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Play. Wear. Read. Share. A simple guide to buying kids’ presents

Four gift tags representting the four gift rule of play wear read shareHave you heard of ‘the four-gift rule’?

It is a simple idea that helps make shopping for kids’ presents a little less overwhelming. Basically if you follow the four-gift rule you buy four presents for your child at Christmas or on their birthday.

These four gifts fall under the following four categories: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.

Want. Need, Wear. Read.

How neat. And it rhymes. Bonus.

This is more or less what we do here for birthdays and Christmas – except our version (although I can’t take credit for its invention) goes like this …





It is just as neat. And it still rhymes. Bonus.

It is almost the same. The ‘NEED’ present is gone, but I think ‘WEAR’ covers that generally. That’s the (maybe) boring present taken care of. And this one has ‘SHARE’ which is a great concept – especially if you have a few children.

How this Four-Gift Rule works


This is THE present – the toy they REALLY REALLY want! At Christmas time in our house this is the present that Santa brings them.


This is some new clothes, which my son will throw to the side (unless there’s a superhero emblem on the front) and my daughter will get very excited about – demanding she wear it straight away. Note to self: pre-wash all Christmas clothes.


I love to buy books for my kids. They each receive two new books a year – one for their birthday and one for Christmas (with fortnightly trips to the library in between). I always put a message and date on the inside cover so we can keep track of who received it and when.


For birthdays in our house this is usually a present from one child to another and it is usually something little that is most fun to use when playing with others, such as a board game, jigsaw or walkie talkies etc.  At Christmas though, this can be the present from Mum and Dad and it is usually a bigger ‘shared’ present. One they can all use – like a swing set, trampoline or cubby house.

Why I like the four gift rule

  • It like that it is simple and it makes shopping simple. It focuses your ideas and stops you going overboard – or it helps you when you don’t have much of a clue on what to buy.
  • It can help stop you overspending.
  • It gives a bit of consistency – children will know what to expect.
  • It still looks impressive under the tree.
  • I also like that it includes the opportunity for children to give presents to their siblings on their birthday and enjoy the giving as much as the receiving.

How do you ‘do’ present-buying in your house?

We’ve created some printable Play Read Wear Share gift tags for you if you are keen to try this out in your house this year.

The Four Gift Rule - Play, Wear, Read and Share

Nappy Bag packing checklist

About Rebecca Galton

Rebecca is the Bub Hub’s content editor. She is also parent to three growing children. In her spare time she … who are we kidding, she has no spare time! In the years BC (before children), Rebecca was content ...

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17 Comments so far -
  • Debi says:

    My sister buy three kids new gifts at family Christmas and the other four junk could someone please help me in a nice way tell her it’s not fair every year she does this . With the kids getting bigger they notice ……please help

  • beckybee says:

    My friend does something similar “Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read”….also rhymes.
    I modified it a little to “Something they want, something they need, something to share, something to read”.

  • Online Toy Store In Australia says:

    Very good article. Thank you for sharing such a useful information .

  • elly says:

    I love this – great article. I’ll be starting this with my young family!

  • Deb says:

    I have 1 child so can’t really do Share…. unless it’s something she can share with me! 🙂

    • LOL. I’m sure she’d like some chocolates to share with Mum! I think ‘share’ is still a good idea even if she doesn’t have brothers and sisters. She can share with friends, family etc (and yes, you too). I think a board game or cards etc is a perfect ‘share’ present.

  • Cillile says:

    I am amazed that you are proposing 4 gifts for each child. I use ‘or’ between each of those gift ideas. One gift. Either something to play with, or something to read, or something to share etc.

    • Also a good idea – and much more simple than mine! But I don’t mind drawing out the present process – especially when the kids are young. They love the process of giving and unwrapping and they don’t care that the presents aren’t expensive or extravagant. I don’t buy toys or books through the year (and they only get hand-me-down clothes) so I’m happy to make Christmas and birthdays a big occasion.

  • Sandra says:

    I never do Wear with my kids. Clothes are a necessity they have a right to throughout the year and should never be a gift. Nothing more boring that only getting a couple of gifts and one of them is clothes.

    • LOL. I get your point – clothes can be boring! But my girl LOVES clothes and I save ‘present clothes’ for those things that aren’t a necessity. They don’t get socks and undies but a pretty new dress or nice shoes.

      • Suz says:

        My 2 older kids love getting clothes as presents. Hopefully my youngest will also but it’s a bit early to tell. People assume my son won’t like clothing as a present though & some people kind of apologise as he opens the gift which is sad as he then thinks he wasn’t supposed to be excited. We look pretty hard for clothes they will like. We buy fair trade or if we can’t get fair trade then ethically made or secondhand but they love them & I hope they will continue to appreciate them.

        I still get excited myself when I get new socks & undies for a present!! 🙂

      • Shannon says:

        What a great idea!! As a new mum, I will adopt this philosophy. I love it. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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