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The Ultimate Guide to the 4 Gift Rule for Kids

Want to try the 4 gift rule with your kids this year? We've got the ultimate guide on how to explain it to your kids and gift ideas.
kids opening their 4 gifts on Christmas
Updated: April 19, 2024

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With the rise of sustainability and minimalism, many parents are looking for ways to give gifts this holiday season without overloading their children. The 4-gift rule has become increasingly popular in recent years, and while it may ironically seem more difficult to pick these four gifts than a multitude of them, we're here to help break it down for you.

More: 10 Christmas Gifts for 18 Year Old Boys

What is the 4-gift rule?

The goal of the 4-gift rule is to simplify holiday shopping for your loved ones and keep you from overspending or purchasing unnecessary items. Here's how it works

  1. Buy something they want
  2. Buy something they need
  3. Buy something for them to wear
  4. Buy something for them to read

These four categories still offer up a broad enough spectrum for giving them something they'll really love, but specific enough to narrow it down to items that fit your budget and their needs.

How To Explain The 4-Gift Rule to Kids

Especially if your kids are younger and have been used to receiving more presents at past holidays, they may not initially understand why they are only getting four presents. Use this as a teaching opportunity to discuss a few topics of importance with your children, including: minimalism, sustainability, and frugality. 

In addition, this is a great opportunity to encourage thankfulness during the holiday season, which is really what it's all about. By discussing this with your children, you will hopefully help them see that you (or Santa) are still giving them items they love, while being responsible for our planet and your wallet.

Pin these ideas to save for later:

a Pinterest guide to the 4 Gift Rule for Kids

Gift Ideas

Obviously, a gift for each of the four categories will vary per child depending on their age, needs, and interests, but we've rounded up a few ideas to get you started buying gifts.

The 4-Gift Rule for Toddlers

  1. Want: A set of six wooden animal puzzles that will stand the test of time. 
  2. Need: This Scandanavian-style backpack will keep everything they need for preschool safe and sound.
  3. Wear: A kit of playful dress-up clothes
  4. Read: Celebrate all of their dreams with this uplifting book they will cherish for years to come.

The 4-Gift Rule for Kids

  1. Want: Legos are one of those classic toys that will never go out of style. This Star Wars shuttle is one of the most popular sets of the year.
  2. Need: This sleeping bag will be perfect for sleepovers and camping adventures.
  3. Wear: Kids are always losing socks. Freshen up their collection with this 12-pair pack of fun prints and designs.
  4. Read: Make reading fun with the Guinness World Records 2020 book.

The 4-Gift Rule for Tweens

  1. Want: What kid doesn't love video games? Try Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch for something that's sure to be a hit.
  2. Need: Does your sports star need some new equipment? Check out this pop-up soccer goal.
  3. Wear: Comfort is everything with this cute, cozy pajama set.
  4. Read: If your tween loves adventure and fantasy, the Wildwood Chronicles box set is a great idea.

The 4-Gift Rule for Teenagers

  1. Want: An Instax mini camera kit for capturing memories with their friends. 
  2. Need: Freshen up their bedroom with a fresh set of sheets and bedding
  3. Wear: A new pair of classic sneakers that can be thrown in the washer. 

4. Read: Continue encouraging an attitude of gratitude with this daily journal.

Looking for more ways to keep Christmas simple this year? Here are 5 Gift Exchange Ideas for Big Families.

Jacqueline Weiss

About Jacqueline

Based in Los Angeles, Jacqueline is a freelance writer and social media strategist. She… Read more

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