It was 12 years ago when I was pregnant with my oldest son that I received a mischievous little present who would one day come to be known as “Elfie.” He arrived in an unassuming package labeled “Elf on the Shelf.”
The idea was a sweet one: an elf was sent by Santa to watch over the children on Dec. 1 and he would fly away on Dec. 24 to report to Santa about how the children behaved. The only thing a parent would need to do is move the elf around the house each night after the children fell asleep.
Three children later, and with all the hope and best intentions that the season brings, Elfie would arrive on Dec. 1 and sometimes shuffle around our house, but more often than not, my husband and I would spend our creative energies weaving stories about why Elfie did not move. Elfie was tired. Elfie was sick. Elfie was lazy. Ugh.
To compound the guilt we felt, other people’s social media pages filled up our feed with outrageous situations that their family’s elves got into. Elves partying with Barbies, pooping Hershey Kisses and bringing friends to the house for the siblings and pets.
I decided Elfie wasn’t for us. He was bringing more negative energy to our home than positive. It was time for Elfie to retire.
I turned to Google and found relief: there were others like me.
That year Elfie came with a note. The boys had passed the test; they were clearly well-behaved and would remain on Santa’s “Good List” if they continued doing their chores and being kind to each other.
Today there are so many alternatives to Elf on the Shelf. If you find yourself in the position that we were, here is a little list to get you started:
The Giving Manger
It comes with a book, a manger, straw and a baby Jesus. Someone in the family adds a straw to the manger every time they do an act of kindness or observe a family member do one. Each Sunday of Advent we would share our kindnesses and add the straw. Easy, peasy. It kept the holiday simple and focused on gratitude and good deeds.
Reindeer in Here
This is a good one! It has won 12 major awards and is set to be turned into a one-hour cartoon to air Nov. 29. The message: Everyone is unique in their own special way and let’s appreciate diversity. The reindeer arrives after Thanksgiving as an early present from Santa to go with your child on daily adventures.
North Pole Ninjas: Mission Christmas
If this had been around 11 years ago, my three boys would be all over it. We could have reused their ninja costumes to complete the 50 top secret kindness missions that come with the book to celebrate the spirit of the holiday.
The Kindness Elves
Elf on the Shelf, but a kinder variation. These little elves arrive at the start of the season and encourage your children to do small acts of kindness. The kit is pricey, but it includes absolutely everything you need.
Mensch on a Bench
This Hanukkah tradition is meant to help teach the importance of the holiday while Moshe the Mensch and his family try to inspire others to be honorable Mensches themselves during the holiday season.
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