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The Inventory Guide of Gifts Teachers Will Actually Want For Christmas

Graphic: Ana Luisa Suarez

What do teachers want as a gift during the holidays? Not an apple.

When I asked parents and teachers, the answer, overwhelmingly, was gift cards and a heartfelt thank you. Gift cards give teachers the freedom to purchase something for the classroom or treat themselves to something they want (deservedly, of course). Cash feels transactional ($50 for that A+) and prepaid debit cards often come with fees. Gift cards, on the other hand, don’t expire for five years (though there can be fees if you don’t use it within a year) by law.

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That said, gift cards by themselves can be boring to gift. The solution? Dress them up.

Mini Brown Envelopes, $10
Photo: Amazon

One simple way is to place the gift cards in a blank envelope decorated by your child. These mini brown envelopes offer a nice blank canvas for colorful doodles.

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Amazon Gift Card. $50 or Virtually Any Gift Card
Graphic: Ana Luisa Suarez

You can also pick a theme and pair the gift card accordingly. For instance, for a gift card to a neighborhood grocery store or bakery, add it to a basket filled with a few of your family’s favorite store-bought treats. This one-pint basket is small but can be painted by your child and hold a few chocolate candy bars. Add cellophane and ribbon (plus a trip to the grocery store) and you’re all set.

Or tuck a gift card to the movies into a basket with popcorn and candy.

Or slip a gift card to an office supply store into a basket with pencils, dry erase markers and erasers.

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Graphic: Ana Luisa Suarez

Combining a gift card and a book donation can also be a fun and creative way to gift something for both the classroom and teacher.

For instance, Magic Ramen, a picture book biography about the inventor of instant ramen, or Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat can be paired with a gift certificate to a local restaurant, a food delivery service, a grocery store, or another purveyor of food.

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Another idea: Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee!, Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery, all beautiful picture books about artists, can be matched with a gift card to an arts and crafts store.

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Banned Books Socks, $12
Keychain, $14
Dinosaur Necklace, $12
Graphic: Ana Luisa Suarez

Of course, if you want to eschew the gift card completely, how about something a little nerdy, like this dinosaur necklace for a preschool teacher?

Or this cheesy science keychain? It reads, “I may be N-Er-Dy, but only periodically.”

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Or these banned books socks? The titles include The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Handmaid’s Tale.

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Felt Letter Board, $28
Photo: Amazon

And this felt letter board can be a fun addition to a classroom, and a way for the teacher to share an inspirational message or announcement.

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About the author

Ellen Lee

Ellen Lee is a freelance writer in the San Francisco Bay Area.