In the not-so-distant past, I was a nanny. Before that, I was a teacher in a day care. Before that, I was a babysitter all throughout college. Before that, I watched the kids of several families in my home town from the time I was 10 years old. I've seen a lot of Christmases with a lot of different families in a lot of different settings. I have been under-appreciated and also overwhelmed by gratitude from my families. I have been given nothing, to a tube a chapstick, to an astonishing sum of cash for Christmas gifts.
Any child care worker will say signs of appreciation from the families of the children you care for are always welcome but seldom seen. I'd love to see that change. And Christmas is a time to make that happen!
Giving gifts to your child care worker can often be a bit awkward. What do you give your nanny? How much do you give? Is it even appropriate to give them a gift? What if I can't afford to give them what is deemed appropriate?
Let me put you at ease.
Yes. It is more than appropriate to give your child care worker a gift. In fact, it is expected, no matter the capacity.
If you have a nanny, she (sometimes 'he') becomes a part of your family. She is your stand-in and is tasked with caring for the basic needs of your child and then some. Does she/he deserve to be thanked this holiday season? Absolutely!
If you have a babysitter, she/he is often taking time out of an already busy schedule this holiday season to help you out with child care. Babysitters usually have more than one job, more than one family. They are usually stretched thin in regards to schedule and finances. Babysitters don't usually spend as much time with your children as a nanny does, but they still give what they can and provide you and your significant other with time to do the things they probably doesn't have time to do themselves. Do babysitters deserve a gift of thanks for Christmas? You bet they do.
If your child is in day care, then you most definitely should be giving gifts to their teacher. This was, by far, my most under-appreciated position. I had a few parents (who are most likely reading this) who went above and beyond their call to thank us for caring for their little ones. Then there were others who ignored the fact that the holiday season is extra crazy for us as teachers due to the kids' schedules being all thrown off which means the classroom schedule is all thrown off. Babies and children don't nap like they usually do during this time of year, they're oftentimes sick and spreading germs to the other kids and teachers making everyone extra crabby and the classroom is oftentimes short-staffed. Not to mention, being a day care teacher is NOT a lucrative position and money is usually always tight, even more so during the holidays when we're expected to send "child-made" gifts home to the 12+ sets of parents which are often provided for out of our own bank accounts.
It doesn't take much to show your child care worker appreciation. Depending on what sort of child care you have, the rules differ and can get confusing and/or awkward. So here is are a few guidelines for you depending on the level of child care you have for your little ones:
If you have a full-time nanny, it is common and expected to give a holiday bonus/tip that is equal to one week's salary. Yes, that can be quite a hit to your bank account but keeping your nanny happy and satisfied is worth it, isn't it? If it makes it easier for you, think of it as giving your nanny a week's paid vacation the week of Christmas.
You definitely don't want to slack off in this department. If you don't show your nanny appreciation, chances are she won't stick around very long. Think of your own job. You may love it, but the day-to-day gets really difficult if your employer doesn't encourage you and show their appreciation in tangible ways. The same goes for your nanny. She may love your children, but that love can only cover so much. If you, as the parent and boss, are not showing her your appreciation through words and occasional bonuses, she is bound to get weary. If she's a wonderful nanny and you want to keep her around, don't just tell her, SHOW HER. This includes a holiday bonus.
*If you have a terrible nanny, still give her a bonus. She is human and deserves to be appreciated. But then think about finding a new nanny who is a better fit for your family.
You may be wondering what about the difference between a nanny and a babysitter. In short, a babysitter is someone who cares for your children for a short period of time (a few hours for a date-night or during the day so you can run some errands). A nanny is someone who is with your child all day, fully invested in the development and education of the little one.
Since you don't normally invest as much financially into your babysitter(s) and they don't spend as much time with your family, the holiday tip/gift/bonus does not require as much. A $25-$50 gift card to their favorite store (Target, Amazon, Walmart, Starbucks, etc.), a gift certificate for a manicure/pedicure, or just some extra cash in a nice Christmas card at the end of the day is welcome. A homemade gift from your children would also be a nice touch. Because while your babysitter isn't around as much as a nanny, I can almost bet she is just as invested in your kids' lives. You want to do enough to show your babysitter your appreciation, just like with a nanny. You want her to know you want to keep her around. You want to keep her happy.
If I was a regular babysitter for you and I came away from the holidays without a gift of some sorts, that would communicate to me that I don't hold any significance in your life despite being a integral part of your child care routine. I would be hurt and disappointed and not-so willing to work for you in the future.
DAY CARE TEACHER
If your child is in day care, know you are not solely responsible for your child's teacher's gift. If the parents in your child's classroom are upstanding human beings, they should all be giving the teacher a little gift. I never, ever expected cash gifts from my parents, though I did receive a large cash gift from one family in day care and actually felt rather uncomfortable about it. It is not your responsibility as a parent to pay your child's teacher. Ideally, that's why you pay astronomical tuition prices to the day care center (notice I said "ideally"...).
As a parent of a child in a classroom setting, you should most definitely show that teacher your thanks. Those teachers are with your child and their classmates all day in one classroom. They are often exhausted and stretched thin between managing their classroom and helping cover staffing shortages around the center. And despite all that, they are expected to give your child the utmost attention and care.
You would be surprised at how far a bag of chocolate or a Starbucks gift card can go for a teacher's attitude and outlook on the day. If you know the teacher survives on Diet Coke, then bring her a cold one with a cute bow and a note of thanks on it! If you know she drinks wine, find out what kind and gift her a bottle. If she is a foodie, a gift card to a local restaurant would be more than welcome. Try giving the teacher a gift that fosters relaxation and fun.
I hope this clears up some of the confusion around gift-giving this holiday season. And I hope your main takeaway from this is that your child's care taker MORE THAN deserves a holiday thank you in the form of a bonus/tip/gift and should be one of the first you bestow thanks and gifts on. Don't be a Scrooge this Christmas season! A little appreciation can go a long way when you are thoughtful about it.
If my guidelines don't satisfy your gift-giving needs for your child care worker this holiday season, check out this fun list of gift ideas from Care.com.