Kindness Elves: An Alternative Elf on the Shelf Tradition

Create a new tradition for Christmas with the Kindness Elves, an alternative to the popular Elf on the Shelf idea, and place the focus instead on positive, character-building activities for kids. Teaching love, kindness and gratitude with a hope to raise kids who move away from the “entitlement” attitude which pervades our modern generation.Kindness Elves Alternative Elf on the Shelf Tradition

Like me, you will be very familiar with the amazingly popular Elf on the Shelf tradition that has become even more popular in the last few years. There are entire Pinterest boards and eBooks dedicated to the idea and some people really go to town on amazing set-ups each morning for the kids to find. It’s great fun and appeals to my sense of making magic and wonder for our children, and I used to do similar things in my classroom with our puppets and stuffed toys that moved around each night or set up new learning activities for the kids to find each day etc. However,  there are a few things that just don’t sit right with me about the Elf which I can’t shake off and which have meant I haven’t adopted it for our family. For one, he is seriously creepy looking! I’ve read accounts of kids that are freaked out about this little elf watching them and can’t get to sleep at night, begging for him to go back to Santa! He is also extremely expensive, which always puts me off.

Most of all, I really dislike the idea that he has been sent by Santa to watch children and to report back on their behaviour to see whether or not they will be good enough to receive presents this year.  Present giving is because you love someone, not because they deserve it. Hence why we focus more on the gift of our Saviour at Christmas and His free, undeserved love to us instead.(I know not everyone applies that aspect of the idea so please don’t be offended if you use and love the Elf on the Shelf- that’s not my intention at all.)

Kindness Elf Alternative Tradition

Recently I came across these adorable little elves or pixies in a UK/ European store called Tiger. At only £1 each and with such gorgeous attention to detail I couldn’t help but buy them all and thought there must be a way to keep some of the original Elf magic and apply it in a new way.

You could of course use any stuffed animal or even a Christmas tree ornament. Check the ornament sections at supermarkets or £/£ stores.  A few people have written to say they are using the angel decoration from the top of the tree- so lovely! Others have told me they found a similar doll ornament in Target’s ornament section (in the US.)

Here are some alternatives I have found. Really, anything will do! Make it special and personal to your family.

So, on December 1st , or thereabouts, these little elves are going to arrive at our home and introduce themselves as the Kindness Elves (they could also be called the  Helpful Elves, or anything else along those positive attribute lines! If you are big on Santa they could simply be “Santa’s Little Helpers”  which would work perfectly!) They are good elves who love to help and notice kindness in others.Kindness elf tradition for kids

We haven’t yet started obviously, but this is the general outline of what we will be doing with them:

  • They will arrive in our home and have been sent to share some love and magic at Christmas time
  • They will only be sharing kind ideas and noticing things that are lovely. There will be no focus on negativity, but they will still be lots of fun and silliness too!
  • They will be moved somewhere different each morning, sometimes in funny situations and positions, often next to an item that we need for that day’s kindness activity e.g. inside a mixing bowl ready to bake some cookies as a gift
  • They will be holding little suggestions for acts of kindness, love or helpfulness that we can do together that day for e.g. “Let’s collect some of your toys and give them away to the children’s hospital”, “let’s make some cookies for the neighbours”, “shall we visit an elderly friend/ relative?” etc
  • When they see the children doing kind and lovely things, they will leave a little note for them to find in the morning e.g. “Oh I loved it when I saw you sharing your new book with your little sister” or “you were very kind to help your Mummy load the dishwasher!” etc
  • Some mornings they may wake up to find the elves have lined up their shoes, tidied their coats, got the breakfast things ready or fixed a broken toy etc. Modelling direct ways to be kind and helpful as a prompt for the children in the day.

Kindness Elves a character-focused tradition for kids

I will share the idea for each day in December on my Facebook page (follow here) and on Instagram (ask to follow here) so you can do this along with me if you want to join in!

* Update for 2014* Follow The Kindness Elves on their very own Facebook page where we shared lots of the ideas and photos that we used last year. These will be a great place to get you started!

I’m sure you will have hundreds of your own ideas for how to implement this and no doubt they will be even better, so please come and share your photos and ideas there too! On Instagram and twitter the hashtag I will be using is #kindnesselves . Use it too so we can find each other!

