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Gift Ideas for Teachers

Frugal Crafts and Homemade Gifts (featured column)

Homemade Gifts for Teachers

As we continue to add more of our favorite frugal gift ideas for our favorite TEACHERS we hope you will join us by sending us a gift that you have either made or received! If you have a frugal gift idea for Teachers that you'd like to share with us, please send us your favorite and we'll add it to this page!

Readers' Favorite Frugal Gifts for Teachers:

Coffee or Tea

"At a thrift store I bought clear glass canisters.  Inside the canister I put 1/2 lb bags of coffee shop breakfast blend coffee beans.  I made pretty fabric gift bags for each that reflected the occasion and used nice fabric, trim and ties to give the bags more of a boutique look.  Next year I'll be sure to check to see which teachers drink coffee and which drink tea." - Donna

M&M® or Smartie Jars

"Michelle, I put this idea together today taken from an M&M® recipe in a jar idea.  Being Canadian I substituted for Smarties but the idea still goes well with the poem. In a quart size jar layer in the following manner, it is optional to include this information with the gift jar...

Smartie Bar in a Jar Contents

125 ml old fashioned oats (1/2 cup)
125 ml smartie/chocolate chip mix (1/2 cup)
125 ml light brown sugar packed (1/2 cup)
250 ml buttermilk pancake mix (1 cup)
125 ml dark brown sugar packed (1/2 cup)
250 ml buttermilk pancake mix (1 cup)

Procedure to be included with the bar in a jar recipe:

Smartie Bar in a Jar

Empty contents of jar into medium bowl. Stir in 125 ml or 1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter, 1 large egg and 5 ml or 1 teaspoon vanilla. Press into a 20cm-20cm-5cm or 8-by-8-by-2-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake in preheated 175c or 350f-degree oven for 18 to 22 minutes or until bars are light golden brown and center is almost set. Makes 16 bars.

I cut out a round circle to cover the disk part of the sealer from the same decorative paper I printed the following poem onto.  The poem goes as follows, and was attached with gift ribbon. Between each line my kids added their own thought in brackets, on how their teacher touched them in each way described with each colour below.  The other side of the poem page had the recipe printed out.

Mrs. Teacher's name is a Smartie!  (or sweetie for M&M's, or omit)

Green is for the inspiration you gave to me each day,
Blue is for your patience in showing me the way,
Orange is for your warmth and your caring style,
Yellow is for the way you could always make me smile,
Red is for my life that you touched this year,
You’re a very special teacher, like this jar-that’s clear!

Thank you so much, Student Name

This will make a great gift!"  - Donna

Gift Baskets

"I went to the thrift store, and bought interesting baskets for a quarter! I found a tablecloth with a folky pattern and used my ridgy scissors to make squares to put inside each one. It is strawberry season here in Ontario, so my daughter and I went and picked berries... then made some very basic jam, and put it in several 1 cup jars. This will go in the basket.

I also have several songs that I plan to make into a relaxation CD. I will print out the label on my computer, and this will serve as another item for the basket. I bought seeds that I had my children plant in small pots, and they have been watering it daily. It hasn't bloomed yet, but as it does, it will grow into a beautiful plant, that will remind the teacher of how much she was appreciated. Although it can't go in the basket, it will be wrapped and included. I will include some gourmet crackers in the basket for the jam, and buy pate spreaders in a pack of four, one of which will be attached to the jar of jam with a white ribbon.

Finally, I will have my child create a card for their teacher.  It will tell them one thing they learned and three reasons they enjoyed being their student.  (I will copy this for them to look at in the future!)  I will create slightly smaller, varied versions of the same basket to give to the main office secretary, the crossing guard and the principal." - AK

$1.00 Gifts

"I just finished a home school co-op involving about 32 families and my children had about 11 teachers.  I know $1 doesn't buy much these days, and can even add up, but I like to first, Pray and ask the Lord to lead me to a deal.  The teachers deserve something nice, don't you think.  Well, I like to try to find sales on things in regular store (rather than thinking you can only get $1 items in the Dollar Stores).  For instance, we bought the ladies African violets reg. $2.98 but that day they were $1.  The men got black coffee mugs with a package of Cappuccino mix in it.  This also cost just a dollar.  Candles are also a hit with me, and I found some in a small canning jar style at Kroger for $1 too.

