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The 4 gift rule: Four things for Christmas

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The 4 gift rule has become a popular concept over the past few years. Many of us, recognising the fact Christmas is becoming expensive and commercialised, are looking for ways around it. Choosing just four things for Christmas is a great alternative. So, here is an outline of the four gift rule and a few ideas for the whole family in each category. There are even a few gift suggestions for pets!

Contents hide

The 4 gift rule

  1. Something you want
  2. Something you need
  3. Something to wear
  4. Something to read
The Four Gift Rule

The 4 gift rule: Something you want

For parents using the four gift rule to buy for their children, “something you want” will often be the main present. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. It is also a great idea to budget for “four things for Christmas” when buying for friends or relatives. Then, “something you want” may be a small item that will make them happy. The four gift rule can work for both adults and children, and there are even a few ideas for pets.

For children

These four gift rule ideas for children vary from the one big thing they’ll ask Santa for, through to something that you know they’d just love.

Haribo giant trees

As a small gift, you can’t go wrong with a bag of sweets. My girls often come out of school disappointed because children have brought in Haribo to give out for their birthdays. Unfortunately, most Haribo aren’t vegetarian, so my two don’t eat them. Instead, we keep a bag of these Haribo Christmas trees in the cupboard. These are totally veggie, delicious and an ideal festive treat for little ones.

Two packets of Haribo Christmas trees against a festive background
Haribo Christmas trees

Harry Potter Plush Vehicles

For little ones who love vehicles, there’s nothing better than a cuddly bus or train. And any Harry Potter fan will adore the plush Knight Bus and Hogwarts Express. These soft toys are great for children, made from high quality fabrics with intricate detailing. They would also make great sofa cushions that would leave visitors in no doubt about the owner’s love of Harry Potter.

plush knight bus against festive background
Knight Bus
plush Hogwarts Express against festive background
Hogwarts Express

Stunt Scooter

Scooters are a brilliant way to get children outside and active. Whether you go to a skate park and bomb up and down the ramps or simply use a scooter to go from A to B, they can be great fun. These stunt scooters are ideal for children who want to get serious about their scootering. My girls take theirs to the skate park once a week and after the initial outlay of the scooter, helmet and pads it’s a sport that costs nothing to take part in.

blue and black stunt scooter against a festive background
Stunt Scooter

Subway Surfers Spray Crew

Subway Surfers fans will love this vinyl figure collection. Jake comes in a fun display can that pops open to let the Subway surfers leader loose. He is 4 inches tall and looks great with the spray can display case. He comes with a collectible Sub Surf sticker too. To keep Jake company, the other spray crew members are available to buy as well. Find Jake and his friends on Amazon.

Subway Surfers spray can and vinyl figures on Christmas background
Subway Surfers

Zog and other stories 4 in a box puzzles

Step into Julia Donaldson’s fictional world with Axel Sheffler’s stunning illustrations. This Ravensburger jigsaw set contains Zog, the Highway Rat and the Stickman in four separate puzzles. With 12, 16, 20 and 24 pieces, these are great for little ones who are building their confidence with jigsaws.

Zog and other stories box of 4 jigsaw puzzles
Zog and other stories jigsaws

For adults

Oppo ice cream subscription

For the ultimate indulgence, why not treat a loved one to a one, two or three month membership of the Oppo tasting club? Each month, the recipient can choose six tubs of ice cream. Vegan options are available and each tub contains 60% less calories than regular ice cream. You wouldn’t know it though, less calories definitely doesn’t mean less taste. To read more about the subscription service and their flavours, head to the Oppo website.

6 tubs of Oppo ice cream against a Christmassy background
Oppo ice cream

Ink and Drop print

Ink and Drop sell a wide variety of unique, affordable prints. Whatever your interiors style, you’ll find something you love. Take this fabulous Monstera Minimal print for example. Its botanical image with a line with drawing over the top makes an ideal addition to any kitchen or dining room. Browse the full range of prints on the Ink and Drop website.

