The gift giving formula: What kids really need for Christmas

by | Nov 21, 2018

The gift giving formula: how to simplify gift giving at Christmas

Ah, Christmas. Christmas, Christmas, Christmas. I love you, I loathe you. Love the community, the festivities, the merriment and kindness. Loathe the STUFF. All that grabbiness from the kids, even lovely kids like mine. What kids really need for Christmas, and what they think they need, gets so clouded by brands telling them what they have to have and us parents soothing our guilt for being so darn busy at this time of year.

Here’s the thing: our kids are older now. They are perfectly capable of understanding the difference between wanting something and needing it. They can appreciate buying quality instead of quantity. Hopefully, they are on board to help us simplify the gift-giving, so we can embrace a more minimalist, appreciative state of being.

The gift giving formula

Which brings me to ‘the gift giving formula’. The gift giving formula is an exceptionally clever little rhyme that you can recite to the kids to help them curb their Christmas list. There are lots of variations on the formula and you can mix it up to suit your family. Here is the basic formula:

“Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.”

Variations include:

“Something you want, something you need, something to do, something to read.”

“Something you want, something your size, something to play, and a big surprise.”

“Something you like, something that’s sweet, something to do, plus an extra treat.”

Either way you look at it, the kids are getting four presents, tops.

You know what? We’ve had not a word of protest from our kids since introducing the gift giving formula. Despite the fact that I used to pile on the presents. From day one of telling them that this is what we are doing now, they were on board. Hope that’s true at your place too!!

The gift giving formula - a simple way to help kids focus on what really matters #christmas #birthday #gifts #familylife

The gift giving formula in action

1. Something you want

Here’s where the gift ideas come out and the kids can pour over them and find the one thing they really, really want. It’s fun to collect all the Christmas catalogues (or bookmarked websites) and spend an afternoon going through them together. Once the kids know that they only get to nominate a few things they want, that Mum and Dad will chose from, they are very, very selective. It’s a fantastic exercise in working out what really matters.

More great gift ideas


2. Something you need

Here’s where it pays to be clever. This is really the ‘gift for Mum and Dad’, rather than the kids. An opportunity to put your money towards something you’ve been meaning to get for the kids all year. It might be clothes, it might be school stuff, it might be a new doona cover. It might be an investment portfolio. Needs vary!

3. Something to do

I tend to have ‘something to do’, rather than ‘something to wear’, mainly because I really hate buying random clothes for my kids. Gifts that have come up on the ‘something to do’ list this year include PS4 games (Max, who else?); a soccer target goal (Arabella the soccer fiend); an ant worm farm (Lottie loves her pets); and a new trampoline (this is on all three lists because apparently the trampoline we currently have doesn’t bounce. What now!? What’s a trampoline that doesn’t bounce? A ledge?).

4. Something to read

I’ve got a new rule for gift giving for everyone except my kids: I am only giving experiences. Luckily, I consider books to be an experience, so most people are getting books. If you’re buying books for teens this year, I highly recommend this list on Children’s Books Daily, or just the whole of Megan’s site in general. She’s ace.

Great ideas here too: Books that encourage creativity


So, there you have it. If a kid managed to get, say, a skateboard, a new calculator, an ant worm farm and a brand new book, well, that’s a very merry Christmas, don’t you think?

Do you follow the gift giving formula? Any variations to share?

Written by Bron Maxabella

Bron is the founder of Mumlyfe and is so happy to welcome you here. Bron has been writing in the Australian parenting space as Maxabella for more than seven years and is mum to three mostly happy kids and wife to one mostly happy husband. Mostly happy is a win, right?

We’re very social

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