Helpful Elf teaching Kindness Tradition

I’m hoping this will be a very valuable tool in helping them learn and focus on the positive attributes that we try and teach them in everyday life. As a Christian family we very much teach them those all important words that Jesus left us: “there are these 3 things that remain, faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is LOVE”. And also “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind…and you shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Ever since their birth we said we wanted (more than academic achievement or future careers) for our kids to be full of love for people around them. Less entitlement and “I want”, and more thinking about others and how we can serve them and help them in the small things as well as the big. This is something we are still working on in ourselves too, by the grace of God!

I can’t wait to get started on this and I hope you will do it with us!

*Update for 2014* Here is a list of 25 Ideas of things to do with the Kindness Elves based on what we did last year. I hope these will help kickstart your plans for this year! Click the link above or image below to go to the list.

25 ideas for using the Kindness Elves to promote acts of kindness this Christmas

[I have added some Amazon affiliate links to try and help find some elf alternatives!]


  1. Sonia says

    What a wonderful idea!!!! Thank you for really focusing on what really is important throughout the holiday season and teaching your children amazing life lessons!!! Parents and teachers can use this idea all year round , kindness isn’t just about one month out of the year. Kudos to you!!!

  2. fiona says

    I thought the elf on the shelf was a great idea until i told my daughter Santa was sending him and explained the traditionall rules eg u can’t touch him he doesn’t speak and saw her face drop she didn’t like the idea but you have just inspired me to do the kindness elf such a great idea and more relaxing for the kids as their not being watched and they can speak and play together alongside activities. :)

  3. says

    Anna, I ADORE this approach to the elves! As you know, we have a set of these little pixies too – after you told me all about them. And though ours are mischievous (they take socks of the kids feet!! tut tut), I love the kindness element and will definitely introduce this too! Thank you and off to share now!


  4. Juie says

    I find the original elf creepy too, I love your little elves, and will be on the lookout for something similar, great idea.

  5. says

    Anna, I absolutely love this idea and when I saw your little elves I could not wait to see what your idea was. This is exactly what we SHOULD be teaching our children and I will be looking for some elves my self to try this. I have never done the other idea for that exact reason, why allow naughty elves in you house it’s odd!

    I will share this on my fb page xxx

  6. says

    I didn’t know the original elf had rules…we never got into the elf. Too much work! I think your idea is sweet! There’s no reason your elf couldn’t be a nice guy.

  7. Maria Raaff says

    Hi Anna, I have requested to follow you on instagram and it comes up as ‘requested’. Not sure if I’ve done it right (techno phobe!) or if it is only for your nearest and dearest to follow. I used to enjoy your instagram photos when they were on your website. Thanks

  8. says

    What a wonderful tradition to start, Anna! I absolutely love the idea, and I can’t wait to see what you and your kindness elves are up to throughout the month. I’ve been looking for a fun alternative to the Elf on the Shelf, and this is perfect. Thanks for sharing.

  9. says

    This is a really cute alternative. I didn’t like the idea of the mischievous elf either, pluse we don’t do Santa. We do the Christmas Angel instead and it is very similar to this idea—focusing on service to others. :)

  10. says

    What a WONDERFUL idea! I have been unimpressed with the elf on a shelf “reporting” thing for a long time. This really keeps with the spirit of the season. Thank you!!!

  11. Rachel says

    Such a sweet idea! We discovered the “magic” of moving toys around for our daughter a couple of months ago and have considered doing elf on the shelf because of that. However the idea just never sat quite right with me either. Even some ideas I’ve seen that tied it back to Jesus. They seemed too complicated for a toddler to really understand. Thank you for sharing your idea. Now, to try and find some elves with such cute details like your own…

  12. Cathy says

    Love this idea! My three girls are grown, but hope I remember this one day if I have grandchildren. What a wonderful example to your children. I’m sure God will bless this idea….how could he not! God bless you and your children. This idea speaks to my current motivational “mission” verse, Micah 6:8. My fave part? “to do justly,
    To love mercy,
    And to walk humbly with your God”. You’re doing it right!!