Floral print of green leaves on pink background
Ink and Drop Floral Print

Personalised Travel Mug

I’ve always found mugs to be a great thing to get the person who has everything. Whether you go for a photo of a grandchild, beloved pet or simply a favourite place, it’s bound to raise a smile very time they look at your gift. These personalised travel mugs from Asda Photo are lovely, solid travel mugs that are easy to use and leak-free. Ordering one is super easy, simply upload your photo and check it looks great on the mug you choose, then complete your order. It does help when you have a rather fabulous model like Buddy the golden retriever to pose for your mug photo.

4 gift rule - something you want for adults - Personalised Travel Mug
Personalised Travel Mug

For pets

Do you buy your pets a Christmas gift or treat? I love to get them something nice, not least because we’re vegetarian so they don’t even get left over turkey. Instead, here are a couple of sweet ideas to make pets feel loved during the festive season.

Pet advent calendars

Lily’s Kitchen have developed two adorable pet advent calendars. One for dogs and one for cats. Each one is filled with their finest treats, so when you’re tucking into a festive chocolate, your pets don’t have to miss out. I know my children will enjoy opening the pet advent calendars as much their own.

Cat and dog advent calendar
Lily’s Kitchen pet advent calendars

Christmas lunch and treats

Lily’s Kitchen cater for pets on the big day as well as the run up to it. Dogs can enjoy a cracker full of baked treats under the Christmas tree. Or, treat them to a box of “proper treats” in festive flavours. Both cats and dogs will love the Lily’s kitchen Christmas lunch offerings. Dogs can tuck in to a three bird feast, while cats indulge in turkey and ham paté. Check out the festive selection on the Lily’s Kitchen website.

Lily's kitchen treats for dogs and cats in festive packaging against a Christmassy background
Lily’s Kitchen treats and Christmas lunch for cats and dogs

4 things for Christmas: Something you need

As an adult, many of us prefer to have something we need for Christmas rather than something we want. If that’s the case, the biggest gift in your four gift rule selection may come under this category. This can be particularly true if we have a hobby that we need equipment for. Everything from running to yoga to open water swimming has some kit that will make life easier. For children, an educational product can be a good fit as “something you need”. Anything that makes learning fun is an ideal gift.

For children

Colour Peps 100 Piece Colouring Set

One thing I felt incredibly grateful for while the children were being home schooled was having plenty of stationery. A working printer and plenty of pens, pencils and colouring supplies are so important. So this Christmas if you’ve got an art loving child in your life, why not stock up? This huge 100 piece colouring set has everything a creative child could need. Washable felt pens, Resin colour pencils, wax crayons, brush felt-tip pens, a pencil, eraser, pencil sharpener and a sturdy carry case to keep them all in. That should keep anyone going for at least a year! This set and all the other Maped Helix products are available from their Amazon store.

100 piece colouring set
Maped Color Peps 100 Piece Colouring Set

Scratch Off British National Parks and Outdoors Print

With all the restrictions on travel this year, many of us have rediscovered a love of exploring the UK. This scratch map of Britain’s National Parks and beautiful outdoor areas allows you to celebrate all your adventures. My girls have a world scratch map that they were looking forward to scratching off in 2020, but it wasn’t to be. Instead, we’ve headed to some beautiful areas in England and Scotland so they can start scratching places off this map instead. When I shared this on my Instagram stories, I was overrun with messages saying how much people liked it. It can be personalised too so it’s an ideal gift for nature lovers.

UK scratch map on festive background
Scratch Off British National Parks and Outdoors Print

DIY Unicorn Doll Sewing Kit

For any child wanting to learn to sew, a sewing kit with a fab finished product is a must. Children will get a great sense of achievement from making an adorable plush unicorn. It’s a great way to spend time together learning a new skill as well. The kit comes with everything you need to create your unicorn, including felt pieces that are pre-cut to shape, embroidery thread, a plastic needle, the stuffing and easy to follow instructions. The unicorn kit is available from Prezzybox.

something you need according to the 4 gift rule. A children's unicorn sewing kit against a Christmas backdrop.
DIY Unicorn Doll Sewing Kit

Giant Christmas colour-in poster / tablecloth

Most of us have a big dinner at Christmas time and there are usually a few courses. For the adults, its an opportunity to take your time over the food and chat about what’s been going on this year. But for children, all this chatter can get a bit tedious. So to keep them occupied over lunch, a giant, festive colour-in tablecloth is ideal. I’m always pleased when restaurants bring round something for the children to do while we wait for food. Doing the same thing at home seems like a brilliant idea. This huge poster / tablecloth is available from Eggnog. Use the code santaoff at the checkout for a discount.

