Help! What do I need to know to fly with my kids?!?

I hear/see this question ALL.THE.TIME. in the many parenting groups I’m in, whether in person or online. Parents in a panic because they are planning a trip with a baby, toddler, or young child. They are stressing over how to keep the littles happy and quiet and calm and what time of day should they fly and what should they bring on the plane and what apps are the best…STOP! Just stop. You are asking the wrong questions.

First, safety: your kid needs a seat. I don’t care if they “can” fly on your lap for free, it isn’t safe. If you can’t afford a seat for every person in your party, you can’t afford the trip. Period. No, I’m not being mean and no I’m not some rich elitist – I get it. We don’t take as many trips as we used to because instead of two seats, we now have to buy five. It’s expensive and some trips just can’t happen due to the cost. And I’m not perfect – my oldest flew a few times as a lap baby, before I knew any better. I don’t beat myself up about it because the past is the past and I was doing what a lot of people do, without even thinking about it. But, as the saying goes “Know better, do better.” I know better now, so we buy every person a seat. Why? Because my children’s safety is at stake. I know I will not be able to hold on to my child in case of an emergency or severe, or even mild, turbulence. And neither will you. Because physics. Don’t believe me? Check out some of these recent headlines: Babies Thrown Out Of Their Mothers’ ArmsBaby Sent Flying. And this page from the FAA is great for the whats and hows of safe flying with kids: FAA Child Safety.


Sweet Baby Girl riding safely on a plane!

Ok, now that I’m the nasty mom who told you to buy a seat for the baby, I’m also going to tell you that your kid(s) needs to be in their carseat(s). Again, physics. It’s safer. If your baby rides rear-facing in the car, which they should do until AT LEAST age 2, then they should ride rear-facing on the plane. I say should because I have broken this rule myself…flying with all three, logistics of installing three car seats and we couldn’t get the seat installed rear without major wiggle, so our one-year-old rode forward facing on the plane. We did the best with what we had at that moment. And yes, your toddler needs to be in a car seat too. I know, it’s a giant pain. Trust me, I have three little kids. It sucks to lug three car seats through the airport and security and onto the plane and install and then get them off the plane and to the rental car/cab…total pain in the ass! But again, it’s my kids’ safety we are talking about and while sometimes they drive me batty, I would do anything, even lug three carseats through the airport, to keep them safe! If your kiddo is a bit older and meets the requirements, the CARES harness is a good alternative to bringing the carseat BUT it’s just for the plane…so if you need a car seat at the other end, just install it on the plane. Which brings me to…

NEVER check your car seat on a plane! Never! Have you seen how they handle the baggage?! Tossing it around, with bags often falling off the top of the conveyor belt. Yeah, that can damage your car seat. And it could be internal damage, which you can’t see, that can compromise the structural integrity of the seat which is a fancy way to say IT ISN’T SAFE! But all that is irrelevant because you want your kids to be as safe as possible, so they’ll be riding in their car seats anyway. Right? 🙂

Ok, if you’re still reading and don’t hate me yet, I have a lot of other tips for making it through the airport and through the flight, all with everyone relatively happy. First of all, with the car seat, besides being safer, it makes for a much nicer ride for everyone! For you and your fellow passengers, your kid is contained. Our poor kids, at least while still in diapers, think that you aren’t allowed out of your car seat on the plane, just like in a car. Makes life that much easier for everyone. Our older kids know you can just get out to go potty, that’s it. But the big thing is, especially for littles, they sleep sooooo much better in their car seats! And you will be so much more comfortable and happy not having to hold them while they squirm and kick and stand up and sit down and mess with the tray table and steal your glasses and then try to get comfortable and eventually fall asleep on you in the most odd position, pining you to the seat just as you have to pee, while you lose feeling in your left leg and arm. Oh and forget snacks and drinks for you while you’re holding a baby or toddler. And their snack crumbs will for sure end up on your sweater and their drink will inevitably spill between your legs…see, I told you I did it before I knew better. And holding a lap baby sucked way worse than carrying some car seats.

