This is a question that comes up from time to time, most recently asked by reader Treva. The sense I get is that people
- want to buy something culturally appropriate
- that the receiver will appreciate, and
- above all to not offend anyone with their gift.
Getting a gift for an Amish person is not as tough as it might seem. I’ve put together a couple of thoughts followed by gift suggestions below.
Ground rule number one is common sense. The Amish are a family-oriented, traditional Christian people, who use limited technology, so I don’t have to tell anyone that gift subscriptions to Entertainment Weekly or personalized poker sets are probably not the best bet.
It’s also worth considering how traditional the church standards are. Some communities are going to permit things that others won’t. If in doubt, err on the plain side.
Rule number two is that Amish are individuals. So it helps to know whom you are talking about. Male or female? Young or old? Or something for the whole family? That only gets you so far, because while some things would probably make good “Amish” gifts, that doesn’t mean everyone who is Amish will love the gift.
Some Amish men may favor outdoor equipment; others simply aren’t hunters. Some women will appreciate a new egg beater, others an inspirational book.
Just like anyone else, different Amish people like different things. So of course the better you know the person the easier this is…though I realize many asking probably don’t know the intended recipient that well.
With the above in mind, there are quite a few common items that make good gifts. I have a catalog in front of me of a home goods provider which is heavily patronized by the Amish. I thought I’d propose some gifts which can be had for under $20.
I’ve suggested 10 items each for men, women, and children below.
These are mostly useful, sometimes fun items which are safe bets (again, with church standards in mind). You might not send someone over the moon, but you’ll get something that is in most likelihood culturally suitable and apt to be appreciated. Of course, they may already have one of whatever you end up getting, but there’s good news–there is always someone in the family who could use one of whatever it is.
If you want to buy something from these lists, and you’ll be in an Amish area, I’d suggest dry goods or variety stores, which should have much of what you see below, or similar items.
Another idea is to just have fun with it, skip all of these ideas, and follow your gut. The worst that can happen is that they’ll smile, say thank you, and re-gift it to their English neighbor once you leave.
Finally, keep in mind my gender categories are loose here. Some of the “man” gifts would probably be appreciated by the ladies, and vice-versa; some just make good blanket “family” gifts.
10 Gifts for Amish Men
- Deerskin Gloves
- Deluxe Foot Massager (takes 2 AA batteries)
- “Old Standby” Basic Harmonica
- Wearable Headlight
- Four-blade Pocket Knife
- Insulated Lunch Pack
- Pocket Watch (Bear, Wolf, Horse, Deer design)
- 6-pound Bag of Popping Corn + Cheddar Cheese Seasoning
- Hardwood Letter Rack
- Giant Rain Gauge (exciting…because it’s giant)
10 Gifts for Amish Women
- Singing Bird Clock
- 10-piece Flower Enamel Bowl Set
- Wooden Recipe Card Box
- Pizza Pan
- Home Remedies Book
- Wildlife and Scenic Thermometers (Goldfinches, Deer, Bluebirds, Harvest Acres, etc)
- Tomato Strainer/Press (for the pizza sauce)
- 7-piece Glass & Pitcher Set
- Keepsake Box with Engraved Footprints Poem
- Hummingbird Feeder
10 Gifts for Amish Children
- Deluxe Stamp Set
- Sleepytime Tales 9-book Set
- Magnetic Chalk/Dry Erase Board
- Mini Spin Top
- U.S.A. Floor Puzzle
- Pound A Peg
- Kenworth Livestock Semi Toy Truck (no license required)
- Farm-opoly Board Game
- Table Tennis Set
- Tinker Toy-style Construction Set
Have you ever given a gift to an Amish person? Any thoughts or gift ideas to add here?
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Gifts for Amish People
I face this question each time I go to stay with an Amish family and since this is becoming 2 – 3 times a year, for research visits, it is quite a challenge. What I have found works, is to take to note of the kind of things they have in the house already or like and then add to it. For example, my friend, Anna, really loves to lay up a nice table with ‘pretty’ things. So I have begun to take her traditionally English things like dishes or lace or old linen napkins which she collects. I’ve noticed too that several of the ladies especially like it that the items come from England or, if I’ve been travelling there, then from Europe. On the last trip, I bought a boxed set of two sweet china coffee mugs and was asked by Miriam, to take some more next time I go so she and her sisters, (there are 8 of them) can all have the same! Another time, I noticed that there was shower gel in the bathroom, so I took some toiletries that Sara would be unlikely to buy for herself. Gardening gifts always seem to go down well.
