easy holiday teachers’ gifts (featuring cinnamon ornaments.)

easy teacher gifts.

Food is on the way, friends: I promise you. But until then, we craft.

I hope, for those of you who have school-age children, that you didn’t miss the boat on teachers’ gifts this year. The half-hour of my yesterday I spent at the Wee One’s preschool only confirmed what I already knew, and that is that teachers of pre-school age children deserve to be paid way more than football players, actors, or anyone else, for that matter. Have you ever spent any amount of time with 20+ 3 year olds? It’ll steal a part of your soul. It will suck the life force right out of you. You’ll feel like curling up into a tiny ball and hiding under very small furniture. There is not enough time on this earth for me to outline the amount of things I’d rather do than spend 5 minutes with pre-kindergarteners. Except for mine, and she is awesome.

Her teachers are pretty awesome as well. Aside from having to deal with working in a Terrordome all day, they’ve really taken the time to get to know and love my sweet Wee, and I know they know and appreciate how wonderfully well-behaved and eager to please she is. They support and encourage her in all her activities, and I’m so happy to have found a group of teachers so loving towards her. Of course I’m going to give them a christmas gift. And yes, I am going to make it myself.

I come from a long line of gift-creators. Our tribe does not purchase pre-made gift baskets, cookie trays, something random from a craft store, oh no, no: we do it. We went to private school our entire lives, and those teachers are extra deserving, in my opinion, because they’re held to very high standards in both their classrooms and as individuals in the community. The bar, then, for presents is set higher as well.

My family takes that perhaps a bit too far. For instance, when I was in first grade, my teacher (who is still regarded as my favorite elementary teacher) was a family friend. My mom made, as her christmas gift, a scale gingerbread model of the entire school building for her. I kid you not. I believe there was another year where she did a scale ginger model of our classroom. She also was known for doing things like this:

mom's nativity sheep.

That’s a hand-cut, hand-painted wooden baby sheep, which is part of a much larger nativity scene, created by my mom. She made them for all the teachers when we were little. We had a band saw in our basement. For those of you unfamiliar with band saws, those are the giant ones that you can cut whole limbs off with if you’re not careful. All of us still have our appendages, don’t worry: mom’s a pro. She taught us that when we heard the sweet, dissonant melody of shrieking blades downstairs, we were only allowed to come as far as the doorway.

So I’ll be upping my game by degrees. For now, I thought this turned out really cute, and it was inexpensive and easy to make. The Wee has three teachers in her classroom, so my goal was to not spend a fortune, and make it something practical, and let her participate in it as well. Here’s what’s included:

easy holiday teachers' gifts.

Teachers’ Gifts

  • 1 extra-large holiday mug, $3.99 each
  • 1 bag Dove chocolates, divided $2.79
  • 20-ct mechanical pencils, divided $5.49
  • 3 holiday spatulas, $4.99 each
  • 3 Eos lip balms, $2.69 each
  • 1 recipe Cinnamon Dough* for handmade ornaments (which costs maybe $7 by my estimation to make, and you have lots of fun doing it, plus lots of extra ornaments left over for gift tags and tree-hanging. I feel like that negates the actual cost)
  • 1 spool thin grosgrain ribbon, $1.99
  • Elmer’s glue or other all-purpose white glue (which you buy for the ornaments themselves, so no cost)
  • Glitter shakers (range in price, but you can get them most anywhere for around $5/dozen. Don’t go Martha Stewart on this: $19.99 for glitter shakers?! I DO NOT THINK SO.)
  • 3 clear lunchbag-sized gift bags (again, extras left over for food gifts, which negates cost, IMO)
  • wired fat ribbon for bow-ing (because wired ribbon makes everyone look like a pro)

*A note regarding the cinnamon dough: This is the recipe I used, and it worked wonderfully. On the recipe I linked to, it says the ornaments take from 4-5 days to dry. Not true, if you roll them out to about 1/8 inch thickness, but it does depend on size, because they dry from the edges inward. Let them dry on waxed paper for maybe a day, flipping once when the upturned side has dried/stablized. Transfer them to a wire rack for maybe another day at most, because this allows the air to hit both sides, and therefore will dry them faster. 

easy holiday teachers' gifts.