Christmas poster in box
Giant Christmas poster / tablecloth

Santa and Rudolph Personalised Cushions

These double sided cushions can be personalised with a child’s name. They are a lovely way to bring a touch of festive spirit to a bedroom or living room. You can choose between a White, Mixed/Asian or Black Santa. One side says “Santa is coming to town” and you can flip the cushion over to see “Rudolph is coming too”. These are hand cut and comply with all safety requirements. Available from Clarity wellbeing or online at the virtual Christmas fair.

Personalised Santa and Rudolph cushions

For adults

Makeup Train Case

If you’re buying a gift for someone who likes to travel prepared for all eventualities, this Ellis James Designs Makeup Train Case is ideal. The quilted case is large enough to store skincare, makeup, cosmetics and even hair straighteners. Its velcro dividers and removable pouch allow complete customisation inline with individual storage needs.

large make up case on Christmas background
Makeup Train Case

Reusable make up wipes

For anyone who wants to do their bit for the environment in 2021, these Erase Your Face reusable makeup removing wipes are essential. They come in a set of four and can be machine washed and reused again and again. They are soft yet tough, able to wipe away even tough makeup stains and leave your face clean. Simply dampen them with warm water and apply to the face. Then, hang them up to dry once you’re finished with them. The wipes are available from Prezzybox.

Reusable make up wipes in cardboard box on Christmas background
Reusable make up wipes

DIYogi Mat eco draw-on yoga mat

All Yoga practitioners need a yoga mat they love and DIYoga have a range of yoga mats that cover all bases. Their ultra-strong grip and stay-down corners make them practical for yoga classes. They’re always stable and firm whatever you’re doing. An ankle and wrist friendly antibacterial cotton layer keeps it cushioned and clean. Better still, it’s eco friendly, vegan, plastic free and recyclable. And how do you know your recipient will love it? Because they can put their own design on it. Or, choose a beautiful mandala design to colour in.

pink yoga mat with black carrying strap on Christmas background
Yoga mat

VASO Glass Straws

Disposable straws ending up in landfill and worse still, in the ocean are doing untold damage to our planet. That’s why we all need to switch to reusable straws. In fact, the UK and the EU are both banning single use straws. So, consumers who want a reusable alternative are turning to VASO glass straws. These premium straws are reusable, recyclable and sustainable. Being free from BPA, mineral oils, toxins and plastics makes them better for the environment and for taste. They are non-porous so you get 100% of the taste of your drink and no taste from the straw. They’re dishwasher safe too. See the VASO glass straw range on their website.

Vaso glass straws in white box on festive background
Glass straws

Tesalate Towel

If you’re into open water swimming, surfing or having fun at the beach, these sand-free beach towels are a dream. Tesalate make full size beach towels that fold down into a tiny little package to go into a bag. They’re super quick drying, taking half as long as a regular towel. Ultra-absorbent fabric means they can take on over a litre of water. Better still, they repel the sand so the beach stays at the beach and not on your towel. Check out the fun range of colours and designs on the Tesalate website.

Tesalate blue and white towel on festive background
Tesalate towel

Vegan cheese selection

There was some suggestion this vegan cheese selection might go in the “something you want” category of the four gift rule. But if there’s one thing you need at Christmas, it’s a decent cheeseboard. So, it sits firmly in the “need” category as far as I’m concerned. Ilchester make a range of cheeses including a vegan range. Their Applewood vegan cheese is award winning. The selection also includes a spicy cheese and a blue cheese with a spirulina vein. They smell and melt like dairy cheese and they’re fortified with calcium and B12 and free from dairy, soya, lactose, palm oil and gluten. Sainsbury’s, Asda and Waitrose all stock this delicious Festive Vegan Cheeseboard.

four gift rule - something you need - vegan cheese selection
vegan cheese selection

Rubies in the Rubble eco chutney

Did you know that a third of all food produced goes to waste? That’s why Rubies in the Rubble have created a range of condiments created from ingredients that would have otherwise been wasted. Not because there’s anything wrong with them, but because they’re the wrong size, shape or colour. If you’re buying for the person who has everything, a hamper of delicious goodies is always a great option because we all need good food at Christmas. This selection of vegan, gluten free relishes containing Chilli Onion, Classic Apple and Pear and Fig will be a great addition to any hamper.

