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Daycare and the holidays: To gift or not to gift?

The pressing question of whether to gift a daycare worker for the holidays?
The pressing question of whether to gift a daycare worker for the holidays?

The holidays are the most stressful, and let's face it expensive, part of the year. When making up your gift list you are probably trying to decide who you can get away with not buying a gift for. So, the question remains should you, or should you not, purchase a gift for your nanny, daycare/child care provider, or teacher?

It can get tricky who to buy gifts for, especially if you have multiple children and multiple providers. For some families you have daycare workers, before/after care, preschool, and elementary school teachers to contend with. Each child could have multiple care providers during the week. Also, daycare providers commonly go on paid vacation over the holidays requiring parents to pay double to find care while their regular provider is unavailable. This can all add up really fast!

There are many reasons you could come up with not to buy a gift for your provider, but what are good reasons to add your child care help to the holiday list? It is well known that child care providers and teachers are horribly underpaid. There is just no good solution for paying them what they deserve and still be able to afford it. Also, if you are working full time your child could be cared for by someone else up to 12 hours a day, 5 days a week. That's up to 60 hours of their time each week. Child care providers rarely give themselves raises and are not getting holiday bonuses like many regularly employed folk do. Family daycares are self-employed requiring them to pay for their own insurance, taxes, supplies and equipment, among other expenses. The cost of toy and equipment replacement alone could equal hundreds to thousands of dollars a year as they are using their own appliances, furniture, and toys to run their business. It is true they get to deduct these items from their taxes, but they must be able to afford the replacements first.

Essentially, child care providers work hard, invest a lot, but most importantly, love your children and care for them so that you can go out and provide the best you can for your family.

If you do decide they make it to the gift list now you may need some ideas on what to gift. Many teachers and child care providers ask for nothing more than a token of appreciation. They do not expect gifts at the holidays and a simple card from you and your children would really do the trick. If your budget is tight simple things like gift cards to toy, book or school supply stores, a certificate for a manicure or massage, movie passes, or coffee gift certificates are always welcome.

For those who can, and would like to, do more for their providers a typical standard is a bonus that equals either a full day or a full week of tuition. An easy way to budget this in is to give a small percentage of any bonus you might receive. Some creative parents have been known to purchase gifts like a housecleaning service to visit once a month or a monthly fruit delivery to help out with the daycare. A bonus with cash gifts is that they will count towards your Dependent Care Tax Credit and can be claimed on your taxes the following year.

Some not so great ideas for the holidays? Candy and chocolate might seem like a good idea but many providers say it is something they really do not need. The gift of wine or alcohol can be seen as inappropriate for a person working in child care so make certain you really know your provider before giving something like this. Apple and apple-themed gifts are highly overrated so avoid them if you can and go from something more personal. Any gift certificates or discount cards that require the receiver to spend a certain amount of money before they kick in might simply go to waste so you might reconsider this type of gift as well.

Whatever you decide to do, or not do, most providers are not expecting anything and are just happy to have you as clients and to get to love and care for your children every day.