Amish men, like most men I know, are more challenging to buy gifts for, but for example, Elmer really likes to travel so ‘coffee table’ books of photographs of different places they are unlikely ever to see have been appreciated. Also, having been travelling with one family in the US and enjoyed a particular board game, we left a set for the children, and another one for Al, the father, as he wanted to introduce his brother’s family to it.
I like these ideas though and will be equipping myself with a catalogue next time I’m there!
For that someone whose ordnug advocates having very little
I don’t personally know any Amish people, but here are some other things that I’d consider buying or giving
Toolbox if deemed necessary
Knife sharpening kit
If inclined, State oriented fishing/hunting/birding guide book
Gift certificate to favorite Amish specific dry goods / food store
Cooking utensil she doesn’t have yet
If so inclined, gift certificate to local fabric shop
Homemade animal shaped pencil / pencil crayon holder
Abacus for learning basic math (or if you’re inclined you can make one)
Interesting, useful and plain gift for cherished pet
(Family oriented) Pass to their favorite local family friendly attraction
Pass to local paint ball or other interested attraction
Book of naughty or bad (awful) jokes
“Loud” but appropriate Decals for buggy
Donation to whichever Amish/Mennonite charitable organization they volunteer with or support
New but plain mailbox if needed
Anything to replace something broken or not fixable that they hadn’t gotten around to replacing themselves.
i gift fruit cheese and butter any nuts or things to bake with also
Either today or tomorrow, I am going to see a new Amish friend of mine and bringing her some goats milk as a gift. She runs a bake foods stand and several of her customers (myself included) want goats milk fudge. She and her husband do not own goats. The place she gets her goats milk is two towns away from her which means she would have to hire a driver to get there. When I go to her house, I drive right by it. So after I insisted I was going to give her a gift for something she did for me, she said she wanted a few quarts of goats milk from a certain store. So I will buy them and bring them to her.
Keeping gifts simple
Sometimes i take a book, which my Amish friends seem to appreciate. I also take candles … Like a Yankee candle thatnsmells like apple pie, etc. and lastly something from where you live is nice. I.m in Texas, so that can make for some fungifts … Salsa, bbq sEasonings, etc. Love this post. Thanks for sharing”
Thanks Vanetta. I usually either give food, or my car. Or rather use of it.
Giving someone a ride is not really a “gift” that will generate sentimental value (besides any good memories created on a memorable journey), but there can be a huge difference in your cost vs. their value, considering Amish pay around a dollar a mile, or more, for taxi service.
Another good topic. My Amish friends to whom I occasionally
give gifts are either Swartzentruber or very conservative Old
Order Amish. At Christmastime, I give them large fruit baskets —
and I always have to remember they have large families, so there
needs to be enough fruit for the whole family to enjoy. They really seem to enjoy the fruit baskets. For the children, I usually give puzzles, which they appreciate. I buy simple ones for
the small children, and ones with lots of pieces (500 or more) for
the teens. I usually buy ones with nature or farm scenes. I show
them to the parents before I give them to the children, to make sure the pictures don’t go against their church rules. I’d suggest this for any gifts you would give Amish children– show the
gift to the parents first, and don’t be offended if the parents say
they’d rather you not give that specific gift. I learned that once
when I had a game to give a family’s children. The father thought it was too competetive; he said a more cooperative game would have
Thanks Al, this is good advice for more traditional groups. It is true some of the gifts on the lists may not fit for a very conservative family. You can always ask in a roundabout way without telling them you are thinking of giving them something as a gift.
I’m going to bookmark this post because we visit friends up in Bowling Green (MO) and usually like to bring a little something. One of the families sent us a cute birth announcement because they just had their 8th baby, a girl, and invited us to come see her. Well, I had NO idea what to get an Amish baby. I couldn’t get it cute clothes or hair bows or things like that and I didn’t even know if they used cloth or disposable diapers (both, it turns out). We ended up going to the Wal-Mart up there and getting them a gift card and picking up some stuff for the other kids. They like to make home-made greeting cards, so I got them a new pack of colored pencils and paper, some bubbles (which they all wanted), and last but not least, snacks and cookies (when in doubt, food). Your lists and the ideas from the comments are great ~ so happy you posted this!
I forgot to add, each time one of Mary Ann Kinsinger/Suzanne Fisher’s “Life With Lily” books comes out, I get them a copy and they ALL love that – including the mom and the boys in the family. When the third book came out, I put that in the gift bag with the other stuff, and the 15 year old boy was the first one to get it and start reading. When the first one came out, I sent it to the mom in the mail and said she might want to read it first to make sure it’s fine (I knew it was but thought she might want to double-check). Then they were so excited each time they got a new one.
