The old cliche of  an apple for the teacher is now very old hat and now it’s that time of year again, the end of term is in sight and parents up and down the country are racking their brains for the perfect gift for their child’s teachers. It’s probably quite tricky to pin down a definitive date when giving gifts of this kind became a ‘thing’, but a thing it most definitely is, with some parents reporting horror stories of gift one-upmanship running rampant at the school gates. What’s that you say? A crate of vintage wine? I’ll see your wine and raise you a voucher for a weekend in a lovely little cottage in Tuscany (both of these, allegedly, are genuine examples of end of term gifts).

Of course, what stupidly extravagant gifts of this kind are saying isn’t ‘Thank you for teaching my child and for going the extra mile to make sure their time at school was both happy and productive’, what they’re saying is ‘Look at me, look how much money I’ve got!’

The real aim of a gift for your child’s teacher is, of course, to acknowledge the job they’ve done and signal, even if in a small way, just how comforting it is, as a parent, if you can drop your child off at school safe in the knowledge that they’ll spend the day having fun and feeling secure at the same time as learning.

The question, then, is what kind of gifts do teachers actually enjoy receiving? One answer, of course, is that it depends on the teacher concerned, and that taking the time to try and find out a little bit about them (do they drink alcohol, do they like coffee etc.) will ensure that that you make the right choice. Other than that, however, and just in case it starts to make you feel like something of a stalker, there are a few gift ideas which are likely to match the mood of the occasion:

A book token –

Since teaching is all about imparting knowledge, why not give the same gift back? A token, what’s more, needn’t cost a lot of money and allows the recipient to have complete control over what they end up treating themselves to. The same is true of tokens for places like Costa Coffee, Starbucks and other high street stores, but somehow a book seems more fitting.

Something they’ll use every day –

This could be a carefully chosen mug for that break time cup of coffee, a paperweight, even a slightly upmarket pen to make marking a little more pleasant. Whatever you choose, you’ll be giving something which reminds the teacher you felt moved to say thanks every time they use it.

A plant/tree –

Many people give flowers as gifts but there are two main problems with this; the teacher concerned may well be going away on holiday as soon as term ends, meaning the bouquet you spent the time and trouble choosing will be going straight in the bin, and some people actually don’t like bunches of flowers, associating them with illness and worse. A plant, on the other hand, whether it’s a pot plant or something to be planted out in the garden (something interesting and quirky like a fruit tree, for example) will be a permanent reminder of the fact that you felt moved to say thanks, and may even end up making the classroom a little brighter.

A charity gift –

This can be a little tricky, since some people regard charity gifts as having less to do with the recipient, and more to do with making the gift-giver feel good about themselves, but in some cases it might be the perfect choice. If the teacher in question has spent time engaging their pupils in interests about the wider world, then a donation on their behalf to a relevant charity – one promoting learning overseas, or nature preservation, for example – might be absolutely perfect; a gift which acknowledges the impact their teaching has had.

Something handmade –

All too often, the gifts given seem to be about the parent, rather than the child, which rather defeats the object. Get your child to spend time and effort crafting a handmade gift, however, and it will be clear that it comes from the heart and from the person who matters. It could be some jewellery, a picture frame, a hand painted mug or plate, a fridge magnet…..for once it really is the thought that counts.

Drink –

Predictable, yes, but many teachers, at the end of an exhausting term, admit there’s no gift they appreciate more than a nice bottle of wine. And the wine drinking relatives of the occasional tee-total teacher (yes, they do exist) are doubtless in complete agreement.

A thank you –

Ask virtually any teacher about the gifts they’ve received over the years and they’ll tell you that the ones which really touched them and made them feel genuinely appreciated were the simplest. A handwritten thank you from the pupil themselves, in the form of a card, letter or (in more ambitious cases) a laminated certificate, has been known to reduce even the most grizzled classroom veteran to a quivering wreck, and is something which will be treasured for years to come.