Want, Need, Wear, Read: 4 Gift Rule for Christmas + Printable

Have you heard of the Want, Need, Wear, Read Christmas gift-giving strategy? It’s an approach to Christmas that helps us appreciate holiday traditions while minimizing the cost and complexity of the holidays.

Do you want to simplify Christmas or celebrate a minimalist Christmas this year? Check out the simplicity of the four-gift-giving rules.

Want Need Wear Read: Christmas Gift Giving Rules

What is the four-gift rule? Instead of buying loads of gifts, you’ll purchase four gifts for each child, one from each of the following four categories:

  • Something I Want
  • Something I Need
  • Something To Wear
  • Something to Read

So each child receives something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. Once you purchase those four items, your gift-giving checklist is complete!

A Need for the 4-Gift Rule

Years ago, I spent months preparing for Christmas. I scoured stores for the perfect gifts, wrapped each in sparkly paper and ribbons, and placed them in tiny towers under the tree. I spent a ridiculous amount of time and energy trying to provide a magical Christmas experience. 

My kids raced down the steps on Christmas morning and tore into that wrapping paper. They were excited and happy on Christmas Day, but weeks later, a pile of presents sat unopened and unused. 

At that moment, I realized the truth. My kids didn’t need towers of gifts; a few quality gifts were more valuable than a mountain.

That year I vowed to celebrate Christmas differently and began buying four gifts for each child using the Want, Need, Wear, Read Christmas gift-giving strategy. 

Why Limit the Number of Christmas Gifts?

Are you worried that your kiddos will be disappointed by the lack of presents under the tree? Are you concerned that limiting the number of gifts might lead to disappointment? I was a little concerned about that too, but I was more worried about the message I was sending my kids. A pile of gifts shouldn’t be the metric we use to evaluate the holidays.

I chose to replace the mound of toys with special events. During this time of year, we can bake cookies, search for holiday lights, and create new Christmas traditions. Rather than buying toys the kids play with alone, we can focus on experiences that help us spend time together.

Advantages Of The 4 Gift Christmas Rule

Limiting gifts might seem like a downer, but the four-gift Christmas rule has many advantages. First, you won’t go overboard on shopping. Second, you won’t cause severe damage to your wallet.

Simplifying Christmas gift-giving allows us to remove the excess stuff in favor of creating new family traditions. Maybe you want to prepare pancakes on Christmas morning with your kids or bundle up and take a walk around the neighborhood.

You can play board games after opening presents, ask your kids to help decorate the table for relatives, or cuddle up and watch your favorite Christmas movies.

Best of all, you won’t have to declutter your house of unwanted toys or purge your kid’s closet a few months from now. You have less to maintain, manage, and reorganize by buying less. And remember, a simple Christmas with fewer gifts doesn’t have to be any less magical to kids.

How to Create a Want, Need, Wear, Read Christmas List?

With only four gifts, deciding what to purchase might seem difficult. If you need extra help, look at the lists of gift-giving ideas below.

If you need extra ideas for a want, need, wear, read Christmas list click on the printable PDF button below and ask your kiddos to write down their thoughts.

Gift Giving Ideas: A Want, Need, Wear, Read Gift Guide

So let’s kick this off with ideas for each category. Check out the lists, and feel free to add new ideas in the comments below.

Christmas Gift Ideas: Something I Want

The something I want category is the easiest to fulfill. This category includes all the traditional gifts your child adds to their Christmas wish list or letter to Santa. Here you’ll find that one gift your children are begging you to buy them.

You’ll have no problem coming up with ideas for this one:

  • Hoverboards
  • Skateboards
  • Bikes
  • Barbie houses
  • Nerf guns
  • Board games
  • Card games
  • Video games
  • Tablets

Christmas Gift Ideas: Something I Need

Figuring out what your child wants is easy. Hand them a holiday gift catalog, and they’ll provide a lengthy list. Figuring out what they need might be more challenging.