Three jars of Rubie's Rubble Relish in box on Christmas background
Rubie’s Rubble Relish

Vegan wax food wraps

Wax food wraps are a brilliant alternative to wasteful clingfilm or foil. They do the same job by protecting food, but can be wiped and reused multiple times. I’ve had wax wraps in the past but they have always contained bees wax. These adorable avocado print wax food wraps are completely vegan. They are available from The Organic Space, an online natural living shop stocking products that are 100% organic, free from plastic and not tested on animals. They will also be available to buy from the Virtual Christmas fair on 14th and 15th November. Tickets are free.

Vegan wax food wraps in recyclable cardboard packaging on festive background
Vegan wax food wraps

For pets

Lead holder

Being a dog doesn’t mean you don’t need your own space. The basic requirements are a good dog bed, food and water bowls and somewhere to hang your lead. I love this personalised dog lead holder from Central Scotland Customs. They can personalise it with the dog’s name and a silhouette of your choice. The plaque is lovely quality, finished with Danish Oil and it comes with a keyhole on the back so it’s easy to hang up.

Personalised dog lead holder against festive background
Personalised dog lead holder

The 4 gift rule: Something to wear

Nordgreen watch

When you’re buying a gift for someone to wear, it’s always better to go for a timeless classic. Nobody could fail to love a stylish Nordgreen watch. Made by experienced watchmakers from quality materials, these watches are long lasting and luxurious. Purchasing a Nordgreen watch also supports three charities focussing on preservation of the Amazon rainforest and providing clean water and education for people who need it.


If you’re buying for someone who is style-conscious and concerned about the environment, they will love these recycled ballet flats. Made from recycled ocean plastic, they are available with pointy or rounded toes. Their 3D knit upper ensures they fit perfectly to your foot. Each pair comes with a half-size insole too, so you can adjust the shoe to half a size smaller. The soles are biodegradable and the shoes are fully machine washable.

It ain’t happening socks

We all have days when all we want to do is sit with our feet up don’t we? Especially at Christmas. That’s why these novelty socks make a great addition to the “something to wear” category if you’re abiding by the four gift rule. These fun, non-slip socks are available from Prezzybox.

It ain’t happening socks

VEX gift voucher

I don’t know much about buying clothes, but the one thing I do know is that the clothes you love the most are the ones you choose yourself. So when it comes to buying something to wear, I often cheat and buy a gift card. The VEX gift card can be exchanged any available voucher offered by Voucher Express. They’re available in values from  £10 to £250, so whether you’re treating someone to one garment or a whole new wardrobe, this should have you covered.

VEX gift voucher

Four Christmas gifts: Something to read

The something to read section of the four gift rule is probably my favourite. Choosing a book for someone is so personal and thoughtful. I try to choose something I’ve enjoyed myself, or a book I know is just their sort of thing. If I was to buy just one of the four things for Christmas, I would buy something to read. There are some great gift ideas here, including a comic book subscription and letters from Santa. So if you’re doing the four gift rule for a child who doesn’t enjoy reading, don’t despair – there is an alternative!

For children

A Fairy Tale Revolution

Over the past few years, many of us have started to wake up to the fact that fairy tales don’t really give a great message to children. So, in these Fairy Tale Revolution books, some old favourites have been reimagined. Gone are the passive beauties, kisses without consent, macho princes and elderly witches.  These tales don’t need a happily ever after because each protagonist takes control of their own future. Cinderella Liberator by Rebecca Solnit gives both Cinderella and the prince control over their own fate.  Malorie Blackman explores the abuse and power dynamics in relationships in Blueblood. Jeanette Winterson’s Hansel and Greta makes the well known siblings into eco warriors and in the tale of Duckling, Kamila Shamsie examines belonging and prejudice from the ugly duckling’s point of view. 

