Now that the giving season is almost here, it's time to start thinking not only about our closest family and friends, but also about the people who provide valuable services to us throughout the year. For example, it's customary to give a token of appreciation to hair stylists, dog walkers, and newspaper carriers, but you might be wondering what to tip a daycare worker for the holidays.
Is It Appropriate to Give Daycare Workers Holiday Cash Tips?
Where to turn first for advice on this tricky topic? Emily Post, of course. The American socialite who became famous for documenting the dos and don’ts of good etiquette at the turn of the century. As it turns out, the Emily Post Etiquette business continues and, surprise, surprise, the institution has an entire how-to on holiday tipping that includes caretakers. Here’s what it recommends:
“Cash or a gift for each staff member who works with your child(ren). Suggested amount or gift? A gift from you or $25-$70 for each staff member who works with your child(ren) and a small gift from your child(ren).”
Think about it: Daycare workers spend their days guiding the minds and guarding the safety of children who aren't even theirs. They fix meals, play games, supervise play yard activities, and read stories. They change diapers, clean up potty-training accidents, and sanitize every surface of their space. They dry tears, break up fights, and cope with meltdowns. They sing endless verses of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "Baby Shark" — that alone deserves a hefty chunk of change.
Daycare workers aren't in it for the humongous paycheck, either. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average childcare worker earns $23,760 annually. That's barely more than the average fast-food cook, and about $4,000 less than a telemarketer. That's right: The person who interrupts your dinner to invite you to a timeshare presentation is earning more money than the person whose shirt just got barfed on by your toddler.
That said, handing over an envelope of cash is something you shouldn’t take lightly and Alyson Kenny, who runs Lowcountry Manners in Charleston, South Carolina, says “Giving cash as a holiday gift is perfectly acceptable for many types of employees or acquaintances such as your nanny or doorman or trash collector, however, I would advise parents to show their children’s teachers they are appreciated with gift cards instead of cash. Some schools do not allow teachers to accept money and we wouldn’t want to put a teacher in the awkward position of having to return or decline the act of generosity.”
She makes a valid point. Before you go to the bank to determine how much you should tip daycare workers, check with your daycare facility to find out their guidelines about holiday tipping.
“It is common courtesy to show our teachers extra appreciation for four specific occasions: birthdays, Christmas, teacher appreciation week, and the end of the year. Rules of etiquette are in many ways similar to the rules of the road and just as the speed limits can vary in certain neighborhoods versus city limits, the amount we gift our teachers for these specific occasions can vary widely as well,” Kenny says.
One suggestion is for a classroom to go in on these gifts together. Or you can make your gift as an individual family.
“What is most important to remember is that we show our teachers how much we appreciate their hard work and dedication to our students not just during the holiday, but all year round,” says Kenny.
How Much Should You Tip Daycare Workers?
A daycare worker, on the other hand, is considered a service provider, and so a cash tip is perfectly acceptable.
“It is appropriate to give cash,” says Chandler Marburg, the retired head of Sundrops Montessori school in South Carolina. “My recollection is that the staff really liked receiving money and the amount depends on the parents. I recall the ladies receiving anywhere from $25-$100. I think that also depended on how long the child had been in their class. I think any amount is really appreciated.”
Another good way to gauge what people in your city typically give is to put a shout out on a parent group's message board. You'll likely get fellow moms and dads to weigh in.
“An individual gift can vary from a $10 Starbucks card to a $50 amazon gift card,” says Kenny. “While the classroom gifts typically range from $50-$250 (gift cards) depending on the size of the class. If you are the parent collecting money, make sure to give families a suggested range for the donation so they can feel comfortable giving as little or as much as they can afford and put the gift card inside a card with a handwritten personalized note.”
Experts all agree that while you should tip as generously as you can, you don't have to give more than you can comfortably afford. And you don't have to give both a tip and a gift, although a thank-you note is a must in either case, affirmed Emily Post. However you choose to show your gratitude, do it with a smile and a genuine appreciation for what your child's caregiver does every day. (Remember: Diapers. Tantrums. "Baby Shark.")
This article was originally published on