Holiday Gifting

what to tip day care teachers like this woman giving young children one-on-one instructions.
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Your Guide To Tipping Day Care Workers For The Holidays

“Any amount is really appreciated.”

by Shana Aborn, Kinsey Gidick and Meguire Hennes
Originally Published: 
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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. The holiday season can be hectic, especially for those people who make your life easier. For example, it's customary to give a token of appreciation to mail carriers, hair stylists, dog walkers, and newspaper carriers, but you might be wondering what to tip a day care worker for the holidays. Whether it’s a gift card to a new restaurant in your area, a handwritten card along with a cash tip, or a special present picked out by you and your kiddos, the hard work of day care workers deserves to be recognized over the holiday season. But how?

What to consider before tipping day care workers

Think about it: Day care 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.

Day care workers aren't in it for the humongous paycheck, either. According to the U.S. 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 being said, sometimes a gift or tip of large value is just not feasible for some families, and it’s perfectly fine if you do not tip each individual worker or the facility. “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 Alyson Kenny, who runs Lowcountry Manners in Charleston, South Carolina.

Is it appropriate to give day care workers cash tips for the holidays?

Yes, a day care worker 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.

That said, handing over an envelope of cash is something you shouldn’t take lightly some facilities might have rules about tipping and gifting their staff. “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,” says Kenny.

She makes a valid point. Before you go to the bank to determine how much you should tip day care workers, check with your day care facility to find out their guidelines about holiday tipping.

How much should you tip day care workers?

There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all model, as every family’s financial standing and relationship with the day care staff and facility varies. You could go in with families from the entire classroom and give one collective gift, or make your gift as an individual family. That being said, we had several sources weigh in on recommendations, and most listed numbers in the $25-$100 range (per provider).

The Emily Post Etiquette institution has an entire how-to guide 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).”

“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.”

“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.”

If you’re gifting a day care worker or nanny, Lisa Grotts, etiquette expert and author of “A Traveler’s Passport to Etiquette,” suggests assessing their weekly hours, how many children they’re servicing, and how long they’ve been with your family when deciding how large of a tip to give. “Holiday tips or gifts for childcare providers range from $25 to $50 per provider. This, of course, depends on the family budget, the cost of your child care, and the number of children plus caregivers,” Grotts tells Romper.

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.

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What etiquette should you follow when tipping your day care workers?

If you’re unsure how to approach gifting your day care worker this holiday season, Grotts says it’s totally reasonable to be a bit hesitant. According to proper tipping etiquette, Grotts says it’s best to show your appreciation in person. “If you're giving cash or a check, put it in an envelope, and make eye contact with your provider to show how much you appreciate them,” Grotts says. “If they take Venmo, that's fine in this day and age, but make sure you have a handwritten thank-you card to pair with it or send them a thank-you note via email.”

Grotts acknowledges that there’s no clear set of rules for tipping. When you tip at a restaurant, it’s common to tip between 15% and 20%, however, because your day care workers care for your children daily, not just at dinner time, tipping them requires a bit more consideration. “The word tip derives from ensuring prompt service, so it's always appropriate to show gratuity when someone has served you and your family. If your budget is tight, you can always supplement with handwritten or colored cards from your children. You can even pair the card with home-baked goods,” Grotts says.

Do you have to tax tips for day care workers?

While you prepare to thank your day care worker this holiday season, financial expert, Henry Abenaim, says to remember that there are tax implications to tipping a day care worker, as tips are counted as taxable income. “When tax time rolls around, it’s time to break out the receipts and invoices, but also day care costs and tips,” Abenaim says. “You must report all taxable income, this includes cash or electronic tips over the sum of $20 per month. While all forms of monetary tips are counted as income, it may be easier to tip your day care worker with something other than money.”

If you’re tipping a day care teacher and not an in-home childcare provider, you might run into some tax issues with the company as a whole. “Businesses are liable for tips and have to report to the owners. So, if the day care has a larger organization, they may have a specific reporting system for employees for these sorts of situations, or nothing in place if this does not happen often,” says financial consultant and advisor, David Lewis. “You are exempt from reporting tips to your employer if you get less than $20 in gratuities in a given month. When preparing your income tax return, you must still include this advice in taxable income. Apply the $20 cap to each employment if you have several positions.”

To avoid adding more chaos to your holiday season, either stick to a $20 and under tip or buy them a gift straight from the heart. Whether it’s an experience like tickets to a concert or a musical, or a personalized bag or coffee mug, non-cash tips can mean so much more around the most wonderful time of the year.

Affordable day care teacher gifts

For a day care worker who has made a special impact on your child, get them a physical gift. A reliable protocol when choosing how much to tip your day care worker is to give a gift equivalent to one week’s worth of pay. Sometimes a Starbucks card or a cash tip just doesn’t feel like enough when you consider everything they’ve done for your kid. A personalized gift can pull at your day care teacher’s heart strings and let them know you appreciate their hard work and devotion.

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.")

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