Girl, Gwyneth Paltrow, Heatherette, Kelly Klein, Lanvin, Lisa Marie Presley, Liv Tyler, Mario Batali, Michael Stipe, Mike Myers, the New York Giants, Rachael Ray, Ruth Reichl, Salman Rushdie, Sara Moulton, Sean Avery, Spike Jones, Thriving Ivory, Tom Colicchio, and more.

    Each lunchbox reflects the personal style and individual flair of the person designing the box and no two lunchboxes are alike. Collectors will find that each box is signed and numbered, and some will even contain hidden surprises inside.

  46. Kelly says:

    I am a middle school teacher, so my students have at least 7 teachers. I have found that most teachers end up throwing away food because we don’t know what some of the homes are like. The creative gifts you mentioned like the bookmarks and paper are nice ideas. In my opinion, I am always grateful for the few gifts I do receive but do enjoy gifts that I can use in the classroom the best. Since I personally stock my classroom with supplies for the most part, gift cards to bookstores, books that are currently popular that I can’t keep in stock in my classroom library, and classroom supplies are all great gifts. Let me reiterate though, I am grateful for the few gifts I do get. As teachers, we know how tight money is and NEVER expect gifts from any student.

  47. NKOTBFAN4LIFE says:

    My daughter is in preschool and we made 2 recipe in a jars for each of her 3 teachers. We made a Rocky Road Brownie mix and a Fudge Mix. My daughter helped with both jars and wrote her name on each of the cards. They were inexpensive but my girlfriend and I got together, split the costs, and made the jars together. It gave us a chance to get together before the holidays and also allowed the girls to help.

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