Ok, so logistics: this may slightly differ based on number and ages of kids, but generally speaking, I check all the luggage I can and only carry on one bag. That bag is life, it can’t be lost. In this very valuable bag I carry the following: diaper and wipes (lots of wipes!), a few empty ziplock bags (leaky diaper? Spilled drink?), a complete change of clothes for everyone (I won’t even tell you about the spit up incident, but it did involve me needing to change my entire outfit, even underwear, mid flight), a few non-messy snacks, empty bottles or water bottles that can be filled after we get thru security, activities (more on that in a bit!), one or two muslin swaddle blankets (even if you no longer have a baby, these are great for everything from spills to keeping warm to providing shade), something for babies and kids to suck on, one special lovie per kid (helps for sleeping!) and of course my wallet, phone, charger, and personal stuff if needed (hello tampons).

Of course I also need to get myself, the kids, and the carseats through security and to the gate. I prefer to babywear my youngest and I also prefer not to take a stroller unless I need it where I’m going. I know some people love their strollers. They can be gate checked BUT always check with your particular airline, I’ve heard some don’t let the giant ones, like the double bob, through. We have the Mountain Buggy +one and have never had an issue. I do highly recommend a good sturdy stroller bag…while our bag has been ripped, our stroller never has been (but clearly would have been without the bag). Which is yet another testament to why you never check, even gate check, a car seat! I like to use the Go Go Baby Travelmate for one car seat, which lets a kid sit in it while I pull. We use the Diono Radians, which can fold flat and be worn in a backpack style bag, so that’s another good option. Your car seats and stroller will need to be “hand inspected” at security, but that isn’t a big deal. I’ve heard of people “packing” things around their car seats…I assume those are for people who are intending to gate check, which again, is a bad idea, but also, I’ve always had to take my car seats out of any bags at security, so I wouldn’t pack anything with them to make it faster and easier. Kids can leave their shoes on (yay!) and if you’re baby wearing, they can stay on you but you will need to go do that hand-swipe thing on the other side – it adds maybe one minute but is easier than taking the baby out. Babies and kids will need to come out of car seats and strollers, just a heads up. Since logistics can really look a lot different for each family depending on number of adults, number and ages of kids, car seats, stroller, etc., feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll be happy to tell you how I would get a particular group through! J

Notice I have written a lot and haven’t even gotten to the common questions yet – how to keep my kids quiet/happy/entertained on a plane. Well, here you go. First, book your seats in the back of the plane where it is louder. That white noise serves to help block out your loud kids from your poor neighbors and it often helps lull them to sleep. Plus, you are closer to the bathrooms, you won’t be blocking people while you install/uninstall the car seats, and you are closer to the flight attendants, which may be your savior! If you are traveling with two adults, have one board first with the car seat(s) to get them all installed safely. If at all possible, the one adult at the gate with the kids should be doing everything possible to get them ready to sit for awhile…one last potty break/diaper change, let them stretch their arms and legs and let baby wriggle around on a blanket on the floor, not contained. Basically, don’t make them sit nicely and quietly at the gate and DO NOT bust out any of your activities yet. Of course you don’t want them running around like crazed lunatics either. Take a walk, go on a scavenger hunt, play “simon says” or “I spy”, watch the planes, etc. If dad or someone is already on the plane with the car seats installed, I board absolutely last…walk straight back, strap in, and there’s not all that waiting/down time. If, however, I’m by myself, then obviously I need to board in the earlier time frame to get the seats installed. In that case, I give every kid very specific jobs and ask for their help – you’d be surprised how much kids love being given an important task and will really rise to the occasion. But again, even in that situation, prior to boarding, we are active and not just sitting.


Once on the plane and everyone is safely strapped in, still do not bust out any of the activities! Let them look around, answer all their questions, have them watch the bags being loaded or the other planes taxing around. I think many people would be surprised at how much time can be spent simply observing and taking it all in without the distraction of electronics or toys or snacks. Tell them it’s important that they watch/listen to the safety talk. We have never even cracked into our activities until we are well into the air! The one thing you will need to have out, however, is something to help with their ears/pressure. For babies, bottles or pacifiers. I have always exclusively nursed, so a bottle wasn’t an option, and my sons didn’t regularly take pacifiers. But, a pacifier with a little milk on the end, is enough to get them through…even my non-paci kids would at least suck on it a little, to figure out what it was, and that was enough. Or if your kid sucks their thumb or fingers, that’s good too. If we give my youngest his lovie, which he usually only gets when it’s sleep time, he instinctively puts his fingers into his mouth. For older kids, have them eating a little snack, drinking some water, or my kids all-time-favorite, the lollipop! We don’t really eat candy in our house, so it’s a big treat and works like a charm for their ears. By about age 4 or 5, my kids have been easily able to understand the “swallow” or “yawn” command and the tricks aren’t needed as much.

