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39 Comments

  1. we used to do the 3 gift rule, In saying that the Jesus got 3 gifts from the wisemen.

  2. I understand the importance of less gifts and all that, but if you still spend an excessive amount of money on those 4 gifts, are you really helping your child understand that more is not better? I had a friend who had the 3 gift rule because Jesus only got three gifts, but one of them was an iPad mini that probably cost close to $300. To me it’s more important to set a price you want to spend and then go from there. There have been Christmas’ and birthdays where we have spent more than the normal to get a bigger present, but in general we try and stick to a budget not a number of presents.

  3. We decided to do four this year as well: want, wear, read, share. We typically get things they need as that occurs, but the share has been lots of fun as they think of board games ( daughter wants gas out to play with her brother), outings (brother wants to go bowling), and thinking of others (hubby wants a candle or diffuser for his football office because guys just tend to be guys when it’s just them and that can be quite smelly). My issue is still the loads that come from extended family. I ask for a movie gift card or membership to the zoo or local gardens, but they insist on having something for them to unwrap and play with.

    1. Amy Weissman says:

      I love the share idea. I’m going to switch out another for that one!

  4. deckyharris says:

    Gift is something which all of us love to receive. When getting a gift we can feel the excitement that is within. The same needs to be kept in mind while gifting others as well. We have to analyse the real needs of people and gift them accordingly to make it a more valuable one. This time I chose to hire a virtual assistant from Habiliss at half price and gift it to my busy husband.

  5. You just made my day. Excellent article and love the suggestions. A few years ago We started the 5 presents (the fifth is a travel destination like Grand Canyon).
    We also do the white envelope (sponsoring a family in need).

  6. I like that idea, but every family is different. I had been promising my grandson a gaming chair for two years, maybe 3. Black Friday and cyber deals were amazing all around. I gave them for Thanksgiving. I also got him and Mom computers for under $600! We all got something. Computers were a need for both. If too many gifts, do a 12 days of Christmas, like Hanukka. Then, the child looks forward to one gift a day for 12 days! Over the years, some Christmases were more than others. No one complains. Have a deal where grandparents give money instead of gifts and it gets put in a savings account. Being the big gifts came early, Christmas will be small, and that is just fine.

  7. For my grandchildren, we decided to gift them with time … time to spend with both parents and Grammi & Papa. So I’m making them a box that will be filled with envelopes 1 for each month of the year. The ultimate goal is to spend time making memories with them. Some of the things we’ll do for them is a trip to the museum, a day at the beach, an overnight, movie night, the zoo, camping. Sometimes there will be a “coupon” for each of them to stay the night with Grammi & Papa and be the center of attention – no siblings and they get to decide what to do. Others might just be for their family … and the anticipation of planning a special day or weekend with someone you love is so much better than stuff that will never be loved, loved for a few days or weeks or break too soon. The premise of this gift is to create memories, something they can remember for years to come and smile about and one day tell their children about. WE will give them a gift or two to open – as directed by momma and their needs or something special they’ve wanted for a while. They also get needs through out the year.
    I have sitting on my desk a rock – not just a plain old rock, it was made to look like a puppy. I got that when my grand parents had me stay the weekend and we went to a craft fair. I picked it out and it’s always at my desk at work – a treasure that allows me to fondly remember my grandparents and the gift of their time to me so many years ago!
    Merry Christmas to all!

    1. I started doing this for my grandchildren’s birthday from about the time they were 3. I wanted to give them a memory. They never know where they are going each year. I show up and off we go! When they are young it can be something simple like a train ride to a neighboring town and lunch. Or going fishing. It’s getting harder now that the oldest is 13!

  8. Raini Rhodes says:

    I have always done the 4 gift rule with my grandkids (7 5 3 1) I have 2 older children 28 and 25 I have always had them pick a tree Angel typically their own age and they loved shopping for their mirror image as Santa. I have a younger daughter 10 and because she was so *wanted* the gifts came in over flow of abundance! I implemented after the first yr she only gets 3 ….Jesus got 3 (the 3 wise men) so she can’t get more than Jesus on his own birthday! Her response was I’m sure his dad got him something (lol)

  9. Chantelle says:

    4 gifts? Our kids never get more than 2. We let them write a letter to Santa with not more than 3 things they want and we as parents would get 1.. never more than R500 and my parents would get one never more than R200. We also tell them that Santa can not bring you expensive toys as he must give to all the kids in the world. And that’s it.. it’s not about spending alot but about the idea. My kids knows what Christmas is about and they appreciate their 2 gifts.

