Curing the Christmas "Gimmes" (plus a freebie!)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Cold weather has settled here in Ohio, and the holidays are right around the corner. Like many other teachers, I set out special paper in our writing center for the students to write letters to the North Pole. I couldn’t help but notice that each of my students’ letters followed a very similar pattern: “Dear Santa, I want...I want...I want…” It seemed that my little firsties had a terrible case of the "gimmes," as my mom would say. More than that, I realized they had no concept of differentiating their wants from their needs. It was the perfect moment to mix holiday fun with life lessons and social studies standards.

I set to work creating a Wants and Needs mini unit, full of no-prep printables made for busy teachers on the go. Here’s how I used it in my classroom!

On Monday, I opened a discussion with my kiddos about their Christmas wants and needs. We made a list of the top 5 things we want for Christmas, along with 5 needs for Christmas. It looked a little something like this:

My firsties were loaded with more misconceptions than I thought! I did not correct their list, but gave each student their own informational mini book. My favorite part about these mini books is that they are differentiated. Even though the images and content are the same, the books are written to meet students’ various reading needs. Students simply find a buddy “by shape” (books are coded with a circle, triangle, or square on the front cover) and get to reading.

After, we met back at the carpet to talk about wants and needs. We recorded a definition of each on an anchor chart to reference throughout the week. Then, I asked my students to look at their original list again. We read through each “want” it truly a want? We agreed that our wants were accurate. Then we looked at our list of Christmas needs. This side of our list caused a lot of debate. My students argued that a tree is a need, since it creates air to breathe (What smarties! We would get to a decorated Christmas tree vs. a standard tree later in the week). Cookies, they continued, are a need because they are food. Questionable, but I left it on the list for now. Snow, they decided, is a want, because not all people in the world have snow and we would be ok without it. We crossed it out. They easily decided that wrapping paper is definitely a want, and family is surely a need.

We discussed some more topics in our mini books, and then completed a fun coloring sort together. We decided candy is a want because it’s not a healthy food to help our bodies grow. This caused us to go back to our original list and cross out “cookies.” They were catching on! It was very interesting to hear students’ argue their reasoning for different items, especially coffee! One student told me, “My mom needs coffee for sure, or she is a real grouch!” How funny!

On Tuesday, I allowed my students to create their own flip books working in groups. They colored picture cards, cut them out, and sorted them into “wants” and “needs.” After I checked their work, they were able to glue their cards down under the proper flap and color their flip book. Again, the conversations this project initiated were wonderful! I love it when an activity fosters natural academic conversation between students.

For Wednesday’s project, I cut two large, red sacks out of butcher paper. I gave each student two small pieces of white paper, and asked them to draw and label one thing they want for Christmas and one thing they need. Some of my students struggled with this, and instead drew two wants. I conferenced with each as they worked and prompted them with questions: “Would you be able to live without this?” “Do you need this to survive?” If they were still stuck, I asked them to explain their thinking to a friend. Soon, each student had two cards with a want and a need! I gathered them all, mixed them up, and handed each student two cards. We had so much fun admiring our friends’ art and sorting the cards into Santa’s sacks!

Thursday was a bit more challenging...instead of thinking of our own wants and needs, we thought of others’ using this handy guide:

This was definitely tricky for my firsties, but I was proud of their work. This firstie said that something I wanted was "quiet"! Lol! After, we used our guides to write a letter to Santa...again, with another person - not ourselves - in mind. This, too, challenged my students! I was far more impressed with these letters than the letters my students produced before starting mini unit. They were finally thinking of others, and were very particular about their requests. They also wrote to Santa about not only wants, but needs as well.

We ended the mini unit with one of my favorite assessments...a search and find "shopping trip"! I had my kiddos bring in magazines and ads from home. They then searched for wants and needs to sort into their sacks. The kids had a ball with this activity. Some of them even filled up multiple papers! Once more, the conversation between my firsties was incredible. They learned just as much from each other as they did from me. Success!

You can snag the complete mini unit here on TpT for just $5.00! It is also a part of my December Mini Unit series, a steal at just $9.00. The 31 page Wants and Needs Mini unit is aligned to the Common Core and Ohio's Learning Standards (social studies). You will find book suggestions, leveled mini readers, no prep printables, and a “Fun Friday” hands-on activity. Though this set is intended for the Christmas/Holiday season, it can be used year round (non-holiday versions of pages are included).

The following no prep printables are included:
• Leveled readers and comprehension guide
• KWL Chart
• Can, Have, Are Chart
• Secret Santa Chart (Non Christmas version also included)
• Labeling Wants and Needs
• Present Sort
• Coloring Sort
• Wants and Needs List Making Pages (3 differentiated)
• Fact Sheet
• Flip Book
• Letter to Santa (Non Christmas version also included)
• Story Problems
• Adding Money

Not sure yet? Check out the freebie sampler here. A Christmas gift from me to you! Happy holidays!


  1. A really great time to discuss wants and needs.

  2. Great time to focus on economics concepts!

  3. This is a great product! My own kids have the gimmies too. Lol

  4. This is such a timely and necessary lesson to teach children what's really important during the holiday season. Great idea! Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. We made a few adjustments to suit Pre-K, but I was very impressed with my children and their selflessness, even at such a young age. Thanks for sharing!


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