Festivities & Celebrations

Holiday Gift Guide: A Kajillion Ideas!

Y’all, what’s up with it being mid-November already?  It totally took me by surprise, but I’ve recovered enough to present my second annual gift guide.  It’s grown exponentially, as I’ve included ideas for everyone, not just boys.  I’ll post it in installments so you don’t fall asleep reading.

I looked over last year’s post and I stand by all those gift ideas for the boys.  The safes are being used.  Drew was re-reading Little Lit just last night.  The pillows are now beloved.  The jump rope has been used for nefarious purposes, but I can’t be everywhere at once, can I??

Best of all, the boys have been taking music lessons and are collaborating on actual songs now, so the years of buying cheap instruments have paid off.  You haven’t parented until you’ve tied a red bandanna on your head and moaned “Where do we go now? Where do we go now?” into a hairbrush while your kids drum and strum “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”

I’ve divided the gifts into rough categories for easier browsing.  Readers, please comment with additional ideas!

Today’s installment: Teachers, Babies and Toddlers


Some teachers, especially those instructing the higher grades, are not remembered at the holidays.  Other teachers are bombarded with body lotion and apple-themed items.  I went straight to the teachers themselves for gift tips.

Kimberly at Parenting Without A License put it well:

As a teacher can I ask you for the love of god, please, please, PLEASE take all apple related items off of your list. (This also includes all school bus, crayon, and “inspirational teacher” themed geegaws). Unless you’re dealing with a first year teacher, I promise you we have more than enough “Apple Crap.”

Oh, and another thing?  Those gift cards to the educational supply/toy store? While appreciated, they aren’t the super fabulouso gift you all claim they are.  Sure, we appreciate them, and it saves us from spending our own money on stuff for your kids, but think about that for a sec…What you’ve essentially done when you give a teacher a giftcard like that is say, “I bough my kid a present; you can pick it out.”

Finally, the home baked goods?  Lots of teachers don’t eat them.  The prevailing attitude being, “dude, I don’t know what your kitchen is like, or what your hygiene policies are.  Also, I’m not sure if you baked these before or after little Jackson got a “D” on that report, so I’m not certain there wasn’t anything “extra” in the mix.”

Lots of parents give us mugs.  Every year.  For every occasion.

So, um, yeah.  Teachers like wine.  Or gift cards to restaurants.  The movies are good too.

Personal letters telling us how much you appreciate what we do for your kid, however?  We save those FOREVER.

Reluctant Prophet seconded the moratorium on apple related items: We could pretty much decorate entire houses with apple stuff, and still not run out.

What to give?  Cash, gift card for spa or shopping, boat totes from LL Bean, cookbooks, Starbucks cards.  Have the room mother collect money from all families and purchase one large gift.

A thoughtful reader noted that sometimes it’s uncool for teens to bring teacher gifts to school.  She suggested mailing a gift card to the teacher at home or school, or dropping the gift in the office.


It’s been almost a decade since I had a baby, and the industry gets together and changes all the rules and toys and equipment every two years, so I’m hopelessly out of date on this one.  I consulted Aunt Lulu, however, and we came up with some ideas.

When our boys wet the crib we had to change the whole damn deal (or stick the baby on the other end of the crib until he wet that end, too).  Now there’s the Ultimate Crib Sheet which snaps over the real sheet and can be easily removed when wet.  A family would need two– one to use and one to wash.

I’m sure we’ve discussed this before, but monogramming is a big deal in the South.  Aunt Lulu says that she loves the sheet she got that was monogrammed with her son’s initials.  She’s also seen them done with “God bless this precious child.”  I might also suggest “Dear God, if I have to change this damn crib sheet again I might go ballistic,” but that would really be a gift for the parents.

The LL Bean Boat Bag made another appearance here.  I’ve linked to the one that zips, which is key if you travel as much as Aunt Lulu does.  I’m not as preppy as she is, so instead of the classic, I’d get one of these customized bags in groovy colors.  I would order long handles, a zipper and an outside pocket to make it the most useful.  Tip: Not sure what color to get?  Look at the colors your recipient wears and decorates her house in and choose accordingly.

My nephew has something I can only call a Ball Popper.  It has three plastic balls that go in one hole and pop out another, much to his surprise and delight.  There are infinite varieties of this toy around.

You can’t go wrong with a big plastic truck that the tot can push around.  Garbage truck, Dump Truck— anything will be a hit.  These Haulers would be fun as well.

Aunt Lulu identified some hot books as well: Good Night Gorilla, Daddy Hugs, Mommy Hugs (these are two separate books about hugging!).

I thought the Mini Masters Boxed Set looked awesome, as I am a fan of anything that causes children to accidentally absorb useful information.  This is a set of four board books, one each with pictures by Monet, Matisse, Van Gogh and Degas.  You can also get others, like Painting with Picasso, separately.  Toddlers who learn that Van Gogh painted “Starry Night” when they are two will have a definite advantage when it’s time to study for the Art History exam in college.


I don’t know much about dolls (although Porter had a naked baby doll for a while) but this UglyDoll makes me laugh.  Would it make a little girl cry?



You will not be popular with the child’s parents if you purchase a one man band or anything with thousands of little pieces.  If you’re going to order from Young Explorers and hope to receive it before Christmas, well, I hope you placed your order last summer.


Stay tuned for the next installment of the gift guide.  Feel free to suggest other teacher or baby/toddler gifts in the comments.


