If time is tight or you’re not in a Martha Stewart mood, but you want to thank your child’s teacher with a gift he’s sure to love, these five ideas will save the day. The addition of a homemade card from your child will turn these no-fuss ideas into a gift that is truly cherished.

  1. Fresh flowers or a live plant.

    You can’t go wrong with this timeless gesture of appreciation. One parent suggests, “If people prefer to give something that will last a little longer, I recommend a small potted floral plant (which you can usually get on sale for under $5 at local grocery stores). I attach a note saying something along the lines of, ‘Thank you for all you’ve done to help our child, [name], and all the children GROW in wisdom over this past year. We hope you have a wonderful summer, The XYZ Family.'”

  2. The always popular gift card.

    As one mom wrote, “Gift cards have ‘practical’ written all over them. You can get a Starbucks card or Bath & Body Works card in amounts as low as $5 and then the teachers can use them at their convenience and for what they like.” Teachers told us that gift cards they can use to treat themselves to something special or buy supplies for the class are always appreciated. You can even pick up a wide assortment of gift cards at many grocery stores, making this gift even easier!

  3. A gift basket with a theme.

    This requires a bit more effort than a gift card, but it can still be pulled together quickly with a trip to the video or office supply store. Here are a few themes our readers suggested:

    • A teacher survival pack with packages of note cards, colored pens, stickers and Post-it notes.
    • A goodie basket with small packages of coffee, tea, crackers and cookies.
    • Handy gadgets: One mom wrote: “Last year, I did Pampered Chef and gave [the teachers] the mini serving spatula, twix-it clips, i-slice, and mini-whisk. I think it cost $10 or $12, and they loved it.”
    • A night at the movies – fill a popcorn tub or basket with unpopped popcorn, other snacks and gift cards for video or DVD rentals.

    One creative parent, who lives on a farm, embellished the movie-night basket by using homegrown popcorn and including a poem about relaxing and enjoying the teacher’s own family after taking such good care of other children all year. But even the simple version will be appreciated!

  4. A donation to the teacher’s favorite cause.

    Peggy Mannion, an eighth-grade social studies teacher in San Francisco, remembers one especially meaningful gift. “A student made a donation to the American Cancer Society in my name. I liked that because, you know, I don’t need anything! I mean if somebody said, ‘I gave $10 to a homeless person instead of buying you a gift,’ I’d be thrilled!”

  5. A donation to your child’s class.

    Teachers often spend a lot of their own money on their classrooms and have wish lists of things they’d love to have for the class. Ask your child’s teacher whether he’d like supplies for a special project, money for a field trip, books for the class library or a gift certificate for him to choose something.

    One way to make a thoughtful donation is through DonorsChoose. It is a nonprofit that allows teachers to post specific requests for their classrooms and donors to directly fund them. You can fund a project in the name of your child’s teacher or give the teacher a gift certificate to use on the project of her choice. If you browse the requests from teachers, you’ll see a wide range of needs and the donations needed to fill them, including requests for special science equipment, money for field trips and art supplies.