    1. Ron Swanson says:

      There it is, the eternal gift of Internet oneupsmanship. Merry Christmas!

  10. Our 4 was a book, a movie , a toy and a video game. On top of that we do experience gifts, a trip to the ice rink, panto etc

  11. Verohanta Spooner says:

    Great idea : less gifts only meaningful & really needed gifts by Parents and if they (parents) can’t manage, sharing with grandparents then relatives if they can tip in for those needed and meaningful gifts :)
    Then asking everyone else to donate towards the child(ren) saving account as right now, their “4-gifts-for-Christmas are catered for”.. – Difficult to say @ the beginning but surely accepted by all with time and understanding…a homemade card with cookies,mince pies would be most welcome to present to the child(ren) :) when seeing them :)
    This is applicable for birthdays too :)

  12. Pam Weston says:

    We have always only given our kids two gifts for Christmas: something fun and something more practical. In their stockings we did something similar, usually a couple of fun things and then practical: socks, chapstick, gum, etc.. When our three boys entered their teens, we started the practice of them getting a stocking gift for each family member. That has carried over to their families too. This year with the 6 adults and 7 grandchildren we have discontinued the stocking stuffers and will play a game where each person provides a $5-10 wrapped gift and we will play a game with those gifts as prizes. Also we give each adult and child a personal gift and then we give them a family gift. In the past it has been year passes to the zoo. This year we are giving each family a game, plus we are buying tickets for everyone to go see a light show at our local zoo two days before Christmas.

  13. We told our kids we _pay_ Santa for the gifts they receive. (Explains why some kids get more/less…) They would get one gift from us, one from Santa, and a stocking full mostly of stuff they needed anyway. They also had to go through their stuff before Christmas (birthdays too) and clear the clutter – nothing new could come in if there wasn’t room for it. Some stuff stayed or was kept for later/a sib/etc, some went in the garbage. But the good stuff (some of it never opened!) got cleaned up, packaged, wrapped, and left under the tree for Santa to take with him for kids whose families couldn’t afford to pay. Bags of good toys/clothes/etc. found their way to the women’s shelter at some point on Christmas day. Santa always left a personalized thank you letter tucked in the tree. And my kids always felt as good giving as they did receiving. As far as extended family overwhelming the kids with gifts, well, having five kids pretty much eliminates that problem!

    1. I love your regifting idea. It’s a great way to explain giving and donation to kids. Thanks.

  14. We buy one gift plus a santa sock tradition for our child. Same rule of one gift from family members to our child. Always small gifts focused on art, a game, or books. It still applies today though we have teens.

  15. Keri Lawrence I love this. We have never bought our kids ( now 7 and 5) much…usually one gift and a couple of small stocking stuffers. The problem is the extended family, honestly. My husband has 4 brothers and sisters and my brother and SIL are all very generous, plus grandparents. Almost two generous. And when Grandma ( my mom) was here for Christmas, she saw the board games with missing pieces and I said ” This is why I am asking for a more toned down Christmas this year.” and she got angry. That I “can’t ask that of family members who want to do things.” Needless to say…boxes have been coming to my door for days. I feel bad, but am considering hiding most and spacing it out throughout the year…

  16. We’re starting this idea this year and I’m so excited! Our daughter will be 2 the first week of January, so we wanted a way to control and balance Christmas and birthday gifts. Plus like most 2 year olds, she already has so much! I’ve tried to encourage family away from noisy, plastic gifts, but it’s not always easy with them. I’m just excited we’re at least controlling the chaos in our own home. Thank you for this post full of ideas, I will definitely be saving it to reference as my daughter gets older!

  17. Teresa Segstro says:

    When I was a child life was much simpler. Basically followed these rules except on Christmas Eve we got jammies and a book and it was time to head to bed after opening them. Stockings always contained an orange, they were so special at Christmas because it was the only time you’d get them, a few chocolates and often a magazine, a real treat. Santa always brought one toy. Raising my kids we kept up with the Jammie and book traditions and Santa only brought one gift as well. We kept it simple. They grandparents would get out kids something small and then contributed to an education fund. When my kids went off to university these $$ really helped them. The other tradition I started is they would get one ornament each to add to the tree. When Christmas was over these went into a special box they each had and when they left home the box went with them to decorate their trees.

