Creative Gifts for Terrific Teachers, Great Grads, and Darn Good Dads

‘Tis the season for end of the school year picnics and graduation parties, not to mention Father’s Day just around the corner. What to give all of these terrific teachers, great grads, and damn good Dads in your life? Today’s DIY Friday edition is filled with a few creative gift ideas for giving that special gift with a personal touch. I’ve listed a “hands-on time” rating for each (low, medium, high), depending upon how crafty you want to be.

For Teachers

I conducted my own survey of a few teachers I know, asking them what their favorite end-of-year gifts are. While gift cards are nice, something handmade or with a personal touch was always treasured. It could be as simple as a handmade card or personal note of thanks for hard work during the school year.

1) Fingerprint Tree

Hands-on Time: High

Materials Needed: Stretched Canvas, Brown Acrylic Paint, Black Sharpie Pens, Green Ink pad

Signing the Fingerprint Tree


While this project does require some time and coordination, the end result is precious. It gives the entire class the opportunity to create a work of art, representing all of the wonderful things the teacher did to help each of the students grow throughout the year. Paint a tree, minus the leaves, on the blank canvas. I added a thank you message, along with the school name and class year. Using a green inkpad, have each child “dress” the tree with their fingerprints as leaves. Then, have each child give their autograph, by signing their name next to their fingerprint.  I have created these canvas trees in the past for friends as their wedding guestbook. You could use this for a graduation gift as well, having graduation party attendee pen a personal message to the graduate. What a great piece of art and reminder of home to hang in the dorm room or college apartment.

2) Goodies for the Garden

Hands-on Time: Medium

Materials Needed: Terra cotta pot, assortment of seed packets, gardening gloves, gardening tools, colored construction paper (red, pink), green plastic sticks, chunk of styrofoam

Place the chunk of styrofoam in the bottom of a large terra cotta pot. Fill the pot with an assortment of gardening supplies, such as seeds, gardening gloves and a few garden tools. Have your child trace their hands on the colored construction paper, cut them out, and write a personal thank you message on the cut-out. Attach each hand cut-out to green plastic sticks and insert into the styrofoam as “flowers” in the flowerpot.

 3) Tea Thyme

Hands-on Time: Low

Materials Needed: Decorative tea cup, tea bags, lemon thyme plant

If you know a teacher that enjoys tea time, this is the perfect gift. Purchase a decorative tea cup and saucer (or find one at a resale shop) and plant the lemon thyme plant in the tea cup. Pair it with a box of herbal tea and a little note such as “Thanks for your thyme this year. Relax, and enjoy a cup of tea!”

For Grads

1) Dream Big

Hands on Time: High

Materials Needed: Stretched Canvas, Computer, Assorted Acrylic Paints, Artists Graphite Paper, Paint Pens or Artist Markers, Pencil

Dream Big Canvas

Give your grad some artistic inspiration with a hand painted canvas. Start by painting either a solid or patterned background on the canvas. Using a Word processing application, type an inspirational message of your choice and print it out using a decorative font. Using graphite paper, trace the message onto your canvas. Use paint pens or artist markers to fill in the lettering on the canvas.

2) Gluten Free Gift Basket

Hands on Time: Low

Heading off to college is difficult enough, let alone having to navigate the dormitory cafeteria and campus snack spots gluten free. Purchase a decorative wicker basket and fill with gluten free energy bars, shelf-stable gluten free pastas, sauces, canned goods, and gluten free snacks. Check out some of my favorite gluten free and dairy free snacks to get started. Throw in some gift cards to gluten free friendly restaurants on campus, such as P.F. Chang’s, Biaggi’s, and Chipotle along handy articles with tips for living gluten free on campus from The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. This idea can be used for any student having to follow a restricted diet, as well as those without restrictions.

3) Terrific Toiletries

Hands-on Time: Low

Gone are the days of lugging an ugly plastic shower caddy down the dormitory hallway to the community bathroom. Send your grad off in style with a waterproof shower caddy filled with their favorite shampoos, soaps and toiletry products. Don’t know what they like? Include a gift certificate to ULTA. Pair with some flip flops for the shower and a comfy robe too.

For Dads

1) Al Fresco Dinner and a Movie

Hands-on Time: High

Materials Needed: Outdoor dining furniture, projector, DVD player (Wii/Xbox will work), speakers, screen, blank wall/side of the house, or sheet for projecting movie,  movie snacks

Enjoy the start of summer by celebrating Father’s Day with an al fresco dinner followed by a drive-in movie experience in your own backyard. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so start with a meal filled with Dad’s favorites. Looking for menu ideas? Check out this Father’s Day Grill Menu. Finish the night by watching a blockbuster projecting right in your own backyard, complete with popcorn and blankets. There is set-up time involved in setting up a backyard theater, ranging from simple to complex depending upon what you have on-hand and how elaborate you want to get. There are some great ideas and forums out there to get started.

2) What’s on His Bucket List?

Hands-on Time: Low

If there is something that Dad has always wanted to do, why not help him get started with it on Father’s Day? Whether it be learning how to scuba dive, fly a plane, take a trip around the world, or run a marathon, get him the gear, schedule the introductory lesson, or buy the travel guides to get him fired up and on the way towards living his best life.

3) Wastin’ Away in Margaritaville

Hands-on Time: Low

Materials Needed: Silver Beverage bucket, Margarita Mix, Tequila, Margarita glasses, flip flops, hammock

What father doesn’t like to kick back once and a while? Give Dad a beverage tub “gift basket” filled with all the fixins for backyard margaritas and a new pair of flip flops. These aren’t just any flip flops though. Reef Leather fanning sandals have a bottle opener built into the bottom. My husband’s friend has a pair that have come in handy on more than one occasion, so my husband has developed flip-flop envy. Finish off the full lounge experience by ordering him a hammock. Warning: May cause dramatic decrease in productivity.


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