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101 Thoughtful Ways to Express Gratitude for Your Childcare Staff

101 Thoughtful Ways to Express Gratitude for Your Childcare Staff

childcare staff

Showing appreciation for your childcare staff is always beneficial, but it’s more important now than ever to create a culture of gratitude at your childcare center. Gratitude is an essential aspect of a healthy workplace and can impact the quality of your staff’s work, wellbeing in the workplace, and staff retention. A recent study revealed that 93% of employees who felt valued were motivated to do their best at work, and only 21% of those employees were planning on looking for a new job within the next year. Expressing gratitude is especially important right now since many early educators are feeling burned out and staff turnover is particularly high.

In a recent webinar, we asked our community of directors and administrators how they express gratitude for their childcare staff. Here are their successful strategies for showing staff that they’re appreciated!

How do you express gratitude for your staff through affirmations? 

  • Go for a 1:1 walk and let them know how much you appreciate them. Don’t forget hot chocolate!
  • Send random thank you notes in the mail - getting good, old-fashioned mail can feel more special than leaving it on their desk or in their classroom. 
  • During staff meetings, encourage your staff to go around and share why they’re thankful for the person next to them.
  • Make Thanksgiving grams (a sweet note + treat!) and deliver them to classrooms the week of Thanksgiving.
  • Create a notebook with "All About Me" pages for each teacher to put in your lobby area. Parents and other staff can use those ideas to show appreciation at the holidays or whenever they feel like it!
  • Have a staff gratitude jar and read these notes of gratitude during staff meetings  - You can invite parents to write notes of gratitude to put into this jar.
  • Post teacher shout outs or employee spotlights on your social media pages
  • Give verbal praise at random times throughout the day to make your staff feel recognized.
  • Recognize teachers on their work anniversaries and birthdays.
  • Create banners and pins of recognition to put on the wall.
  • Find out their love language- and use their love language to thank them!
  • Send “just because you’re great!” gift cards.
  • Send weekly emails with motivational quotes to boost morale.
  • Give staff a card each week that highlights something that they have done that you appreciate.
  • Put up a kudoboard each week. You can do this in-person, or invite families and peers to add to an online kudoboard.
  • Highlight a different teacher every week in your weekly newsletter.
  • Make and send ‘random acts of kindness cards’ - Pick a card and do that action for a peer!
  • Start each meeting with gratitude for each team member.
  • Print out and display your center’s 5-star reviews. 
  • Send affirmations each morning in a staff group chat.
  • Put up an ‘affirmation mural’ outside your center, where parents can write notes of gratitude for your staff.
  • Decorate the teachers’ parking spots using sidewalk chalk.
  • Attach a positive note to staff paychecks.
  • Give your team choices on what makes them feel appreciated and follow through!
  • Create compliment boxes, where you place a box with each staff member's name and leave anonymous compliments in the box throughout the week.
  • Have the children and their families make homemade thank you cards to teachers and encourage them to post the cards on your center’s bulletin board.
  • Do random gift card giveaways when a staff member is caught doing something awesome.
  • Create a staff shout out board in your staff room — a display where peers can recognize peers.
  • Try to catch every staff member once a month to point out something wonderful that they do.
  • Include affirmations in employee evaluations.
  1. How do you express gratitude for your staff through gifts and treats?

