How to Start a Gift Rule This Christmas

You want your children to feel the magic of Christmas and enjoy the time they spend with family. Maybe you’re worried because your kids are focusing more on the presents and less on the meaning of the Christmas season. Try using a gift rule this Christmas to help teach your children that holidays aren’t just about the gifts they receive. 

Gift rules help your kids learn about the importance of giving instead of receiving. Instead of the hottest toy they’ll forget about in six months, you can give your loved ones gifts they’ll cherish for years to come. 

Meaningful gifts like personalized ornaments help you celebrate milestones and other family traditions. This year, instead of your kids focusing on themselves and the gifts they’ll get, use a gift rule to help them learn about gratitude and the true meaning of the holiday season.

What Is a Gift Rule?

A gift rule is a way to limit the number of gifts you’re giving to your kids. It helps them appreciate the gifts they get and put more thought into what they’d like to receive and give to others.

The most popular gift rule is The Four Gift Rule. This rule lets your kids pick out four gifts they’d like to receive. There are several takes on four gift rules. Some use the traditional “one gift you want, one gift you need, one gift you can wear and one gift you can read” as the basis for their gift giving. 

An alternative take to the traditional four gift rule is “something cool, something for school, something to wear, something to share.” 

  • Something Cool

This gift can be something they want or a surprise gift they didn’t know they wanted. It offers more flexibility for you to find something special your child didn’t know about ahead of time. Consider getting your child personalized Christmas gifts. Buy a new ornament they can put on your tree or personalized Christmas stockings that celebrate each family member’s favorite part of the holiday.

  • Something for School

This gift doesn’t just have to be a book. Any educational toy or board game counts as well. If your kid loves science, you can buy them a science experiment kit. A gift that offers educational value or helps your child learn new skills fits into this gifting category.

  • Something You Can Wear

This rule includes any gift you can place on your body. Maybe your child needs a new winter coat or pair of gloves. Or they’re hoping for some themed Christmas shirts or sweaters

You can buy one clothing item or a whole outfit. Your gift could even be an expensive watch or an activity tracker you wear on your wrist. Like the other rules, it’s open for your interpretation.

  • Something You Share

Give a gift that helps your child learn that the holidays are best celebrated together. Shared family gift ideas can be as simple as a new board game or a streaming service so your family can watch movies together. 

This gift rule is a great way to add more expensive gifts, like a family trip to Disneyland or other vacations. Gift your child an item they’ll need for the trip, like a new duffle bag. 

You can even give gifts that are meant to be shared with others outside the home. Shared gifts are meant to be experiences, not just items. 

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Benefits of Using a Gift Rule

There are plenty of benefits to using a gift rule over the holidays this year, regardless of your family’s size or lifestyle. A gift rule can:

  • Set Boundaries and Spending Limits

When your kids’ Christmas list seems endless, it can be hard to rein in your spending and narrow down what you’re going to buy. With a gift rule, you have a clearly defined capacity for how many presents you’re purchasing, allowing you to manage your Christmas budget

  • Reduce Holiday Shopping Stress 

If you have a clear number of presents you’re shopping for, you won’t be roaming the malls aimlessly at the busiest time of year seeking inspiration. Avoid the chaos by knowing exactly what you’re looking for and limiting the number of stores you visit. 

  • Save Time on Shopping and Wrapping 

You can quickly and efficiently purchase the specific gifts you need online or zip into the store, buy them and be on your way. You also won’t spend hours wrapping gifts and writing labels. 

How to Start Your Own Gift Rule

Before you can implement a gift rule in your household this Christmas, there are a few things you need to do and decide to make the idea successful. 


  • Decide on Your Gift Rule 

The obvious starting point for starting a gift rule this holiday season is deciding what that rule will be for your household. If you’re going with the common idea of four gifts for your child across four categories, you’ll need to decide what those are before you relay the idea to the kids. 

  • Manage Your Child’s Expectations 

While the gift rule is an excellent way to stop your kids from asking, “What else has my name on it?” when they’re looking at presents under the tree, the concept will be better received if you talk to your child about it ahead of time. This is especially important if your child is used to receiving tons of presents at Christmas and the gift rule is your way of cutting back this year. 

Explain the value of the gift rule to your child when they’re making their Christmas list and present the concept as coming from Santa himself. You can say that Santa is trying something new this year and he’s bringing four presents, one in each category. Explain these categories to your child and help them select a present that meets the criteria for each. Get them excited about the prospect of having to narrow down their top choices to just four gifts on their list, and make the selection process part of the fun. 

  • Stick to Your Idea 

Once you’re clear on your gift rule and have communicated it to your child, stick with it. Straying from the rule and showering your child with more presents than expected might confuse them, especially if you presented the Four Gift Rule as coming directly from the North Pole. 

Being consistent with a gift rule can turn it into a tradition that kids grow up cherishing. They may look forward to the four categories of gifts so much that they adopt the idea in their own family one day. 

A Gift Rule Is Fun for Everyone 

Implementing a gift rule this Christmas might seem daunting at first, but it can positively impact the entire family. With reduced stress, you’ll be able to enjoy the holidays more thoroughly while your kids learn to appreciate the presents they receive. With the money you save on lavish gift exchanges, you can go on an outing as a family, like taking the kids to Santa’s Village or hosting a family dinner.

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