Now that you are at your cruising altitude, it is time to break out your activities! We only do one thing at a time and all are no noise, no mess. We also don’t do electronics (GASP!) and yet we have survived many a plane flight and car ride. So if you’re looking for app suggestions, I’m not your gal. But for quite activities for the maybe 6 and under crowd, we love: Water Wow books, Color Wonder markers, crayons (washable) and coloring books/plain paper, Wikki Stix, reusable sticker scenes, etch-a-sketch, magnadoodle, aquadoodle, flashcards or playing cards (for which there are thousands of games based on age), color-by-number books, sticker-by-number books, or really any activity book (check out the dollar store!). We also have several dry-erase style workbooks, but beware, as dry-erase markers are not washable, so only use for older kids. But my very favorite plane activity is virtually free – bring along some old magazines, kid appropriate of course. First, read through. Then do a scavenger hunt… “can you find a picture of a cat?”, “how many babies can you count in this magazine?”, “find something red.”, etc. When that is exhausted, bust out the glue stick and paper to make some collages! If they are old enough, they can do this themselves, mine still need some help so they tell me what to tear out. We have done collages based on themes (all the dogs or everything that is blue) or we do them with things we like. This is especially fun with toy catalogs! I like this activity because it can take quite some time but isn’t boring for me and doesn’t take up much space at all. Obviously we don’t bring all of these things every time and sometimes we pack some in our checked bag to switch them out for the return flight.


Five-year-old in a CARES harness happily coloring (with Color Wonder markers).

We intersperse our activities with snacks. The snack list is virtually endless and of course entirely dependent on your kids’ preferences, allergies, family dietary restrictions, etc. Just don’t pack anything messy or smelly! We do lots of dried fruit, goldfish, pretzels, trail mix, yogurt covered raisins, cereal bars, granola squares, things like that. I feel like Trader Joes is the best place to shop for travel snacks! If you have a baby who has started to eat solids, those toddler pouches are a god-send on trips, even if, like us, you follow baby led weaning. Heck, even my older kids like them since they are rare for us – they think they are a treat! We steer clear of sweets (you do not want a kid hyped up on sugar stuck on a plane!), anything messy, or even just foods we don’t normally eat – no need to temp fate with something new for the digestive system!

While planning around naptime is ideal, it’s a little tricky when you have to take into account the drive to the airport, checking bags, getting through security, boarding the plane, the flight time…for those under age 2, that is a long time and it becomes virtually impossible to plan perfectly, mine always end up cat napping in the carrier before the flight. But for the 2-4 crowd, it is a good idea to plan your flight for their naptime if at all possible. Do not, I repeat, do NOT think that if you skip nap and keep them up later, they will sleep better on the plane…in my experience, an overtired kiddo on a plane is the one who fights sleep the most. And they often fight it loudly. Of course you can help them take a little nap. The car seat, obviously, makes them more comfy. Make sure they’ve had a snack and they’ve gotten to look around, ask their questions, and generally experience the flight. For those potty trained, a bathroom break is good. My kids know I have activities, so we always have to do a few first. I close the shades and turn off the lights, give them their lovie or blanket, and I often also close my eyes or at least stop engaging with them. Knock on wood, but they have always at least taken a cat nap and sometimes we get lucky and they sleep most of the flight!

Last but not least, you land. Just wait. You are in no rush, and if you scheduled a tight connection, well, that was dumb. J Let everyone else get off the plane. Don’t unstrap the kids yet or they will move…and by move, I mean try to escape. Take the time while everyone else is deboarding to pack up your carry on and get out your car seat bags (if needed). Have your plan…I usually take the kids while my husband gets the car seats. Be sure to check all around, especially under the car seats, for lost items. I have always had kind flight attendants who have helped at this point – frankly, I’ve always had really great, helpful flight attendants. And fellow passengers. I think as long as you look like you’re trying and are kind, everyone understands if a kid cries or kicks a seat.