    • Jan says

      You know Stacy,Santa and elves are not the villains here,it’s all in how they are presented, if you keep Santa & his workers as a fun part of the holiday it’s like everything else, people use the elf and Santa as means of disciplining -I did it myself- but it’s a short time and the kids knew it was ultimately me or their Dad that was the one who was really disciplining. I’ts our responsibility to keep that part in perspective and like everything else, it’s our responsibility to keep the Christ in “Christmas”. I found a perfect statue and also and ornament that has Santa kneeling at the manger. I actually cried when I found it and it gets center stage on my tree and I made sure my kids got one for their tree. The commercial part is always going to be there-we can only control our own lives and we just have to make sure in our homes God and his perfect gift get center stage. Have a great holiday and keep praying the others get it- it’s so easy to get caught up in the commercialism!!

  13. Laurie says

    What a great idea! I don’t have kids yet but I do not like Elf on the Shelf for the same reasons you and the other commentors have mentioned. Growing up, my family didn’t do Santa either. I also don’t like ideas that bribe or threaten kids to be good. Shouldn’t they be encouraged to be good, and more importantly kind, all the time because it’s the right thing to do? Not just during December because a toy elf is watching them? That’s not what Christmas is about anyway. This is such a great alternative that keeps the magic of childhood alive while focusing on what matters. Love it!

  14. says

    Love this idea. We don’t do Santa or Elf on the Shelf, but I’d love to incorporate something like this into our holiday season. Brilliant post! xx

  15. Gillian Flore says

    Wonderful. You have listed every dislike that I have with Elf on the Shelf. I had thought last year about doing my own version and I loved seeing all the imaginative exploits of people’s elves, but couldn’t find a suitable elf. There was no way I was going to buy an expensive creepy looking one! This year I found a couple of cute elves at Ikea and they are ready to go with presenting Christmas/Advent activities each day and we will have a ‘backwards advent tree’ ie the star gets placed on the tree once we have done the activity and so at the end of advent we have a reminder of all the fun stuff we have done. I also considered the ‘follow the star’ idea on Sunhats and wellie boots: . I love your emphasis on kindness though and I think this will be more understandable through a ‘person’/elves. It also forces me to come up with kind ideas not just fun ones.

  16. Kristie says

    This is a wonderful idea, my kids, toddlers, will have a little Christmas angel helping them do kind things this year. Thank you for the idea.

  17. Briar says

    Love this idea. I too don’t do Santa and have a few issues with the elf on the shelf. Thanks for this alternative

  18. says

    I’m so excited over this post. The hubby and I have been trying to decide how Santa and his elves fit into our holiday traditions. In the past we have went crazy with Elf on the Shelf and Santa, but now our oldest is 5 and it just feels wrong for our family. I love this idea! It gives me the chance to keep some of the magic, but get rid of the bad parts. And I love that it focuses on giving instead of receiving. Thank you so much for sharing!

  19. says

    Thank you for voicing my thoughts so perfectly. I couldn’t agree more! I have been doing RAOK with my girls for two Christmas’ now (complete with elf hats) and I think this little Kindness elf idea will be the perfect way for me to decide what we are going to do that day. LOVE it. Thank you so much for sharing!

  20. Esther says

    I love this soooo much!! What a concept, recognizing the good things kids already do every day, and teaching more thoughtfulness by also doing something nice for them here and there along with the kids doing nice things for others. Thanks for the great idea! I will do this! :o)

  21. says

    Amen, amen, and amen! Thank you! So wonderful to read such a great idea to promote the true meaning of Christmas instead of the endless lies, made-up magical stories, greediness, self-centeredness, and materialism of the whole Santa thing. Ugh. And it’s all to get children to believe in and focus on anything other than Christ at Christmas. And ends up getting the parents, relatives, and society as a whole focusing on that lie instead of Christ. I hate it, too. A kindred soul you are, my friend! I love your creative and godly alternative activity! Way to go! And keep more of these awesome ideas coming!! We need it in this world today. :) God bless!

