15 Unique Holiday Gifts for Teachers That They'll Actually Like

The holiday season is upon us, and I've been starting my gift shopping in the hopes of finishing early so I can relax. On the list this year are my daughter's preschool teachers (three of them!) who have been tremendously helpful, nurturing, and caring.

Out of respect for allergies in the classroom (as well as New Year's diet resolutions), I'm planning to give nonfood gifts this year. As a former teacher myself, I accumulated a good amount of impractical tchotchkes, so I assembled this list of practical gifts that teachers will actually like and use.

1. Personalized Tote Bag

As a former teacher, I spent many days lugging assignments back and forth in reusable shopping bags. Why not help a teacher out by giving him/her a sturdy, personalized tote bag? You can make it yourself by printing an iron-on transfer and decorating a plain canvas tote bag from the craft store, monogram a bag with fabric paint, or you can purchase one ready-made on Etsy. Either way, it's sure to send a message that an educator's hard work is appreciated.

2. Water Bottle

Coffee mugs are so 2003. Hydration is where it's at these days! Help your teacher stay healthy by providing them with a sturdy reusable water bottle that can be sipped from all day. Bottles from Camelbak and Contigo are always well-received, but less expensive options can be found at big box stores if you're on a budget.

3. Lunchbox Accessories

Like your kids, teachers usually pack a lunch to eat at school. Make your teacher feel a little more pampered at lunch time by giving them a fancy insulated lunch bag, a Thermos, and/or a few ice packs and reusable containers (at the rate I lose them, you can never have too many). A cookbook full of lunch ideas is also a great idea.

4. Gift Cards

While not the most personal gift, gift cards are certainly practical and are more likely to be used than any other gift. Starbucks, iTunes, and Amazon gift cards are always useful and appreciated. Gift cards to local restaurants are also a great way to help a teacher relax. Many teachers spend their own money on school supplies for students, so a gift card to Target, Walmart, Staples, or a craft store can help them keep costs down. Pair it with a thoughtful note and your teacher will be a happy camper.

5. Organization Tools

When it comes to gifts, teachers may have tchotchkes a-plenty, but nary a place to store them. Give the gift of organization with a set of sturdy baskets, boxes, and drawer organizers. Alternatively, a gift card to The Container Store might do the trick.

6. Personalized Office Supplies and Stationery

Put a smile on a teacher's face every time they open their desk drawer by providing a set of personalized office supplies. A monogrammed notepad, a personalized stamp, fancy scissors and staplers, and cute paper clips can brighten a teacher's day while remaining super practical.

7. Travel Accessories

Gift-giving occasions for teachers often happen before the winter or summer holidays, and your teacher might be taking a much-needed vacation. Why not make traveling a little easier by gifting some travel accessories? An attractive travel pouch with small toiletry bottles, mesh suitcase organizers, or a tote with a beach towel and sunscreen, can all be used by a jet-setting teacher.

8. Quality Bath Products

I always feel a little ambiguous about giving bath products, because as a teacher, I received my fair share of cheap, dollar-store bubble baths and lotions. However, I was always happy to receive quality bath products from brands like Bath and Body Works, The Body Shop, or Philosophy. De-stressing in a hot bath with some aromatherapy bath salts really did wonders to lift my mood after a hard day.

9. Low-Maintenance Plants

The great thing about giving plants is that the teacher can leave them in the classroom to brighten up their work day, or take them home if they desire. And if they die, they can be thrown away and won't clutter up a junk drawer for years. Easy care plants such as succulents and air plants are good choices, or a pretty flower like an orchid or bromeliad that blooms for a long time.

10. Movie Night In

Give a teacher a relaxing night in by packing a basket with a cozy throw blanket, a gift card for an online movie rental (such as iTunes, Amazon, or Google Play), and a box of microwave popcorn. (Okay. Technically, this is a food gift, but popcorn makes every movie better!)

11. Classroom Supplies

If you're a teacher, you'll know that students are constantly asking to borrow pens, and somehow those pens rarely find themselves back onto your desk. Keep your child's teacher's costs down by giving him/her a jar full of pens that can be kept on their desk. Other useful items that teachers often buy themselves include highlighters, bandages, stickers, sticky notes, and sanitizing wipes.

12. Books for the Classroom

Most teachers get plenty of trinkets from students every year, but classroom supplies remain neglected. Age-appropriate books are great for kindergarten and lower-grade classrooms which may reuse the same small selection of books all year. You may want to ask the teacher what books are needed, or simply give them a gift card to a bookstore so they can make the best choice.

13. Activity Books

Adult coloring books are all the rage these days, and for good reason. They are incredibly relaxing. A coloring book with a set of nice colored pencils could be a thoughtful gift for a teacher, especially for someone who likes crafting. A sudoku or crossword puzzle book could be similarly fun to do when the teacher gets a little spare time.

14. Hobby Supplies

Have your child ask the teacher what hobbies they enjoy, and give them hobby supplies. Some ideas include: scrapbooking supplies, gardening supplies, baking tools and mixes, or a gift certificate to a hobby store.

15. Handmade Gifts

Nothing is as memorable or personal as a gift that was lovingly handmade by your child. Whether that's a personalized T-shirt or baseball cap, a classroom scrapbook, a planter, ornament, or picture frame, it's sure to send the message that you and your child appreciate the teacher's hard work and dedication to their job.

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Guest's picture

As a current teacher, I'll be honest - I don't want half of this stuff. I appreciate the thought that went into the list, but some of it doesn't apply to me, and some of it I just don't want. I already have a tote bag, a water bottle (3, actually), and all the lunchbox accessories I might need. I have plenty of organizational items, and I'm still trying to use the personalized stationary my mother gave me 10 years ago (she bought a rather large quantity - and in this electronic age. most of my correspondence is by email rather than on paper). I have all the travel items I need, and plenty of plants. Bath items are nice, but unless you know my scent preferences (I'm not really the floral type - I prefer more spice-based scents, like peppermint) please don't buy these for me, because I won't use them.

The other items - gift cards, movie night in, classroom supplies, books for my classroom (okay, I don't have a classroom - as a special ed teacher, I have an office, but I can always find a use for books), activity books, and hobby supplies are always appreciated - and particularly, anything made by a student, whether it's a card or something more.