Holiday Gifts to Give Your Child's Teacher

Mother and daughter (5-7) embracing, woman holding card
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Tipping remains a popular way to thank service providers such as child caregivers, teachers, bus drivers, and even coaches or volunteer leaders. The practice of tipping thrives during the holiday season as well as at the end of the school year or sports season.

So, how do you figure out who you should tip and how much? It's not easy, because who gets tipped, as well as the amount, varies greatly by region. Research indicates that people in the Northeast are the most generous tippers, while Southerners are the least. However, that's not exactly fair because tips in the South often are accompanied by (or given instead of) a homemade or hand-selected gift for that personal touch.

If you're unsure of whether you should tip or not, and you want to be consistent with what other families do (if you indeed care about local customs or practices), ask neighbors, other parents, or coworkers first. Then, be sure to find out any restrictions that could keep a recipient from keeping a tip, causing what should be a celebratory situation to become awkward. If you get the green light that tips are customary and you want to bestow a tip, then, by all means, do so.

Accompany a tip or gift with a hand-written note of thanks or drawing from the child. Combining a practical and not-so-personal gift with a personal note or drawing sums up the perfect present.

Considerations When Tipping a Child's Teacher, Caregiver, or Bus Driver

If tipping your child's caregiver, teacher, or bus driver, consider the following:

  • Matching one week/session is considered the "norm." If your recipient provides service weekly, give the equivalent of one week's pay. Of course, that may not be practical or possible in many cases (such as someone who uses a nanny at $300 each week), but be as generous and thoughtful as your family budget can afford.
  • Know any guidelines for cash and non-cash gifts. Some employers have restrictions on cash gifts that may or may not apply to gift cards. Some facilities may even pool any cash gifts given to be split among all employees, so if you're not good with that, know this in advance and choose a different type of appreciation.
  • If giving a gift card to a specific store or restaurant, be sure that it matches with the recipient's tastes and budget. Don't give a $50 gift card to a steak restaurant that will cost at least $150 for a party of two to eat there. Same holds true with expensive clothing stores if there is nothing for less than $100 and you provide the recipient with a $20 gift card. Remember that you not matching your taste and preferences, but that of the recipient. You don't want to cause extra stress or embarrassment to the very person you're trying to show appreciation or gratitude to!
  • Be careful of giving gift cards with fees or expiration dates. Some gift cards actually start deducting the balance after a short amount of time or charge a fee to be used. That's akin to a back-handed compliment, so stay away if the gift card won't be free to the recipient!
  • Tip for the right reason, or don't tip at all. Tipping should never be construed as trying to gain favor, increasing your child's popularity in the class, or winning the so-called charitable mom or dad of the year award. It's not at all about you. Giving should be from the heart. If you find yourself looking for a way to bestow the tip with great flair or production, or hoping to have the gift opened when others are present, you're giving for the wrong reason. Discreetly provide your recipient with a tip and do it out of generosity, admiration, and genuine appreciation. Any service provider can tell a heartfelt gift from someone who is giving something because they felt they had to.
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