From time to time, you will probably be hunting for a gift for your daycare provider. Depending on how well you know her, this can be challenging. There is no one perfect gift that every daycare provider is guaranteed to love. Some love gift certificates, others find them impersonal; one woman loves toiletries, the other can't stand "all that stinky stuff." We're all different, darnit.
I've been a childcare provider for many years now, and I've seen it all -- the good, the bad, and the cringe-inducing. Perhaps my former clients can offer guidance; at the very least there's an opportunity to learn from some of their mistakes. But let's start with the inspirational. These are the three best gifts I have ever received:
1.) The gold standard of all gifts ever received in my professional life: A check.
No, it's not that Mary prefers cold, hard cash as a gift. (Though I have absolutely nothing against it, nuh-uh, not me.) It wasn't the figure on the cheque. It was what this cheque represented. You see, accompanying the cheque was a note:
"This cheque represents a portion of my year-end bonus, which I could not have earned without your help. If I'd been worrying about my daughter's care all day, I couldn't have done the work. With your support, I was able to earn my bonus. It seems only right that you should share it."
That gift has it all, people: respect, value, appreciation. She, like me, has a couple of university degrees. She, unlike me, has a high-intensity, esteem-rich professional career with decent social cachet. And yet, despite the disparity in our professions, to her I'm not just a parking-spot for her child, I'm a valued member of her life team. I have never, before or since, received a gift that meant more.
2.) The personal touch: A wooly scarf.
Doesn't seem like much, perhaps, but it's the context. This woman had noticed that the old scarf I was wearing with my new winter coat didn't really match. So she found some wool that complemented the coat beautifully and knit me one. Her attention to the small personal detail of my new coat and the personal effort of making the scarf was what made this gift one of the top three.
3.) The spontaneous small things: This includes the parent who drops off a coffee along with her child in the morning; the one who surprised me with flowers once in a while; the one who, overhearing me on the phone to the pharmacy in the morning, offers to pick up my daughter's prescription and drop it off at lunch.
The best way to insure that your gift is one that your childcare provider will really treasure is to think about what you know about her as a person, consider how much you value her care of your children (and her contribution to your professional success), and to gift accordingly.