Teacher Gifts: Avoiding Sugar Overload

The first year L was in daycare, we had a rough start to December that meant lots of holiday preparation ended up delayed, and then we were out of town the weekend before Christmas, spent all of Monday in the ER with a stubbornly clotted off central line, I had a crucial job interview on Tuesday followed by dinner guests (for whom we had had a lovely menu planned but instead ended up ordering pizza), and on Wednesday, just two days before Christmas and the last day of school before winter break, we went back to the OR to have a new line placed. We very nearly didn’t even have a Christmas tree that year, let alone finding time to purchase supplies for, make, and package up gifts for several teachers in the midst of all that. So the teacher gifts that I had intended to deliver pre-holiday break turned into New Year’s gifts instead, the homemade Christmas candy I had planned to include was more than two weeks old, and I decided to toss the stale chocolate and whip up some healthy treats.

“They’ll love it!” I thought to myself around 5 pm as I planned out a treat bag of pumpkin chia banana bread, all-natural energy bites, and homemade zucchini chips. After all, everyone is burnt out on sugar by the time January rolls around, and the last thing most of us need is another bag of sweets to immediately throw our resolutions off track.

By 9 pm I realized that zucchini chips take a heck of a lot longer to make than I had thought. Around 11 pm I became aware that we had no food-appropriate bags in the house, and just after midnight I finished assembling what I hoped everyone would perceive as carefully-planned hand-folded envelopes made of waxed paper (you poorly-prepared procrastinator crafty over-achiever, you!). At 7 am we realized zucchini chips are actually kind of weird the next day, and around 7:30 am Z made an emergency Starbucks run for a handful of gift cards as a sort of apology to stick in with a set of healthful edible gifts that I imagine mostly wound up in the trash.

Last year I was determined to do better. There are lots of ideas floating around out there on the interwebs; this list put together by a teacher has some great ideas, and there are always homemade go-tos like hot chocolate in a jar or this adorable snow day survival kit. But those are all peppered with sugar; and since I wanted to make sure L was included in putting together gifts for his teachers this time around, and because we have to carefully limit L’s sugar intake, I was once again tasked with finding a non-sugary gift. I also wanted to find something that would be appropriate for 3-year-old hands to help with, but that would actually look nice and ideally have some kind of usefulness. The thought certainly counts a great deal, but as the child of two teachers, I am well aware how appreciated it is to receive a gift that’s not just another addition to the box(es) of things you feel obligated to not throw away.

So I spent some time browsing and thinking, and came up with a list of non-sugary, homemade or some-assembly-required, preschooler-appropriate, likely-to-be-appreciated gifts. And since that criteria seems like it might not be so very specific to our family, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite ideas:

A bundle of stovetop potpourri ingredients. Easy peasy for small hands to drop in a pretty bag, and it makes the whole house smell sooooo good (don’t forget to keep enough to make some for yourself!). Pair it with homemade Winter Warmers if you’re really feeling crafty.christmas-simmering-stove-top-potpourriPhoto credit: Mommypotamus

Homemade candlessugar scrubs, or whipped body butter. Ok, so there’s some sugar in this one – but it’s not for eating! Alternately, you could easily buy these things and have your kiddo help you package them up in a pretty little mini-spa bundle. 

coffee coziesA handmade coffee cozy paired with coffee beans, a gift card to a coffee shop, or an edible treat if you’re not trying to avoid sugar. A seasoned teacher likely already has plenty of mugs, so give them a coffee-centric gift that won’t add to that collection! I’m whipping out a few of these crocheted cozies (pictured at right) this year because I can make them pretty quickly while holding a sleeping baby, but there’s also a no-sew version that may be a little easier to get the kids involved in.

Savory edible treats. If you love gifting homemade edibles but want to cut the sugar a bit, here’s a list of ideas that are not zucchini chips.

Handmade ornaments. This is a tricky one. It can be hard for a 3- or 4-year-old to make something that looks nice (sorry, L’s art box!), and the teacher’s suggestions linked above actually lists ornaments as something to avoid. But my teacher mother suggested this as one of her favorite kinds of gifts, because she put up a small tree in her classroom each year and could continue honoring her students gifts in that way each year without having to actually bring them home. So this might be one to tread carefully on, and may vary based on how your child’s school approaches holiday decor. If it sounds like an idea you’re interested in, you might check out these button ornaments (pictured below), which we’re planning to try our hands at on Christmas Eve this year.

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Donate to a community organization that supports children. Donating on someone’s behalf can be a bit risky when it comes to gift-giving, but a teacher is almost sure to love a gift in his or her honor to a non-profit that supports local schools or promotes school readiness. To get the kids involved, have them make a card or draw a picture explaining the donation – and this will give them a chance to better understand charitable giving as well.

Or, you know, you can always pick up a few Starbucks cards. I have it on good authority that teachers love coffee, and also that it takes quite a bit of caffeine to keep up with my little monster!

What are your go-to teacher gifts? Teachers, what are your favorite things to receive?  Leave a comment below to help me add to this list!

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