Hand-Crafted Gifts for the Host Family: Ideas?

by cv harquail on April 7, 2011

Dear AuPairMoms-

I’d love some advice about a handmade gift to bring to my new host family. I’ve learned from my agency that, once we have been matched with a HF, we have to begin to complete a pre-departure project. The staff at orientation will look over this and then we are supposed to present our HF with it.201104071937.jpg

I am soooooo excited about completing this as I am very creative and it allows me to share my culture in a creative way. The project is supposed to have crafts and recipes and things we would like to do with the kids, but I will just go mad with it. I have so much going round in my head it could end up being 50 pages!!

I was wondering if you had ever received a project, if so what type of things were in it or what would you suggest I put in it? I really want to make a good impression and to be embraced into part of the family.   Kind Regards, UKAuPair

Dear UKAuPair-

I love the idea of an au pair bringing some kind of hand-made project as a gift for a host family— but I didn’t know that any agency made this something that you were required to do. I’ve received all sorts of fun and wonderful gifts from our au pairs, and my daughters have received some lovely things that have become family treasures. I’m sure that anything you make will be appreciated by your host family.


Personally, what I think that I’d love the most would be some kind of scrapbook, one that had a few pages already filled by the au pair, and then many blank pages or folder pockets that the au pair and the children could fill with photos, ticket stubs, and other mementos that they collected over the course of the year. My girls and I have loved seeing pictures of our au pairs at the same ages as the girls, pictures of au pair’s favorite childhood stuffed animals, family dog, and so on. I especially loved that one au pair brought us pamphlets from her local Girl Guides (Girl Scouts) Council– my girls were Scouts at the time and loved seeing what “real” girl guides looked like in South Africa. What all of these elements share is the opportunity for the children and the au pairs to see what they have in common, helping to create a bond from the very start.

I appreciate that you want to make a good impression on your family, and I just want to gently suggest that you’ll create your relationship with your family over time, with one interaction after another, starting with the materials that you put in your application, on your video (if you make one), and in your interviews with them. What matters most is not how great your artwork is, but how open your heart is to new relationships and how open your spirit is to new adventures. – cvh

What other suggestions do you have for UKAuPair? What have been your best loved (or most hoped for) hand made gifties?

Fall Favorites handmade tags by MoreThanAMemoryAK for sale on Etsy
Leave A Legacy Scrapbook by missesk4u for sale on Etsy


Should be working April 8, 2011 at 4:28 am

I agree with everything CV says, especially the point that a relationship gets built over time and filled in gradually. I would not get carried away with your project, but leave it open-ended, or keep it small, with a few recipes, a few ideas, a few pictures. Save your luggage space and weight for your own things. If you have lots of other things in document form you might consider bringing a USB memory stick with all of those saved on there, so you can always access more recipes or photos or whatever. Your host family will be delighted with any effort you put into your project, large or small, and you can together with host kids create projects throughout the year.

UKAuPair April 8, 2011 at 8:39 am

I agree with you totally! It is not of prime importance that I make a really good impression with the project as that does come over time, but the agency expect at least 8 hours of work to be put into it. It’s kind of like a high school project, it just doesn’t get marked!

Calif Mom April 8, 2011 at 10:14 am

I love CV’s idea of a scrapbook–but only if you are the type who will *remember* to fill it in, and make this something you do with the kids regularly. Otherwise it will become one more great idea that doesn’t get implemented, and those are very sad to have around the house.

(Our now-former AP promised for 6+ months that she would do a certain cooking project with the kids, and we bought the ingredients for it the week she arrived. She talked about it often but she NEVER did it. Beyond lame, this was almost hurtful to the kids. It sure disappointed me.)

As a “foodie”, I really like the idea of bringing recipes from your family–the things that make holidays special for you. Then I can be sure to make them for you and add them to our family celebrations.

