Our family has gone by the 4 gift rule during Christmas for a few years now. We have 5 kids so it helps to keep our budget reasonable and our kids are always satisfied with what they are given. I’ll tell you how we use the rule, how I plan, and give you a FREE 4-gift rule printable planning page to make it easy to keep track of it all. Also, I’ll be sure to mention some of the gifts that have been a hit, and classic ideas that are always good choices.
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The 4 Gift Rule: Putting it into Play
If you haven’t heard of the 4 gift rule I’ll give you a quick run down. Basically, the rule is comprised of four catagories from which you buy gifts:
- Something they want.
- Something they need.
- Something to wear.
- Something to read.
If you are big on Christmas, like I am, four gifts maybe doesn’t seem like a lot, but in reality its plenty. Your kids are actually still getting more than four gifts, between extended family members, Santa, stockings, or any gift exchange or gift party you are part of. Plus, its a great way to teach gratitude and appreciation, as well as concentrate on the true meaning of Christmas.
How to Incorporate the 4 Gift Rule
I really love the 4 gift rule. It makes it easier to figure out what to get my kids and keeps the pressure off because I know they are getting something useful or exciting, and not something that ends up being a total gift-fail. Plus, our kids have always gotten a Santa gift in addition, and for the last few years we have done a sibling exchange. So in reality they all get 6 gifts, but 4 of them are from my husband and I. Here is exactly how we do things. Check it out and be sure to get the free 4-gift printable tracking page below!
Something they want.
This is the gift I generally spend the most money on but I still try to keep it reasonable. Depending on your child, and your budget, there are many choices. My children are so different in their wants and personalities but here are some ideas that they have loved in the past, and things that they want this year:
- Our Generation Doll or American Girl– We started our daughter off with an Our Generation Doll from Target. They are less expensive and a great trial run before deciding to splurge on an American Girl, which is every doll lovers epic doll.
- Scooter or Roller Blades- Our favorite scooter for our younger kids (ages 2-6) is the Micro-Mini. We have had three of them, plus one of the Micro-Maxis (ages 7-11) and all have been phenomenal. It is hands down the best scooter out there for elementary age kids. For the bigger kids it is all about the tricks and durability. This scooter, the Envy Colt, is on the list of my 12 year old this year and gets rave reviews from his buddies. Last year we got roller blades for our 7 year old, because he had out grown his roller skates. They were a big hit and despite the heavy use are still in great shape.
- Play Sets. Over the years some successful play sets for our family have been an outdoor play house, a kitchen set, the Little People barn set, or Little People house set, these awesome wooden train tracks that work great with both wooden trains and Thomas the Trains, and Magna Tiles.
- Gadgets and tech. I try to stay away from gifting devices. Instead our kids have saved their own money to spend on them. However, I have given the kid version of a Kindle to my book lover in the family, and I have also given games such as Fifa, and Madden. Beyond that we try to avoid electronics for Christmas. However, we do like the occasional gadget. We’ve had hits and misses, but a couple of successful ones are walkie-talkies and a mini drone. One thing that is big on my 3rd graders list this year are the HEXBUG BattleBots.
Something they need.
Usually, the “something they need” ends up being clothing items that don’t fall into the regular “something to wear” category. However, sometimes their needs are other things like sports equipment or something for their room.
- Other clothing items. These gifts tend to be things that are not everyday wear items. I love to give girls‘ or boys‘ rain boots. We use them in the winter here in southern California, but your kids may need them in the spring. I also give umbrellas and rain coats to match. Last year we gave our daughter her first pair of “heels” because she needed dress shoes. Same goes for your boys if they are lacking a nice pair of he-style dress shoes for events or church.
- Sports or activities. We have given soccer balls, soccer cleats, baseball bats, hitting nets, goal nets and all have been used well and often.
- Their room. Fun sheet sets, soft rugs, a bean bag, or saucer chair are all things we have given and the kids have very much appreciated.
Something to wear.
When I go to buy my kids their something to wear gift I try to grab things that are name brand. You can find some really good deals on name brand items around the holidays.
- Clothing items. At a certain age clothes might be a boring gift but for some reason my kids are always excited to get them. My big boys love a sweet hoodie from Salty Crew, or Champion. You can never go wrong with a cozy set of jammies (or jams as we like to call them). My daughter love anything sparkly, with a unicorn, or over the top cute. And anything from Carter’s is just the sweetest for the babes.
- Shoes. Vans are a family favorite brand in our house, for both my girl and my boys. My toddler had the cutest little Adidas. My daughter nearly keels over with excitement when she gets a pair of boots, especially if they are cowgirl boots or a pair of UGGs. Also, if you didn’t know UGGs came out with a line called Koolaburra, they look the same but cost way less!
Something to read.
My husband and I are huge advocates for kids reading and being read to. Our bookshelves are overflowing but I never mind getting another book, so this is my favorite gift category. Here are some of my top recommendations.
- Little Owl’s Night (my youngest son’s favorite and so special)
- Good Morning, Good Night
- The Little Engine that Could
- Dog Man (my 8 year old son is currently obsessed with)
- Harry Potter (can’t have a book list without it)
Santa Comes to Visit
As I mentioned earlier, the gifts that Santa brings are in addition to the 4 gift rule. Or, that is at least how our family operates. Santa usually bring one gift per child, and then a gift for the whole family. The Santa gifts that our kids get are usually something else that came off of their “want” list. The family gift can range from anything like a board game, a sound system, or a trampoline (best gift we ever bought to release all that energy!). It totally depends on what your family likes to do together and what king of budget you have to work with.
We have done a sibling exchange for the last few years and I love it. It is so fun to take each of my kiddos to shop for their sibling. We do this secret Santa style.
I put each child’s name into a hat and they get to draw for who they get to buy for. We have five kids so this works really well, but it would also be great to include parents too.
I put a $10-$15 spending limit on each gift. None of my kids are old enough to have a job of their own so we still pay for these gifts. It also makes it a little more challenging and they have to really give it some thought to find something special.
After we have purchased their secret Santa gift we bring it home and they get to wrap it however they want. I, of course, have to help the littles, but my bigs are good on their own.
Then on Christmas Day they open up their gifts and try to guess who their secret Santa was.
The 4 Gift Rule Printable Tracking Page
To keep it all straight I need a place to write it all down. With all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays I can hardly remember what I ate for breakfast, let alone what gifts I want to buy, or have already bought. In comes the 4 gift rule tracker. I will tell you just how to use and you can get your own in just a few more paragraphs.
4 Gift Rule Tracker
This section is to keep track of which gifts you plan to buy for your kids. You can write them down by category and then check them off once you have purchased them.
Naughty or Nice
I kept this section incognito just in case. 😉 However, this is where you will check off every Santa gift you have purchased, in the “nice” column, of course.
The sibling exchange is totally optional, but a fun addition. This section is also slightly disguised, just in case. The first box is to mark which child has which by using the numbers from the 4 gift rule tracker section. For example, if child number one got child number two as their secret Santa, then you would place the number 2 in the box. The second box is to check off once you have purchased the gifts. Again, you can include parents in this fun family gift exchange, the more, the merrier.