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 gifts mean for our 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. 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 year
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It’s really easy to tell kids that if they’re good, they’ll get great 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 any gift-giving event.
Watch the 4 gift rule video:
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. Here are 17 ideas we love for shared family gift ideas.
It can be a trip, something that they would love but is for more than just them, a big “share basket”, or even something that they get to share the experience with someone else. My daughter will be getting some fall bulbs for her birthday this year as her share gift. She gets to share them with the family in planting them around the house but also with others as she grows them.
Implement the share gift idea even if you don’t adopt this 4 gift rule!
I am a believer in small changes over time or adapting ideas to suit our family.
So do whatever fits your family, but if you like the share idea, try it out! There’s a link a bit higher for our 17 favorite ideas. But here’s a bit more on why even start a shared family gift tradition.
While we stopped celebrating Christmas as a family, here are a few posts that might be helpful.
More on why we don’t celebrate Christmas here.
Print this “cool, school, wear, share” planning guide
Simply click the image below to be taken to the downloadable file.
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 5 children living on a farm in New England. She believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience and has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development. She is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!