And that’s it! I’d include a tutorial for making them, but the instructions on the link are very straightforward, and it’s no more difficult than rolling out/cutting sugar cookies: actually easier since there’s no “warm-up” factor with this dough. The Wee One cut all the ornaments out (and everyone in my family is getting one as a gift tag as well), and we had the best time decorating them together one night over christmas music. She has a little art table downstairs in her play room that’s perfect for projects like these: a simple run of the DustBuster and all that excess glitter is a thing of the past. I drew the glue lines, she shook the glitter, we set them out to dry: instant cute ornaments. And glitter’s totally optional: we used to make these as kids for our regular tree and they were simply a cut/dry/hang deal.

easy holiday teachers' gifts.

To assemble the gifts, simple remove all price stickers from the mugs and wash (sometimes they’re fingerprinty and/or dusty). Insert clear bag into mug and spread out like you would put a trash bag in a trash can. Place the spatula, pencils, and lip balm in the bag and secure around the spatula handle with a (included in the clear bags) twist tie. Throw some candies in around the  outside of the bag (double duty here: not only does that provide a little color splash and added stability, it also serves a practical purpose by keeping the lip gloss flavor scent away from the chocolates). Secure your finished ornaments with another twist tie around your initial twist tie at the top. Finish up with a big bow using your fat wired ribbon.

I added a handmade card, hole-punched and threaded with kitchen twine and tied around where the bow is, but you can just throw a card anywhere either in this or alongside it. Your choice.

easy holiday teachers' gifts.

So there you have it: simple teachers’ gifts, simple craft to make for that OR for your own personal use. Hope all of you have a lovely weekend. Mom and my sister touch down on Sunday, and I’ve already got a lineup of (extremely relaxing) events planned out for us this week.  I’ll be sharing all of that with you (as well as a little holiday house tour) in the very near future.

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  • Reply Ashley December 19, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Thank you so much for understanding my distaste for items (like chapstick) flavoring edible items (like chocolates)!!!! I am such a dork, but I terrified of that flavor transfer happening in packages or trays or whatever.

    Also, you’re awesome. Wee One will recognize this (even if she acquires the dreadful teenage refusal to admit you’re cool and wonderful) and appreciate it so much when she’s older.

    • Reply shannon January 9, 2014 at 11:52 am

      Listen, Ashley, i have firsthand experience with that a la a work gift one year: it was a candy tin with an assortment of candies involved, one of which was – you guessed it – starlight mints. Although i suppose chocolate and peppermint is passable in terms of flavor transfer, PEANUT BUTTER and chocolate and peppermint is just weird; so basically all the candy in the tins was useless. It was a good lesson for future packaging, for sure. You can ruin a lot of things by packaging them with flavors which permeate things easily.

      not awesome! although i would hope someday she’ll grow up fully aware of how much this sort of set her apart from the rest of the kids, and how fun her life was, i think, by comparison. She’s got it good most days. 🙂

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats December 19, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    YOU’RE SO SWEET! I don’t think my parents ever sent me to school with gifts for my teachers (for shame!) but I like to think that when I grow up my child’s teacher will get home-made gifts 🙂 I almost want to have a baby now JUST so I have an excuse to make these adorable things! Actually, now I’m thinking I can easily translate this into a boss-y gift! Candy, pencils, mugs, and chapstick are pretty universally-suited. I might have to hit the store omw home tonight…

    Also, do we get a tutorial on how to make hand-painted wood nativity sets next? I really want to make one now…

    • Reply shannon January 9, 2014 at 11:49 am

      You know, i consider it less about being super nice as it is me having a responsibility to always say thank you to whomever has been charged with helping me raise my kid, in a way. I want them to know that i’m not just some chick who drops her kids off at school and picks them up, not caring what they learned or how they learned it, i guess? And i guess i feel like handmade gifts – especially ones that the child helped make – are a good way to say to those people that “hey: i dig that you have the patience to hang out with this bunch of preschoolers and not scream your head off on frustration. I sat at my house and put this together and thought about you while i did it.” like they’re not just an after thought. If i were a teacher, that would make my day.

