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Nannies and sitters: Do you give kids presents?

When it comes to giving gifts to the kids you nanny or babysit for, here's what to keep in mind, according to the experts.

Nannies and sitters: Do you give kids presents?

It’s fun to pick out presents for the people you care about — especially kids. But what about when you’re an employee? Should nannies and babysitters give holiday and birthday gifts to the kids they care for?

“This is a sticky situation, as nannies spend so much time with their charges and most truly care, even love, the children they watch,” says etiquette consultant Jodi R. Smith, of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. “But this is a livelihood and the nannies should not be spending too much of their salaries to buy gifts for the children they watch.”

Here are four things to keep in mind when it comes to giving gifts to kids you care for regularly or every now and then.

1. Give from the heart

Remember it’s the thought that counts when it comes to gift giving.

“An inexpensive item, something homemade, something from the nanny’s point of origin or a certificate for a joint activity [going to a movie or museum together] can all make wonderful gifts,” says Smith.

“An inexpensive item, something homemade, something from the nanny’s point of origin or a certificate for a joint activity can all make wonderful gifts.”

JODI R. SMITH, ETIQUETTE CONSULTANT

2. Be personal

Due to the close relationship the nanny likely has with the child, Smith says a nanny should be able to choose a gift that would reflect the child’s personality and interest and mean a lot to the child.

“My housekeeper/babysitter is so sweet,” says mom Janell Goplen of Tarzana, California. “She always gets my kids gifts for their birthday and holidays. Last year, she got my daughter the same present I did! … She obviously knows my daughter well and loves her.”

That said, of course, there should never be any pressure for a nanny or sitter to be gifting things at the same price point as the child’s parent. 

3. Don’t go overboard

Smith emphasizes choosing inexpensive gifts. While it can be tempting to purchase something showy that the child has been begging for, you shouldn’t spend a lot of money on presents for the kids. It should be a nice, thoughtful gesture, not something that costs a lot.

An employer can always help the situation by specifically asking the nanny to not spend more than $10 or $20 per child. Another alternative could be the parents provide funds for the nanny to purchase gifts by including a little extra in the end-of-the-year bonus, she says.

Goplen says her family always gives her babysitters gifts, too, but never expects one in return. Also, like many parents, she would not expect anything for more than $20 as a gift.

4. Consider your relationship

Nanny Stephanie Coffin says gift giving is a good idea if you’re a nanny for a family full time. She says that as she gets to know a family better, the more thought she puts into gifts. “I have been nannying for the same family for six years, and I was four months into the job when I celebrated my first holiday season with them,” Coffin says. “I got each of the kids a little something and gave the parents a free night of babysitting.”

“I got each of the kids a little something and gave the parents a free night of babysitting.”

STEPHANIE COFFIN, NANNY

If you occasionally babysit for a family, Coffin says a gift is not always expected. It can be a nice touch if you do something special with the children, such as baking cookies for the holidays or doing an activity you know they enjoy for their birthday.

Whether you decide to purchase a gift for the family or do something special for the kids, it’s the thought that counts. Don’t purchase something merely because it’s expected. Do it because you want to.

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