Au Pair Gifts That Are Easy To Pack – From NoVA Twin Mom

by cv harquail on November 28, 2012

NoVA Twin Mom lives in the DC Suburbs with DH and twin 2 year olds and an Au Pair.  She writes: 

“Our first au pair left in mid-January, so we were very aware that anything she acquired in December had to be lightweight and easy to pack! These are some of the gifts that have been big hits with our au pairs.”

1. Charm Bracelet

My Go-To gift for our au pair – given at their birthday or Christmas, whatever falls first in our year, is an “old fashioned” sterling silver charm bracelet.


Not the Pandora kind (though if that’s in your price range, it would work too) – the kind that were really popular in the 60s or 70s. I get a “starter bracelet” from Snapfish or Shutterfly, where they’ll put pictures of my kids on the initial charm. I tried a picture with all three of them on it once, but the faces wound up so small they were hard to see. One charm per kid works much better. Both sites have “Some percent off everything” sales periodically – this is when I pick up the bracelet.  

Next, I go to eBay and search “_______ Sterling Silver Charm”, sometimes adding “vintage”, to find a charm for places the au pair has visited during her year, as well as something to represent our home area. Our first au pair told me that in Sweden, the backdrop newscasters use when reporting from the US was the US Capitol Building. So her “DC Area” charm was of the US Capitol. Our current au pair will accompany us to the National Christmas Tree Lighting outside the White House, so her “DC area” charm will be of the White House. They all seem to go to New York City, so they get a little charm of the Statue of Liberty, if they go to Philly they get a little Liberty Bell. There are usually “outline” charms for each state too, so our trip to Minnesota this summer will be represented by a little map of Minnesota. A kiosk at our local shopping mall will attach the charms to the bracelet for a small fee (just remember to ask to have the soldered or they might fall off!)

The side benefit of this gift is that my relatives that are looking for a gift for our au pair can get her a charm for her bracelet – they usually cover my home state, where we visit during the summer. And we can add more charms for their birthday if that falls later in the year!

2. A Christmas stocking that matches my girls’ stockings.

Some folks find theirs at PB Kids or LL Bean (or Etsy, says cv), I’ve had great luck with the Personal Creations website. All three stockings hang on our mantel (or will, once this year’s au pair’s stocking arrives) until Christmas, and the au pair takes hers home with her. Her stocking tends to be filled with items from the Dollar Spot at Target – but so are my girls’ stockings.

One (unexpected) big hit last year was ponytail elastics – she was down to something like three “hair rubber bands” but didn’t want to buy more because she was leaving soon. She also developed a taste for Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, so those were in there as well. I don’t remember exactly what else was in there, but I know there was lipgloss. :) And the little hand sanitizer from Bath and Body Works. And probably some Christmas socks.

[See an early AuPairMom post: Christmas Tip: Make sure your Au Pair has a stocking ]

3. A copy of Clement Moore’s The Night Before Christmas.  

You know it – Twas the Night Before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. I try to find a “nice” version – there’s a beautiful pop up version that came out a few years ago, for example. I explain that this is THE famous American Christmas story, and that everyone knows how the story starts, even if they don’t know the whole poem.

4. Gloves that work on Touchscreen Phones.  

These were really expensive a few years ago – and still can be – but Target sells a Merona brand set that is around $10. The thumb tip and “pointer finger” tip are a different color than the rest of the glove. And I use them myself daily while waiting for the commuter bus, so I know they work!

5. A White House Christmas Tree ornament.  

(These are sold in many places in our area as a fund raiser for the White House Historical Association). We have a collection of one from every year since I moved to the area on our tree, so a reminder of our tree when she’s at home. If someone in your area sells a certain ornament every year, especially if the year is on it, then maybe that’s your version of this. Otherwise, Hallmark sells dated ornaments that hold photos – so maybe one with your au pair and kids in a photo.

