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May 16, 2013 Quick and Easy Thank-You Gifts for Classroom Volunteers By Genia Connell
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    We are very fortunate in our school to have wonderful parents who frequently volunteer in the classrooms, make copies or laminate, drive on field trips, and throw great holiday parties for the students. We also have 5th grade service squad students who give up their lunch recesses to help teachers. While these dedicated volunteers never expect anything in return for their help, it is always nice to let them know how much you appreciate them with a card or small gift.

    This week I'll share with you some ideas I have used in the past to create thoughtful thank-you gifts that didn't break the bank. I've created most gifts from items I purchased at my local dollar store or the dollar section of Michaels. The most expensive gift came in just under $10, while most were in the $5 to $6 range. 


    1. Thank You for Your Thyme

      I purchased a plain terra-cotta pot and bottles of black and tan patio paint.
    After painting the pot with a sponge applicator, I let it dry for about 30 minutes and then applied stickers to spell out "thyme."
    Finally I added a four-inch pot of thyme that was on sale at the grocery store and a note thanking them for all the time they spent helping out in our classroom. The total cost of this project, including the plant, was $7.50.


    2–3. Dollar Store Note Cards With Pizzazz

    I purchased ordinary frames at the dollar store and found notepads for a dollar at Michaels.
    These notepads also came with a matching set of sticky notes, which can be included with this gift or used as a separate gift later. 
    Using adhesive mounting tabs, I affixed the notepads to the frames and decorated the frames with some animal printed "gemstones" from the dollar bin. The total price of each mounted pad was less than $3.

    I purchased three coordinating notepads, ribbons, scalloped foam edging, and yellow gift bags (two for a dollar!) from the dollar section of Michaels. 
    Next, I added the self-sticking ribbons to the notepads and the gift bag I would be using. I trimmed the top of the bag with the scalloped edging and a few more ribbons.
    All the items went inside the trimmed bag, along with a large decorative clothespin I thought was fun. Total cost for this project was just under $7.


    4. Sticky-Note Organizer

    Make a nice desktop sticky-note holder using a dollar store acrylic frame and sticky notes, plus a sheet of scrapbook paper.


    Trace the perimeter of the frame on the paper and cut it out. Slide the paper into the frame for your background. Peel off the backing of each pad to expose the sticky part.

    Arrange the notes on top of the frame any way you like.

    The result is this slanted, easy-to-access sticky-note holder that's also great for a teacher's desk! Total cost $2.50.


    5. Try Your Hand at a Corkboard 

    This 20- x 15-inch corkboard was a great find for $3.99 at one of those dollar stores that sometimes charge more than a dollar. 
    Using ribbon I already had, I began crisscrossing it, using a butter knife to tuck the edges in underneath the frame. (While there may be tools better suited for this task, I tend to look for whatever is handy that might work, and the butter knife did a fine job!)
    In less than 15 minutes, I had this corkboard finished and ready to be gifted. I considered sponge painting the dark frame, but decided that went against my quick-and-easy theme! Total cost was less than $5, not including the gift card.


    6. For Your Bakers

    This makes a great gift for parents who help bake for class parties and events.

    Dollar store oven mitts, an orange mixing spoon, and measuring spoons fit perfectly inside this purple mixing bowl. The sunflower baking liners were from the dollar section of Michaels, and the mixes were on sale at the grocery store. Total cost was $9.75.


    7. For Tea Lovers

    This is a go-to whenever I need a quick last-minute gift. Fill a colorful canister with tissue and tea, or any other drink mix, and you have a nice thank-you gift that costs around $6.


    8–11. Beyond the Gift Card Envelope

    I keep a box of these four-inch paperclips on hand to attach to gift cards for books. I purchased a box of the clips online for 29¢ each this past winter and I use my favorite dollar-bin ribbon that I keep on hand.
    Simply tie a few strands of ribbon to the end of each clip and attach your gift cards!
    Dress up a gift card for coffee lovers with this faux latte packaging. Ask your favorite barista for a new domed cup when you purchase your gift card — they are always happy to oblige! Then fill the bottom of the cup with shredded brown paper and crumple tissue on the top. 
    These cute little popcorn boxes are five for a dollar at my local dollar store. Add a little tissue and some candy with your movie gift card and you are good to go.
    Dress up a gift card to your local nursery or garden store with this little trio of gloves, shovel, and flowerpot from the dollar store.


    12–16. Quick Gifts You Can Keep on Hand

    Oftentimes, there are those parents who come by to help out with a special project or offer to make copies at the last minute. These are easy gifts to have on hand when a quick thank-you is warranted. They also make perfect thank-yous for our 5th grade service squad helpers who help out on their lunch recesses. 

    Glass jars with lids are plentiful at the dollar store. Simply attach a label and fill with hugs or kisses to show your appreciation.  
    Print a label and wrap it around some microwave popcorn for an easy gift to keep handy. 
    Print a label on cardstock and fold over a bag of Life Savers® candy. I cover the last "s" with a sticker to avoid sounding grammatically challenged. 
    TWIZZLER Pull 'N' Peel is a tasty treat when paired with a note that thanks a volunteer for helping you hold it all together. A couple packs of Extra® Gum with a note (as pictured below) help show your appreciation, as well. 

    Click the images here to download your own printable labels. 


    17. When All Else Fails

    When all else fails and time is short, purchase a plant at your closest market and dress it up with a pot from the dollar store. This daisy with embossed tin pot is very cute and still costs less than $5.


    When putting together quick gifts, it's always nice to have a few things handy to help embellish and make the ordinary just a little more special. It's a good idea to keep a few things stocked up around your house to help with gift giving year-round. These items include:

    • Assorted colors of tissue paper
    • Adhesive mounting tabs
    • Ribbon
    • Glass jars with lids
    • Sheets of scrapbook paper (they are the perfect size for wrapping small gifts. I stock up when they are five for a dollar at the crafts store)
    • Jewels, gems, self-stick ribbon
    • Gift bags (plain ones are two for a dollar at the dollar or crafts store)

    This time of year can be very busy as you're trying to tie up loose ends and finish all that needs to be done. I hope the few gift ideas I've shown here can help you save time and money as you show your appreciation for all the help parents, coworkers, and students give you through the year. 

    What are your favorite ideas to show appreciation to classroom helpers who have been there when you needed them this year? Please share your ideas in the comments section below!


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Susan Cheyney