Magical feelings, unforgettable memories, and all the nostalgia that snowy Christmastime with family brings. It’s what I want for my kids. It’s what I desperately desire for them to remember, but more importantly what I hope they crave now.
Not just presents.
When we first had kids we decided we were going to try the 3-gift method to birthdays and Christmas presents because it aligns with our faith. And I liked it, but it lacked the sort of structure I wanted so that when they got older, they could easily mimic when shopping in a store.
Several years ago I also heard about the 4 gift giving rule. You know “Something you want, something you need, something you’ll wear, something you’ll read.”
It’s cute. But it always missed the mark for me.
I would come up with ideas that were good, but didn’t fit the mold and personally, I desire the consistency to know when I’m done buying gifts, I’m simply done. It becomes a check-box instead of a never-ending list or a moving target.
So I thought about it and figured out a different 4 gift rule that will change what Christmas means for kids. It’s not all about having a long list of wants or fueling their consumerism. And it’s also not all about them, which is what I feared on many levels with how Christmas was morphing for our family. Coupled with our toy buy-back, it’s slowing changing how our kids see gift giving and receiving.
A 4-gift rule alternative to adopt this Christmas and at Birthdays
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It’s really easy to tell kids that if they’re good, they’ll get great Christmas gifts. I would personally rather fulfill the things they need as they happen and even have my kids learn the lesson of hard work to earn the things they really want.
I want to teach that holidays are about giving and about sharing on top of faith. Not consumerism that out-shadows all else.
So from now on, we have a little rhyme we’ve replaced the other 4 gift rule one with that we LOVE. And it works for pretty much all holidays and not just Birthday or Christmas.
AKA something they might want or don’t even know they wanted but is awesome either way.
There’s wiggle room here.
We don’t personally have our kids write wish lists. Again, we want to really help them learn that in life we don’t typically just get given everything we want, but that money is involved, money has to be earned, and there are choices as to what is the best use of that income.
But if you do a wish list, maybe this is where you choose just one thing from it. Or maybe you found something you know is even better that they don’t know about and you’re not confined to the phrase “something you want”.
Something for school
It could be a book, but it could also be a board game that emphasizes educational concepts. (I mean, there are games like Imhotep that are about ancient Egypt, Catan that teaches bartering, strategy, and scarcity, or any number of other games that have skill development in them!
We do this even for adults because the sentiment is that it’s a learning tool or opportunity. However you define that.
Something you’ll wear
Obviously, it must be worn on the body in some way. Maybe gloves, maybe a hat, maybe a whole outfit.
If it’s for dad, you could even get him a gadget to wear in his pocket. A baby could get bibs or socks. And kids could get any assortment of things.
I have also honestly thought about putting a box of “something you’ll wear” together with a shirt, set of underwear, socks, hat, pants, shoes, and the whole nine yards. Which could add another element of fun to the gift-giving tradition.
Something you’ll share.
This is my favorite. The gift might not be for just the individual who unwraps it, but they get the joy of opening it.
Not only does it encourage sharing and the idea that a birthday or holiday celebration isn’t all about “me, me, me” but that it’s a time to celebrate together.
It also allows for really big gifts, expensive items that benefit multiple people, and things that are meant to be experienced. And you could even make it about people outside of your family like to give what was given to someone else who needs it more.
Again, there is flexibility in how it can be interpreted.
My oldest got an HP Sprocket as her “share gift” for her birthday. It’s basically a Bluetooth photo printer that can make any Bluetooth device like a Polaroid camera. It’s not hers and only hers. But she got to unwrap it. And she did get her own allotment of photo paper.
Last Christmas everyone’s something to share is a trip to New York City, but each person got to unwrap something relating to the trip. One person gets to unwrap a car game and a movie that’s set in New York to enjoy as we drive there, someone else gets to open tickets to the Statue of Liberty, and another kiddo gets to open tickets to the top of the top of Empire State Building.
Please note: We live in Boston and we have a few points we’ve saved up so this trip will only cost us $60 plus food and gas because of our location and saving points for a few nights of hotel.
More thoughtful Christmas Resources + a free printable!
Print this “cool, school, wear, share” planning guide
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Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!