6. A map that helps you collect the 50 state quarters.

Last year’s au pair enjoyed this. The map could be a gift idea, but the suggestion I wanted to pass along was that just before she left, I made her tell me which states she was still missing. She was only three states/territories short of her goal, so as part of her farewell gift I went on eBay and bought the last three quarters for her. It cost me about a dollar for each quarter (so about $3 total in this case), but it made her day – she didn’t want to bring home a partially completed map, but none of us had ever seen a Northern Mariana Islands quarter, for example. So eBay came to the rescue.

7. Foamy Soap (really)

One thing that was a much bigger hit than I expected last year was the “foamy soap” that they have at Bath and Body Works. My mom puts one in each of our stockings, so last year’s au pair got one too – and when she came to visit a few months ago, that was one of the things she wanted to bring back to Sweden!

8. Matching PJs

We did this last year. Not sure if that will be an ongoing thing, since not everyone needs a new pair every year. We got everyone — including the au pair — PJs that matched.

9. A “Hoodie”.  

Separately, the grandparents like to get something for our au pair for the holidays. I often recommend hoodies – something that’s pretty “American”, and sizes tend to be forgiving (it can be a little baggy and still be OK). Bonus points if the hoodie is from somewhere the au pair has visited!

Image: Suitcase Flavor Box from piggybankparties on Etsy


NoVA Twin Mom November 28, 2012 at 11:06 am

Wow, that was fast! I just wanted to add that I got an email today saying there’s a coupon code on Snapfish for 55% off sitewide through Dec 2 if you’re interested in the first suggestion :) You can find it by googling “snapfish coupon code”.

Seattle Au pair! November 28, 2012 at 11:56 am

If your au pair is going to celebrate Christmas with you, the stocking is really important on my point of view since it is part of the american culture.
When I was an au pair I loved my gifts, but the stocking was super special to me, and the fact that they got one for me that was my favorite color made me feel really special.
Inside it was just silly things like, gloves, winter socks, candy, my favorite chocolate and other things I don´t remember ( this was in 2008). I brought my stocking with me and I still have it :)

VAL_nyC November 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Wonderful suggestions! I will use these for our own evolving Christmas holiday traditions.

PA AP Mom November 29, 2012 at 5:54 pm

We always include gift cards too to the AP’s favorite places. Sentimental and useful gifts that are meaningful to the AP seem to be the favorites year after year.

Dorsi November 30, 2012 at 1:43 am

Our Au Pairs leave not too long after Christmas, so this it something I am always thinking of. Thanks NoVa!

We have given out lockets with the kids’ pictures in it — a little cheesy, but seemed to be very appreciated by the more sentimental AP (not right for every AP). We also have bought tickets to either a fancy tourist restaurant or concert/show that we know the AP might not do.

Etsy has lots of nice city-themed artwork and photos, especially if you are from a major urban area.

OCHostfam December 2, 2012 at 10:03 pm

We have hosted 4 APs all male and I have found it hard to give sentimental gifts. We do a personalized stocking to match ours and an ornament made by a local artist of our town. Our first AP was saving for a MacBook so we gave him an Apple gift card to go towards his purchase. For the other three we have done experiences. Theme park passes, sporting event tickets and this year a trip to Catalina Island. We fill the stocking with small gift cards to restaurants and stores he frequents, scratch off lotto cards, things like silly string or poppers (surprisingly popular), favorite candy or snack as well as a food or drink item from their own country if I can find it at Cost Plus. Both sets of grandparents join us for Christmas and have given books, sweatshirts or gift cards. Current AP has expressed interest in surfing so HD’s parents have purchased a cheap Groupon deal for lessons. I wish I could think of more meaningful gifts but men are harder to buy for.

Seattle Mom December 4, 2012 at 1:33 pm

I love the matching PJ’s idea. Maybe I’ll do that this year. It’s a good gift for someone who has “everything”- and the kids will get a kick out of it too.

Karen in Newton December 8, 2012 at 5:31 pm

On the Xmas stocking issue… i’m wondering what people do when the family tradition is only to have stockings for the children and not the adults. Which category do you think your au pair falls into? I was thinking she was one of the adults and wouldn’t have a stocking until I started reading some of these posts. Anyone else in this situation? What did you do?

