Holiday Gifts for Au Pairs

by cv harquail on December 10, 2009

It’s time to start thinking of gift ideas for your au pair, if you haven’t already!

In previous posts we’ve talked about gifts that _3537_3306896833_74f71c7efa.jpgwe like to give our au pairs, either for holidays or birthdays. These ideas have included scrapbooks, photo albums, scented bath treats, and of course, the ever-popular gift set from Sephora complete with electric blue mascara. All are lovely ways to thank the young woman (or man) whose hard work you really, really appreciate.

With this post I’m asking you to suggest gifts that are really, really specific to an au pair. For example, while lots of people would appreciate cashmere-lined gloves, perhaps only an au pair would appreciate an electronic English-Portuguese dictionary.

What gift could you give to an au pair that is related to her or him being an au pair?


PA aupair mom December 10, 2009 at 12:20 pm

I got our au pair a handmade ornament with a picture of our family and all of our names and our “family name” and the year. I think she will really appreciate it for years to come and it can help her remember her year she spent with us. (p.s. I got one for us too.)

Anonymous December 19, 2009 at 10:26 pm

You may want to consider some candles or makeup as well. While a grandmother or older aunt might appreciate this gift, a young girl will be a bit disappointed.

PA au pair mom December 19, 2009 at 11:44 pm

I disagree anonymous. Our AP’s favorite gift will be the family ornament I got for her. I can nearly guarantee it. and she’s not a grandma…she’s 21.

Chicago Mom December 10, 2009 at 12:49 pm

I bought our au pair an ornament with the Chicago El Train, since that’s what she rides to class 2x a week.

I also purchased her a little pewter box for jewelry that says “The White House” on it (we took her to the Easter Egg Roll there for a big trip in April).

I find that souvenirs from your town or where she vacationed, ones that have special meaning, are nice. I hit up the Chicago souvenir stores about once a year to see what they have.

Urban Outfitters had blank snow globes last year where you could slip in two pictures – one on each side – so for a Christmas gift, I slipped in a picture of our house decorated for the holidays (of the outside, complete with the fallen snow and bows and lights), and a picture of the kids on the other side. She loved this (snow globes seemed the rage with her and the other au pairs – they don’t have many of these in Bolivia I guess).

A t-shirt with your town’s name might be an appreciated one, too.

TX Mom December 10, 2009 at 1:53 pm

I love the snow globe idea – especially for our southern hemisphere AP’s.

TX Mom December 10, 2009 at 1:40 pm

I have purchased a few gift cards so far for places she likes to go but can’t afford to go often (favorite salon, coffee shop, ice cream shop, clothing store, etc.)

MommyMia December 10, 2009 at 4:03 pm

I have given a blank photo album/scrapbook with lots of local geographic/vacation/kids’ favorite activities stickers and die cuts with which to personalize it, and then we print a bunch of her photos from the AP’s year with us to put into it. It always seems to be appreciated.

PacificNW_mom December 10, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Our German au pair was thrilled to get tickets to see a basketball game when German NBA player Dirk Nowitski (Dallas Mavs) was in town! We cut out his picture and pasted it to a shoebox, and then put the tickets inside. She was jumping all over the place when she opened it!

Anonymous December 10, 2009 at 5:31 pm

We live in the NYC area, so we always splurge and give our aupairs two tickets to a Broadway show. Everybody loves this.
I got the idea from a very experienced host mother with whom I work.

franzi December 10, 2009 at 5:57 pm

i think it depends on what your AP is into.

i met many friends at starbucks (when i studied, not as AP), but my hostmom knew about this so she gave me a starbucks card and one of their coffee-warmkeepers (whatever the word is). GREAT GIFT!!! because she knew i would use it every week.

if your AP is into the local sports team/state team, why not give her 2 tickets (to bring a friend along) for a game. or maybe for a musical/opera/theater performance.

does she have a hobby she would like to pick up? maybe there is a weekend college class or a weekly dance class that you would be willing to sponsor to help her get started. also a way for her to meet new people.

don’t give spacious gifts (stuffed animals etc) if you are unsure how she can ship it back home! oh, by the way ship. maybe she would like a really cool new suitcase and you could help her with a gift certificate.

when you really do not know at all just ask her if she has a special wish or maybe a place she would like a gift card from. i think that is better than giving something that she would be all like “uh, what’s that” or not to give anything at all…

apmom-tx December 10, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Usually at the first opportunity after our au pair arrives, we give her a charm bracelet from James Avery with a Texas charm on it. Through out the year, we give her charms from places she has gone or things she has done. (Dolphin:she swam with the dolphins in Mexico, Statue of Liberty: two trips to NY, Golden Gate bridge: trip to San Fran, Cell phone: it is always glued to her ear, etc) It will be something special that she can have for years and makes a great conversation starter to share her memories once she gets home.