      I’ll ask my mom to write a tutorial up for the hand-painted wood nativities. 😉 She’d be happy to oblige, but there’s going to be the words “giant saw” and “possible amputation” and “cursing” in the instructions, just so you know. 🙂 Each year me and my sister like to aggravate her by asking for more pieces: our nativities are going to be HUGE in a few years. ALL THE ANIMALS.

  • Reply Dana Staves December 19, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    Adorable gifts! It was always such a shame that I taught college and therefore didn’t get gifts (and likely wouldn’t have been able to accept them – likely, they would have been intended to purchase grades, not say, “Hey, Professor, I think your snappy fashion sense with scarves is awesome, and also thanks for teaching me when to use a comma”). Oh well. But these gifts are delightful! Go pre-school teachers; they do the Lord’s work.

    • Reply shannon January 9, 2014 at 11:44 am

      Now i want to make these gifts for college professors. 🙂 i guess that’s probably the cutoff for teacher gifts, right? it’s too bad, because some of my college professors could be credited with having a huge influence on where i am today, although i get how easily bribery could come into play there.

      by the way, EVERYONE should thank the person who taught them how to use a comma correctly.

  • Reply Wendy December 19, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    All teachers are underpaid and most (public AND private school) work extremely hard! Some parents don’t even realize that teachers pay out of their own pockets for many of the little extras in the classrooms like stickers for papers and decorations for the room. Years ago when I was teaching, before I had my own children, I was lucky enough to be appreciated by a very considerate family. They appreciated all of the teachers who touched their children’s lives. They sent me notes (which I still have) whenever their kids shared something they had learned or that they enjoyed in my room. They stocked the teachers’ lounge with cookie trays for holidays and even birthdays. When my own children entered school, I was determined to follow this example because I know first hand how meaningful all of these gestures are. My kids may have been the only students bringing holiday gifts to their high school teachers, but they did bring them!
    Your gifts are wonderful, Shannon! Useful and festive!

    • Reply shannon January 9, 2014 at 11:42 am

      So agree: teachers, no matter what or where they teach, are largely underpaid, and their hours aren’t just in the classroom, either. People forget that, i think; like somehow teachers just go home when the kids do and show up when class starts and magically everything else falls into place. I know enough teachers to know that their workday extends far beyond school hours, and they do so much of their work because of love of children and a desire to help them as much as possible. it’s a noble job, for sure, and one that’s underappreciated on several levels. it’s so nice how you had the personal experience of teaching and then actively passed that along to your kids’ own teachers: such a good lesson for everyone who has kids in school, for sure. 🙂

  • Reply John@Kitchen Riffs December 19, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    These are such a great gift! I’m missing the craft gene, but you’ve made it so easy even I could do it. Really so nice of you to think of your wee one’s teachers – you’re right that they do awesome work.

    • Reply shannon January 9, 2014 at 11:36 am

      Thanks, John! Not everyone has the craft gene, but i’ve found that those who don’t have it are much better at other things than i am. 🙂 Everyone has their strong suit, i say. They are easy: certainly no one’s knitting a sweater here, so it’s doable, even for non-crafters.

      Teachers are awesome, and hers are exceptionally so: honestly, i don’t have the slightest clue how someone has the patience to manage 20+ 3 year olds every day, all day. If anyone asked me to do that, i’d be knee-deep in one of your cocktails about 5 minutes after the end of my day. 🙂

  • Reply Deb December 19, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    What a warm and satisfying post! So many people touch our lives and it is easy to take them for granted, especially during the busy holiday season. Not only did you bring a smile and warm wishes to your daughter’s teacher, you have instilled the wonder and satisfaction of holiday giving with your daughter!

    • Reply shannon January 9, 2014 at 11:35 am

      Thanks, Deb! Agree: it’s important to recognize the people in your lives you don’t always think to, especially teachers, because they do so much and ask for so little in return. That’s very sweet of you to say: i know the Wee really enjoyed making our gifts, and i think it helped her to understand the season and what giving is really about, in a way that a three year old can understand that.

