A Christ-mas Alternative to the Elf on the Shelf

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I’m right there with all the moms who hate the Elf on the Shelf. It was fun the first year or two as our elf, Madge, moved from each secret hiding spot to a new one. But now, I’m over it. Moms have added crazy shenanigans and the elves make messes and the kids think it’s absolutely hilarious! I can’t keep up! The competition to have the most devious elf caused me to reevaluate our Christmas activities.

But the Elf on the Shelf doesn’t have to spin you into a tizzy. There’s a great way to use that pesky elf as a way to teach the true meaning of Christmas.

What do I really want to teach my kids this Christmas season?

(Just a minute. If you’re a mom who loves coming up with silly elf schemes to bring joy to your child’s face, that’s totally fine! I’ll still search your hashtags and “like” your photos. But as for me and my house, we’re taking a different approach this year. If you’re looking for elf alternatives, keep on reading!)

Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love the sparkling lights, the change in weather, the smells of cookies baking in the oven, the shopping for the perfect gift, the people-watching, the acts of kindness, the filling of shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, the counting of change for charities, and most importantly –celebrating the reason for the season.


I love going back to the first Christmas, reading about Jesus’ birth again, studying the details and sharing them with my kids.

So this year, I wanted to incorporate an intentional elf with both the Christmas story and kindness. We’ve been working on kindness for the past month, earning toothpicks for each act of kindness. The kids reach their personal goals and exchange toothpicks for treats or time alone with mom or dad.It’s working well so far and I want to keep it up.

Christmas Elf Inspiration

(I’m not the only one teaching kindness to our kids. The idea to incorporate kindness with our elf on the shelf came from Lauren at From Blacktop to Dirt Road.)

This year, our elf, Madge, will continue the tradition of traveling through the house in creative, unreachable spots, but he’ll travel with a twist. Every morning, he’ll hold a card with a Scripture, a Christmas song, a kindness mission, and a note for mom to read.

Our inspiration for the Christmas story extras and activities came from Lisa Appelo’s 15-day Countdown to Christmas advent devotional. She created it for the whole family to bring the story of Jesus’ birth to light in a hands-on way using Scripture and your nativity. You can find out more details on her blog at True and Faithful.

So with the Countdown to Christmas devotional and the kindness missions, I combined them, printed them up on cards I dug from the depths of my craft closet and Madge will present a new one each morning.

 Using the Elf as a Tool

My goal is to create even more excitement over the birth of Jesus and teach my kids details beyond the Scripture. They’ll learn about the culture and history from that time period while incorporating fun activities. Why saturate ourselves with gifts and wrapping paper and toys that won’t last when we can set our sights on everlasting things that moth and rust can’t destroy?

Why NOT make the story of Jesus’ birth the most exciting thing they hear this Christmas season? What if we used our elves as tools to encourage our kids to crack open their Bibles and read about Jesus? Why NOT use the elf to give them kindness missions with simple, thoughtful goals throughout the day?

 Whatever you choose to do with your elf, choose intentionality and wisdom to teach your kids about the man on a mission. Who deserves our true focus this year? The Son of God and Son of Man who willingly and humbly came to the earth so that He could save us from our sins. So let’s choose carefully what and how we teach our kids this Christmas.

It’ll be fun. And lasting.







  1. Lisa Appelo says:

    I love this, Amanda! I know families love the elf and all of his antics. 😉 And to help your kids see needs of others while reading the real Christmas story is a beautiful way to prepare for Christmas. Thank you for highlighting my book!

  2. Kate says:

    This is a fun idea! We celebrate a very secular holiday, so elf on the shelf works well for us, but this is the perfect twist for many families!

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