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What’s the Best Domestic Helper Gift? Their #1 Answer Might Surprise You

helper gift christmas present gratitude
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Need help figuring out a suitable helper gift? Gratitude might be the most important gift of all for your domestic helper (plus we’ve got 9 other helper gift ideas too!)

Looking for ways to appreciate your helper? A couple of years ago, I conducted an anonymous survey with domestic helpers asking “If you could choose anything, what’s one gift that you would like to receive from your employers at Christmas or on your birthday?” If you’re expecting the answers to be plane tickets home to visit their families, or maybe handbags or shopping gift cards, then think again. A remarkable number of them wrote in answers like “A simple thank you would be nice” or “Just feeling appreciated and not assuming bad things would be a gift to me”.

The #1 Ranked “Best Helper Gift”

The best gifts of all are often the intangible ones. That’s not to say that your helper wouldn’t be thrilled to receive a tangible gift, so please do consider getting her one of those as well (keep scrolling for our handy list)! But we could also consider those things which are truly valuable to our helpers (and to all of us, really!).

Read more: Four ways kids can show gratitude to their helper (including a downloadable Thank You note!)

10 Gift Ideas for Your Helper

helper gift celebration party raffle

1. Simple Appreciation “Gifts”

Let’s take a moment to think about how we can add a bit more appreciation and positive assumptions into our daily/weekly interactions with our helpers. It can be easy to take for granted the many things our helpers do throughout each day, especially since most of their work is behind-the-scenes and they may have been doing the same tasks 365 times a year over multiple years, depending on how long they have worked for us. Here are a few ideas to show the gratitude that we have but may not always express:

  • Make a habit of looking your helper in the eye and saying “Thank You” at least one time each day. In our house, our “one time” is as she goes to bed. Your “one time” maybe when she puts the baby down to sleep or as she’s clearing the dinner plates. Pick a trigger to remind yourself to say a genuine “Thank you” once a day.
  • If life gets busy and you aren’t home to acknowledge the various errands and tasks she’s done, send her a text to say, “Thanks for all your hard work with that playdate” or “Thanks for tidying up my wardrobe!”
  • If you host playdates, dinner parties, or overnight guests in your home, consider sending her a few photos of the event (she may enjoy showing her family what her job entails). And if any of your guests compliment the appearance of your home or the deliciousness of the food, don’t forget to pass along the compliments.

TIP: Here’s what I’m not saying: You don’t need to thank your helper for everything. It could get annoying and may actually lose its meaning. Just like in our workplaces, we wouldn’t expect our boss to thank us for every email and phone call we make on the company’s behalf; BUT having regular reminders of our boss’ appreciation gives us an overall sense of validation and satisfaction in our jobs.

Read More: Celebrate Helper Appreciation 2022 with Sassy Mama

2. Offer to Send a Box Home

Many helpers will send a box (the Filipinos call them Balikbayan boxes) home to their families during the year and especially at Christmas. You could offer to gift the cost of sending the box home to their families (the price depends on the size of the box and the location). Inside each box helpers would usually send back clothes, toys, food items etc. MHM Balikbayan Express offers this service, delivering door-to-door from Singapore to any destination in the Philippines at competitive rates with timely deliveries with no hidden cost. They provide free delivery of empty boxes and free collection of filled boxes at a minimal deposit fee! They also offer Air shipments for documents and parcels, crating services for fragile or delicate items and packing services for bulky items. Their customs clearance and delivery agent in the Philippines is not only experienced but also trustworthy and has a proven track record to ensure timely and safe delivery of customers boxes entrusted to their care.
MHM Balikbayan Express,

For sending boxes to Indonesia, try Pos TKI Services!

3. Massage, Facial or Mani-pedi

Nail Social helper appreciation sassy mama manicure pedicure

Who doesn’t love a bit of pampering? Thank your helper for her hard work with a nice body massage, facial or mani-pedi session and we’re sure it’ll be very welcomed!

lush body care christmas gift set
Great gift sets from LUSH

4. Skin & Body Care Sets

Luxurious soap sets always come highly recommended in Facebook forums, so these are some great tried-and-tested gifts! We love LUSH, The Body Shop and Bath & Bodyworks for their colourful, festive packaging and yummy-smelling bath products.