Four favourite fairytales rewritten for our times.
A Fairy Tale Revolution

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything

This fabulous edition of Bill Bryson’s Really Short History of Nearly Everything is beautifully illustrated, making it accessible and engaging for children. Bryson covers life on planet earth, time and space. He looks at evolution of our species from a single cell to where we are today. He even tells tales of the clever and bizarre scientists who led us to the knowledge we have today.

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
A Really Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Bert Smells

Bert Smells is a brand new book about a farm dog called Bert who loves to smell. He smells things and smells of things, until it gets him into trouble. When a farm gate is left open, he naturally follows his nose. At first, he is happy to be out and about but soon he realises he’s lost. When one animal after another doesn’t want to help him because he’s a bit whiffy, he loses hope. Soon enough though, a friend shows up to help him find his way home. This is a lovely book aimed at three to seven year olds. Bert Smells is available to buy from Amazon.

4 things for Christmas - something to read: Bert Smells
Bert Smells by P A Weasle

Blue Planet II

Leisa Stewart-Sharpe’s Blue Planet II is based on the acclaimed Attenborough series. Explore the wilderness below the waves with colourful reefs, King penguins, otters and elephant seals. The book is full of memorable stories from the series and David Attenborough himself wrote the foreword. Children will love the fascinating facts like the jellyfish with a built in burglar alarm and the sea dragon who is a master of disguise. The whole thing is brought to life with beautiful illustrations and the book will definitely be a family favourite.  

4 things for Christmas - Blue Planet 2 by Leisha Stewart-Sharpe
Blue Planet 2 by Leisha Stewart-Sharpe

Elfie’s Christmas Advent Calendar Letters and Christmas Memory Box

There’s nothing more magical for a child than finding a letter addressed to them. Especially when that letter is from one of Santa’s elves. The International Elf Service provide eco-friendly, personalised letters from the North Pole. The box of Elfie’s Christmas Letters contains 25 beautifully illustrated elf letters, plus a letter from Father Christmas. Each letter tells a story of mystery, adventure and North Pole pranks as the elves prepare for the big day. The letters can be purchased in an International Elf Service bundle with a lovely Christmas memory box that preserves 20 years of festive memories. Fill in one beautifully illustrated page each year and keep them to look back on fondly in years to come. Due to slow post at present, it is sensible to order this one soon, especially the advent letters. Use code christmassox20 at the checkout for 20% off.

4 gift rule: something to read. Letters from Santa's Elves by the International Elf Service
Letters from Santa’s Elves by the International Elf Service
4 gift rule: something to read. Christmas memory box by the International Elf Service
Christmas Memory Box from the International Elf Service

Jolly Ollie Octopus

Jolly Ollie Octopus was born during the coronavirus pandemic as a reminder that even in our darkest days, kindness and friendship are there to be found. Philosophy and facts are both woven into Ollie’s storyline, opening up discussion around what makes us happy. Fun, colourful illustrations both on the cover and inside make this book particularly appealing to children. My youngest found it downstairs and read the whole book before putting on the television one morning. Anyone with children will realise how remarkable it is for a child to choose a book over the television. Head to the website to find out more about Jolly Ollie Octopus.

Jolly Ollie Octopus book on Christmas background
Jolly Ollie Octopus by Jane Thomas

Lego Creations building Journal

This fab journal can be used to track your LEGO creations. It is ideal for LEGO clubs, individual LEGO builders and homeschoolers. Each of the 100 pages gives you plenty of space to put in a drawing or photo of your creation. There’s also a writing prompt and some lines to fill in. These will be available to buy from the Virtual Christmas fair on 14th and 15th November. Tickets are free.