But the single best advice I can give you for a happy, easy flight is not to stress. Which I fully realize is easier said than done. But here’s the thing – kids pick up on stress. Especially babies and toddlers. They will feed on your stress and fear and nerves and turn into tiny little terrors in the sky. Relax. Come prepared, plan ahead, but then try to let go and realize that you did what you could. Someone may have a poopsplosion or giant spit up or complete meltdown. Someone will cry (hopefully not you). It happens. And everyone on that plane was a kid or has a kid or knows a kid. Again, if you look like you’ve prepared, if you make an effort, if you smile and acknowledge whatever it is, people will understand. Many will lend a hand – they may play a little game of peekaboo with your bored toddler or listen enthusiastically as your four year old describes his latest dinosaur knowledge. You’d be surprised.

I’ll leave you with this little story – my youngest was 2.5 months old when I had to fly home, by myself, at the very last minute to see not one, but two dying relatives. It was not a fun trip at all and I was stressed and sad and exhausted (because I had a 3 year old, 2 year old, and a newborn at home). On the way back, so now I’m even more exhausted and sad, we had a seat right in the front, the first row behind first class. Not where I wanted to sit (but remember, last minute flight). We share the row with an older, distinguished looking businessman. Just before take off, instead of falling asleep, as I’ve expected him to do, my infant begins to scream. Not cry. Scream. Top of his lungs. He won’t take a pacifier or my finger. I take him out of his seat as soon as I can (safe cruising altitude. still not ideal to take him out but this whole scene was not ideal!) to try to nurse him again. He refuses. I shush. I rock. I swaddle. I pray and curse under my breath. Several people in first class have turned to look. The flight attendant has asked three times if she can get him anything (on the third time, I politely asked her to stop asking). I am just about to start crying myself when this man next to me, who I assumed hated us by now, pats my arm and says “It’s ok. Everyone understands. And anyway, I miss my grandbabies, may I hold him?” I think I was too shocked by this kindness to say anything, but I did hand him over and damn if that baby didn’t shut right up and coo at this total stranger! It was a miracle. Or it was just someone being nice and I was so stressed that I had freaked out my own kid. But this older, obviously wiser man was cool and calm and my baby picked up on that. He calmed down and FELL ASLEEP! ON A STRANGE MAN! We moved him to the car seat where he slept the rest of the flight. So yeah, shit happens. But you will all survive. And sometimes you will even get to experience some really cool kindness from strangers.


Sleeping baby in his car seat, lulled by the sound of the plane! (notice he is forward facing, this is the time I mentioned above!)

Butterflies! (Insect Lore Review)

My in-laws got my kids this awesome butterfly kit by Insect Lore for Christmas. They were super excited but of course we had to wait a little while until the weather was warmer/nicer…even though they may not have realized, I just couldn’t bring myself to release butterflies when they wouldn’t make it through the night. Of course we did have to open it up and check everything out. Did I take pictures of the packaging and all? Nope. Oh well. I’m a terrible blogger/reviewer, remember? I’m just a normal mom sharing normal stuff!

Anyway, our kit came in a nice box with lots of pictures, which my kids studied enthusiastically, and, the coolest part, this pop up mesh habitat! It also came with a voucher for a cup of five live caterpillars. I would strongly suggest this package as a gift, so the recipient can chose when to receive the live caterpillars. While the caterpillars are “free”, there is an additional shipping charge (plus, we opted for the rush shipping since it was getting pretty warm outside).

So when the caterpillars arrive, they are very tiny and in this small cup. It has food on the bottom…you don’t need to do anything but observe them! It also comes with full instructions for care and feeding for the butterflies. My kids checked on them every day and it was so cool to see them grow bigger, crawl around, etc. After about a week, they crawl to the top of the container, attach their “tails end” to the lid with silk, hang in a J shape, and spin their chrysalides. This part was slow and fun to watch…the kids could really see the “how”!