So here are a few ideas:

  • Electronics: headphones for listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks, computer for completing schoolwork, new keyboard or monitor
  • Sports Equipment: leotards, ballet slippers, weight sets, snowboards, skis, bikes, DribbleUp soccer or basketballs
  • Winter Gear: winter coat, snow boots, mittens, hats, earmuffs
  • Self-Care: yoga mat, yoga classes, or meditation apps like Headspace
  • Brain Games: apps like Elevate, Luminosity, CogniFit Brain Fitness
  • Camping Gear: sleeping bags, tents, headlights, backpacks
  • Personal Care: specialty shampoos, hair products, hair dryers, curling irons

Christmas Gift Ideas: Something to Wear

And when it comes to “something to wear,” you’ll want to think out of the box. Sure, you can buy t-shirts or sweatshirts, but there are a lot of other fun items to consider.

  • Sporting Wear: leotards, ballet slippers, cleats, baseball gloves, high-top shoes, shin guards
  • Winter Gear: winter coat, snow boots, snow pants, mittens, hats, scarves
  • Sun Gear: sun hats, bathing suits, 
  • Rain Gear: umbrellas, rain boots, raincoat
  • Electronic Gear: Fitbit, Apple watch
  • Sleepwear: pajamas, slippers, bathrobe
  • Jewelry: necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings
  • Athletic Gear: yoga pants, workout gear, high-end athletic brands
  • Backpacks and purses
  • T-shirts and sweatshirts
  • Makeup: chapstick, lipstick, eyeshadow palettes, perfume, nail polish

Christmas Gift Ideas: Something to Read

The something to read category is my absolute favorite. I packed a baby book in my hospital bag and spent the last decade reading with my boys. You can buy one book or a whole series.

Here are a few ideas I love:

Christmas Gift Ideas: Extended

One year, I finished buying four gifts for my kids but wanted to buy just a little more. That year I added a few lines to the poem:

  • Something New
  • Something to Share
  • Something to Do
  • Showing You Care

These categories involve gifts for the entire family. 

Christmas Gift Ideas: Something New

There is a big, wide world full of experiences, events, and adventures a family can experience together. A gift in the something new category can be big or small. You can all go white water rafting together if you’ve never done that before or go ice skating at a local ice rink. You can buy tickets to a hockey game if you’ve never attended one or rent canoes for a ride around the lake.

If those don’t suit your fancy, you can prepare a new recipe together or bake a new dessert. The idea is to try something new that will get you out of your comfort zone for a little bit.

Christmas Gift Ideas: Something to Share

The something to share category focuses on an event or experience you can share. This gift can be as simple as wrapping up a new board game the family can play or wrapping a gift card to a restaurant so you can all go out to eat. This family gift involves an activity all family members can enjoy.

Christmas Gift Ideas: Something to Do

The something to do category is similar to something to share but focuses on a unique experience. You may want to visit the science center in your city or go to a museum. You may want to walk after dinner every day for a month or start watching movies every Friday night.

If your family likes shooting hoops, you can set calendar events to play for twenty minutes before dinner or to hop on your bikes before it gets dark out.

I include the description of this gift as a tiny note in an envelope.

Christmas Gift Ideas: Show You Care

The final category helps your family share with others. This gift might involve baking cookies for neighbors, shoveling snow, or adopting an angel during the holiday season. It could be as simple as writing holiday cards to teachers or making unique gifts for babysitters. I present this gift as a blank piece of paper inside an envelope at the beginning of December. After opening, it’s our goal to develop a plan to share as a family.

What About Stockings?

What about stockings? Does the four-gift limit stop you from giving your child a stocking this year? It’s entirely up to you. Funny enough, we’ve never given our children stockings, but this year my youngest son asked for one, and I’m happy to fill it with a few small goodies he might enjoy.

A New Wish List Family Christmas Tradition

Do you think the kids in your life will happily open four gifts or freak out when they see a small stack of presents under the tree?

Are you ready to ditch the typical pile of gifts in favor of the four-gift rule? If so, I’ve created a Christmas wish list printable that can help you.

1 thought on “Want, Need, Wear, Read: 4 Gift Rule for Christmas + Printable”

  1. Great post! I’m a ‘semi-retired’ SAHM myself with grown kids now and I’ve been using a similar print-out for years. It’s worked for our family.


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