Jeana December 11, 2009 at 8:04 am

I’ve made an 8 X 8 photo book through Shutterfly for each of our aupairs. It is a great memory of her year with our family. I’ve asked each aupair to put her favorite photos in a file that I have for her at Shutterfly. I also do a book for our family each year, which my kids love. I find the books all over the house, because they are constantly reading the narrative, and looking at the photos!!!This takes time, and I can’t do it as a surprise, because I want it to be meaningful, and therefore, need the input of our aupairs. Our second aupair had extended in another part of the country, and I wrapped her gift, and sent it, as she’d relocated, just before Christmas. My kids and I were opening our book, which had also been wrapped, Christmas Eve, when I discovered we were unwrapping the book I’d made for our aupair! I knew she’d be unwrapping the book I’d made for our family!!! We called her very quickly, and the books passed in the mail, and both got to the correct home, a few days later. Our aupairs have been very touched by an actual book, that is a professional book, with memories of their year, with our thankful thoughts expressed in the narrative. I like this size, because it is small enough that it sits (when I can get it out of the hands of my kids) on my desk. It is easy to take out of the house, if I want to show a friend what they can do for their family. If you choose to do this, there are internet coupons, to lower the cost. Toward the holidays, there are price reductions and free shipping. It is very affordable, even when you add many extra pages, as I do. Another gift has been to make dvds, put to music, of our time together. That, too, has been very well received.

Anonymous December 11, 2009 at 3:41 pm

I always make books or calendars too from photos. I work for HP so I use Snapfish. Not to plug my company, but if anyone is looking to do such projects there are good coupons for free calendars and 20% off custom books and free flipbooks on the RachaelRay site now for Snapfish.

apmom-tx December 12, 2009 at 12:04 am

we do this too, but I make a recipe book with their favorite recipes since they have been here mixed in with family photos

Sara Duke December 11, 2009 at 9:41 am

Half of my au pairs have come from warm places, so for them I’ve always bought silk longjohns to help keep them warm. Washington DC is not so cold in the winter, but if you’ve never strayed far from the equator, it’s freezing! I also usually buy a nicer pair of gloves than they would buy for themselves – ones that might actually stay warm during a snowball fight, for instance.

Pay attention to the colors your au pair wears, whether she prefers stripes or not, and buy appropriate warm-weather clothing. She might not take it home with her, but she’ll appreciate it while she’s here. (We’ve kept some warm items au pairs have left behind for the next au pairs to have – usually they don’t wear them, but then they know what to buy.)

I buy books of short stories (easier to read than long novels) that are funky and meant for people younger than me (there are great “year’s best” series). If an au pair is interested in a particular topic (e.g. anthropology, psychology, pedagogy), then I’ll buy some American classic books in that genre that aren’t hard to read.

I do not let my husband do the shopping! (One year he decided he was going to take care of our au pair’s birthday and bought her a nice Cross pen. Imagine the disappointment.)

I always ask my son to come shopping with me (my daughter is severely retarded and no help at all), because he spends more hours with the au pair than I do and has a sense of what she likes.

This year is going to be tougher, because my current au pair is incredibly private. I have no idea what size clothing she prefers (I can guess), what books she reads, or what music she listens to. As far as I can tell she doesn’t watch TV (past au pairs have gotten years worth of Glamour Girls or Gossip Girls on DVD).

3bHM December 11, 2009 at 9:45 am

I bought a digital frame and a gift card for our AP this year. I hope she likes it.

NoVA Host Mom December 11, 2009 at 10:42 am

3bHM, Great minds think alike! We are also getting our AP a digital frame. She takes so many pictures of the things we do and of our time together, and since she has another year with us, I wanted to give her the opportunity to show off as many pictures as she can. We are also getting her iTunes cards, as she bought herself an iPod Touch during black friday. There will be some other little things that I have picked up over the year, but I try to limit those things so she does not have to transport them back.

I love the charm braclet idea, though! Small, and easy to pick up the pieces of it throughout the year. I think I will be stealing that idea for next year (her last Christmas with us).

Thanks for the chocolate reminders, though.