I just melt over that kind of stuff. SO, look at what your new host family has told you they really care about and bring things that relate to their interests as well. This will show that you pay attention to what they have said, and you aren’t just all about yourself. (You can be all about yourself and sharing your world, too, of course! But this is a way to score points and give the parents a good feeling about you and why they picked you for their family.)

SBW– Another brilliant idea. Bringing your photos and documents–maybe even video or a slide show–on a stick drive will save you a lot of suitcase space! I assume that those drives work on US computers as well as ones bought overseas (my not-a-computer-geekness is showing!)

I’ve never had an au pair bring us such a thoughtful gift, by the way. It sounds quite lovely.

There is so much to do and so little time when you are both an au pair about to join a family, and a family about to welcome an au pair! I would caution UKAuPair to not spend sooo much time on it, unless you are already ready and have nothing better to do. :-)

HM Pippa April 8, 2011 at 1:09 pm

American music is available all over the world, but the music popular in other parts of the world is nearly impossible to access in the US. How about bringing your MP3 player loaded with age appropriate music that you or kids in your home country would enjoy listening to? There are a couple German hip-hop artists that I now LOVE (Xavier Naidoo and Samy Deluxe), but I never would have discovered them without our AP sharing her music. My little one also loves listening and dancing to the German children’s song CDs AP brought along.

I would be cautious about recipes–especially for baking. One of our APs put together a lovely recipe book, but because the ingredients were different or not available and the recipes called for weight rather than volume, almost everything she tried to cook or bake from it was a disaster. After three successive cakes that were really and truly inedible, we suggested she try using American cookbooks or mixes instead. It was so disappointing for AP and undermined her confidence in the kitchen.

MommyMia April 8, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Ditto what they’ve said – the music is always a big hit with my kids, and I’ve even liked some being introduced to some new artists myself. We’ve had the same experience with cooking/baking (and I’m not a foodie, so it’s doubly-disappointing when our time in the kitchen results in such disasters that we all politely try to eat, but are trying to beat each other to the kitchen with our plates to dispose of the inedible recipes without hurting the chef’s feelings. I, too, have never heard of an agency requiring this type of project, and wonder about actually spending so much time on it. As others said, the relationship builds over time, and those “promised,” eagerly-anticipated activities that are talked about and built up yet never happen are my personal pet peeve. I dislike being the Negative Nellie who puts the kabosh on projects requiring special supplies and ingredients, so I get caught up in the excitement and usually spend a lot of time and energy and money acquiring, only to have them sit, unused until I can discreetly dispose of them after the overly-ambitious APs’ departure! Some of our best gifts from new APs have sometimes been local/native handcrafted items that may not cost much, but bring a part of their country to share with our family. The kids enjoy remembering what they’ve been told about the artisans or objects and sharing with people who comment on them when visiting us.

Long Island Host Mom April 9, 2011 at 2:33 am

I know this might be a little different than what has been asked…but our au pair who we love dearly and has truly become a part of our family has given us several handmade and thoughtful gifts over the time she has been with us. Even before she arrived when she heard it was my daughters birthday- she sent a handmade birthday gift which was a small felt shoulder bag. This thoughtful gift made a really big impression on my 8 year old daughter and made her transition from one au pair to another much easier…and since she has been here – she has knitted a scarf, made doll clothes and several other projects. This has really helped endear her to my daughter and their relationship continues to grow…At the holidays she created a handmade calendar for us filled with pictures she has taken of my daughter at times we werent there and added added wonderful quotes…It is something we will always treasure…As someone said – it’s not so much what you make as it is the thought and time you put into it.

Busy Mom April 9, 2011 at 4:09 pm

OP – I’m guessing that you are with AuPairCare because they require the pre-depature project. Our first AP put a lot of time into hers and arrived with a big binder – it included the history of her country, coloring pages for the kids, childrens’ stories, childrens’ games, recipes. She won an award at orientation because it was so good. Sadly, none of my kids was really interested in the contents, apart from the coloring pages. It would have worked better if she had told them “let’s learn a German game.” Our 2nd AP showed hers to me months after she’d arrived…we matched a about 7 weeks before she arrived so she didn’t have that much time to spend on it. I wasn’t disappointed – we had wonderful relationship with her.

