Some years your kids want everything for Christmas. Other years they don’t seem to really want anything at all. Both are hard situations to navigate. And regardless of which it is, we all seem to go overboard anyway.
At least we do.
And when we do, the result is always the same on Christmas morning…
Picture a room strewn with crumpled-up wrapping paper, ripped-open boxes and new toys with little parts broken off them.
Now add the soundtrack of overwhelmed kids arguing. Then cue up relatives loudly giving their opinions about how we should handle it.
That’s what our Christmas used to look like.
Every Christmas, the kids faced a disorganised mountain of presents from us and from extended family. They had no idea what they were getting and like most kids, would literally shake with anticipation!
And then, when it was time to open their gifts, each would claw and grab, trying to get whatever was theirs. Taking turns? Forget it. Heck, half the time they hadn’t even worked out what it was they had unwrapped before they were onto the next one in the pile.
All of which resulted in overwhelmed kids, frustrated parents, a mess, ridiculous waste and a huge credit card debt.
Until we discovered the Four Gift Rule.
By now, we’ve all heard of the “Four Gift Rule” - a very popular four gift Christmas trend going on these days, where you limit gift-giving to four gifts, where each gift fulfils a specific gift parameter. These parameters are:
WANT: This is a “big item” - the thing your child really wants. This is often some sort of toy or plaything. This could include things like outdoor toys, electronics, classic wooden toys, or even some sort of adventure gift. Or perhaps it’s a craft kit, a construction set or that special soft friend.
NEED: This allows us to give our kids something they need that might relate to their learning or new life stage (starting school or kinder for example) without it being unexpected or a big deal. For example, a new lunchbox, sunglasses or something for their room.
WEAR: This is when we can take into account each kids’ unique sense of style and any sensory issues too. It may take a little more effort to find a soft, quality kids garment these days (like Roasted Fox perhaps) but it’s worth it! And if you take the time to pick something that is uniquely them (not the same as everyone), you can guarantee they’ll wear it until it falls off.
READ: One of my favourites. This gives us a chance to choose titles and books that speak to their interests and reading level. We can think outside the box and not worry about making sure they’re getting traditional reading materials. What about some classic literature, something inspirational, a cookbook or something really fun?
Want, Need, Wear, Read has meant less chaos, clearer expectations and less disappointment for our family. And even with fewer gifts, both kids are now happier because they are not over-stimulated with toys everywhere – they can focus, engage, learn and really enjoy.
Christmas Morning is like an extension of when we decided to put most of the toys in the playroom away and rotate smaller amounts out on a regular basis – life was immediately more calm, more involved and more interesting.
But that’s a story for another time.
The Four Gift Rule has also allowed us to teach thankfulness. So many times, children get wrapped up in the gifts, and even though they know true meaning of Christmas, it’s still all about Santa for them - it’s all about those presents under the tree. It teaches them to be thankful for the few presents that they receive, rather than simply expecting loads – and this hopefully will make them better human beings.
Plus in our house, we have a tradition of donating the same number of toys that the kids received – only giving away four is MUCH easier.
So to us, the “Four Gift Rule” is an admirable idea. It encourages children to remember that Christmas is about more than just presents, it teaches them to appreciate the things they have, it gives them clarity and calm and it doesn’t fill your house with junk.
Who doesn’t want that kind of simplicity?
But for me it also reduces one of the joys that I get out of Christmas - giving. You see, unlike the popular stereotype of overindulgence, I (like most parents I know) spent the entire year telling my kids no. While they certainly don’t go without, our kids understand that gifts are a special thing, not just because. But when a special occasion comes along, I live to give.
Enter the 5 Gift Rule.
In the 5 Gift Rule, the first four gifts are the same - something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read. In our house, these are the Santa Gifts and they’re easy to do because we get to discuss them and put them into our Santa letters.
But the 5th? The 5th is the real winner. It’s something they need or want but don’t really know it. It’s that X-Factor gift that just blows them away - that surprises them entirely and fills a void so perfectly that you get tears of joy.
This is the gift that gives us the chance to really listen to our kids, watch them live and understand their passions. Instead of buying the hot toy of the season, we try to find out what makes them truly happy. We give them something they’ll really enjoy and use.
And this is the gift that is from us.
Because you need to listen - and listening to your kids means really connecting with them and that is a gift you simply cannot put a price on.
Plus, coming up with this gift, wrapping it, feeling the anticipation, and then seeing their faces as they open it is where you will feel the true joy of Christmas again.
The 5 Gift Rule makes shopping easy because 4 are no brainers and the 5th is where you feel that magical feeling of doing something amazing for someone - and it will be amazing because you were able to put 90% of your effort into it instead of spreading the 100% across a bunch of stuff no one wants or needs.
(WARNING - shameless promotion ahead)
And at Hugs for Kids, I can guarantee you’ll find all 5 for everyone.
Because we have everything you need and nothing you don’t.