  18. Great ideas, but with Santa gifts, please keep them small and reasonably priced. Other families can’t do big Santa gifts and that can cause some kids to believe they’re not as good as others kids because they didn’t get a high priced gift from him.

  19. Go to ickfridbooks.com and read the conversation starters that go with the ageless, timeless book “The Sky is the Limit” every young person you care about should own this treasure.

  20. First thing, I think it would be cool to have a five gift rule and in addition to the four include a gift they choose for a child or Vet in need (something like that). Or a gift of ‘service and arrange a time for that’! Secondly, I was thinking a money limit would also be important teaching budget. ???????

  21. We do 3: Something for learning (books/games), something needed (clothes/accessories), something wanted (usually something more fun). We also do stockings, with ornaments, chocolates, fun socks, other fun fiddly things, but generally low cost. We have a large, generous family, so I try to farm out the extended wish lists to them and let the relatives focus on the more fun things. We usually end up with a stack of books and a couple of games by the end of unwrapping.

  22. Excellent article, creative and clever ideas ;-)

  23. We just give our kids one gift. Since It is not their birthday but Jesus’ (And on their birthday we celebrate them). Jesus just got one gift from each person, so each person in our family gives each a gift. We do have 6 people, so the kids end up with 4 (mom and dad together) and then the grandparents and cousins give/send a gift. We find the 8 gifts are plenty – and they do too!

  24. I love this idea and wish I would have done this when my kids were little. I limit the number of gifts for our grandchildren, we are not Santa. I started a new tradition last year. We have 2 grandchildren and every Christmas I will try to give them something homemade, by grandma or grandpa.

  25. Penelope Crowe says:

    You are no better if you give your kids three gift or more than three gifts. If you want to make it simple–great–if you want to go over the top–more power to you. Somehow this smacks of some type of superiority that I can’t quite put my finger on. Or perfectionism. It’s Christmas…shouldn’t be the onetime of the year to teach your kids about the budget…be happy! Just reading this article gave me a bit of stress…I hope you are able to have some peaceful moments during this season. Do YOUR THING. You don’t have to tell everyone in the world about your decision, or ask permission. Do Christmas your way and enjoy the holidays. Love each other. Smile a lot.

  26. WOW!!!! This article is absolutely loaded with good ideas. I wish I would have had access to it years ago when my big kids were children. But I can do it now with my grandchildren. I’m going to pass this on to my adult kids as well as others. Great job! And thank you so much!!!

  27. When my son, now age 36, was 3 he asked how come Santa brought him so many presents…. and it wasn’t fair because Jesus only got 3. So that year we started a new tradition… they received one fun toy thing they wanted…. 1 clothing item from Mrs Claus, and one educational item (books, activity set, something to use their creativity). I figured that would end once he was in grade school and saw how many things his peers got, but no. Now he has continued it with his own children.

  28. Mary Anne says:

    Love the ideas. I didn’t see anyone mention this: include the practice of handwritten thank-you’s to those outside the immediate family. I always had to do this as a child. It’s a great habit to teach, and helps a child learn and show gratitude. Text thank-you’s not allowed.

  29. Mariam Breed says:

    What about using the 4 gifts as a communication/ connection building tool within the extended family. Each group can get one of the presents, and sharing the information and the interests of the child does help build bonds beyond presents. Working together to synchronize the gifts builds team work aka. Stinger family bonds.

  30. Wendy Villarosa says:

    wow!!! first world caucasian humblebragging is alive and well apparently.

  31. Christy Kovacs says:

    Another great thing is to volunteer as a family to deliver presents to families in need or volunteer at a soup kitchen, or put together gifts for families in need and donate them. After your kids see how little other children will receive, they are even more likely to understand and appreciate the 4 amazing gifts they are receiving!

  32. Heather Watson says:

    I just asked my 9 son what was his favorite gift he ever received and he said, “My favorite gift I ever received is YOU!” So sweet!

  33. I’ve been doing that about 3 years now and it is so much easier and like you said, you give more meaningful gifts.

  34. I love the 4 gift rule. I wish I’d known about it earlier, when my children were young. We give only one gift per person now. We have too many grands and great grands to buy more than one gift each.