  • Give placemats that students have decorated. Have students draw and write thank you notes on large sheets of paper. Laminate them so your staff can reuse them and wipe them down!
  • Gift teachers at-home meal kits to tell them how “soup-er” they are. Add dry soup ingredients, like beans, lentils, and stock poweder, to a glass jar. 
  • Set up a trail mix bar for your staff in the staff lounge. 
  • Tap into your parents’ skills to offer staff a thoughtful gift or service. Examples include family photoshoots, car washes, or home-grown fruits and vegetables!
  • Make a ‘thankful’ centerpiece for the staff lounge, where you create a pretty platter of autumnal snacks and fruits.
  • On parent teacher conference days, give teachers little bags with energy bars, chocolates, breath mints, hand sanitizer, and other treats to get them through the day. 
  • Prepare a quick, on-the-go breakfast to surprise teachers with on busy mornings.
  • Give ‘we could KNOT succeed without you’ chocolate covered pretzels.
  • Host a potluck lunch for birthdays and make sure the birthday person does not contribute!
  • Give staff members their birthday off.
  • Give staff frozen treats on particularly hot days.
  • Do Secret Santa gifting around the holidays.
  • Bring in a massage therapist for 15 minute massages.
  • Treat your staff to surprise lunches once in a while.
  • Send birthday baskets on employees’ birthdays.
  • Give a holiday bonus.
  • Cover staff members’ classrooms for a few minutes so they can take a break.
  • Encourage parents sign up to bring staff treats each week.
  • During winter, have a coffee, tea, or hot cocoa station in the staff lounge.
  • Surprise staff with coffee or gift cards to a local coffee shop. 
  • Celebrate small holidays (like National H20 Day, Friendship Day, and National Coffee Day) just because!
  • Occasionally send staff home early and take their shifts when they could use a break.
  • Offer teachers the chance to sign up to leave 2 hours early one Friday a month without using their leave.
  • Do surprise giveaways during challenging weeks.
  • Encourage your staff to randomly bring in treats for the whole team to show appreciation to each other.
  • Create a Parent-Teacher Association that plans staff appreciation treats and activities.
  • Have parents donate $5 gift cards around Teacher Appreciation Week that you can save for use throughout the year.
  • Prepare a week of treats during Teacher Appreciation Week.
  • Give special swag for teachers who have been working extra hard.
  • Give gift bags for random themed days - An example of this is Apple Day, where a provider gave out treats like apple juice, dried apples, smelly apple stickers, and apple pins. 
  • Hire a food truck once a month for staff.
  • Give out mini candles, cloth face masks, and fuzzy socks for staff to have a self-care day.
  • Offer snacks at weekly staff meetings. 
  • Create team shirts.
  • Give out coffees with a note that says “Thanks a latte!”
  • Have dance party breaks. 
  • Give out personalized coffee cups with your staff members’ names on it.
  • Fill a basket filled with cozy things including movie tickets to give out to your staff.
  • Create yard signs that highlight how much families love their teachers so staff see the signs as they drive around the neighborhood. 
  • When you see a teacher having a hard day, give them a snack or treat to enjoy with you.
  • Bring in muffins and  say you have ‘muffin’ to do but appreciate your staff!
  • Send pick-me-ups, like flowers, rain gear, or scarves!
  • Have a ‘12 days of Christmas’, where you give out something small each day leading up to your staff holiday party.
  • Give staff a self-care day off.
  • At the beginning of the year, have staff fill out a ‘favorites form’ that helps you know what hobbies they have, food and drink they like most, etc. 
  • Give out tea cups with herbal teas on cold days.
  • Bring in homemade goodies like brownies or cupcakes!
  • Leave a Mars candy bar on their desk with a note that says “You’re out of this world!”

    How do you express gratitude for your staff through fun activities?

  • Host a Thanksgiving breakfast for your staff, where you have Thanksgiving-themed foods, such as turkey sausage, pumpkin pancakes, and cranberry juice! 
  • Have a staff award ceremony where you can call out each staff member’s strengths.
  • Host a wall decorating contest, where the parents get to vote on the best wall.
  • Go to a candle making workshop.
  • Have a Saturday staff day a few times a year where you get to know each other outside of work.
  • Have a board game night. 
  • Go to an arcade together. 
  • Watch a comedy show. 
  • Take your entire staff out for weekend brunch.
  • Host a spa day.
  • Every month or two, have staff get together and have dinner together.
  • Create Friday team challenges to conquer together.
  • Giving random self care afternoons so your staff can get some time away from the classroom! 
  • Play quick Minute to Win it games before staff meetings.
  • Have a paint party.
  • Host a picnic for your staff.
  • Have a staff bocce ball competition.
  • At staff trainings, allocate time to team-building activities.
  • Go to an escape room. 
  • Go to a  Zumba class together.
  • Do a staff outing once a month. 
  • Try to complete a ropes course!
  • Go to a professional development conference together.

How brightwheel can help

Brightwheel can be an effective tool to help your staff reduce stress, which, in turn, helps you to increase retention and overall staff wellness at your center.

Brightwheel can help you easily manage time-consuming tasks like daily reports, communicating with families, and creating and organizing lesson plans. We’ve heard that with brightwheel, teachers save around 20 hours a month on busywork and are able to spend more time developing new skills or taking care of themselves. 

Brightwheel also helps teachers easily share what students are learning through photos and videos. As a result, staff get more recognition from parents for their hard work and teaching expertise! 

If you’re interested in learning more about how brightwheel can save you time and make staff happier, schedule a demo with us today!

More resources for staff engagement

To learn more about how to improve the staff culture at your childcare center or preschool, check out these additional resources! 



We hope these examples helped spark some ideas for expressing gratitude for your staff. We appreciate everything you and your staff do to impact our littlest learners!

Brightwheel is the complete solution for early education providers, enabling you to streamline your center’s operations and build a stand-out reputation. Brightwheel connects the most critical aspects of running your center—including sign in and out, parent communications, tuition billing, and licensing and compliance—in one easy-to-use tool, along with providing best-in-class customer support and coaching. Brightwheel is trusted by thousands of early education centers and millions of parents. Learn more at www.mybrightwheel.com.

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