Then they sort of hang around for awhile. You carefully remove the lid from the caterpillar cup, gently clean off any excess silk strings with a q-tip, and put the lid with chrysalides on a little stand in the mesh butterfly garden. I’ll admit, this was the boring time and my kids lost a little interest waiting. BUT when they started emerging as butterflies, oh my goodness, we could talk of nothing else and stalked that butterfly garden! The emergence happens FAST…we missed several…but we realized that they darken and then you can start to faintly see the wing colors through the thinning chrysalides. They will emerge head first, that is from the bottom as they are hanging and yeah, they just sort of crawl right out quickly! It is quite a sight! They crawl right up, and slowly you can see their crumpled wings start to get bigger and straighten out. It took all of ours a day or so to really be active at all.

Right as I realized they were hatching, I put in their “food”. I tried some cut up fruit but none of the butterflies showed any interest. I then made the nectar (they give you the recipe) and put it in the small lid of an old (cleaned!) spice jar along with a flower…worked great, they were instantly attracted and actively drank/ate.

We watched ours for just another day and then let our butterflies go. Took awhile for ours to figure it out, even after we took them outside and unzipped the lid. So there was a bit of waiting as they slowly climbed the side and then, frustratingly, flew back to the bottom! Ha! But when they did fly away – my kids squealed with joy and ran around the yard following them! It made any effort on my part totally worth it! In fact, we loved it so much that we quickly ordered a second cup of caterpillars and did it all again! You can easily reuse the mesh habitat, so the only cost was the refill + shipping.

Things I wish I had known: despite being the same size and age, our caterpillars did not all progress at the same speed, so getting all five from caterpillar to chrysalides was a 2-3 day process…that is, there were 2-3 days between the first chrysalis and the last. At first I was worried that the first would hatch into a butterfly before the last was in chrysalis form, but it’s a long process (7-10 days) so there was no need to worry. Also, in our first batch, the last straggler knocked two of the chrysalides off of the lid while he was crawling around trying to get attached! We laughed, it was like he didn’t know what to do! No worries, we were told to gently scoop them up (I used a plastic spoon) and place them on the floor of the butterfly garden – both hatched and although one had a slightly bent wing, both flew away just fine. Also, in our second cup, one caterpillar just never grew very much…but again, he ended up just fine, if our smallest butterfly. All ten of our caterpillars made it into butterfly form (I believe they guarantee 3 out of 5), so I think that’s pretty good! I also wish I had realized just how quickly they “hatch”…I mean, it happens in seconds! So you do need to be right there waiting. However, once we figured out that we could tell when they were getting close, that made it easier. My five year old totally got it and could spot when they were about to hatch and really enjoyed watching. My three-and-a-half year old and 20-month old didn’t really seem to care about the hatching, but loved once they stretched out into butterflies and moved around the habitat. And everyone LOVED releasing them.

Overall, I would highly recommend this for almost any age! I think it could be a great learning tool even for older kiddos and, frankly, I enjoyed it myself!





I was all set to go to bed last night, excited to actually be turning off the light at a decent time for once. Laundry was caught up (miracle of miracles!), teeth were brushed, kids were peacefully sleeping. I decided, since it appeared that I’d be getting a good night’s sleep, to set my alarm so I could get a jump start on the day. Usually my dear, sweet, youngest son wakes me with his loud yells of “Momma!” and then it’s nonstop from there – it’d be nice, for once, to be functioning before the kids awoke. I set my alarm and was about to set my phone down when I realized I never checked that damn TimeHop app. You know, the one that shows you what pictures you took and what things you posted on social media on that same day in previous years. It’s so stupid and yet, I can’t give it up – what if I miss something!? I already forget so much, thank goodness I have an app to remind me.

Well, I don’t have to tell you what happened. Opened the evil app and there it was, pictures on my oldest two, two years ago, looking so little and so cute and so innocent. Mary still had her fatty fat baby arms with the rolls and Henry had the world’s most adorable cheeks. And I started to cry. It was almost instantaneous. Where had the time gone?!? What happened to the fat rolls and chubby cheeks? How could I have so easily forgotten this time in our lives, those baby faces? How did they get to be 3 1/2 and 5?!?! HOW THE HELL HAD SO MUCH TIME PASSED SO DAMN QUICKLY!?!??!