Since I was a teacher I received some body lotion and spray which I loved but thought they had spent too much (all the other teachers got that too!), one of the students made me some homemade fudge!  That was awesome and a surprise because you only usually get that at Christmas. I also received some garden gloves and a flower seed planting kit.  (That seemed pricey to me I hope they got a DEAL.)  A small stained glass window ornament with a homemade card was beautiful.  And then again, I got some homemade cards decorated with the topics we discussed throughout the year and I could tell they put time into it and that was extra special!" - C. Kimberley

Misc. Gifts

"Hi, I am a mother of two and a preschool teacher so I have been on both the receiving and giving end of gifts.  Over the years parents tend to group their money together and buy the teachers coffee cards and/or Target cards. They are great gifts to get but when a child makes a homemade card with different art mediums or a special picture of the child and the teacher that means more.  As one of my favorite sayings goes, "A single wildflower given in love is worth more than a dozen perfect roses given with indifference" - Anonymous.  And that is how I feel.

Some gifts that my daughter and I have made and given are candle holders made with baby food jars, recycled tissue paper and a tea light candle, an inexpensive terra cotta pot painted by my daughter with a small flowering plant or a packet of flower seeds (you can purchase packs of seeds at the $1 store getting 10 packs for a dollar!), homemade cards with cut outs of my daughters hands and/or feet put together to make an angel ~ to open to give a hug ~ put together to make a tree or wreath, cards of a favorite memory of the child and the person the card is given to with a dictation of that favorite memory.  We have also made applesauce cinnamon hearts to hang in closets, dried lavender sachets and vacuum freshener (just mix dried lavender and baking soda and put in an airtight jar - give a shake and sprinkle when you are ready to vacuum).

Favorite gifts that I have received from families are a bouquet of flowers picked from their home garden in an inexpensive vase/jar with a pretty ribbon, a beautiful store bought card for Valentine's day, an apple on an ordinary day, a note pad of paper with my name across the top, a coffee mug with a small bag of coffee and some Hershey kisses, or anything that I had mentioned that I liked and the child made a special effort to bring in to surprise me.  We had twins who would have donut day with dad on Fridays and would insist on bringing in a special donut for the teachers and a cup of coffee!  So even though it is nice to be thought of at holidays and end of the school year those little random acts of kindness throughout the school year stick more in my memory.  You can also look for arts and craft sites that include instructions and patterns.  Some of my favorite sites are Enchanted Learning, The Idea Box, Perpetual Preschool, and Preschool Express." - Kathy

Gift Paint Can

"I went to this store for Scrapbookers called "Srcapbookers" looking for an idea for one of my teacher's presents. They gave me this cute idea where you take a paint can, and you wrap some cute scrapbooking paper around the outside and top of it. Then, you stick some things on the outside of the paint can that remind you of the teacher. For Example: for a student-teacher, you could stick on some things that symbolize his/her college. Or for any teacher, you could put an apple, a chalkboard, or anything that reminds you of him/her. Then you put stuff inside the paint can like comfy socks, pencils, erasers, travel size tissues, classroom supplies, or travel size lotions." -Meagan of Michigan

Personal Hand Wash Dispensers

"Last year for a mid-year gift I was able to purchase for $1 each soap dispensers that were clear plastic.  The kids enjoyed decorating them with paints or items that they glued on with the hot glue gun.  I then went to a medical outlet store and picked up a gallon jug of waterless hand wash and filled each of the dispensers.  This made a great gift that the teachers could use in their class and helped to decrease the spread of the cold and flu bugs.  If you are not able to get the hand wash you can also use them to put in inexpensive hand lotion." - Seema Roberts

From the Heart

"As a high school teacher of 15 years, I can definitely say that I prefer the gifts that are from the heart and not the wallet. I've received gift bags filled with school supplies (like markers, colored pencils, scissors, glue), candles and bubble bath, and my favorite is always chocolate. My only suggestion is that you go easy on the sweets. Everyone tries to feed the teachers in this season and it can be harsh on the waistline." - Tonya S. in Dallas, GA

We Whisk You a Merry Christmas

"Last year, for my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher at Christmas, we purchased a whisk, and then inside it put red and green chocolate Kisses.  On the gift tag we wrote, “We “whisk” you a Merry Christmas!”  She loved it!  For the end of the year, we purchased a perennial plant, decorated the pot, and added a gift tag, which said, “Thanks for helping me grow!”   On the tag was a picture of my daughter, holding the plant.  Her teacher thought it was wonderful, and she planted it in her garden!" - Brenda