PA Mom December 11, 2009 at 10:46 am

Just remember they are far from their families and you remember how you felt when you were young and everyone was opening lots of boxes (maybe at a birthday party) and you didn’t have anything or much. . . Having a stocking to open and a few boxes is a delight. I try to think of my au pair as a niece and get her a gift I would give a teenage/adult niece. Really they are more like family than anyone else – so a little splurge here can generate a lot of warm feelings and curb homesickness. Starbucks cards can be nice – but something special to remember you buy is great if you can afford it. This year we have a sterling bracelet for our au pair, last year it was a camcorder, one year it was clothing . . . and our family is kind enough to brind a little gift for her too – so she feels like she’s part of the whole family. I try to remember to have something little for her au pair friends whose host family’s do not celebrate Christmas if the au pair is going to be joining us for Christmas dinner. They are already missing their family and then their traditions – it doesn’t take much to make them feel more welcome and you’d wish someone did it if it were your daughter one thousand miles (or more) from your home!

PA aupair mom December 11, 2009 at 11:13 am

Our family also gives our AP a small gift at our holiday gatherings so she always has a few things to open whenever anyone is opening.

I tell them that something as simple as a CD, favorite movie, gift card to a store they love can go a LONG way in helping the AP feel like part of the family and everyone is always excited to see if they like their gifts.

StephinBoston December 11, 2009 at 11:21 am

Same here, they get as many presents as the rest of us, probably more than host mom and dad. It’s my favorite holiday, I love to give so it is a pleasure for me to do. I love seeing how happy they are. Gift Cards, things I see they need and just fun little things. The rest of the family also brings them a lot so I know that they don’t feel left out. I know it would be hard for me if I wasn’t close to my loved ones over the holidays so I make sure they feel appreciated at least.

Former Au Pair December 11, 2009 at 11:52 am

I probably had the most thoughtful hostmom in the world. She didnt want me to feel left out at Christmas so I got wayy too many things (which I really really appreciated!); I got clothes and shoes (she knew my taste), perfume, giftcards, photoalbum, ornaments, pictures of the kids in frames the kids had decorated, and I know there were more things, but I was there for 2 years so I dont really remember all of it.. She got me many fabulous things for Valentines Day, my birthday and the day I left as well, and the things I really loved and remember well, were SOUVENIRS from our town. I got t shirts, glasses, kitchen towels and even jewellery. Now that Im home, I love wearing my t shirts with an American city-name on it!

Anonymous December 11, 2009 at 1:45 pm

How about local travel guides, like Lonely Planet or Moon Handbooks?

Anonymous December 11, 2009 at 3:47 pm

One year , my aupair’s parents at home send my kids a big box of candy and tiny toys from their home country. I sat down and cried , I was so touched. After that I started sending some gift like Godiva chocolates or fancy Christmas cookies to my aupair’s parents. It really adds to the sense of cultural exchange.

Darthastewart December 11, 2009 at 4:18 pm

I try to find an ornament with an american flag on it. I also do fill a stocking- but now that you guys have suggested getting them their own stocking, I will do that. (ordered one yesterday. :) )
I try to give mostly consummable gifts so they don’t have to get them home at the end of the year. We also give Duffel bags.

Previous au-pairs get photo calendars of the kids each year so they can see how they’re growing.

Busy Mom December 11, 2009 at 10:18 pm

We also do a silver charm bracelet with charms from our state, her country, and other charms representative of her hobbies and her US travels. There are tons of online stores and the charms are very affordable with a wide selection in the $3-8 range. When she leaves, we’ll add to it with more travel charms. If you’re in the NY area and your au pair goes into the city, there are tons of NY site charms (empire state bldg, statue of liberty, brooklyn bridge, etc) I have a US-themed ornament and some things my kids made. We also give a cash gift (or Visa gift card) that she can use for whatever she wants to.

Another Busy Mom December 11, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Wow. What a bunch of creative, thoughtful, over-achievers. Now I have to revisit my shopping list or suffer big time self imposed Guilt along with those piles of wrappings. SuperMom never sleeps I guess. Don’t you guys work? ;-)

Former French Au Pair December 12, 2009 at 4:41 pm

I love the ideas of an ornament, calendar or book with pictures of the family. It is about helping your au pair to create memories and make their holiday with you a very special one…

Although I didn’t spend Christmas with my host family (see post in au pair stocking section), they made sure I had:
– a few Christmas things to decorate my room (I still have the cute snowman ornament that also sits nicely on a table)
– gifts that would remind me of my stay in America: a silver charm bracelet with a statue of liberty charm and an American flag charm
– gifts that would remind me of my stay in South Carolina: a silver Palmetto broche that was made into a necklace.

The extended family (grandparents, aunts & uncles…) all participated too and I was overwhelmed by how much they cared about me and making me feel as part of the family.
Notice also they knew I wore silver, not gold… They knew I liked jewelry: I wore these for years (still sad I lost the bracelet, should have gotten it resized)!!

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