Holidays Wants and Needs Free PDFs for Class Discussion

Wants and needs can be so difficult for families to manage during the holidays. This post has free holidays wants and needs printable activities to help with economics understanding for young children and primary grades. They are sorting activities and the first one is Montessori Inspired. The second one will work as a pocket chart activity.

First Wants And Needs Printable

Printable PDF #1 opens at this link. Some people might like this option.  Holidays Wants and Needs Free PDFs for Class Discussion. Begin either by using the cards in the printable, or by using holiday catalogs. At first let the children pick anything they want to answer the question:  What do you want for the holidays?  If there is enough time, children enjoy cutting pictures out of the flyers to show what gifts they would like. Explain this is for fun and is not an actual wish list. Almost without an exception, most of the items selected will be wants.  How do children know the difference so early in life? But they do. They also suspect deep down that this is something that cannot be sustained.


After the children have selected their pictures, let them tell you why they picked what they did.  If you have a Montessori sorting rug or space on a table, make two rows of cards but do not explain right away why the cards are in different areas. Ask what is the same about one group, and what is the same about the other. Children may start to identify which row is wants, and which is needs.

Explain what the two groups are, and that really the child or children aren’t going to be receiving all the gifts they selected. The holidays are when we hope and dream and wish, but of course, it won’t all come true.  The excitement about what will really happen is part of the holiday spirit.

Then add the label needs above one row, and the label wants above the other row. In another period, have the child sort the cards him or herself.  They will certainly be able to, as most often they really do understand. Add cards from the printable or pictures cut from magazines to fill out the needs row.

Extension Activity

Parents may take this opportunity to explain even adults do not get all their wants and wishes at the holidays or other times, either.  Sometimes children think adults get anything they want.  Take a walk around the house and point out needs that the adults had to buy.  Explain food, shelter, and clothing are needs and must be purchased before wants—even when the children grow up.

Wants and Needs Printable #2

Materials required:  any holiday children’s story, toy catalogs and holiday fliers with photos of gifts to cut out, food-shelter-clothing catalog photos to cut out, scissors, tape

Large sheet of white or Kraft paper, about 4 or  5 feet long, (do not write on it yet), or Pocket Chart

free-holiday-wants-and-needs printable sorting cards classroom edition

This lesson idea for holiday gift discussions about the difference between wants and needs for children. Basically, you are going to let the children fall into a little teachable moment trap!  You are going to tell them to cut out items from holiday catalogs and fliers that they might want for gifts this season.  Do not say more at this time!  Just smile!  Let them have fun cutting out pictures.  Suggest each child finds one or two items before joining the class on the rug in front of the large blank paper.

For young children the pictures could be cut out ahead of time by the teacher so they just have to choose a picture.  Have plenty of extras on hand.  Be sure the pictures of food, shelter, and clothing are included. Let them, pick whatever picture(s) they like, which will probably mostly be wants.  Have a limit on how many pictures each child may share. PDF

Or use this free PDF:  free-holiday-wants-and-needs, 19 page printable

Have the children meet on the rug, and let them share their pictures one at a time.  Do not explain why, but tape photos of wants towards one side of the large paper, and photos of needs towards the other side.  When everyone has shared, ask the children to see if they see two different groups of pictures.  At this point, there is usually mostly photos of wants on the large paper.  As the children if the wants will meet their needs.  Ask questions like:  Is there anything to wear? Is there nourishing food?  Is there a house to keep us warm? Explain things we want do not help us meet our needs for food, shelter, and clothing. If we just have wants and no needs in our life we would have to where to live and no food to eat.  Someone might speak up and say we would have no clothing, either!

Label the two sides.  Children may feel socks are a terrible gift and that they NEED their video game machines.  Explain grown-ups must pay for the needs in their lives.  Even if a child is living with a relative or a shelter, someone is paying for the need. Now this is the odd thing, although the children will swear Santa is true, they do understand someone pays for the holiday gifts. Do not get in to a discussion about whether or not Santa or any holiday character is real or not, refer children to their parents about those questions.  Somehow it doesn’t always come up, though, kids are smarter than they let on about this type of thing.  Sum up the lesson with the thought even needs are a gift as they help take care of you, and funds for wants are limited even for grown-ups.


Leave the large group project paper up during the holidays when children are talking about what they are getting to help them remember these ideas. This lesson is one parents appreciate at this time of year!

Thank you for reading, Carolyn

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About the Author:

Carolyn Wilhelm is the author of The Wise Owl Factory site and blog. She has an MS in Gifted Education, a MA in Curriculum and Instruction K-12, and has completed the KHT Montessori 12 month program. She makes mostly free resources for teachers and parents.


  1. Christy 12/12/2012 at 7:52 pm

    I really, really like this. I love the idea of making sure kids understand this.

    Lionel’s Christmas Adventure is a recent book/ebook that has some Christmas economics in it.

    • Carolyn Wilhelm 12/13/2012 at 5:30 am

      Thank you for the book title! I will check it out!

  2. Debbie Clement 12/11/2012 at 9:58 am

    Carolyn………. this is such a critical piece for children. What a great way to prompt the discussion and get them thinking, reflecting and evaluating. It our ever increasingly more self-absorbed society it’s so important to direct children to think beyond themselves. KUDOS for a brilliant piece. I’m off to pin again and again!


    • Carolyn Wilhelm 12/11/2012 at 4:46 pm

      Thank you so much, Debbie. It is an honor to get a comment from the keynote speaker from the national head start convention! Carolyn

  3. Tonya Dirksen 12/07/2012 at 2:18 pm

    This is an important lesson for children to learn and the holiday season is the perfect time to discuss it! Thanks for the great idea.

    • Carolyn Wilhelm 12/08/2012 at 1:39 pm

      Thank you for commenting, Tonya. I’ve been thinking about your Christmas program, I have to check your blog and see what’s been going on! I just added the printable for the wants and needs lesson. That is so fun to teach as it is an eye opener for the children, who really seem to know anyway! Carolyn

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