What NOT To Get Your Kid's Teacher This Holiday Season

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
A little boy handing over his teacher a holiday present in a bright red bag.

‘Tis the season for parents everywhere to start panicking about what to get their kids’ teacher for the holidays. They’ll ask their friends for the best teacher gifts, and most of the ideas will range from bad to worse.

As a former teacher who is also friends with educators, we’ve all received some really odd — if not disgusting — gifts. Of course, teachers are some of the most graceful human beings on the planet—expressing gratitude for what they receive. (It’s not the kid’s fault that the parent is clueless.) But deep down, they just want gift cards.

Here are the things your child’s teacher absolutely doesn’t want to receive this holiday season — and why gift cards are the best teacher gifts to spend your money on.


Honestly, how many candles can someone burn at one time — or even in succession? Yes, candles can be lovely. But may I remind you that not everyone likes the smell of evergreen, peony, or those super odd combos like strawberry-chocolate ice cream. Picking out a candle for someone is like choosing jewelry. Unless you are completely certain that you are getting their absolute favorite candle brand and scent, just don’t. I promise you, your child’s teacher has a closet shelf loaded with unused candles.

Body products

Just like candles, body products are a huge no-no. Everyone has their favorite brands and scents — and if you’re like me, you aren’t up for changing anytime soon. So many people deal with sensitivities and allergies, and like candles, body products often go to waste.

MLM items

For the love of Santa, do not use your child’s teacher to push your MLM products. The teacher doesn’t want your green capsules, your vanilla protein weight loss shake mixes, your mineral-infused face wash, or a tea tree essential oil roll-on. It’s even worse when you include your business card, imploring the teacher to hit you up if they want to make some extra money on the side. Gross.

Homemade foods

I don’t want to snack on something from a near-stranger’s house. I don’t know if you let your cat crawl up on your countertop, if you wash your hands after using the bathroom, or if you let your little angel child lick the spoon before you mixed up the cookie batter. With COVID, there’s an even more valid reason to skip the homemade foods now — and forever.

Apple-themed anything

Are apples cute? Sure. Are they your child’s teacher’s greatest holiday joy? No. They don’t need apple earrings, an apple-printed mug, or an apple snack. Let’s just ditch the apple theme for teachers altogether.

Home décor

I once received some candles (aforementioned) and mirrors to go under them. First, it was really hard to get such fragile items from my office to my car across campus. Second, they weren’t my style at all. Plus, when a teacher is home, the last thing they want to do is gaze upon some décor chosen for them by a student’s parent. Home should be their far-from-work refuge. Unless a parent is completely certain a teacher would like a particular item, just don’t.

I know what you’re thinking: “it’s the thought that counts.” Well, yes and no. If you’re going to drop some dollars on a gift, make it one the teacher can likely use and even enjoy. Just because you have a brag-worthy candle collection, it doesn’t mean your child’s teacher wants the same.

Let’s remember, our teachers often spend their own paychecks to buy supplies for their students and their classrooms. If they receive a gift card, they have the option of spending it on the classroom, or they can opt to spend it on something for themselves.

Instead of spending a few dollars on things you aren’t sure the teacher would like, have your child write a card expressing what they’ve learned and what they’re thankful for. This is far more meaningful than a “World’s Best Teacher” notepad or an MLM pitch. (Although, one of my good teacher friends said she does love a really nice set of pens, since the school often provides cheap pens by the hundreds.)

I understand that some parents feel that giving a teacher a gift card is impersonal. But it is the most useful and universal gift, one that means you aren’t wasting your money. So before you go on a mission to whip up some cookies or find a monogrammed set of coasters, consider the lowly but practical gift card this holiday season.

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