You know how the spiral goes, I don’t have to tell you. First you cry because you’ve forgotten things, then you cry because you don’t want to forget any more. Next you cry because you are crying and my God, what do you want, time to stop?! The alternative?!?! Of course you want them to grow up. But then you cry because they are growing up and you’ll forget this stage some day too and eventually you get to crying because you know they will someday fall in love and leave you and break your heart forever!!!!

I was a hot mess. Who am I kidding, I AM a hot mess.

Such is the life of a momma. The most heartbreaking and heartwarming thing you can ever imagine. But dear moms, my advice to you: DON’T CHECK TIMEHOP RIGHT BEFORE BED! That app is the devil for peaceful sleep.

Teacher Appreciation Week (part 2)

Yesterday I shared my kickass, Pinterest-worthy Teacher Appreciation Gift. haha! Today I’m going to tell you how to show your kids’ teachers appreciation this week and ALL YEAR LONG! Because, let’s be honest here, teachers are amazing. They put up with all those kids who aren’t even their own EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. And they manage not to kill them. And they actually teach them stuff. Seriously, saints.

How do I know what teachers want and need? Well, first of all, I was raised by a teacher. Thirty years teaching fifth grade in a low-income, rural public school = SAINT. My mother-in-law was also a teacher…preschool and elementary for years and years. Again, SAINT! And I was a teacher…not for near as long, although high school freshman, which is a unique time in a student’s life for sure. I still can’t figure out what is worse…150 students each year or seeing the same 30 students all day, every day. Most of YOU can’t even handle your own two or three kids all day, every day without the help of wine and a mothers-day-out program. So you better be thanking your teachers!!

All kidding aside, we teachers, we are crazy because we truly do love our job and love our “kids”. Many of us joke about needing a drink or escaping to some island paradise, but the truth is, teachers love their jobs. They love kids. They love the subject matter. They love to help and guide and comfort and inspire. We certainly don’t do it for the money (lacking). Or the schedule (grueling). Or the “summers off” (hahahaha! That is the biggest lie that non-teachers believe). And not for the prestige or respect (we often don’t get any). Nope, it’s truly a passion of the heart. We love to teach and we love our students and that’s why we come back year after long-ass year. (and it’s why I can’t wait until my youngest enters school so I can get back into the classroom!)

So, how does a parent/caregiver properly say “thanks” to their kids’ teachers? First of all, JUST SAY THANKS!! Seriously. It is so very nice to get a short email or a little post-it note stuck on some returned piece of paper that just says “Thanks for being a great teacher!”. Really. Those random little kindnesses keep us going. If there is a specific issue or subject that your teacher really helped your kiddo figure out, a bit longer, more specific note is awesome too. It requires zero money and maybe five minutes of your time.

If you do want to do a little more, that’s great too and I have some ideas. First of all, it is very nice to do things right before the holidays or during Teacher Appreciation Week, but it’s also really nice to remember your teachers during the busy times or the long, mundane stretches of the school year too (uh, testing week?!?). You know what’s great? Surprise them with donuts (or muffins or scones). Or coffee. You can always ask the front desk staff (who, by the way, should get thanked at some point too, along with specials teachers – don’t forget them!!) what your particular teacher may like or if they have any dietary restrictions. But I’ll tell you, walking in on Monday to find a warm box of Krispie Kreme donuts might seriously be the highlight of your teachers MONTH! It lets us know that we are loved and thought about. And that is nice for anyone.

On the same note, surprising (or even asking them ahead of time!) with a simple drive-through lunch is spectacular too. Or dinner on a night when they are staying late for conferences or something. Or even just a cupcake from a local place is a wonderful pick-me-up at the end of the students’ day (which is NOT the end of the teachers’ day). Again, be sure you know about allergies or diets, whether by asking the teacher or one of his/her coworkers.

It may seem cheesy, but flowers or a plant are really nice too. They can be small and simple, you don’t need to go all out. They are great because they can stay in the classroom or be taken home. I had several plants in my classroom for years and they really did remind me of those kiddos from the past – and always put a smile on my face. A cute container is a big bonus too…my favorite pencil holder was given to me as part of a flower arrangement by one of my first students. I still have it, packed up and waiting for my next classroom!

