What Is the 4 Gift Rule?

4 gift rule

The 4 Gift Rule

When they are babies you could give them nothing for their birthday or Christmas and they'd think nothing of it. However, toddlers are a different beast, and it's very easy to get to a point where all they are thinking about is how many presents they'll get to open. Often to the point that they pay very little attention to the gift inside.

One way people have been trying to reduce the expectation and limit the number of gifts they are buying is to employ the 4 gift rule. This rule goes like this:

  • Something to wear.
  • Something to read.
  • Something you want.
  • Something you need.

The idea is that it helps reduce the number of gifts and increase the appreciation children feel for the presents they do get.

There's still room for something really special or indulgent or a just because gift in the something you want category, but the rest of the gifts are practical and are likely to involve a certain amount of anticipation, especially as kids grow up and start to want to choose their clothes or know what they need for hobbies or school.

Making the 4 gift rule work for you

Of course, you can adapt the rule to work for you and your family. You might tend to buy clothes when they are needed and not view them as a gift, so while a special coat, a new outfit or pair of shoes they really like might work for some people others may prefer to switch this to an experience gift. “Somewhere to go” or “Something to do”.

And of course you could change it up completely. We've seen one blogger that has changed it to:

  • Something Cool
  • Something for School
  • Something you'll Wear
  • Something to Share

    And there's no reason 4 has to be the number. It could just as easily be 3 or 5 or any other number that works for you. Limiting the number is more about knowing when you are done shopping and not getting carried away or swept up in a long list of desires that may not really be appreciated come the big day.

Gift giving at other times of the year

When children are young there is also something to be said for gifting at other times of the year, not just birthdays and Christmas. This can be particularly relevant if birthday and Christmas fall close together as toddlers change so much in a year that they really might appreciate a gift far more in 6 or 9 months time when it is more developmentally appropriate.

Ethical gift giving

However you decide to give and regardless of whether or not you find the little rhyme helpful when deciding what to buy we do like the sentiment of giving less. Really thinking about the gifts you give, to toddlers, teenagers or adults, and not just buying for the sake of buying has an impact far beyond how many gifts get opened and how much they are appreciated.

Thinking about buying things we actually need, rather than a long list of desires has an environmental impact as well. Choosing fewer, ethically made gifts is good for the planet and the people who make them as well.

Next up: What do you give a toddler who has everything?