As the holidays roll around, educators often want to get their students a small gift to show how much they love them. But since most are already tapped out financially this time of year and classroom money doesn’t typically cover such luxuries, what’s a teacher to do?
Listen, you showing up for class every day is truly enough of a gift for your students. But they’re having a tough year just like you, so if you want to cheer them up with a small gift, it can be done. Below, I’ve compiled some of my favorite cheap and free gift ideas for your students that won’t require you to moonlight as a bartender just to afford them. Depending on the number of students you teach, the time you have, and your own personal budget, you should be able to find something that works for you.
If you are an elementary teacher or happen to teach a small number of students, these are some fun ideas that won’t break the bank:
- Personalized pencils – for $1.00 per student, you can order a 3-pack of personalized pencils. It has a place for a name, but you could also play around with it and see if you could fit some encouraging adjectives or appositives (i.e. artist, athlete, ballerina, math whiz) as well!
- Wacky socks – I’m a sucker for some festive socks, and there are so many options out there. Grab a multi-pack of food-themed or holiday-themed socks and give a pair to each student. If these styles don’t speak to you, a quick search will result in several additional options.
- Journals – We love it when students write, and these adorable little journals ($15.99/pack of 20) have sweet and encouraging messages on the front cover.
- Poppable fidget toys – Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re the latest fidget trend with students this year. These mini keychains are currently $19.95 for a pack of 15.
- Mini puzzle cube – This miniature version of the classic brain teaser would be a great way to keep students’ hands and minds occupied during any downtime in the classroom. Currently, the price is $17.99 for a pack of 20.
Free and/or Virtual
So what if you teach multiple classes and/or have zero budget for holiday gifts? Never fear – there are still ways to make your students feel special.
- Passes – Students love getting free passes for different privileges. Depending on your personal preferences and classroom/school culture and policies, you can play around with a few options. Copy them onto some brightly-colored paper and combine them into a sort of coupon book.
- Lunch swap – allows a student to sit with another student (or class) at lunchtime.
- HW pass – allows a student an extra night without penalty to finish HW they left at home or forgot to do.
- Bonus point – allows a student to add a bonus point to a test, quiz, or major project/writing assignment.
- Bathroom pass “punch card” – allows some extra free passes to the restroom.
- Free seating – allows a student to swap seats with someone for a day (or half a day, or whatever).
- Lunch with the teacher – allows students to eat lunch with you at school.
- Test or quiz retake – Obviously, this one will be highly dependent upon your school/classroom policies. If it’s a possibility to use one, I’d include some detailed fine print about timelines and procedures.
- Line leader, door holder, board wiper, etc.
- Slideshow – Are you tech-savvy? Have you taken pictures throughout the year? Put together a fun slideshow from your favorite moments. Add some festive music and there ya go!
- Jeopardy game – Use the free website Jeopardy Labs to create a silly holiday game you can play with your class. It could include class jokes that have come up this year, little-known facts about students or teachers, holiday trivia, etc. (BONUS: This website is also a quick and easy way to create review games for the classroom, and it’s easy to share with your students to study at home!)
- Jib Jab – This hilarious video creator is a really fun way to get some laughs out of your kids. You can use photos of them, or you can use yourself along with their other teachers to create a silly video. Be sure to preview for any questionable dance moves. (And obviously, steer clear from the not-so-student-friendly options such as Santa’s Twerk Shop and The Buttcracker. Clever, but can we say red flag??)
- Custom online jigsaw puzzle – At this website, you can create your own custom online puzzles and share them easily with your students. A class photo or collage from the school year would make a fun one to complete.
- I spy – These fun printables are great for your younger students and can be either printed or distributed digitally. Encourage students to save them throughout the year to keep them busy during any downtime.
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