I still need a WordPress podcast expert to help me set up feeds for the blog and iTunes.




  • Erin

    Maybe I’m weird or maybe it’s another North vs. South thing but I think it would be highly
    inappropriate to give a teacher wine. Not
    everyone drinks alcohol, in fact many
    people have strong religious beliefs
    regarding this and you could offend them.
    Also what message does that send our
    children? Don’t schools have rules regarding alcohol on school property as well? It
    seems to me that wine should be the last gift to give anyone you don’t know on an intimate
    or at least social basis.

  • soapchix

    I’m to bashful to ever nominate myself for anything, but in this case I have it on good authority that people LOVE natural, handcrafted bath & body products to use for hostess/teacher/stocking stuffer gifts.

    You can find some great products at http://www.wildlyluckysoap.com/ and the fact that I make it all has nothing to do with anything. 🙂

    I’ve been doing tons of shows and people just love to give and get girly bath stuff for gifts!

  • Laura

    I taught English for 10 years. The best gift I *ever* got was a giftcard for a massage. (It was a group gift.) The next best was a grocery store giftcard to a local gourmet market that was shamefully out of my price range. The last was a giftcard to the coffee place between my house and the school- the one that opened at 6 am, since that was when I was on my way in. I still think fondly of those wonderful famillies. And I think I probably graded their kids nicer too. (Not that I’m proud of that, but hindsight is 20/20).

  • Sara

    You haven’t parented until you’ve tied a red bandanna on your head and moaned “Where do we go now? Where do we go now?” into a hairbrush while your kids drum and strum “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”
    Love it. My mom had hair the same length as Axl’s, so it worked out well. Hopefully my (not yet conceived) children will enjoy it as much as we did.

  • Peeved Michelle

    My baby has a couple of ugly dolls. They are super soft and huggable and have nice ears for sucking on. As a mom of a newborn, I would say that if you are in doubt of what to get an infant or a toddler, get a Babied R Us gift card. I am in there at least once every two weeks for something or other.

  • Katherine

    Don’t do wine. I read about a kid getting in trouble for bringing wine to school as a teacher gift.

    Know the teacher. Some love soaps, lotions, sprays, massages. Others do NOT.

    I must admit I usually give home-baked goodies. I hope the teachers really do enjoy them as they say they do. Then again, they eat the homemade cupcakes I bring in for my kids birthday and they know me fairly well – I’m helping in the class every week. I probably won’t send in goodies to the middle school since I don’t know the teachers as well… But I don’t know what else I can do that won’t break the bank with 7 teachers!

  • Jordan

    Great post! I don’t know, folks, I once received an absolutely incredible bottle of wine from a family (they had their own vineyard – this was in Northern CA) and it was one of the best gifts ever (and my co-workers who got it agreed). I do think it’s a case of “know your teacher”. I would also say that a group gift certificate to a spa was fantastic and long-appreciated. Those coffee gift cards and Border’s cards are also great (I buy myself novels, not work-related books with those!).

    But here’s my question about the Ultimate Crib Sheet – why exactly would you put a regular sheet under it? Why not just that one? Or am I missing something here?

  • Jodi

    I want to weigh in on the whole Ball Popper thing (ours is by Fischer-Price and I don’t know the real name either, but it pops the balls out with air pressure). It is the best gift EV-AH. All my boys love it, and gather around to shove the balls in the “air conditioner” as Jack calls it. Just be sure to immediately collect and put away the balls after each use, or you will have paid 25 bucks for a small, weak fan.

  • Rachel

    Growing up with a teacher, most stuff got regifted or goodwill’d. With the exception of handwritten letters, gift cards to restaurants or mani/pedi’s, hand crafted gifts or things that showed real thought and weren’t purchased off of the ‘bulk generic make teacher happy’ shelf at the local wally world.
    Books were always a big hit.
    If you actually have a personal relationship with the teacher… a nice bottle of wine is a great idea.
    Thanks for all the fabulous ideas and the grins.

  • baseballmom

    I agree…know your teacher. My mom was a teacher, and half of the cheap crap was given to my kids to play with after she got it. Some do like NICE candles like p@rtylite or Y@nkee candles. One of my sons’ teachers had just lost a special pet, so we got her a metal yard stake that was a dog holding a heart, and the dog had angel wings…I think that was my best teacher gift ever! I just got my niece the blue ‘bat’ looking ugly doll in your post for Christmas:) I think they’re kinda cute!

  • atwitsend

    for stocking stuffers: we always got and give office products (that would otherwise disappear from our stash), e.g. tape, rubber bands, paper clips, post-it notes(love, love, love them), highlighters, erasers, pencil sharpeners, white-out tape (super gift). Our biggest bill is always at Staples, and they love this stuff. Makes them feel grown-up.

    also, if the kid is old enough and can be trusted, get a mini-leatherman tool (can be better than the swiss army knife– great scissors).

  • lauren

    i’ll chime in-dh is a teacher. i agree with most of what she said, except for the baked goods!!! we love and appreciate the yummy treats every year. it makes me look like a regular martha stewart when company drops by!

    when in doubt, get them a gift card. they are such a blessing! we’d love a bottle of wine, but i could see where that may cross school lines, etc.

    another vote for the popper. ours died from 2 years of repeated use by my 2 year old and 5 year old. they loved it so much, they wore the motor out! i should get them a new one this year…