I’m going to say this here, don’t start sending me hate mail, but please no smelly stuff or candles or body products unless you know that’s a personal favorite. Many people are sensitive to smells or at least picky about what scents they like or what products they use on their body. And teachers receive SO many candles, smelly lotions, bath and body works gift packages, plug in air fresheners, etc. And we can’t even have open flames in our classroom (I did, generally, use the air freshener or flameless stuff in my room since freshman can really be smelly creatures! Although one year I had a student who has major allergies and so I couldn’t use them.) Seriously, I could have opened my own shop with all I received. While the gesture is kind and appreciated, it’s overdone and, well, there are better gift ideas out there.

You know what is an amazing gift throughout the year – school supplies! I am so serious. Teachers spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars of their own money on school supplies every year. Dry erase markers, post its, pens, pencils, markers, crayons, notebook paper, construction, binder clips…the list in endless. We also often buy supplies for our students who may not have them, for various reasons. So even notebooks and folders and such are helpful. Bonus points if it’s fun/cute/colorful stuff. One of the best gifts I received was from a parent who was a former teacher (of course!)…it was a plastic bin (always useful in a classroom) absolutely full of supplies and they were all cute and bright colors and exactly what I wouldn’t have splurged on for myself. Best part? She gave it to me in early spring, so right when my stuff was getting old and used up and it was just the perfect pick-me up! But it doesn’t have to be nicely packaged…heck, I would be thrilled with a Target bag full of dry erase markers (they always run out and they aren’t cheap) and filler paper mid-way through the year! On this same note, books make a fabulous teacher gift. Whether books for the classroom (yes, please!) or a beautiful book for me. Maybe not some romance novel, that would be pretty weird. But I was a science teacher, plenty of geeky science books out there that I would have loved!

One of my favorites, that I do every year for every one of my kids’ teachers, is to make a snack bin. I buy some sort of cute container, usually at the dollar store or dollar bin of target, and fill it with non-perishable, relatively healthy snacks. As a teacher, I know how many times you end up working through lunch, working late, tutoring during your break…and you end up STARVING! Think cereal bars, granola bars, dried fruit, microwave popcorn, single-serve applesauce, string cheese, beef jerky, trail mix, etc. I always throw in a little chocolate too because, well, chocolate. I generally write a little note joking that this is to be hidden away from kids and only shared with fellow teachers in times of desperation. 🙂

Which leads me to desserts. I’m going to say it – I don’t eat things my students and/or their parents made at home. I know not all teachers follow this rule. I think it probably depends on your relationship with your students, where you teach (high school students are much more likely to, um, contaminate baked goods), and mostly personal preferences. So you’ll have to be the judge here. But chocolate and sweets in general make a nice gift. And it’s easy to do something small occasionally. Every now and then we pick up a gourmet candy bar for my kids’ teachers as a simple way to say “We were thinking of you and appreciate you!”.

One of the funniest and most thoughtful gifts I received from a parent came at the end of testing. This particular student was really bright but had some very serious test anxiety. She started coming to tutoring early in the spring semester and we worked on both test taking strategies and just making her feel more confident in her actual knowledge of the subject. The last day of testing, I get a call from the front desk that the student’s mother is downstairs and wants to see me. Odd, because we had a great relationship, we had both worked very hard to help her child and had stayed in contact, she could have just come to my classroom. I walk downstairs and am told she is waiting for me outside?!?! Maybe she’s going to jump me?!? I go to my car and she has a WINE! I about died laughing! She didn’t think it would be kosher to bring it inside, plus logistics, we teachers are always carrying out armfuls of stuff, so she was waiting at my car with a very nice bottle of red, with a big bow, and what turned out to be a very long and touching note. So yeah, alcohol, presuming you know the teacher drinks and would appreciate it, is really a great teacher gift. If your kids make you want to drink, just think how the teachers feel! 🙂