Gifts for friends
For weddings I used to give Aladdin kerosene lamps which have the light output of a 60 watt light bulb. They’re simple, beautiful and well within most district rules. I’ve also found that three or four yards of modest fabric have made nice gifts because it can be used in a quilt or to make clothing.
We exchange a Christmas box every year with our Amish friends. Besides supplying each other with our specialty cookies, they will have in our box towels, scented candles, travel mugs, fancy dish, a thermometer, etc. We put in their box a new hammer for Ben, some of the headband LED lights, work gloves, for Susie a specialty egg whip, winter gloves plus a big can of popped corn and/or a fruit basket. One year I took a picture of their farm and had a calendar made; they really liked that. When their kids were small I’d buy bottles of strawberry quick for in their milk and some of the novelty kids snacks, some little farm animal toys and coloring books of farm animals and crayons. Once you stop and think what are useful items, it is fairly easy to come up with ideas. A good gift when just visiting is a box of greeting cards and nice letter writing paper. They do a lot of card sending. For a wedding gift I’ve gotten the girls a nice mixing bowl set or knife set, kitchen towels, cute cookie jar, anything useful for setting up a new kitchen. It’s actually easier and more fun to think up items for this Amish family than for my teenage grandchildren!
Letter writing supplies might be nice. Stationery sets could be plain, floral or nature themed. And aren’t postage stamps always practical?
Someone gave us a top quality bath towel – I have been using it for years so I always remember who gave it.
A large box of chocolates, a flashlight (LED lights may not be appreciated by the most conservative Amish), a fruit basket, a jar of mixed nuts, a Vise Grip wrench.
I would not recommend S-H-O-M’s choices for Rumspringa Teens unless you want to get in trouble with Mom and/or Dad!
Denise, since many OOA are prolific letter writers, your gift ideas would certainly be appreciated.
As a quilter myself I think of not just fabric but other sewing notions. A quilt takes lots of thread, batting and of course needles, they dull with use. Different sized thimbles as well. The young girls learn sewing at a young age so maybe a personal sewing kit of their own with scissors, thimbles, seam ripper, etc. For children, simple toys like baseball, badmitton, etc. For men maybe some men’s hand cream, socks (or do the women knit them?). Since I live in Florida I would bring them fresh citrus in season as well.
We have this problem in spades as you can imagine. We continue our own practice of giving gifts for Christmas, birthdays, etc. We know our son, Ed, understands and appreciates it, but are not sure about Ruth. She’s always seems thankful though. As a wedding gift we mainly gave them money, as that seemed very appropriate since they were building a house and starting a business. I found a wonderful spice rack filled with great basic spices, as a special gift for her. My daughter gave her a basket of toiletries we thought she’d like.
This past year we had lots of fun with surprise gifts. When Ruth’s birthday came round (March), we simply called the local grocer in Fertile, MN, and had a grocery delivery made. Grocer Al seemed tickled by the thought that he could cheer this young couple up this way, and wouldn’t even let us pay him to deliver it. Keep in mind that they are about 1300 miles from us, so we considered it a great gift to us, that he would do this. What we sent was important too. We remembered that they’d spent the winter surviving on root veggies from last years crops. But by March, we knew those were depleted. So we sent more! Potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and garlic. Then we added in fresh fruit which is very popular with the Amish, they so rarely get it. Our little couple eats almost no meat, so we also sent a turkey for them to cook however they wanted. Since Ed loves Mexican food, we included avocados, tortillas, green chilies, and chips with salsa. Just as we thought, they were so excited to get this gift, they called the next day to say thanks! Sure enough, they were running out of food and the “basics” were as appreciated as anything.
When Ed was first living with the Amish, he would come and go from the community in Va. When he’d go back, he would buy lots of bananas and oranges, as these things were considered huge treats. Sometimes, he’d stop and buy a gallon of ice cream at the last stop; then when he got there, everyone would stop their work and have a cold treat; they all loved this!
What kind and thoughtful gifts, Anne! I’m sure Ed and Ruth really enjoyed them!
Thanks for sharing this gift list, Erik, and to the other readers that contributed. Our family is participating in our first ever CSA with a young Amish family and she just mentioned she had her 25th birthday and that her husband’s birthday was this coming week. They are having a Day at the Farm for their CSA members and I thought it would be fun to give them a little gift. Their children are very young (18 months and 3), so I’ll have to put a little thought it to it!
