We're really lucky that Dear Boy gets to attend an incredibly multicultural childcare centre. The kids and staff represent a diverse range of cultures and religions and throughout the year we're introduced to a great range of celebrations and activities. Come the end of the year and only a portion are celebrating Christmas - so giving out Christmas cards and presents is a little hit-and-miss. I still like to acknowledge the work these ladies do and the care they've shown my son for the last 12 months, so end-of-the-year thank-you gifts it is.
What do carers and teachers really want? To feel appreciated for what they do. Reading through lots of different lists, the big theme was a nice card (handmade or not) with a heartfelt message. I found a great set of cards from the Oxfam shop this year,with a secular message of peace across the front - this turned out to be somewhat prescient, passing our gift over the front counter the morning after end of the seige in Sydney. With several Muslim carers who already struggled with going out in public with their headscarves on (including racist bloody busdrivers refusing to let them on), it felt like the best message I could offer.
This year I'm giving a centre gift rather than individual presents for all the carers. There are quite a few when you include the relief carers and the cook who cover breaks. My pick for a centre present is, of course, books.
For the last few weeks I've been collecting kids books for all the different rooms age-groups (nursery, toddler, pre-kinder, and kinder) and these can be divvied up. Our centre seems to churn through books at a prodigious rate - which is how it should be, really, when kids are encouraged to read and play with books. They read stories at group time and have a story corner where I often find my boy in the afternoons. They rotate the books so the kids don't get bored, but they do tend to get worn and torn. I've got some fabric and plastic ones for the babies, some board books for the toddlers and a mixture of picture books for the older kids. Our centre doesn't do tv/movie tie-in toys or books (no Disney princesses or Elmo or Lightning McQueen) so I've stuck with generic and non-gendered stories. Think colours, shapes, animals, teddy-bears, families, dinosaurs, etc. I have included books about fairies and vehicles, but neither of them are screamingly pink or blue.
Other group gift options:
- A framed quote print for the front desk or wall - if you search long enough you can find some great digital quote prints for free or next to nothing. Print those babies off and then buy or make a frame. Laminating is also a good option for childcare centres or preschools where a glass front might not be a safe option.
- A donation -Oxfam's range of Unwrapped cards are a great option for saying thankyou to people who care for people. I love their 'You're helping the world grow' ($20), 'You're helping to make Aboriginal kids happy and healthy. You're awesome!' ($50) and 'You've just given hope to orphans in South Africa' ($97).
- Salt dough or bicarb soda ornaments - these can be in secular, non-Christmassy shapes if you have some great cookie cutters or artistic skills; you can also get the kids to decorate them.
- Painted mug - I have been seeing these around Pinterest and Etsy for years now but I think there something quite special about those black sharpie quotes or personalised sentiments (although I'd need some calligraphy lessons or a good traced guide); again getting the kids to decorate is a sweet option.
- Decorated plant pots - plant optional.
- Acheivement stamps and stickers - a few teacher friends of mine said they'd loved these kinds of gifts because they normally purchase them out of their own pocket. In the same vein as the book gift, the kids also get to benefit.
- Stationary - because what teacher doesn't like stationary?
- Vouchers - for movies, spa treatments, the local coffee place, particular shops; this gift depends on how well you know your teachers and carers and how much you want to spend.
Foody options (being wary of allergy restrictions in the school/centre):
- Shared hamper - collect a mixture of sweet and savoury so the teachers or carers can have a lunchroom picnic.
- Chocolate - the folks at our centre are inundated with chocolate each year. This doesn't make it a bad option, folks like chocolate after all, but have a look around for different kinds of chocolate styles and flavours to keep it interesting.
- Fruit - this is what I did last year, wrapping a ribbon around individual mangos and punnets of blueberries (which isn't all that easy); because of all the chocolate, sometimes it's nice to go the healthy option.
- Fancy teas and coffees for the lunchroom - go wild, go fancy, in bags or loose; pair it with a lovely teacup or teapot.
- Booze - this isn't something we'd do as we aren't drinkers ourselves and I'm not all that keen on assocating our carers with alcohol but again, some of our teacher friends LOVE these kinds of gifts. Mini bottles of champagne/sparkling wine or something like Baileys Irish Cream are easy-peasy with a cute ribbon around the neck and a homemade tag, maybe a straw if you're keeping it real classy.