Lego Creations Building Journal - an alternative something to read for the four gift rule
Lego Creations Building Journal

Mermaid eclipse

When N. E. Carlisle’s twin protagonists try to find out what happened to their aunt, all that they believe is brought into question. Relying only on each other and their faith, they fight to discover the truth and keep their family together. This exciting mermaid adventure is ideal for young adults with an interest in the ocean, myths and legends. Mermaid eclipse is available to buy on Amazon.

Mermaid Eclipse fiction for older children - something to read for four gift rule. Displayed against Christmas background
Mermaid Eclipse by N.E. Carlisle

Phoenix Comics

I can’t help but feel like it’s the elephant in the room when writing about the four gift rule that not everyone likes reading. For children, this can be a problem because it’s an important skill to learn. Thankfully though, there are alternatives to standard books. Phoenix Comics are brilliant fun for 7 to 14 year olds. Better still, they’re full of easy to follow, engaging stories for children who don’t like reading. Exciting illustrations, games and puzzles make them a completely different reading experience. Arriving weekly, the comics come addressed to the child. Ours were addressed to “Fantastic Libby and Lia”. A Phoenix Comic subscription would make a brilliant Christmas gift for a child. Head to their website for some great offers including your first six issues for £1.

Three Phoenix Comics displayed against a Christmas background
Phoenix Comics

Wild Symphony

Best known for his international best selling books for adults including The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown has now written his first picture book, Wild Symphony. Maestro Mouse takes young readers on a journey across the sea and through trees with his musical friends. Meet speedy cheetahs, graceful swans, tiny beetles and a huge blue whale. Each character has a secret to share. Look out for surprises left by Maestro Mouse. Jumbled letters forming clues, a hiding bee and even a message in code.

Wild Symphony children's illustrated book against Christmas background
Wild Symphony by Dan Brown

The Danger Gang

Tom Fletcher, best selling author of The Christmasauraus has another book ready to entertain the children this Christmas. Though Franky is looking forward to moving to a new town, he is sad to leave behind Dani, his best friend. Then along comes a storm with powerful thunder and green lightening and everything changes. Now, children on Franky’s street begin to become odd, unusual and even a little magical. The Danger Gang is now available on Amazon.

The Danger Gang by Tom Fletcher book against Christmas backdrop
The Danger Gang by Tom Fletcher


Fans of His Dark Materials will be delighted to receive Phillip Pullman’s new, standalone book, Serpentine. As an undergraduate, Lyra travels on an expedition to a melting Arctic. The thaw has been caused by Lyra’s father, Lord Asriel. The book has a gentler pace than other Pullman books in the series but will be a welcome addition to the book shelf for his fans. Illustrations by Tom Duxbury engage the imagination of children and adults alike as they venture into Lyra’s world.

Serpentine by Phillip Pullman small book against Christmas background
Serpentine by Phillip Pullman

For adults

Little book of kindness

For an adult who isn’t keen on sitting down to read a lengthy book, the adorable Little Book of Kindness from Prezzybox is ideal. Full of inspiration, quotes and little gestures to make people happy, this is a lovely, uplifting gift. We all need a little reminder that there’s plenty of kindness in the world at the moment.

The Little Book Of Kindness by Helen Exley - small book on festive background
The Little Book Of Kindness by Helen Exley

Five minute mum

Any parents who need five minutes peace will appreciate Daisy Upton’s Five Minute Mum. It’s full of fun, easy games for parents to play with young children. The book contains over 150 games Each one only takes five minutes to set up and five minutes to tidy away again. Many are educational and they’re all fun ways to keep the kids entertained while their parents take five.

Five Minute Mum book by Daisy Upton: Something to read according to the four gift rule
Five Minute Mum by Daisy Upton
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  1. November 9, 2020 / 9:24 pm

    I have never heard of the 4 gift rule – but what a good idea.
    We scaled our Christmas’ back a few years ago and refocused on time.

    I love these suggestions of gift ideas – as we still do secret santa and get a few gifts – I like the 4 gifts rule to help with these.

    • November 10, 2020 / 12:46 pm

      Thank you. I really like it as well, I think it’s a great idea to scale back on gifts a bit and put more thought into them. Although I am pretty much asking for books from everyone so maybe a one gift rule would work better for me as a recipient!

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