Memory Book

"I love your site and have found some terrific ideas here.  I am a mother of two boys.  Between the two of them, we have seven teachers this year.  Since I am a substitute teacher, I understand the time and consideration that is put into teaching and believe that each teacher (not just homeroom teachers) should receive a gift.  I recently found an idea that I think I'm going to try this year.  It's a memory book.  In a blank journal, small scrapbook, or binder filled with notebook paper, have your child write about different memories of the school year (If he is too young, you could write or type it for him).  You can let him do it all by himself, or you could suggest topics such as "I had the most fun when our class _____," "My top 10 authors are ___________," or "Miss Baker is a great teacher because ________."  Let the child embellish the pages with drawings or stickers." - Lisa S.

Teacher Certificate

"I am the mother of three children- 2 still in school. Two years ago my son and I were stumped for a gift for his teacher. While shopping one day we ended up in a discount store. We were looking through these certificate cards for special occasions and found one for a teacher. It was layed out like a teacher award card telling about about how special a teacher is and the commendable work they do. It even had a place for the child to sign his name to say he is is the giver of the award. We bought the card and some teacher stickers that consisted of school supplies. We also bought an inexpensive photo frame (a 5x7 in this case) for the card. We decorated the outside of the frame; signed the card with a sentimental saying of how we felt about her and put in a picture of my son. His teacher just loved it and still has it hanging in her classroom. You can also make certificates on your computer for the teacher and just buy the frame and stickers. For less than $3.00 you have a great teacher gift." - Bonnie

Principal's Favorite Gifts

"As an educator for 22 years, the things I love most are usually cheap, meaningful to me, and signed with grade and year (I say that because I have been a principal for 10 years and my memory slips these days. Take dowel rods (small) and decorate for the season  (paint red for Valentine’s Day and glue two foam hearts together and slip on the dowel rod with the heart point at the tip).  The sky is the limit on these and students LOVE using them.  One of my students’ favorites was lots of mismatched “jewels” hot glued on that came from the bottom of my sewing basket. I loved getting a first aid kit (for teacher)—includes –from Dollar Tree—aspirin, tums, Imodium, sewing kit, hard candy!  It is always a hit!  Teachers get so many candles and fancy bath supplies, I could never use them in a lifetime!  Wait until after a holiday and go buy a headband with shamrocks—got them today for 25 cents; mardi gras beads—80 strands at a flea market for $3.  Halloween glasses—get 6 in a package for 50 cents after the holiday.  You do have to store them for awhile, but teachers have bragging rights on those items that someone cannot just go find immediately!  I also got a witch’s hat at a costume store at Christmas for less than $2 and it has feathers and it’s tricked out!  Obviously I am an elementary principal and we love everything!  Cheap or homemade is the BEST!!" - D. Rankin, Scott Elementary, Arkansas

Teacher Appreciation Ideas

"HI! I have led the PTA position, Teacher Appreciation, for 9 years and I am always looking for great inexpensive gifts. In the past I have... Given the teachers a payday candy bars and wrote...'You Deserve Another Payday.'  We put it in their box the day they got paid. Another year we did the same thing but added a 1,000,000. bar and the card read... 'You Deserve Another Payday... Wish it was 1,000,000,000.' Look at the candy aisle at the store. There are tons of ideas.  One year we gave them candles in nice tins (Picked up after Christmas for 10 cents each) and wrote, 'You are a light in our child's life.' In our previous school we had 'Teacher Info Sheets.' We asked the teachers to fill out a pretty detailed questionnaire about their likes and dislikes. It was a great resource to gifts we could give them through out the year." - Tina Daniels

Family Cookbook

"My first-grade daughter sat down with me and came up with a list of favorite recipes from our family and we made a cookbook.  Then she had me type up the recipes and write a little "About the author" bio on her.  I then took some pictures of my daughter wearing an apron and a chef's hat and we splashed some flour on her face.  We put the pictures of her in her chef outfit on a few of the recipe pages, and my daughter used her crayons to illustrate some of the recipes.  I also had her handwrite a little saying about each of the recipes and they turned out hilarious.  We put all of the pages into plastic sheet protectors and into a three ring binder with a picture of my daughter in her chef outfit on the cover.  My daughter's teacher has taught elementary school for 30 years and said this was the most creative and original gift she had received from a student.  We also distributed copies of the cookbook to grandparents and aunts and uncles and it was a hit!" - Allie

