Our Elf on the Shelf Alternative (& a Word of Caution, too)

Meet: Jelly, Jolly and Jingles.

I’ll say up front that I take no issue with Elf on the Shelf except that we're exceptionally creeped out by him. I began looking for an alternative to him because I loved the IDEA of this special memory-maker and all the potential for fun, but I wanted the HEART behind it to be meaningful (and less terrifying).

I desired our Christmas season to be MUCH more CHRIST-centered. This year, I wanted our focus to be more on how the gifts we receive at Christmas are a reflection of the greatest Gift of all- our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

My search for a Christ-centered, whimsical, fun, uncreepy alternative led me to the kindness elves, and I loved them. It gives us the opportunity to shift our homeschool in December more toward advent-related activities. It’s also a great opportunity for a month-long character study on kindness to follow-up behind our month of Thanks-GIVING. AND it's just FUN.

I found these little elvish ornaments at Target a few years ago. As I browsed today, I saw a few that would be good alternatives, but you don’t have to go with an “elf” at all. It could be a Kindness Owl or really anything. As I’m planning our own Christmas celebration this year (post updated Nov 2018), I’m considering more Christ-focused alternatives- I’m really eyeing The Giving Manger, but will probably do my own DIY (read: cheap) version.

If you’ve been looking for some ideas to give your family an alternative option for the upcoming Christmas season, I hope this will help you have a light bulb moment to step outside the box! You don’t have to purchase an expensive book, kit or doll in order to bring fun into your family’s Christmas traditions.

As a Mama of four, I’d like to share one word of caution about the Kindness Elves, EOTS, or any related thing: Enter into it with caution.

Your children have AMAZING memories for this kind of thing which is precious and also… a trap. Pray about the time and energy commitment in advance, which will be layered upon what is already a busy and oftentimes stressful time of the year. If you go forward with it, do “future you” a favor and keep it low key.

Don’t go all out, move the elves every day, set up elaborate contraptions, or move them every single night. The pictures on social media make it look AWESOME. And your children will remember every single bit of that… next year and the year after and the year after. I’m not saying don’t make memories, but also, keep expectations for the future realistic by keeping it real up front. Don’t set the bar too high- take it from someone who has walked this road ahead of you!

Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Plan all the activities in advance, so you aren’t stressing out last minute. If you plan to do letters, type those up too. Collect all supplies up front.

  • Ignore elaborate schemes you see for craziness online. Save yourself all the potential cuss words.

  • Consider starting around St. Nicholas Day (Dec 6) and using that as a launching pad for celebrating the spirit of generosity, focusing on it’s origin as the Spirit of God that lives in us all.

  • A good rule of thumb is to plan 2 activities each week. I allowed my girls to play with the dolls in between, but they can be “hands off” too. Just decide that in advance so there’s no squabbling.

  • Plan a few activities that are focused on serving others: visit a nursing home to carol, give hot cocoa out at the bus stop, take cookies to your neighbor, create a S’Mored Kit to surprise a friend or two, shop for a local “Christmas Angel” type charity, etc

  • You can also keep the whole thing even more low-key by having the “activities” be a simple words of encouragement game for your family. Maybe the elves could bring a note saying that Suzie needs to come up with 3 wonderful things about her brother every day? OR a gratitude challenge? Or a “things we know about God” challenge?

  • Also, plan a few activities that are for blessing each other in your family: do your own s’more night, make cookies for Daddy, have a pajama party or game night, have a special hot cocoa story time after naps, throw a birthday party for Jesus, etc. We had our Kindness Elves bring Christmas PJ’s as well.

These fun traditions can cultivate incredible and precious memories! They can be a beautiful blessing to your family, but I hope you’ll be very intentional about praying through their meaning, purpose, and commitment in advance.

Have a merry and blessed Christmas season!

Note: The Kindness Elves are not my original idea. I found inspiration on Pinterest from The Imagination Tree {such a precious blog!} I was inspired by her thoughts and creativity! So I took it and ran with it.