Three Ways the Elf on the Shelf Can Teach the True Meaning of Christmas

All you have to do is type “elf on the shelf” into the Pinterest search bar and you’ll find thousands of clever, crafty, and hilarious ideas for this notorious holiday mischief-maker. We first introduced the Elf on the Shelf in our home when our daughter was 3. While the kids look forward to the return of our elf with great anticipation, my opinion has changed a bit over the years.


I first thought of the Elf as a fun Christmas tradition with the side benefit of encouraging good behavior. As the years have passed, I’ve started to worry that the Elf might be a hindrance to the message we really want our kids to hear during the Christmas season.

While it’s natural for little ones to focus on presents and the magic of Santa Claus, we also want them to remember the real reason that we celebrate Christmas… the birth of Jesus.

Even if Christmas isn’t about celebrating Jesus in your family, I doubt that you want your kids  to spend a month focused on how many presents they’ll get and what’s in it for them.

The holiday season is such a meaningful time of year because so many people turn their attention outward and focus on the happiness and needs of others. So how do we shift our kids’ attention from “behaving so the Elf won’t report them to Santa” to seeing the importance of caring for others?

1. your elf can bring a box for donating toys

Our Elf arrives on December 1st with an empty box and a letter from Santa. The letter instructs the kids to fill the box with unwanted toys and books so that they can be delivered to less fortunate children.

Right off the bat, we’re showing them that Christmas is about more than just getting presents. This is a great start, but this year our Elf is stepping up his game with some additional encouragement like the next idea.

2. Your Elf can deliver notes encouraging random acts of kindness

Anna at The Imagination Tree developed an Elf on the Shelf alternative called The Kindness Elves, which encourages children to do kind things for others each day during the holiday season.

We’re already into the dance with our Elf so he’ll be the one bringing notes for our kids this year. Over the Big Moon has some great printable cards for the Elf to deliver with ideas such as “Write a letter to someone special telling them why you love them!”

3. Your elf can bring Advent messages sharing the story of Jesus’ birth

I love these printable verse cards created by Julie from The Happy Home Fairy. They are the perfect size for the Elf to deliver! I also really like the idea of incorporating the Bible verses into the daily discovery of the Elf.

I’m excited for some new ways to help our Elf share the true meaning of Christmas with our sweet little ones. We still get all the fun that this tradition brings with the added bonus of reminding our family why we celebrate in the first place.

If you’re looking for more ways to focus on the message of Christmas with your kids, check out my post about ways to celebrate Advent as a family!

Do you want your family to focus on the true meaning of Christmas this season? Here are three ways you can use your Elf on the Shelf to teach the real Christmas message.


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5 thoughts on “Three Ways the Elf on the Shelf Can Teach the True Meaning of Christmas

  1. Amy says:

    Hi! I just found your blog, and I’m loving it! These are great ideas. My daughter is a bit too young for Elf on the Shelf this year, but we may start it next year. I will be bookmarking this for whenever we do choose to get it started. I particularly love #3. Thanks for the ideas!

    • sweeterstill says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Amy! We didn’t start with the elf until our oldest was 3 and even then she didn’t fully get it. Now at 8 and 5, they have a lot of fun. Merry Christmas 🙂

  2. Brigette says:

    I don’t observe Christmas anymore for personal reasons… but it’s crazy growing up (when i did observe) I never heard of Elf on a Shelf! Now I see it all the time lol.. There are so many funny ones but these are really great ideas.

    • sweeterstill says:

      It feels like a relatively new thing. I don’t remember anything similar when I was growing up either. It drives me crazy how it’s becoming more and more commercialized though. Our elf definitely doesn’t need different outfits 😉 Thanks for your comment!

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