When the holiday season rolls around, parents and kids usually want to show their teachers how much they appreciate all their hard work with a small gift. Unfortunately, your go-to gift is likely the same as just about every other parent's in the class. Follow this list for what not to get your child's teacher this year, and find some alternative recommendations as well.


Christmas or winter themed mugEveryone loves a new coffee mug right? Maybe, but mugs are also one of the most common teacher gifts. It doesn't matter if you've filled it with chocolates or tucked in a Starbucks gift card, teachers only have so much cabinet space. The mug itself is likely to find a new home.

give this instead!^ If you know she partakes, consider gifting your teacher a nice bottle of wine and some wine charms. However, check with your school first. Some states have laws against bringing alcohol onto school campuses.

Bath and body supplies

Good smelling lotions or body sprays are the go-to gift when you don't really know what else to give. Needless to say, teachers receive a lot of these items, and often end up giving them away. Perfumes and body care items can be a very personal choice. Let the teacher make that choice herself. And definitely stay away from the prepackaged gift sets.

give this instead!^ If you think she really needs some hygienic assistance, consider giving her a gift card for an upscale bath and body boutique, such as Lush, as opposed to your run-of-the-mill mall store.

Christmas-themed keepsakes

Why buy your teacher something she'll only be packing away with the Christmas stuff in a few weeks? Nothing says "I shopped the holiday section at the big box store" like a Christmas snow globe that doubles as a candle holder.

give this instead!^ If you really want to get your teachers something useful, consider helping them restock their classrooms. Former teacher Christel Snelson recommends finding out what your teacher buys out of pocket for the class when the school budget has been depleted and putting together a gift basket of pens, dry-erase markers or even copy paper.

Homemade goodies

stack of cookiesThis one is a hard one to stomach, but teachers likely do not want your homemade cookies, cakes or muffins. Not only do they receive tons of this type of thing, a lot of teachers admit that they won't eat homemade goods from people that they don't really know. It's a well-meaning gift, but likely one that will end up in the trash. So unless you know your child's teacher really well, save yourself the trouble and skip the baking.

give this instead!^ If you know her specific preferences, consider giving your teacher some good quality chocolate, her favorite coffee or other prepackaged treat. Places like Cost Plus World Market offer all kinds of unique and tasty packaged foods.

Inappropriate clothing

This may be a no brainer, but teachers probably don't need us picking out their clothes for them. Former teacher Rebekah Patel recalls her strangest gift: a fitted, one-shoulder tank top from a student. "I would have never picked it out myself," she says, "but in my early 20s, I was able to rock that shirt. [It was] so weird that I was wearing a shirt my third grade student gave me to go dancing."

give this instead!^ If you really want to give a shirt, give them one they would be proud to wear to school, like this one that says I teach, what is your superpower?

Anything "TEACHER"

Previously mentioned shirt aside, what is the thing teachers really don't want? Anything that says TEACHER on it. Especially if it's accompanied by a collage of red apples. Teacher-themed gifts are cute, but current and former teachers highly recommend steering clear of the red apples and chalkboard-themed decor.

give this instead!^ It may not seem very creative, but teachers love gift cards. Spice it up a little by putting together a gift card tree using wire photo holders stuck into a solid base and filled with gift cards for coffee, Target, the grocery store and more.

Think outside the box

Snelson admits that the best teacher gift she ever got was a pair of cashmere socks. Try thinking about something you would really want, and give that. "I give presents I'd want to get," says blogger Kirsten Piccini. "If I'd open it and not be happy, I don't give it."

Share with us!^Have you ever committed any of these teacher gift crimes? Leave us a comment below!

More on giving

Paying it forward ideas
Ways to give this holiday season
Teach kids to give back