The Four Gift Rule

By Lindsey Fukumoto

The holiday season is often referred to as the season for giving but, for many young children, the holidays are more like the season of getting. Nothing is more satisfying than seeing the look of elation on a child’s face when they rip the wrapping paper off a gift and see the surprise waiting underneath. But how are young children supposed to learn the true spirit of the holiday season when they are constantly surrounded by toys and other gifts?      

I’m not recommending that young children receive nothing during the holiday season, but perhaps reducing the amount of gifts parents buy their children would help put the focus back on family togetherness and serving others. In an effort to prevent gift overload, there is a new movement to focus on four simple gifts as described in the following rhyme:

Something I want

Something I need

Something I’ll wear

Something I’ll read

This philosophy on gift giving not only reduces frivolous gifts, but also encourages children to focus on what they truly need as well as nurtures a love for books. Of course, very young children will not be able to make their own lists, but if parents begin using the poem as a guideline for gift giving when their children are young, they will foster a spirit of giving during the holiday season. Children will realize that the holidays are not all about getting gifts, but rather about thinking of others and making memories with family and friends.

It took only two Christmases with their toddler daughter for Hanover resident Kelli Knapp and her husband, Ryan, to realize how quickly the gifts add up. They have since made a conscious effort to reduce the amount of toys and gifts they give their daughter for Christmas.  

“We were definitely more on the practical side,” says Knapp. “We got her a sun shelter tent because we were planning a trip to Florida. I see us sticking to more practical things and fewer toys.”

One of the reasons that they are hoping to keep Elise’s gifts to a minimum is to help her realize that the holiday spirit has nothing to do with getting presents.

“My husband and I see the holidays as a time that we can spend time with family who live hours away,” says Knapp. “But it also means stressing about what to get everyone. With Elise, we’re trying to tone it down and get back to the idea of it being about family and not stuff.”

Knapp and her husband hope that by reducing the amount of toys and other gifts Elise receives, she will look forward to the holidays for other reasons.

“I want Elise to remember getting together and having a fun time with extended family,” says Knapp. “I want her to remember making memories with cousins, helping cook and bake, and thinking of others during a time when we get, get, get.”

Of course, even if Knapp and her husband are committed to the four gift rule, it doesn’t mean that the rest of the relatives will follow suit. “The grandparents are still out of control,” says Knapp.

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