12 Creative Holiday Gifts for Your Students
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I don't know about you, but I LOVE the holiday season. I love mini-lights and anything that sparkles, so I feel pretty comfortable with all of the bling and festivities associated with this time of the year.
However, it’s also pretty easy to get caught up in the rampant consumerism and to feel the pressure to spend money on your students. Or, you might be like me – my love language is gift-giving – nothing lights me up more than giving to people, so it’s really hard for me to go overboard and be a little more generous than I probably should be.
The holidays have also gotten a lot more political and complex than they used to be – with many people around our world not participating in the Christian religion and therefore not celebrating Christian holidays, it can even be a little more complicated to think about getting your students a gift at this time of the year. Some schools don’t even allow you to use the word “Christmas,” which is why I’ve changed both the title and the tone of this episode to speak more globally about “holiday gifts.”
However, I can tell you from having spent many a Christmas season in other countries – I think Christmas in Hong Kong and Thailand were two of my favorites – even though Christianity may not be the main religion in many parts of the world, there is still a very special feeling about this time of the year, no matter where you are.
I think what I really do love most about this season of the year is the spirit of generosity that wells up in me. The spirit of wanting to look outside myself and take care of the people I love most, and that doesn’t mean with expensive presents.
I mean, to me, it means doing special things – being especially thoughtful, making the people in my life feel super special, being especially “present” in the truest form of the word, and so when I decided I wanted to do an episode on the best holiday gifts for your kiddos, it wasn’t to give you my favorite bulk-plastic items to order from Amazon (although I have to admit, of course, I’ve done that, too).
I realized that I wanted to talk about this because Iooking back, the best gifts I gave to my students had nothing to do with what I went out and bought them.
Instead, it had everything to do with what I did for them.
So today, I’m going to share with you 12 amazing holiday gifts for your kiddos that I’ve used over the years to make this time of the year a time when I focused on pouring out my love for my students in the most simple and, I think, most meaningful ways.
Here’s how I did that: I gave my students what I called a "Week of Holiday Gifts." Now, you could do "12 Days of Holiday Gifts" as well, and some years I did that also to kind of mimic the 12 days of Christmas, but a week of holiday gifts is plenty. You don’t need to do all twelve, but of course it’s up to you!
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You can simply print these ideas out and then wrap each one in a present, numbered with the date for each, so that your students get to open one present with you each morning on the last week before their holiday break – and some years I even put up a tree in my classroom that we decorated together.
You could also print these ideas out and simply put them into envelopes and put a bow on each one to make it look cute and then display them at the front of your classroom, or however you want to display them – you could also put the envelopes in your tree if you have one.
However, if your school really doesn’t allow you to decorate for Christmas, you could also hang a piece of ribbon between two bows at the front of your classroom and then number envelopes from 1 to 5 so your students get to open one each morning to find out what their surprise is.
Whatever you do, make it clear to your students that they are going to get one gift from you every day for the last five days of school before their holidays. The anticipation alone of that and knowing that you’ve been thinking of them and planning something special for them is super meaningful for your students. They are going to be SO excited about this!
Then, each morning, gather your kids around, and you can randomly select a student’s name to open that day’s gift and read it aloud to your class.
Here are my 12 ideas for holiday gifts you can give to your students that don’t cost much money and are super thoughtful and fun:
- Give your students the freedom to sit by a friend for the entire afternoon that day. Your students are going to really appreciate this simple gift from you and it doesn’t cost you a thing.
- You can give your students an extra 15 minutes of recess as one of your gifts. They love this because nothing is better than free time with their friends, right?
- If your school allows you to give food as a reward, and increasingly, I know that schools are clamping down on this, but if you’re allowed to do this, you can buy a couple of bags of Hershey’s hugs – they’re like Hershey’s kisses, and then give one or two to each of your students, accompanied by the choice of a hug from you.
