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Free Easy and Inexpensive Gift Ideas for Students and Parents

Let’s talk about holiday gift-giving.

First, there is absolutely no requirement to give your students a holiday gift before winter break. You do not need to go out and buy your students a gift. Nor are you obligated to have your students make a gift for parents. You are not a bad teacher if you choose not to do gifts.

If you choose the gesture of gift-giving during the holiday season, that’s wonderful. But you should not go into debt or spend hours laboring over a hand-crafted gift if that’s not your thing.

A Quick Story of My Elaborate Pinterest Plans

One year, I got sucked into all the Pinterest holiday gift ideas and decided I was going to have my first graders make handprint calendars as a parent gift.

While the calendars turned out absolutely adorable, they were so, so, so, much work.

I had to create and print all the calendar pages and get out the painting supplies for days upon days to get the handprints done. Then there was the binding process. I went out and bought a simple binding machine because my school didn’t have one. On top of that, when students were absent, I had to spend additional time and energy getting them caught up.

If that wasn't enough, I had this elaborate idea of having my students make hand-stamped wrapping paper, because I couldn’t just send the calendar home in a folder.

You have no idea the number of tears that were shed when it came time to actually wrap the gift when some of my first graders could not get the corners folded just right.

I learned a lot that year, and while I was brave enough to do the fingerprint calendar one additional year (I mean, I had already paid for the binding machine), I made so many changes. I had multiple volunteers help me, and we started the project much earlier so that I could space it out. It was still a lot of work, but it was much less stressful.

Free Editable Coupon Books for Parent and Student Gifts

Why I Like Coupon Books for Parent Gifts

You don’t need to create any elaborate gifts or add more to your already busy load this year. Instead, one easy gift option is coupon books. I love coupon books because they can be personalized for parents, and they work well as a parent gift for any age—elementary kids to high school students.

If a student is absent, it’s easy to get them caught up. For students that have multiple caregivers or blended families, making additional coupon books is pretty easy too (much easier than making additional calendars).

Depending on the age, you could have the coupon text pre-made so that students just fill in one or two words in the sentence, or maybe color a picture of the coupon description.

For older students, you might provide some ideas, but allow students to make coupons that work well within their own family system. I also encourage students to think of things that are above and beyond their regular chores. What could they do to lighten the load for their parent or guardian? What would bring their parent or caregiver joy?

Allow Student Choice with the Teacher Gift of Coupons

If putting together handmade crafts are not your thing, do something simple that will bring you joy, and can be personalized to your classroom.

If you are looking for an easy and inexpensive gift to give your students, coupons are a great option. You can personalize the coupons so that they work within your classroom structure. Set out the coupons on a table, and let your students come up and choose two or three coupons. This gives them some choice and since you created the coupons, all the choices can fit well within your classroom parameters.

Some ideas:

  • Leave class two minutes early for lunch

  • Homework pass

  • Bonus points on a quiz

  • Sit by a friend for one class day/period

  • Sit in the teacher’s chair for a day

  • 10 minutes of phone charging time

  • 5 minutes of computer/elections time at the end of the period

  • Stay inside for one morning recess

  • Lunch with the teacher

  • Bring a stuffed animal to school

You can download a free copy of my editable coupon books and get started personalizing your coupon books here.

Random Acts of Kindness

One of my favorite whole-class challenges is random acts of kindness. During the holiday season, we do some random acts of kindness together as a class, and then I encourage my students to do some RACKs on their own time. There is something so great about showing kindness to others, and this time of year is an especially great time to center others.

Some of the things I’ve had my students do:

  • Create holiday cards for the office staff

  • Create holiday cards for residents at a local assisted living

  • Have students write a thank you to the janitor on a sticky note. Then place those sticky notes on their office or maintenance room door.

  • Place candy canes on the desks of the classroom next door

  • Encourage students to sit with someone new at lunch

  • Leave a note of encouragement on a locker door

Gifts for Principal & Staff

One of the questions I am often asked is what to get colleagues and admin during the holiday season. You do not need to do anything elaborate, fancy, or personalized. Again, you are not obligated to give a gift.

My suggestion is to send your principal a handwritten card. If you do family holiday pictures, consider sending your colleagues and/or principal a copy of your holiday family picture. Holiday cards and handwritten notes are beautiful gestures.

Protect Your Yes

We all know that the holiday season is a hectic time. Give yourself permission to do less this season. You do not have to do the same thing as the teacher next door. You can skip the holiday festivities, craft, and the winter wonderland décor, especially if it doesn’t align with your priorities, your values, or is going to add more to your plate and not bring you joy.

Just a reminder, you are not less of a teacher if you choose to do less this season.

Download free coupon books by clicking this link.


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