The Kindness Elf: Alternatives to Elf on a Shelf

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I remember when my mom friends started talking about “Elf on a Shelf.” Or maybe I had started noticing posts on Facebook. The cute pictures of elves doing silly things such as zip-lining from Christmas trees. Parents were abuzz with the new fad. It seemed both loved and hated.

I was intrigued and slightly horrified as one of my friends explained the idea that the elf was sent by Santa from the North Pole to spy on kids from Thanksgiving to Christmas. The elf flew back every night to report if the children were naughty or nice. Santa then used that information to decide who received gifts or not.

Spying Elf

The concept is based on the “Elf on the Shelf” book by Carol Aebersold and daughter Chanda Bell. Parents are supposed to move the elf every night to a different spot in the house. That way the elf has a new vantage point to spy on the children so they would behave.

I laughed with my friends at the idea that it would coerce the children to behave so they would get presents from Santa. As a parent now, I can see some of the appeal. Sometimes we need any form of help to keep littles from driving us crazy, especially around the holidays.

Many of my friends complained about forgetting to move the Elf at night to a new spot. Or trying to be as zany and fun as the crazy antics of the elves being shown on Facebook. Their children were seeing the videos and wondering why their elves were not as cool. It seemed time intensive to me.

I had no children, so I laughed it off. I would blissfully forget about the elf until the next Christmas season. Inevitably, the pictures of Facebook challenges would start and the grousing about what a pain the elf could be for parents.

Now my life has changed. I have two boys who are both in school for the first time. That is when many of my friends felt pressured to get an “Elf on a Shelf.” Their children began to hear about their friends elves at Christmas and wanted one of their own.

Kindness Elf

I am still not sure how I feel about the spying aspect. Although if it would help my littles behave, it is tempting. Another of my friends then shared a slightly different idea of “Elf on a Shelf.” The Kindness Elf. The Kindness Elf comes up with nice acts that children and their families could perform to show their appreciation for one another and teach the littles to consider others.

I decided I liked the idea of teaching generosity, kindness and thoughtfulness. I Googled the “Kindness Elf” to see if this was a trend. My search took me to the Imagination Tree that had a philosophy, a book, cute elves and accessories.

According to this site, the elves either leave suggestions for kind acts or praise the children for performing kind acts. One suggestion was to bake cookies for new neighbors or shovel the snow for a friend. The goal is small kindnesses that take some effort and make a positive impact.

I really like the idea of small acts of kindness that teach the littles the joy of thinking of and helping others. The site suggested parents should make a list in advance of the holidays of kindness tasks for the littles. Make sure they are age appropriate and not too labor intensive for the family.

On the Imagination Tree site, you can buy a book of kindness suggestions, but I Googled “Kindness activities for children” and found many ideas. I am in the process of making my own lists, so the children and I are not overwhelmed.

I decided to buy little elves for the visual everyday reminder for the littles and me. The Imagination Tree has some cute ones. I also found cute and cheaper alternatives on Etsy and Amazon, so look around.

This is my first year trying the elves, so wish me luck. I am a little afraid the children will rebel and not want to try the kindness projects. Or that they will want to do more then we have time for. But as I have learned from being mom, try to be flexible and breathe. It is not a contest, have fun, and hopefully it will be easier next year.

Consider if your own family would enjoy a tradition such as the Kindness Elf, “Elf on the Shelf,” or create something new. What would your family enjoy?

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