For several years now, my teaching teammate and I have organized a class business around the holidays. My fourth grade students develop, produce, and sell a product to our school community, and we donate any profits to charity. In the past, we manufactured and sold one product (like these Mason Jar Cookie Mixes) that families pre-ordered, and we had a limited production. Since I had clearly blacked out the incredible amount of work it takes to source the supplies and organize this little venture, I spearheaded an expansion of the business into a full holiday market with six products to sell.
Students filled out job applications at the beginning of the school year, and we have been running workshops every week to make all of the products. They have been calculating our costs to date and determining product prices. On the day of the market, students will man a booth where they will provide sales help and handle cash.
This week, we are making birdseed ornaments. This is a good low cost holiday gift. The ornaments are easy to make in bulk, and after we bag and label them, they will be the perfect gift for a party host, a neighbor, a teacher, or a co-worker.
- 3/4 c. flour
- 1/2 c. water
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
- 3 T. light corn syrup
- 4 c. birdseed (finch bird feed packs better into the molds)
- molds (cookie cutters, muffin tins, chocolate or soap molds, etc.)
- nonstick cooking spray like Pam
- drinking straws cut into 2-inch pieces
- waxed paper
- cookie sheet, sheet pan, baking pan, tray
- ribbon or twine
- clear plastic bags
- Put a sheet of waxed paper on a cookie sheet, tray, or baking pan. Fill the tray with the cookie cutters or molds you will be using. If you are using cookie cutters, and there is a sharp edge and a protected edge, put the cookie cutter sharp edge up. Spray the insides of the molds with the cooking spray.
- Combine flour, water, gelatin, and corn syrup in a large mixing bowl until it is well-combined and turns into a paste.
- Add the birdseed to the paste mixture and stir until well-coated.
- Spoon birdseed mixture into each mold. Pack the mixture down well and make the top smooth. The back of a spoon or the bottom of a measuring cup work well for smoothing the top of the birdseed.
- Poke a hole near the top of each birdseed mold using a drinking straw piece. Even though the straw will be near the top of the ornament, make sure you do not have the straw too close to any edge, or it will break apart later when you add the ribbon. Make sure the straw goes all the way through to the bottom. Leave the straw in place.
- Leave the birdseed mixture in the mold for 2-3 hours. Then, remove the straws and gently remove the ornaments from the mold. Place the ornaments on a new piece of waxed paper and let dry an additional 2-3 hours or overnight.
- Thread a string or ribbon through the hole and tie, so the ornament can hang from a tree branch. I liked the natural look of twine rather than a colorful ribbon.
Thanks to everyone who participated in the giveaway for two Back to School Teacher Emergency Kits.
Congratulations to the winner, Michel J! Michel, please look for an e-mail from me, so I can get your kits in the mail to you promptly.
For those who did not win, it is easy to make your own Teacher Emergency Kits. Find a small zippered bag (like a cosmetics bag), a little box with compartments (like a bead box from Michael’s Crafts), or a simple gift bag and fill with items that would be helpful to have in your teacher desk or bag.
- travel toothbrush and toothpaste
- dental floss
- cough drops
- Sharpie pen
- safety pins
- travel comb
- quarters (for the soda machine)
- hair ties or clips
- Tide to go stick
- travel sized hand lotion
- Smart phone charger
- compact mirror
You may have been concerned that I had not posted this year’s Back to School Teacher Emergency Kit, but fear not, I would not let you down. If you recall, the Teacher Emergency Kit is my favorite first day of school gift to a teacher, and I have been delivering them since my children entered elementary school. Now that my kids are getting a little bit older, it is more important that I keep this tradition going because teachers of older students always get jipped in the teacher gift department.
This year’s emergency kit pouch is made of clear vinyl (possibly a poor choice when you sew in a climate with 8,000% humidity), and it reminds me of a small make-up bag. Like my previous kits, it is supposed to be a handy little bag to store in a desk or teacher bag for daily emergencies.
This Year’s Contents
- individually wrapped mints
- tinted Vaseline in an oh-so-sweet mini container
- Windex wipes for electronics
- Shout wipes
- emery board
Other Content Ideas
- quarters for soda money
- travel sewing kit
- Tide to go stain remover stick
- cough drops
- Sharpie pen
- travel sized hand lotion
- travel sized toothbrush and toothpaste
- dental floss
- hair clip, hair tie, or rubberband
- smartphone charger
- ear buds
- safety pins
The Vinyl Pouch
- If you sew, visit BONJOUR QUILTS for the pattern and directions. You can register on the site to download a measurement guide to make bigger and smaller pouch sizes. I followed the sizes given in the blog post, and the finished bag is about 4″ x 5″. As you may have gleaned from my comment above, sewing with vinyl in hot and humid weather is not easy. I even had my special teflon sewing foot.
- I purchased the lightest gauge of clear vinyl available at Hobby Lobby.
