Creative Year-End Gift Ideas

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Soon your child will be moving on to the next grade. The steady stream of homework, study sheets, projects, books and report cards trickled home all year and suddenly they have added up to a full year’s worth of knowledge, skills, abilities and relationships.

The school year is over, but before you and your child face a summer of fun and lounging, you’ve got to find a way to say “thank you” to the teacher. After the trauma of selecting a Christmas gift, it is hard to know what on earth to get your child’s teacher. Most teachers have a closet full of “World’s Best Teacher” merchandise and most of them never want to see another apple motif.

Using a little creativity and some elbow grease from the kids in the class, you can create unique thank you gifts that will be treasured by teachers for years to come.

Some parents will decide to work together to provide a gift from the entire class, while other parents will choose to select their own gifts. Whichever way you go, it is important to include your child or the entire class (not just parents) in the gift, since the kids want to be able to say thank you as well.

If you’re stumped about what to get your child’s teacher, browse through this list of ideas and find something that appeals to you and your child. If you want to work on a gift that will be from the entire class, contact the homeroom parent (if there is one) or get on the phone and start calling other parents to obtain their cooperation. If your child’s classroom has an aide, she may be able to assist you as well. Whatever you decide to do, it will give the message “#1 teacher” without the mugs or apples!

Memory Quilt

Give each child a fabric square and ask her to write or draw something on it for the teacher. Permanent markers or fabric paint work best. You’ll need a parent who is willing to stitch them together and add a backing to make a quilt. One nice variation of this is to have each child trace one of her hands on the squares. The hand prints can be left as is or can be stitched over for a more finished look. Be sure each child writes her whole name on the square.

Thank You Album

Ask each child to write a letter in his or her handwriting noting what was most memorable about the year and thanking the teacher. Put the letters together in a memory album and write the year and grade on a cover on the front of the album. The pages could also be bound together with a spiral binding. Younger children can draw pictures instead of writing letters.

Recipe Book

Ask each family to provide a favorite family recipe and a photo of their child. Place the recipes with the corresponding photos in an album for a gift that will be both useful and memory inspiring.

Piece by Piece Bouquet

Purchase a vase and give it to the teacher as a gift. Have each child then present her with a single flower (all the same type or let the children chose what type they want to bring) one by one. This is a very moving presentation and is sure to tug at the teacher’s heartstrings.

Gift Certificates

Chip in with other parents to buy the teacher a gift certificate to a restaurant or spa, or membership to a zoo or museum. Try to tailor the gift certificate to any special interests or hobbies the teacher has. Book store gift certificates are always a good bet.


Photo Collage

Collect photos of class events during the year and arrange them as a framed collage with a heading or title indicating the year, school and grade.

Poem

Ask each child to write a short poem thanking the teacher or remembering things that happened during the year. Be sure the children write their names on their poems. Place the poems in a small cloth-bound book or memory album. Include a cover page. If you can’t organize the entire class, have just your child write a poem about the year. Frame it or present it with a photo of the child or drawing by the child.

Calendar

Make a calendar (using the computer — there are many programs that will allow you to create personalized calendars) for the next school year. Use photos of class events for each month or find quotes about the value and importance of teachers for the top decorative section of each month.

A Glimpse Into the Future

Ask each child to decide what she wants to be as an adult. Print out pictures or drawings of these careers. Cut out the face in each picture and insert a photo of the child who chose that career. Arrange the pictures on a poster and write across the top: “Our Future Successes are All Because of You.” Write the children’s names and chosen career under each figure.

Flowering Prints

Purchase a plain, solid color T-shirt or tote bag. Have the children dip their thumbs in paint, one at a time and arrange their thumb prints on the fabric so they make the petals of several flowers. Draw in the stems. Write each child’s name in small print underneath his or her print. Across the top write “Thank you for tending our flowers” and then the year, school and grade.

Garden of Students

Have each child give the teacher a packet of seeds. One idea is to have each child select seeds that begin with the same letter as her first name. Have the children write their names on the packets. Give the teacher an assortment of gardening tools, gloves, etc. to go along with the seeds. The gift can be packaged all together or only the tools can be wrapped and the children can present the seeds one by one.

Brette Sember is a mother and freelance writer.

The Perfect Last-Minute Gift

It’s the last week of school, and there’s no time to get creative. What to do? Think gift certificate! Vouchers good for restaurants, parent/teacher supply stores and bookstores are never-fail ways to say “Thanks for being my teacher!”

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