Host Mom in the City December 8, 2012 at 9:16 pm

We also have stockings for the kids and the kids leave their shoes out on St Nickolaus day. Both times, we include our au pair. I would err on the side of making her feel included, especially since you can stuff a stocking for $10-20.

NoVA Twin Mom December 8, 2012 at 10:24 pm

We don’t do stockings for the parents but do for the au pair. I never really thought about the distinction that way, but knew our first au pair would appreciate the “Americanness” of the tradition. Now we do it every year.

OCHostfam December 8, 2012 at 11:54 pm

In our family the adults have stockings but they aren’t filled like the kids are. Adults get a new air freshener for the car and a few scratch off lotto tickets. The AP gets that plus a few other fun things like glow sticks and silly string. If you have a female AP (ours is male) you could pick up some little things like lip gloss, nail polish, purse sized lotion in various dollar bins. It won’t cost much and the AP will feel included.

Taking a Computer Lunch December 9, 2012 at 4:10 pm

While we insist that the AP is an adult in our house, the one tradition with which we make an exception is the Christmas stocking. Now that child #2 is a teenager, his stocking and hers have many of the same types of things in them (favorite sweets, an iTunes gift card, warm socks (Target sells socks with wool that are inexpensive), small books. In the case of the AP, I add chapstick, small packets of tissues and small bottles of Purell, because they’re always needed in winter.

We also have a tradition in our home of a new Christmas ornament that is fairly unique. Each person gets one.

Our family also celebrates Hanukkah, albeit as a smaller holiday with more cultural meaning that gift-giving. I try to keep the gifts small and inexpensive – used books, favorite foods, etc. I only give a gift to DH and the AP on the first night, explaining that in our home, Hanukkah is really for the children.

Twin+1Mamma December 9, 2012 at 4:15 pm

We are a first time HF but have decided that our au pair is included in everything, especially since she loves all of the holidays and loves experiencing the American traditions.
Our twins are 9 months old and even though they are too young to understand anything about gift giving, they both have stockings hanging in front of the fireplace along with our 6 year old, au pair and us.
We do do things a little differently this year, though because we have an AP from Denmark. We have shared our traditions and adopted some of hers, and in Denmark you get a little gift each day in December until Christmas.
She’s been the cutest, buying a little thing for each of the kids each day and then you are suppose to do it after the kids are in bed, so that they can see their stockings filled each morning with a present from the elves. So of course we have a bought stuff like gift cards, socks, lip glosses, snack and all kinds of stuff for her.
It’s really cute!

Georgiapeach December 12, 2012 at 2:46 am

Really neat ideas! Thanks everyone. I especially like the Danish stocking tradition. Even though we are not Danish, I think we will do that this year. (Our AP is from the Czech Republic)

I was an au apir December 17, 2012 at 10:43 pm

My first christmas in USA was so cute, not only for the sharing with my host family but also because it was the very first time I saw snow, I think I was that happy that my host mom gave that maternal look (so adorable).
As my favorite color is purple, the got me a purple and fluffy stocking with candies, earings for my nose piercing and even an ipod touch (I was incredibly happy), I honestly had never felt that especial before and it was just lovely.
The second christmas that I also spend with them, they took me with them to their vacation house in Colorado and they taught me how to skii :) and they got me a Macbook pro.
I do not want to brag my expensive present, please don’t get me wrong, I just want to share with you the unique memories I have with my wonderful American host family. I am back home 6 months ago, we keep contact, and we are planning vacations together next summer here in my country :)

JJ Host Mom December 19, 2012 at 12:59 am

While I’m very happy for you, host families that can afford to give their au pairs expensive electronics, have vacation houses in other states, and travel internationally with our families, are few and far between. Most of us are just normal people trying to get by.

Nathalia January 7, 2013 at 7:05 am

As a former au pair (and future host mom), I have to say that I think all the ideas here are really great, and the best gifts are the ones that makes the au pair feel she’s a part of the family. The stockings and pjs and charm bracelets are the best ideas.
Personally, it felt amazing when my host family had matching porcelain bowls made for the entire family, and there was one for me. It was the best feeling ever.

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