- Give your students snowman soup! This is really cute – I just made up little bags of hot cocoa, mini marshmallows and a candy cane for each student, and attached a little note to each that gave them directions for Snowman Soup – that read,
“When the weather outside is frightful, snowman soup is so delightful. Pour the packet into a mug, add hot water & top it with snowballs, use the candy cane to stir it, sip slowly and feel the warm winter spirit."
You could even put a video of a hot, crackling fire onto the screen and listen to a great story as your students enjoy this little gift, or even sit in a gratitude circle and take turns saying what each of you are grateful for. What an amazing way to genuinely feel the warmth of the holiday season!
- You can give your students a 15-minute holiday dance party! Maybe it’s a collection of your favorite Go Noodle holiday brain breaks or student-selected favorites, turn down the lights, get a disco ball if you can, turn up the music and just cut loose and dance with your kiddos. They are going to absolutely love it, especially if you get them warmed up by doing some quick movements like jogging on the spot & jumping jacks to get them moving.
- Another gift you can give to your students is a holiday homework pass. This is a special pass that your students can use one day when they really, really, really don’t want to do their homework or they simply don’t have time to get it done. I would have them simply turn in this pass with their name on it in place of their homework one day – and of course, they absolutely loved this gift. And again, it didn’t cost me a thing.
- Why not treat your kids to Game Time? And I don’t mean computer games. Maybe you can give your students the gift of a half hour to play one of your class’s favorite games. This can be anything from 7-up to their favorite board games – whatever it is, the gift of time to play some games with their friends is one of the best gifts we can give to kids.
- Another idea is to give your students the gift of getting to write in glitter gel pen for the day. Now, of course, they might not be able to do ALL of their assignments in glitter gel pen, but letting them do most of their work and feeling like grown-ups is really fun for kids! You can get an entire tub of glitter gel pens at Costco or Sam’s Club pretty inexpensively, or even at the Dollar store, and this is a fun treat to take out every now and then for your students, or even for use at a free time center.
- The next idea is a pretty popular one in most elementary schools, and that’s the gift of giving your students popcorn and a movie. Now, this doesn’t have to require a lot of time or effort on your part.
If you were part of my R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, you know that one of the things I ask you to do at Meet the Teacher Night is to have your parents sign up for different stations all around your room at the beginning of the year, and one of those stations is to sign up for Popcorn Popper – and I even give you a reminder template letter to send home to parents to remind them that it’s their turn to pop popcorn.
However, even if you don’t have parents signed up to help you, you can always pop microwave popcorn the night before and put it in small paper bags for your students for the next day. Your students are going to LOVE this surprise gift from you!
- I already mentioned getting to sit by a friend, but another gift you can give to your students is the gift of getting to sit wherever they want to in the classroom for the morning, for the afternoon, or even for the entire day.
- Of course, no list would be complete without the simple, timeless, and rarest gift of all, especially for kids these days: Free time. Giving your students 20 minutes or whatever you can manage to have choice of how they spend their time is unfortunately becoming increasingly rare in today’s classrooms (and even after school for most kids, who have schedules that are crazy), so if you can manage it, giving your students the rare gift of 20 minutes to choose is something they will absolutely love.
- And finally, the last idea is a surprise goodie from your heart to them. For me, that meant bringing in my two little dogs, Tango and Sparky, and letting my students have some time with them in our classroom, and that was a very special treat for my students.
My kids heard stories about my dogs all the time, so they loved getting the opportunity to meet them and to ask to hear the stories about my puppies again while they were actually with us.
I would usually tie in something special with their visit, like make puppy dog puppets, while my dogs were there with us in the classroom. It’s amazing how many of your students will remember this years later!
I hope you've enjoyed these 12 Inexpensive Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Kiddos - have a wonderful holiday season!
NEW! I just adapted my 12 Days of Holiday Gifts for Google Slides, so if you prefer the digital version of this resource, check it out by clicking the pic below:
P.S. Are you struggling with classroom management in your classroom? You're going to LOVE my new online training so you learn how to go from chaos to confidence now! Just click here or on the pic below to check it out.
Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor
Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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