I guess what I’m trying to say is not to worry too much about this project – your relatonship with your host family will not depend on the pre-departure project.

I like the other posters’ ideas about bringing photos or music that give you a way to connect with the kids. Since you do need to arrive with something (at least to meet AuPairCare requirements) include pictures of your home, your town, your favorite restaurant, your family. The kind of things you can sit and show the family.

Returning HM July 26, 2011 at 4:46 pm

I’m picking up on this thread because I have a question from the other perspective – about gifts from HPs to APs upon arrival (I did a search of old threads, and this was the only thread I could find that had anything to do with my question).

Our old agency, APC, did not allow gifts to be sent to the hotel when APs arrived. But our new agency, APIA, sent an email last night, instructing us to send gifts to Stamford because according to them, the APs will expect them. The email warned that APs who do not have gifts waiting can misunderstand and think their HFs are not excited for their arrival, can question their matches, etc. Certainly, we don’t want this to happen.

We are excited about our new AP’s arrival, especially as it has been two years since we have hosted an AP, so we want to do the right thing (and also what other HFs are doing) at arrival. I’m wondering what other APIA HFs have done as their welcome gifts. Obviously, we won’t send anything that will be hard to transport on the plane to our house after AP school. And once home, we will have the usual welcome basket waiting for her. But what to send to the hotel? Do HFs really do extravagent welcomes? We are already paying for the NYC trip ($65) so will want to keep the cost of additional gifts in a reasonable range.

Thank you for any advice and suggestions.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 26, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Be careful what you send to APIA APs in Stamford – they have to take gifts on the train or plane with luggage that is already maxed out!

In my 10 years of experiencing hosting with APIA, very few APs arrive early enough to get the bag lunch that is provided to them upon arrival. They are young women and starving after long flights, some of which have multiple connections, hot, and tired. I call the hotel and order a fruit and cheese platter. I ask them to put a card on it addressed to my AP and her roommates. I don’t go for the chocolates and non-nutritious goodies, just a simple meal to tide them over until breakfast. Best yet, I control the price, but telling the hotel what I am willing to spend.

I have a gift basket waiting for the AP upon her arrival – I put stamps, a phone card (although most use Skype now), stationery, and office supplies in it. I provide a separate gift basket in her bathroom with samples from a variety of toiletries (Target sells samples at $1 or so). I always include Calomine lotion for summer arrivals (what is it about AP skin that attracts mosquitos?), suntan lotion, Noxema for burns, bandaids, Tylenol, Motrin, tampons and pads, toothpaste, soap, shampoos, and disposable razors to get them going after supplies from home run out.

Don’t send flowers or large gift baskets to Stamford – they’ll be reluctant to throw them away, but they just aren’t practical.

Seasoned Host Mom July 28, 2011 at 4:14 pm

We are with APIA too, but I haven’t felt that pressure to send a gift to Stamford. We did it once but haven’t since. I agree with TACL that food that can and will be eaten at the hotel is the best bet. I have heard from almost all of the APs that the food they are served is really horrendous and that they are hungry throughout training as a result. I have also heard that only about half the APs actually get gifts. It seems to be a way for APIA to make an extra buck.

However, we have usually just had a welcome basket at our home. I fill it with goodies and handmade cards or gifts from the kids.

Gianna July 26, 2011 at 5:41 pm

I must say, I find the approach of this agency objectionable. The welcome basket at home is such a nice touch, I think. Edible goodies I would think : how many women don’t like chocolate ? maybe some personal things like shampoo and fancy soap ?
The APs exspect gifts ? Is this where the Princess attitude is inculcated ? At the training sessions ?

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