- The FLEXIBLE FRAMES that create the opening at the top of the pouch are the same material that is in a metal measuring tape (or a slap bracelet). I ordered the flexible frames online because I could not find them in any store locally. My sewing store told me that I could cut a measuring tape into the pieces I need and slide them into the fabric sleeves as a back up idea if I couldn’t find the frames.
Other Packaging Ideas
- Use a bead box from a store like Michael’s Crafts. Sew a potholder clutch or foldover cloth bag. Pick up a small cosmetics bag; I saw some in the bins near the door at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Fill a simple paper gift bag. Click on the images below to read about other versions of the Back to School Teacher Emergency Kits!
New craft tool + end of the school year = excessive amounts of time designing an end of year teacher gift for the faculty members and staff at our school who work with my children all year. I found THIS VIDEO on YouTube to make small gift boxes using cardstock paper and got busy. First, I needed a new paper cutter tool that also had the option for scoring paper (highly recommend!). Next, I fiddled with the box proportions to come up with a size that would hold a giftcard, or in our case, scratch off lottery tickets. Finally, I spent many hours cutting and folding boxes with coordinating colors and patterns. Time well spent in my opinion– not so much for the rest of my family.
To see more DIY envelope type crafts to hold gift cards for teacher gifts (or any person) click HERE and HERE.
- paper cutter with paper scoring tool as well (I have THIS ONE)
- cardstock paper in various colors
- double sided tape in an E-Z dispenser, .27″ width (like THIS)
- Elmer’s glue
- Washi tape or stickers to close flap
- Watch THIS VIDEO to get the hang of folding the boxes and attaching the sides and flap.
- Each box with flap needs two pieces of paper. The box paper is 4″ x 8 1/4″. The flap paper is 8 1/2″ x 3 1/4″.
- Place the box paper (4″ x 8 1/4″) landscape direction on the paper cutter and score lines at 4″ and 4 3/8″. Turn the paper portrait direction and score at 3/8″ and 3 5/8″.
- Place the flap paper (8 1/2″ x 3 1/4″) landscape direction and score lines at 4 1/2″ and 4 7/8″.
- Fold along all of the scored lines and using the scoring tool or a dull edge, press the folds to make them crisp.
- On the paper that will become the box, cut 3/8″ into the center on the folds that are near the middle of the paper. Then cut a small triangle out of the paper, so you have center flaps that can tuck into the box when you fold up the sides.
- Place the box paper flat on your work surface. The side of the paper that will become the outside of the box should be facing up. Run a strip of double sided tape along the edge flap of the bottom half of the box.
- Fold the little triangle notches into the center and then fold the box together. Carefully press the non-taped side strip onto the taped side strip to form the box. Put the attached sides of the box on a flat surface and press/rub the scoring tool inside the box along the taped edges to stick the sides together firmly.
- Line up the flap along the back of the box. The shorter edge of the flap should come over the top of the box. With a light bead of Elmer’s glue, run a little across the back of the box and attach the flap making sure the edges line up evenly.
- Let the glue dry. Fill the box and then close flap with a piece of Washi tape or a sticker.
- The finished box is ~3 1/4″ wide x 4 1/2″ tall x 1/2″ deep. You can make the boxes bigger or smaller by playing with the original paper sizes.
- We added a square of cardstock (2 3/4″ x 2 3/4″) to the front of our flap to be able to write a note.
I love teacher gift ideas. I won’t lie. It consumes quite a bit of my time around back to school, holidays, Teacher Appreciation Day, and end of the school year. Since I am both a teacher and a parent, I am conscious of both sides of the gift giving process. My goal when choosing teacher gifts are to think of small items that are cost efficient, practical, thoughtful, simple, useful, and I like the gifts to be attractive.
Here is what works:
- a thoughtful aspect– there is a personal touch to the gift like a handwritten note (and a handwritten note of thanks is always enough!)
- a useful aspect– the gift can be used in the teacher’s daily life
- generic– if you do not know the teacher personally, stick with items that most people like (do not get too specific like Red Hot candies because you think your child had a “red hot” year)
Here is what does NOT work:
- cute for cute’s sake– a gift that has great packaging but has no purpose
- teacher stereotypes– things that fall in the apple or school supply motif arena
Below are links to 10 ideas that have a range of cost and crafty levels. All have been tested and received well by teachers, coaches, school support staff, helpful neighbors, party hosts, friends… Click on the name or image to learn how to make the gift.
- Teacher Emergency Kit (I have a few versions of the kit. Click HERE, HERE, or HERE to see different options.)
- Teacher Lunch (You could also make a bento style lunch like THIS ONE.)
- Freezable Meal
- Mason Jar Soup Mixes
- Flavored Sugar or Dip Mixes
- Manicure Kit
- Lottery Tickets (To see a different type of scrapbook paper envelope, CLICK HERE.)
- Ribbon Bookmarks
- Insulated Drink Cups
- Monogrammed Umbrellas
I have lots of posts with teacher appreciation gift suggestions. Search Teacher Gifts in the search box on my blog, click on the Teacher Gifts link in the side margin of the blog, or click on the Sirsees tab near my blog header.