Special Planters for VIPS

"Each year we include everyone who has had impact with our kids. Teachers, Aids, Office staff, Custodial, Librarian's, Principle, etc. The list is pretty long so between the kids we are averaging upwards of 50 people.  We take mugs, tin cans etc and turn them into tiny planters. (The main teachers get a larger basket.)  In each container the kids put in a layer of rocks and then a single plant like a marigold.  To brighten it up we may add a bow of raffia or a wrap gift wrap paper around a can secured with double sided tape.  We add a home snap shot of the kids on top of a Popsicle stick or skewer with the words thank you hand written and their names on the back.  The last day or so of school we (my husband and I) arrive early and set up camp outside the offices.  The fun begins as kids hunt down the staff who know their turn is coming and will often linger in the hall anticipating one of the kids running up to them.  Even past teachers are included.  We keep a list of who and what and always have extras on hand for the I forgot or can we include that one.  We've heard from staff that they still have plants from the previous year and so much enjoy the gift.  Any basket can be turned into a planter - use a heavy plastic bag as a liner and tuck the long edges in.  The large and small planters can run you .30 on up completed.  Buy flowers in a 6 pack and go for color to maximize punch. Can get 6-packs at Wal-Mart for under $2.00.  Buy top soil instead of potting soil.  A cheap bag of rocks.  Planters can be saved, cans, thrift store coffee cups and baskets.  What extras we had last year we delivered to our elderly neighbors who were just giddy with joy over someone thinking of them and our kid's visit." - Deborah Geller


"Recently, my daughter has gotten into candle making.  Although, my cooking pots are coated in wax most of the time now, and the missed spots on the counter, where her wonderful pouring techniques come in, she loves creating colorful, and fragrant candles.  All items for this inexpensive gift can be purchased at Wal-Mart in the craft section.  There are a variety of candle molds, bags of different colored candle sand, and a large variety of small bottles of fragrance, which can be used to create a fragrant, colorful, hanging ornament, in which they can use to scent their rooms, or homes. I have a heart shaped candle, that is laced with real lavender pedals also, which was made for me over 7 years ago by my boss.  Believe it or not, it still holds the scent, and I still enjoy it.  I hope you enjoy making these as much as we do." - Tracy Raker

Smooth Year

"I am a very thrifty mom of 2 young girls. Last year for the end of the year my girls gave their teachers a small bottle ($.97 each) of hand lotion with a note that read 'Thanks for a smooth year.' Also, one year we did large tootsie rolls (found at the dollar store) with a note attached, 'Thanks for a great year, now let the good times roll.' These were even cheap enough to do that we shared with the lunch ladies and the janitors. They really appreciated the thought. You can even do unpopped bags of microwave popcorn (my girls teachers are forever dieting) with a note about popping over to say thanks." - Lisa of Tuscumbia, AL


"I have been an educator for 22 years, and it really bothers me when children bring me extravagant gifts.  (We wouldn’t teach if we needed extravagant stuff.)   For the 13 years that I taught, I had to miss my own children’s programs and parties because I had my own class party, etc.  The nicest gift I ever received while teaching was when a couple of parents planned ahead and took my class so that I could watch my boys open Valentines, or watch their Thanksgiving play…you get the idea.  As the principal with my children in the building, during awards, parties, the first day, etc., one year I had a parent that took pictures of everything that I missed seeing with my children and I missed it all!  I don’t remember ever using the high priced gift certificate to a spa, but those pictures were in my scrapbook that very weekend!! (I did give her credit in the book.)" - Denise R.

Helping Hands and Thank You Notes

"I have been a room mom and I made a thank you gift. It can be used for anyone. I got a pair of garden gloves with the hole that hangs them on the hook at the store. I got these small hands or made a copy of my grand sons and wrote on it thanks for the helping hand or whatever you want it to say Attached it with a ribbon. Then I got an envelope of flower seeds and punched a hole in the corner and tied it on with the ribbon too and gave it as a gift to the teacher and made some for my doctor's nurses. Just a little something different.

I also, for the teacher, one year made a folder out of a piece of construction paper. Put a flower or whatever on the front. Laminated it and folded the bottom 1/3 up and had the kids write a note to the teacher (when the teacher was gone), saying thank you and put it in the folder and gave it to the teacher with the notes. She loved it, took it home and made a thank you note for every kid saying thank you." - Lennis Geiken in Illinois

Thank you for Helping Me Grow

"Pot a plant and attach a sign, preferably printed in the child's handwriting, 'Thank you for helping me grow.'"- Laura

Decoupage Desk Set

"We customized the large black binder clips by decoupaging on a copy of the school fabric (you could use the logo).  We also customized a small legal pad with the copy of the fabric at the top where the pad is glued together.  On the first page we stamped the school logo and some positive words.  We also customized a clipboard for the teacher.  We had a blast creating these and the teachers seemed to enjoy them." - Marykay H.