  • Reply Monica December 19, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    Ahhh…very sweet homemade gifts, Shannon. I love all the components and I know the teachers will surely appreciate it. And your family history of homemade gift-giving is incredibly impressive. Good teachers are incredible people and they really do deserve everything. Making something for them is a great way to show them a little love…and personally, I think making things for people is such a gift for the giver. I think I get more joy out of making and sharing during the holidays than the recipients. : )

    • Reply shannon January 9, 2014 at 11:32 am

      Why thank you, Monica: i had a lot of fun making them, because her teachers are so incredibly sweet and patient and loving, and they deserve way more than this, for sure. I’ll say this about my family: we may not always make the bed, and we’ll have to go to the store 38 times to get everything because we can be forgetful and distracted, but we can craft the HECK out of things. I feel the same about making things: It may take longer than grabbing something at the store, but just like homemade cookies versus storebought? more thoughtful, and definitely better.

  • Reply Abbe@This is How I Cook December 20, 2013 at 9:52 am

    I’d love to meet your mom! Your post brought me back to all the things I made for the teachers. They really do deserve it-well, most of them! It goes so fast, so enjoy. And have a great visit! Just so you know-I still have my kids art pieces from 8th grade and earlier posted on my laundry room wall. They of course are 23 and still haven’t wondered why they are hanging there!

    • Reply shannon January 9, 2014 at 11:27 am

      She’s fun! and with boundless energy, too; i’m not (totally) ashamed to say that she can outdo me in stamina most days when it comes to Wee One-playing or house renovation. it’s crazy. We did have a great visit, thank you, and she is safely back at home after a few days’ delay due to weather; a happy delay, i’ll say.

      aw! that’s so cool that you kept their artwork like that! I hope that i can be that organized along the way…so far, so good, but it’s early in the game yet. 🙂

  • Reply Willow @ Will Cook For Friends December 20, 2013 at 8:30 pm

    Those are adorable! And your mom sounds insane, in an awesome, awesome way.

    I was homeschooled my whole life, so I never had teachers to give gifts to (err… except my parents), but this has made me want to go make crafty things and give them to random kindergarten teachers. You are so right about what they do being under-appreciated (at least in their paychecks). I used to be a nanny for a while, and I remember thinking to myself, “if I ever have kids of my own… I am going to need to hire someone to do this job for me!” There’s just so much constant energy, it’s hard to keep up!

    • Reply shannon January 9, 2014 at 11:25 am

      Willow, that is i mean, DEAD ON how i would describe her. All of us, really.

      Ha! Sorry, just the visual of parents making gifts for themselves…i never thought about the homeschoolers when it came to gifts! And what a cool idea that would be; i know where i am, there are probably innumerable schools in which the teachers go unrecognized and ungifted, whether it be from lack of funds (it can get costly if there’s lots of teachers) or just lack of thought. Random acts of teacher gifts…that should be a thing. If anyone could get that done, you could. Now i want to plan ahead and do that next year.

      It really is just so much work, especially at the Wee’s age level: she’s a dream (I can say that b/c they actually say that to me, and i don’t think it’s lip service; that kid can obey like none other), but some of the other kids? ugh. i’d be done with life by noon. Babies are easier, and older kids easier, but these little pre-k’s? yikes. Those teachers have the patience of SAINTS, i tell you.

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats December 25, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Wow, who knew you came from such a crafty family! Mine is def the same 🙂 I have memories of my mom bringing her humongous Christmas cookie trays to school for all the teachers. I definitely can’t wait to get my craft on for my kids’ teachers 😉 These little gifts came out adorable, Shannon! And I bet they were much appreciated.

    • Reply shannon January 9, 2014 at 10:55 am

      LONG line of crafters, Amy: it’s in the blood. my grandma and all her sisters could knit/crochet you an airplane if you’d let them; super talented. Sometimes i think that just comes from being an introvert but wanting to stay busy, you know? you find things to do with your hands that you like. The teachers loved the gifts, i’m happy to say, and i can’t WAIT until you have a little one who you get to craft teachers’ gifts for: maybe we have a little session of crafting together by then. 🙂

  • Reply movita beaucoup January 3, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Gifts like this would prevent me from retiring from the biz.

    • Reply shannon January 8, 2014 at 11:00 am

      Next year, i’ll send YOU a teacher’s gift. because someday my Wee One will be sent to a certain maritime community to learn ballet from a certain someone who is a dance instructor. Also she’ll need to learn some of that folk dancing we’ve talked about. In return? more teachers’ gifts.

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