Elf on the Shelf Pros, Cons, Ideas, and Alternatives

Our little friend in red is a relatively new tradition - but a strong one, nonetheless. Parents around the country are finding that the Elf on the Shelf (and in the pantry, and the bathroom, and all the other crazy places people put him) has become a Christmas staple in their household as little ones expect to seek out this face each morning leading up to Christmas.

For those who are new to the elf craze, here's a little breakdown of how it works: Based on a book written in 2005, the story goes that an Elf is sent from the North Pole to watch kids. Each night, the Elf returns north to report back to Santa and comes back to the house in a new place, so kids must find him again in the morning.

While Elf on the Shelf has inspired the creativity of Pinterest Parents and grown to the mythical size of Santa himself in many households, there is some debate on whether this tradition is healthy or destructive for children.

Some parents view the elf as harmless fun that fits right into the tradition of Christmas and Santa Clause and the well-known refrain from the Christmas classic: "You better watch out. You better not cry. Better not pout. I'm telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town. He's making a list. And checking it twice. Gonna find out who's naughty & nice."

Others point to the psychology behind the tradition, and find that it is a parental crutch that uses material items to promote short-lasting good behavior and negates self-control. To read a full argument against the elf, check out this article from Psychology Today.

Whether you're pro-elf or are looking for some fun alternatives, we've got you covered!

For Pro-Elf Parents: Fun Scenarios to Try

1. Date with Barbie

Who doesn't love the idea of having two toy favorites sharing a bottle of syrup?! Kids will get a kick out of seeing the elf interact with their other toys and seeing them come alive in these fun scenes.

No barbie in the house? This idea can be used with other toys in other scenarios - like the elf racing toy cars, hangin' with a Teddy Bear, or building with legos.

Idea from Styletic - check out their other 30 easy and fun Elf on the Shelf ideas!

2. Making a Mess

What kid doesn't love to wake up to find that their elf has been a little naughty during the night? There are plenty of options for this scenario, such as spilling candy/popcorn, squirting ketchup on the (easily washable) wall, making a mess of toys or books, and many other messy ideas that we're sure your kids can inspire!

You could also have your elf leave messages in the mess - like writing "Santa says hi!" out of candy pieces or in some spilled flour.

3. Taking a Nap

Elf work is hard! So, make a cozy place for your elf to be snoozing when your kids go to find him. Tissue boxes are a great fit, but you could also use a stocking, a bed made of wrapping paper, the doggy bed, a pile of marshmallows, a bed from a dollhouse, or even nestled somewhere in the Christmas tree.

4. Paper Bag Race

This is a great way to get your elf moving and interacting with other toys or Christmas decorations (i.e., nutcrackers). You could even make a finish line out of legos and a piece of paper with "Finish!" written across it.

Scenario from Elf on the Shelf Ideas.

5. Hiding Out

Part of the joy of Elf on the Shelf is the part where kids look for him in the morning. Make the search even more fun by creating some fun hideouts for the elf, such as this popcorn box turned into a house!

Idea from Balancing Home - check out her 26 other Elf on the Shelf Ideas!

Alternatives to Elf on the Shelf

Not a fan of the elf? No worries, we have some creative alternatives for parents looking to count down the days to Christmas and promote good behavior.

1. Give a Gift, Get a Gift

By their 5th or 6th Christmas, kids have enough toys to last them a lifetime. Help declutter the house and teach the important lessons of selflessness and giving to your kids with this fun idea. Each day, from December 1st to Christmas day, have your kids put an old toy in a bag or box. Leave it on Christmas Eve for Santa to take with him during the night (put it in your trunk to take to goodwill).

2. The Christmas Mouse

Similar to Elf on the Shelf, the Christmas Mouse is a a little furry friend that joins the family at Little Page Turners each Christmas. Every morning the kids have to find the mouse, but instead of tracking their behavior, the mouse is there to give them a daily task. The daily assignments range from doing some small kind task, to giving to a charity, to assigning a fun experience for the whole family.

3. Kindness Elves

Another great way to promote good behavior is to use kindness elves! These little friends comes with 50 Acts of Kindness cards for the kids to accomplish each day leading up to Christmas. Order your set from The Imagination Tree!

Treat yourself this season with $100 to our Get Movin' Marketplace! Team up for your winter fundraiser by Dec. 31st to get your credit to our online store.

Created By
The Get Movin' Crew


Created with images by Pamjpat - "elf on a shelf christmas elf" • Neven Krcmarek - "untitled image" • Joanna Kosinska - "untitled image"

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