There are, of course, lots and lots of other great gift ideas: gift cards, especially generic ones (amex or visa) are great. Target, Walmart, and the like too. If you know where they actually like to shop, more specific gift cards can be a very thoughtful gesture. Gift certificates for them to enjoy their leisure time is also very thoughtful, especially when there is a nice note saying they’ve earned it: movies, restaurants, bowling, pedicure, massage…all things many teachers don’t have the extra money to do for themselves. We do get quite a lot of mugs and tumblers, so unless you know they need a new insulated coffee mug or something, maybe skip that. Personalized stationary (“from the desk of Mr. X”) is awesome. My mentor teacher gave me a personalized stamp and I loved that thing!  I have also seen a group of parents get together to give a bigger gift, whether just one big gift card, or maybe even a bigger item the classroom needs! This can be especially helpful for new teachers who spend even more of their own money getting started. And if you do know your child’s teacher has s specific hobby or whatever, by all means, embrace that. I worked with a male teacher who was an avid puzzler (is that a word? someone who likes to complete jigsaw puzzles?) Anyway, his students (high school, remember) took pics of his classroom and lab and made one of those photo collage puzzles for him. I thought that was just so damn thoughtful!

One thing I want to caution you against: Pinterest. Which is funny seeing as how my last post was totally a Pinterest thing. But what I mean is, I’ve seen parents spend tons of time and money creating these freakishly adorable crafts that are, in all honesty, probably just going to get trashed at the end of the year. We need practical. Or consumable. Teachers really do feel great sadness and dread at having to throw out your little darling’s handmade sculpture. Or the amazingly detailed “gift card bouquet” that probably took you longer to cut and glue and assemble than it took to drive to the five different stores. But we only have so much space and we cannot possibly keep every handmade thing. The gift cards along with a note of thanks, which we can keep, are so much better. Seriously. I still have a stack of letters and notes from students and parents, literally tied up with string, and it is quite possibly one of my favorite things. 🙂

Yep, that was cheesy. Now go write a thank you note for all the teachers who take care of your babies each day! 🙂






Teacher Appreciation Week (part 1)

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week! Quick, send your kids’ teachers a “thank you” email right now! I don’t care how perfect your kid is, that teacher has taught them and loved them and guided them and likely been driven slightly mad by your little angel at some point ALL year. Hurry up, I’ll wait…go tell them “THANKS!” right now…

Ok, good. Now, to make you feel bad about your lack of Pinterest skills and your lame Teacher Appreciation Gift you were planning, I am going to humble brag (ha! its just a full blown brag!) about what I did for my kids’ teachers.

Behold, the succulent garden!


My older kids are in preK4 and preK3 and have two teachers each. These teachers are amazing. Kind, compassionate, loving…their love for my kids simply oozes out. We are so lucky! Of course they are also fully bilingual (my kids attend an immersion school), engaging, patient, creative, and have taught my kids so so much! Anyway, each teacher got a small potted succulent garden that contained two or three varieties of succulents, three or four plants each.


I bought the pots at Michael’s, on sale of course (does anyone buy stuff at Michael’s that isn’t on sale or with a coupon?!). I put a layer of rocks (from our driveway! ha!) on the bottom to stop the soil from falling through the drainage hole. It’s important to note that succulents needs good drainage, so a hole in the bottom of the pot is a must. I then put in a layer of succulent soil (purchased at a specialty garden shop), arranged my succulents, and filled the rest of the way with more succulent soil. They won’t do well in regular ol’ dirt, they need better drainage, so be sure to get soil suited specifically for succulents. Tied each with a ribbon and then printed these adorable tags from Inspiration Made Simple. Seriously, these tags are sooooo cute, go check on the blog!


Of course I didn’t get a picture of the kids carrying the gifts in to their teachers – I was too busy trying to get three little kids around the car pool line, drag the screaming toddler through the doors (he wanted to hold it open for EVERYONE), and carry the other two pots without spilling. But suffice it to say, they, of course, looked adorable and were proud as could be to present the little gardens to their teachers. The teachers loved them and I feel like it’s a practical gift – they can keep them in the classroom if they wish, take them home, or even regift them! I like that it’s “made with love” but not overly “homemade”. Hopefully our small gesture put a smile on the teachers’ faces and let them know just how much we appreciate all that they do for our kiddos each day.