22 Holiday Gifts Teachers Really Don't Want

Mary Hawkins | Nov 21, 2018 Big Kid
22 Holiday Gifts Teachers Really Don't Want
Image: Steve Cukrov/Shutterstock

Christmas cookies and treats

After Thanksgiving comes the inevitable holiday shopping season, and parents everywhere will be working hard to get everyone on the list covered. In addition to their loved ones and friends, perhaps also colleagues, parents are sure to put their kids' teachers on their gift list. After all, by the time winter break rolls around, educators have spent several months, day in and day out, with a child, and most definitely deserve a token of appreciation. But it can undoubtedly be challenging to find the perfect gift for teachers, who make such a difference in children's lives but are -- at least on a personal level -- somewhat strangers to most parents. The key is to find a gift that may be somewhat generic yet thoughtful and useful. 

The perfect gift for educators shows just how much they're appreciated but doesn't cross the line into eyebrow-raising, overly personal or the kind of thing that is screaming to be thrown in the trash or re-gifted. True, that's quite a lot of boxes that need to be checked. And the thought of getting teachers something they're going to hate is definitely stressful.

Well, dear reader, here is a tiny stroke of luck. Teachers are more than happy to share the scoop on the things they'd rather not see wind up on their desks this year. Yes, these teachers are over-the-moon blissed out to be so appreciated by students and parents alike, but they're not exactly loving the copious number of strange, super-generic gifts that land on their desk year after year, like those collections of colorful, apple-scented hand sanitizer or lotions or apple-themed knickknacks. 

To save parents the trouble of freaking out over the perfect teacher gift, CafeMom touched base with real educators to create a list of no-nos. Skip these 22 options that teachers really have no use for, and stick with gift cards -- for a local cafe or movie theater, a mani-pedi -- or even a sweet, thoughtful hand-written note. 

Steve Cukrov/Shutterstock

  • Coffee and/or Tea


    Even if you love coffee or tea, it doesn't mean your child's teacher does. Unless you know for sure it's something they like to drink -- steer clear of beverages.

  • Body & Bath Products


    Not everyone likes certain scents -- and there are also many people who have sensitive skin and may have a reaction to spa products.

  • Homemade Treats


    This one tops the list of things teachers REALLY don't want. First, some of them have allergies and/or don't eat certain foods. And second -- they tend to be cautious about eating something homemade if they aren't very familiar with the family who made it.

  • Mugs


    They have at least 10,000 of them already and don't want to invest in additional kitchen cabinets to house them all. The end.

  • Pictures


    News flash -- your kid's teacher adores him. But not enough to display something with his picture (or one of the whole fam) on it in her home.

  • Anything With 'Teacher' on It!


    Yes, that ornament is darling -- but your child's teacher has at least 100 of them in a box in her basement.

  • Stuffed Animals


    They're cuddly and adorable. For kids. What the heck is a teacher supposed to do with them?!?

  • Candles


    Sure ... candles are pretty. But if they are scented, they might turn off teachers. Different people prefer different types of smells.

  • Clothes


    A resounding please, no! to this one. You don't know their size or their style or what kinds of materials they hate ... so skip the sweaters this year.

  • Smelly Lotions


    Yes, lotions are cheap and easy. But don't you think all the other moms know this, too? Teachers get a million of these, and a lot of them won't be used because of the strong scents.

  • Apple Knickknacks


    Cute? Yes. Way overdone? Yes. Teachers only have so much room on their desks for tchotchkes from all their students over the years.

  • Cash


    Sure, money is practical, but cash in an envelope feels a little too much like a bribe (haha). Gift cards to Target or a great restaurant in town might be a better option.

  • Wine


    Wine may seem like a good go-to for anyone, but teachers say alcoholic gifts are a bit too personal. And they'd rather the things they do in their free time to relax -- and their preference for chardonnay or the occasional old-fashioned -- remain private information. 

  • Makeup Kits

    makeup kit

    Another one that is just way too personal to gift to a teacher whose beauty preferences are unknown. 

  • Perfume 


    Perfume is extremely individual. Also, as one teacher from Chicago put it, "I don’t want to be on a date night and spray a scent that reminds me of your child!" 

  • Hand Sanitizer

    hand sanitizer

    It may seem useful and thoughtful, but teachers have their own methods of boosting their immunity and staying germ-free and likely won't dig a perfume-y sanitizer as a gift. 

  • Home Decor Items 


    Unless you know the teacher fairly well and have a sense of that person's personal style, avoid gifting anything that they'll display in their home -- from blankets to vases to other random tchotchkes.

  • Scarf


    Scarves or pashminas might seem like good go-to generic gifts, but the teacher on your gift list would likely prefer to pick out anything she wears, period.  

  • Socks


    Who doesn't love a cozy pair of socks? Very likely the teacher you're gifting, who may also find it a bit odd to have her students' parents gifting her or him warm fuzzy items for their feet. 

  • Generic Candy

    box of chocolates

    Unless you know exactly what kind of candy/chocolate a teacher loves, as well as all of her or his possible food allergies and sensitivities and preferences, it's best to steer clear of the generic gift box of sweets. 

  • Fruitcake

    fruit cake

    Same as the candy. But also, yuck. Just say no to fruit cake.

  • Jewelry

    bracelet and earrings

    Another item that you best leave to the teachers to pick out, as personal style is, well, personal and they know theirs best.

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