5 Ways to Prevent Your Classroom From Turning into a Holiday Gift Factory

It is hard not to crumble under the pressure this time of year.  Everyone is in the holiday spirit and they want cute handmade gifts and keepsakes to give to parents and extended family members!  I am all for a project in the spirit of the holiday or the season, but we can’t be expected to chuck our curriculum out the window for the sake of hand print turkeys.  Our classtime in invaluable!

Here 5 easy suggestions to help keep a nice balance (and your sanity!) as holiday season approaches:

1. Use an online gallery.  Sites like Artsonia provide opportunities for parents to order trinkets (like T-shirts, coffee mugs, etc) with their son or daughter’s work printed on it.  This way, every art project that you upload can be a translated into a gift.

2. Combine seasonal projects with your curriculum.  Be creative!  Try teaching warm and cool colors as a background for spiderwebs.  This lesson also touches on symmetry and using ruler!

If you are teaching about landscapes, foreground and background, try this “sweet” twist.

Or combine human proportion with Nutcrackers or Skeletons.

3. Try a fundraiser.  If you have been flirting with the idea of attempting your first fundraiser, like Square 1 Art, try coordinating orders with the gift-giving season.  You could even market the fundraiser as a holiday gift opportunity.

4. Collaborate with businesses in the community.  Often times businesses will cover the printing expenses and artists receive a free print or calendar of their finished project.  Maybe businesses would even host a seasonal art show displaying all the cards?

5. Send home artwork.  Have students select one piece to mat and send home.  The mat can be something as simple as colored construction paper, but even that elevates the work to another level.  Makes it a little more special.  Add a artist signature and teach them how to get the artwork home without creases. Sending your ceramics home right before the holidays is also a really smart option for use as gift giving.

How do you embrace the spirit of the holidays without sacrificing your curriculum?

Heather Crockett

Heather is AOE’s Project Manager and an expert in differentiation, curriculum development, and assessment. She is a veteran teacher in the art room and at the graduate level.


  • Paige Trent

    It is my job every year to have the students make ornaments for the school Christmas tree.  I alway try to pull in the history of ornament and trees, or even have them make ornaments inspired by artworks we’ve studied!

  • Cboggs73

    I like to use the season to do some clay lessons with my first and second graders. The objective for first grade is to roll out a small slab, cut a shape using a cookie cutter, then adding clay embellishments with clay tools, and bits of clay scraps. I add a small hole at the top for adding yarn to hand the ornament and put their name and the year on the back. After the pieces are fired, the students use glitter paint to decorate their clay “cookies”. The second graders make pinch pots which they paint with tempera. I always try to have some metallic tempera to give the pots some sparkle.

  • Chelseabritain

    I try to limit holiday projects to the week of that holiday only. So the week before we get out before Christmas we do the “winter” stuff, the week of Thanksgiving is the turkey stuff, etc. And then for each grade level I do a project that ties in to their curriculum. (Ex., Hey kids, remember our cut paper unit? We’ll now we’re using those skills to create paper snowflakes, etc.) 

  • Susie Belzer

    At my school I struggle with this each year.  My principal does not celebrate the holidays in our building and this goes for my room too- but the kids and classroom teachers do expect a ‘gift’ type project around December.  So I sent the clay projects home in December last year and allowed the kids to use colorful tissue paper to wrap their clay so it makes it home safely.  I’ll probably do the same for this year.

  • faigie

    That is probably the #1 problem is so many schools. They think art is holiday crafts