I have an Amish friend who likes red cardinals. While browsing through a thrift shop in Ohio, I found a bell and basket with a red cardinal on the front. My friend was thrilled and said she would display them in her curio cabinet. She loves thrift shops too so it added to the fun to know they came from a thrift store. 🙂 Thanks for this great post.
Cindy I wonder if your friend has one of those thermometers. They are a good buy, should be in the $10-12 range.
We have numerous Amish friends, that we go and visit each year in Ohio. We always send thinking of you gifts throughout the year.:) Our friends enjoyed the Farmopoly game (which they told us they had a 10+ hour marathon), scenery puzzles are always a favorite, and books. The girls always like the Little House on the Prairie series, older boys like the Hardy Boys series, Wanda Brunstetter has a children series they like, and for the little ones, coloring books are enjoyed (animal or Bible story ones). I checked with each of the parents the first time, to make sure they were acceptable before sending them (each church district is different). For Christmas I always send a basket with a variety of Hot Chocolates & teas, chocolate candies, and kitchen towels, something everyone likes and can be used. Homemade gifts are always the best (crochet blankets, quilts, etc…) we all know, Amish/English how much love goes into making them. Just a few ideas I thought I would share. Hope everyone has a wonderful day!
When I visit my Mississippi Amish friends, (Swartzentruber), I like to take the kids ice cream when the weather is warm. Their mother told me they liked it, and I know it is something they would not ordinarily buy often. It always gets lots of smiles and giggles! Anytime i visit, and they see that it is me, all the kids come running.
I want the wearable headlight. That would be the coolest thing to have on the nightstand for a middle of the night stroll to the bathroom, kitchen, or children’s room.
I personally would attach it to my wheelchair so I could wear it and not have to backtrack to turn lights off/on when I needed to be up in the dark.
Totally unrelated to the article…
Post on an Antique Tractor board I read from a fella who runs an Amish Taxi about his busy and interesting Saturday he has planned shuffling Amish around:
Read it quick, because that forum “rolls off the manure spreader” after about three or four days usually.
Late to this post, again…
Matt, I enjoyed the link—comments, especially!
Erik, WOW! I had no idea how much the Amish pay for “taxi” service! I guess it varies from one settlement (or state) to another. Is there a “rule of thumb” one might use to determine the going rate? Is bartering ever involved (I would gladly exchange my own “taxi service” for home baked goods, most of the time!)
Well, I’ve got lots of neat Amish gifting ideas from this post…now I just need some Amish friends! 🙂
Prices and value of Amish taxi rides
Alice Mary I think it’s a safe bet some families trade or at least offer goods or services of some sorts for rides, say those given by neighbors or friends. But probably less common to see at least on a regular basis with the people who actually drive Amish for a living, for whom it is their main livelihood.
I am not sure how much prices fluctuate in the short term depending on availability and demand, it is a good question. Some drivers are known to be cheaper and others more expensive. And some drivers are more reliable or more pleasant to ride with than others as well which may affect who an Amish person calls first and how much they pay.
It doesn’t seem very cheap, but on the other hand you are paying for another human being’s time, use of the vehicle, and fuel. It may be cheaper than we think taking all that into account.
Postage stamps (preferably, “Forever”), since Amish still use “snail mail” for cards and letters. (Good for men, women, older teens)
If for the entire family, something edible. (I give my Amish friends a ham each year for Christmas. They also like 3-pound bags of peanuts in the shell and pretzels.)
For females, nice towels. (Not too heavy– too long to dry) (My friends only use bath towels and wash cloths, not fingertip or hand fingertip towels. Do not have to be solid color–that only applies to clothing. Also, dishtowels, since all dishwashing is by hand.)
Black gloves or mittens
So many great ideas. I’m going to ask the parents about the Farm-opoly game and purchase if they agree it is OK. This particular Amish family has 6 young kids. Two are pre-school and the oldest I think is 10. I bought a canasta of helium from Wal-Mart ($22) and thought on our next visit I would blow up a bunch of helium balloons for all the kids.
A little off the subject. Obviously the kids know my name from talking with the parents, and taking them shopping, etc. but I don’t think they know how to address me. Maybe it doesn’t matter to them. I’m thinking of telling them to call me Mister Bob. Anybody have a suggestion from knowing some Amish families? Erik, maybe in your visits? Thanking you in advance.