5. Memory Book of Thank You Notes from the Whole Family

We once did a survey among helpers and found out that sometimes all they want is a sincere “Thank you”. If you have older kiddos, this would be a good chance for them to get creative and write little Thank You notes to gift your helper! You could also compile a photobook of pictures of her and your family. Check out our guide to Where to Order a Photobook in Singapore!

staycation singapore deal at one farrer hotel
Enjoy some much-needed R&R with a staycation (Image: One Farrer Hotel)

6. Staycation

These past two years have been especially hard for foreign domestic workers, many of whom have no idea when they’ll be able to see their family again. A couple of days staying at a local hotel away with a friend will give your helper a chance to really relax and have some fun. You can often score good deals on staycations on Klook.

7. Phone Top-up Cards

Since this is essential anyway, we’re sure your helper will appreciate having her phone expenses covered for a while with extra top-up cards.

forest adventure singapore christmas gift idea
Try the Forest Adventure obstacle course!

8. Experiences

How about an experience to try over the holidays? There’s no shortage of fun activities to do in Singapore, but they may be a little out of the price range for some helpers. Why not gift your helper tickets to take some friends and go to either Forest Adventure, Rock Climbing, HydroDash, Ice Skating, Bowling, or Wild Wild Wet. Check out more fun ideas here!

9. Educational Courses

Consider giving the gift of education and sponsoring your helper a course at AIDHAHOME, or FAST. Whether it’s a Computer Literacy Programme, Financial Literacy or Entrepreneurship, this is a great gift to equip your helper with solid skills before they return home to their family.

Interview with author Jo Furniss

10. Extra Off Days

Give your helper a longer break with some extra off days! We all know how busy the festive season gets, so let her relax a little more once the Christmas buzz dies down.

11. Cash Bonus

We’re sure your helper will appreciate some extra $$$ – especially to send to their family back home if they aren’t able to visit them.

12.  The Gift of Positive Assumptions

It’s so easy to jump to negative conclusions, which can quickly erode the working relationship with our helper. Sadly, most frustrations are due to good intentions that were thwarted by a communication breakdown or mismatched expectations. Here’s a fact that is true of almost every profession and person in the whole world. Most people don’t purposely set out to try to make their employer mad at them. Therefore, we would do good to assume: “There must’ve been a good intention here.” What if our first assumption was that there must be a good reason why she was late to the bus or didn’t finish the laundry? Not in a naive, turn-a-blind-eye kind of way; but in a “let-me-pause-first-before-accusing” kind of way.

Read more: 5 Questions for Helpers That All Mamas Should Ask About Their Kids

Here’s how it can work:

  • Did you get home and the ironing wasn’t done? START WITH: “I bet she had good intentions… maybe I forgot to tell her I needed the ironing done by tonight. Let me clarify to her…”
  • Did your child’s school call to say your helper was late for pickup? START WITH: “I bet she had good intentions… maybe there was a transportation problem beyond her control. Let me ask her if she had any difficulties getting to school today…”
  • Did you see her using the same cloth in the kitchen and bathroom? START WITH: “I bet she had good intentions… maybe her previous employer didn’t like for her to dirty multiple cloths. Let me share my preferences with her…”

We may find that many of our helper’s mistakes are rooted in cultural differences, or the way she was previously taught to do something, or in our own lack of clarity. So begin with a positive thought, and follow up with a question instead of a negative assumption.

Read more: ‘Family Favourites’: We Meet the Amazing Women Behind the Helper Cookbook

TIP: Here’s what I’m not saying: This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t address mistakes with your helper. Jumping to a positive conclusion is a good place to START, but it doesn’t need to end there. If there are things to resolve and changes to be made, the chances of the conversation going smoothly will increase with a gracious start.

I’ve encountered many employers and helpers who part ways due to feelings of under-appreciation or one-too-many misunderstandings or false accusations. Finding ways to avoid these working relationship traps doesn’t just benefit your helper, it benefits you and your family as well!

Let’s give each other the best gifts of all this season and start new habits of appreciation and jumping to positive conclusions. After all, the intangible things never go out of style.

Lead image by Michell Tam First published in 2019. Updated in 2022

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