Everyone Loves Purple

"This is not a gift idea really for teachers – but it was a 'neighbor' gift that I received from the little boys next door when we opened gifts and drank coffee Christmas morning this past Christmas. It was a set of long underwear–most likely from the sale table at some store–in the wonderful color PURPLE.  Wrapped up by them with my name on it! I am keeping my eyes open now at the sale tables because PURPLE long underwear is a perfect gift for ANYONE." - Susan H.

Little Happys

"Little 'happys' throughout the year are always welcomed by teachers.  I work as a counselor in an elementary school & I've seen all kinds of gifts delivered to the teachers.  One idea is to find out (from the office staff) the price of drinks & snacks in the campus vending machines.  On just an ordinary day, send the exact change for a drink & a snack in a little gift bag or envelope with a note to use it for a vending machine treat.  Or, send a few cookies or a piece of cake when you're baking throughout the year.  You'd be surprised at how little unexpected 'happys' can light up the day!" - Rhonda B.

No More Apples, Please!
Submitted by Shaunna Privratsky

"It is time to show our teachers how much we appreciate everything they do for our children. An apple related gift comes to mind immediately. Banish that thought! Every teacher I know smiles as they graciously accept yet another addition to their apple collection, while inside they are screaming for help.

Go to the head of the class this year by choosing imaginative gifts that teachers will actually appreciate. It might not earn your child a gold star, but you'll be aces in any teacher's books.

1. Supplies. Fill a basket with useful things from the dollar store. Some budgets are so tight, that teachers have to pay for extra supplies from their own pockets.

2. Stock up at back to school sales. You can donate your extras to your child's classroom.

3. Got a coupon? Buy double, and donate anything from Kleenex, craft supplies, snack items, treats or individual drink boxes.

4. Bring in a bundle of your old magazines. Especially helpful are kids and parenting magazines, but decorating and gardening magazines are great also, for the pictures. Teachers get great ideas from the articles and can cut them up for craft projects.

5. Print off the directions for a favorite craft, and gather enough supplies for the whole class. Present in a box with bright wrapping paper or the comics. Perfect for those rainy days when kids can't go outside for recess.

6. Donate your kids' old books. When your child outgrows his picture books, or she's no longer interested in chapter books, give them to last year's teacher. He or she will be very grateful.

7. Something sweet like a basket of muffins or cookies will get a smile for sure. Teachers might not have time to bake, so your gift will be even sweeter.

8. Give some extras from your garden. Who wouldn't appreciate some homegrown tomatoes or a bunch of freshly picked flowers?

9. Gift cards can fit any budget and taste. Craft stores, dollar stores, discount centers or even bed and bath stores are great choices.

10. Offer your time. You can volunteer for a specific outing, or be a room parent. This just means you help the teacher out when they ask, and maybe coordinate other volunteers throughout the year. Who couldn't use an extra set of hands once in awhile?

11. Drivers are appreciated for outings. Even if you don't own a van or a giant SUV, teachers can always use a couple of extra drivers for shopping trips, picnics, field trips or other fun activities. Some schools require proof of insurance.

12. Doing some spring-cleaning? Don't throw out that old beanbag chair. Teachers often have a reading area, and old floor pillows and beanbag chairs make great lounging cushions. Just make sure there are no holes or unsightly stains.

13. Bookcases, sturdy tables and organizers are also great additions to classrooms. Your child spends most of the day here, so help make it fun and functional.

It is easy to forget how much teachers do every day as they are educating our kids. Not only are they preparing our children for a bright future, they are helping mold their characters. Let's take a moment to really acknowledge their efforts and come up with a terrific teacher's gift that won't sit on a shelf."

Personal Notes and Essays

"As a 70 y/o retired History teacher, the gifts I treasure most today are not 'things' but rather notes and essays from 'my' students and entire classes explaining why they enjoyed the intellectual exchanges and perspectives we shared during our time together. The subject matter was not always History. I don't buy the notion of the teacher as 'pontificator.' Moreover, I may have learned more from them over the years than they did from me. Socratic method and all that." Cheers, Tom Montreal

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