Rest assured, they call you “Bob.” They do not use formal titles as a general rule, unless it is to distinguish the teacher from a pupil with the same name (ex. “Teacher Jonas”). If you want them to call you “Mister Bob,” I guess they probably would if you asked them to.
I’d agree fully with Lattice. First names are how it goes. They might get a kick out of calling you Mister Bob though 🙂
I have Amish friends and the children call by my name I’ve known then long time so maybe their comfortable around us that it’s ok for them to address us by our first names
Thanks Lattice. No, I would prefer Bob. Just wanted to see if anyone knew differently. It probably sounded like a strange question, but glad for the response. 🙂
I noticed the little ones didn’t respond to me until I used the little Pennsylvania Dutch I had learned. I should have remembered they generally learn English in school.
LITTLE HOUSE books --
— have been well-received. As have, echoing others’ comments, FOREVER stamps.
Gifts for Amish
I usually give them food. Preferably something they don’t normally have access to in our area. I live in upstate New York, but I am from southern Alabama. I regularly receive foods from family, that are not found in NY. Sharing a big with Amish friends just seems natural. Dried green peanuts, new crop pecans (much better quality than what can be found in stores) Satsumas, kumquats, calmondins. I also give food items like those I grew up with. Their kids really like Pecan Pralines, while the adults seem to like things like marmalades and unusual pickles like okra or warermelon rind.
Your ideas are right on. My children are grown, and I now have a granddaughter. One of the most played with gifts I ever gave my son and daughter was a kitchen set with a grocery cart and food and a tool bench with moveable parts. They played with these sets for years.
gifts for amish
the families that I am friends with seem to appreciate jigsaw puzzles and tins the most.
Gifts for Amish
I know Amish don’t listen to a radio for entertainment but wondered if they would use a battery powered weather radio used for nothing but emergency notifications?
Gifts for Amish
Thank you for this post. Very helpful.
Gifts for the Amish
I know, at least with some Amish friends of mine like to go out to eat once in a while. Not a fancy place, either. As I heard one Amish husband say: “Every wife needs a break from the kitchen.”.
from the heart
Sarah from the local Amish community wove new seats for my ladder back chairs. I ran across a dish towel that made me think of her. It said, “Hands to work, hearts to God.” I took it to her when I picked up my chairs. She seemed to be quite surprised and happy. She did an excellent job on my old chairs and deserved what she charged me. The dish towel was just a gift to let her know I had thought of her. Certainly it was useful, a tool you might say, but I hope each time she uses it she will remember it was a gift just because.
What wonderful ideas I just got from all these posts. I have few things people mentioned but was wondering about footwear especially for summer. Is it very specific? I’m cleaning out my home and have stuff I don’t need anymore. Beside all the new things I got them what can or can’t they wear that is appropriate for them? Buying for the AMISH is so much fun. Wish I lived closer to all of them. Its such a treat when a friend and I visit them. Love all the children and how their eyes light up when we surprise them with gifts. Makes US feel so happy when we do this for them. THANK YOU for any suggestions.
I drive Amish in the small local community. I drive kids to school that live too far to walk. I have given life saver books and bookmarks but have been struggling with what to do this year.
Gifts to amish
I HAVE ADOPTED OR MAYBE THEY ADOPTED ME, AND AS GIFTS WE HAVE GIVEN THE CHILDREN : STUFFED ANIMALS, WOODEN BARNS, DOLL HOISES(NO DOLLS) TEA SETS, BALLS, YARD GAMES, COLORING BOOKS, STICKERS, CRAYONS, PLAY DOUGH, TOPS, PULL TOYS, HARMONICA(if permitted) FISHING POLES AND REELS, LIOOMS AND LOOPS, NEEDLEWORK KITS, WIND CHIMES, COIN PURSES. OLDER CHILDREN: WOODCARVING SETS( WITH CUT OROOF GLOVES!) FISHING EQUIPMENT, GOPHER TRAPS, FLASHLIGHTS, GALLON THERMOS BOTTLE , DISHES , BOOKS , SEWING MACHINES( TREADLE ADAPTED ( THEY LOVE ZIGZAG!)
ZIPPO LIGHTERS WITH FLINTS AND FLUID, BATTERY OPERATED CANDLES, CALLIGRAPHY SETS, DESSERT PLATES.
OLDER : CANDY, JARS OF HONEY, NUTS, KITCHEN UTENSILS, COOKIE JARS, DISHES, MATERIAL FROM THIER LOCAL DRY GOODS STORE IN COLORS AND TYPE YHEY ARE ALLOWED IN GHIER COMMUNITY,