Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gift Giving Ideas

 (originally posted 12/2010)
It’s the time of year we get calls from nanny employers and sometimes from nannies wondering what is “usual and standard” for holiday gifts or bonuses. This is a tricky question as there are no industry standards but typically families do a variety of things to show their appreciation at this holiday time for the service their nanny has provided to them. Many families choose to give a monetary gift which often is the equivalent of a week’s pay. They may also include a personal gift or gift card. Families may choose to have the children give a small item, which could be handmade, to their nanny as well. Much of this depends on how long the nanny has been with the family. Families who have employed their nanny less than a year might choose a modest personal gift to demonstrate their appreciation.

Nannies also wonder what is appropriate for giving to their employer family or to the children. These gifts are usually more personal in nature and reflect the nanny’s observation of the family’s lifestyle and interests. It might be a gift the whole family will enjoy together or something specific to each child with a smaller gift to the employer.

Over the 20 plus years I worked for my previous family, gifts have varied from year to year but one thing remained constant
– they were very aware of my interests and likes. They chose things that not only demonstrated their appreciation but that they were attentive to what I enjoyed doing on my own time. It showed an interest in me that really made me feel part of their lives.
The children often choose a small item for me – sometimes it was jewelry, a gift card or sweet treat along with a handmade ornament or special card. They were so excited to see my reaction to their gift – and I tried never to disappoint them. When they got a little older and had some money of their own to put towards gifts I was excited to receive “interesting” items which included action figures, trinket boxes, fragrant lotions, candles, etc. – it was always a big surprise! Gifts from my employers included gift cards to stores they knew I frequented, cash or a prepaid credit card, fine jewelry or apparel. The fact that they all put a lot of thought into the gift was something I cherished.
When choosing gifts for them it always had a personal and handmade quality. Here are a few from over the years: yearly video holiday card featuring the children singing, telling stories or playing their instruments, a scrapbook of the previous year together or a special trip, one year I made robes for the whole family, another year we made several ornaments (some were made by the children and some I made). As the children got older they chose their own gifts for the parents with a little help and I started giving the parents something I thought they would use or like to do together. Gift cards are great – wonderful for restaurants, stores, movies or events. As far as the children I have always given them a personal gift – it didn’t have to be big but I wanted it to be very personal for each of them. The last few years with the family I also did a community service project or participated in an event with the children so that we had a memory of something done together to help others.

I recently asked other nannies to share their thoughts on gift giving and receiving. Here are their responses.

I really prefer not to get a gift but understand that most people like to give them so. Personally I have only gotten cash. I appreciate this because I like to live simply and unless the family knows me very, very well they most likely won't know what I need and then I will end up giving it away to someone who wants/needs it and then feel badly for seeming ungrateful for their gift. I love getting something small that the kids have made for me as well.

Bonus of one or two weeks pay! We work so hard to take care of their home life so they can live out their dreams, it would be nice to be treated to the ultimate gift of appreciation, a bonus for a good job done.
As a family gift I make a scrapbook or give a personalized ornament or snow globe. For the children I give a special book or a special gift that will stick around for a long time.

This year I made Shutterfly photobooks for the children I nanny for filled with photos from the last 4+ years. These are photos of the kids from activities, trips and events I have done with them which their family doesn't have copies of. Each book is personalized for each child and will be an album just for them. I also made the parents a book including all the photos from the kid’s books so they could have copies of these memories as well.

I thought I'd share my holiday gift experiences with you. I think the best gifts I've received was when a family knew I was taking a trip later that year, and they gave me spending money for the trip (I've gotten that 3 different times from 3 different families). It's very nice to have that extra spending money. Other years I've usually gotten gift cards from the parents, and they always let the kids pick out something for me themselves (which can be very interesting, but always fun). For gifts I've given to the families, I like to have traditions, so I tend to give the same things every year. I feel reading is important, and something I personally enjoy doing with the children, so every year I'd give each child a book (I usually write a message to them on one of the front pages). And I also would give them a toy or something fun. I took care of a boy who loved to play board games, so every year I gave him a new game for us to play. He always knew what he was getting, but it was something we'd use the whole year. Many times I like to give arts and crafts stuff (there's a lot of nice kits out there). Again, that's something I get to do with the children. So I guess I think the best gifts are gifts that promote time together. For the parents, I've often given a "free night of babysitting" gift certificate. They always seemed to enjoy that. Along with that I'd usually give them some candy or something. Last year the Dad of the boy I take care of now was deployed, and was gone over the holidays. While he was gone I wrote him a letter each week (pretending Henry was telling me what to write--he wasn't even a year old at the time). I'd just write about little things we did that week, or any "firsts" that Henry had, and then I'd let Henry scribble with crayons or put stickers on the letter. I also took a lot of pictures of Henry while he was gone, and put together a little scrapbook and sent that to him for Christmas. He told me that he really appreciated those things.

I appreciate when the family takes the time to know my interests and items I’d like, and then either purchases those items or gets a gift card redeemable towards that item. I’ve received in the past; holiday pay bonus, personal gifts and items homemade from the children.
I give a gift to each child which is placed under their tree to be opened later (often not when I’m present so there is no pressure to make sure I have a reciprocal gift). The children and I always work on a project of a handmade gift for the parents.


  1. Becky, thanks for writing this. Great insight!

  2. Great ideas! I like the concept of asking the nannies what they liked in the past and sharing. We have a few ideas at Nannies on Call as well. You can check out the post.