  22. Mel S says

    Ohhh I don’t know… Not sure about this. Whilst the elves are cute, I don’t understand why people are so hung up about removing everthing that is magical and fun and wonderous from children’s chilhoods these days. Kindness and love should be basic values parents teach to their children everyday.. why can’t they just have a bit if fun…why so serious? Kindness isn’t about being a martyr to the world it’s about showing love everyday by being nice people. If your kids don’t like EOTS find something else and make it FUN for them. Just seems a little too forced for my liking and more about the adult than the kids.

    • Kate says

      Thank you. I think so too! My 6 year old doesn’t need an elf to tell him how to be a good person. He IS one. He is always kind, wants to donate, helps others when he can, etc. An every day example: last night on the train, all on his own, he asked permission from the mom first and then helped a 2 year old climb into a seat when she was struggling. That’s just who he is. Our elf on the shelf gets into toys and just has fun. There are no repercussions. Just silly fun. And my son wakes up every morning with laughter because of him and shouts for the whole house to see what he’s done now. Christmas is about bringing joy to those you love, so Elf and I, we do just that.

    • MelL says

      Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Mel S and Kate I couldn’t agree more! I love elf on the shelf and so do my two boys! I think it is a super cute and fun tradition to start! :)

    • Joan says

      I like the idea of encouraging your child to participate in a generous way in their society and I would love there to be more parents that would encourage this throughout the year.

      However, I do have an issue with parents who over-protect their children from anything negative. I think the elf on the shelf is a fun (also funny), way to encourage children to be well behaved. I also think that children learn from these types of activities, that there are consequences to their actions and that they don’t deserve to get presents just for being alive. The lesson of earning a reward for acting in a way that is kind (also known as not misbehaving / being naughty) or being punished for the opposite behavior isn’t one I see as generally bad for children to learn.

      When these children enter the workforce they are not going to be rewarded with promotions, raises etc. just for showing up. They need to earn them. If they don’t show up, if they are late, if they are bad at their job, then there will be consequences for them. I don’t see how we are doing our children any favors by protecting them from understanding that this is the way life works. The elf on the shelf and the all knowing Santa help children to understand this lesson in a way that is fun, harmless and filled with the magic and joy of childhood. I’m not saying that the kindness elves are an inherently bad idea, but I also have no problem with the elf on the shelf and with the idea of a naughty and nice list kept by Santa in the North Pole.

  23. says

    THANK YOU!!! My daughter was heartbroken that we didn’t have an elf on the shelf last year, but I could not do it due to my concerns about the philosophy of it. This is absolutely perfect in every way, exactly how we wish to be celebrating the season.

  24. says

    I cannot tell you how much I LOVE this idea!!!!! I have a facebook page called 2 Bears and Counting I share tons of ideas that I do with my twin boys and I am also a teacher. I just took my boys to the nursing home to deliver hand made santas(on my site) because I feel so strongly in helping others. I also started a facebook #spreadingholidaycheer where you list 3 things that you love or respect about that person on their page. It’s amazing how the littlest things do the biggest! Love you site! Thank you!I will be sharing this on my site!


  25. says

    We also haven’t done “Elf on the Shelf” yet as I wasn’t sure it was a good fit for our age or family, but I love this idea. We may have to do it too!

  26. Michelle says

    Hi Anna
    Thanks for sharing this wonderful idea.
    Could you put up the website for the elves please – must get some for my Family Day Care X

  27. heather says

    I do the elf on the shelf, but love this idea!! where can I possibly find these elves? Do you sell them?

  28. Kathryn says

    I luv this idea! Super sweet! We’ve got an elf on the shelf for this Christmas season, but will apply the ideas of kindness and helping to ours. Thank you so much.

    • Denise says

      Unfortunately no one can buy something from the tiger store online. It is like a dollar store in the U.S.

      I have been looking on Etsy too but have not found anything. What is the link to the one you found cute?

  29. Nikki says

    Good idea….we love our elf though. We don’t follow the rules though:) my son carries Her around all day, then at night Chibbie flies around looking for a new adventure. Adding a note to her hand in the morning would be a good idea:)

  30. says

    I LOVE this idea and will implement this with my son (5). I’ve been put off by the elf on a shelf concept and love the idea of turning it around and suggesting ways to help people. The idea of the 12 days of kindness is a play on words about the 12 days of Christmas, encouraging people to do 12 random acts of kindness, so I am really excited b/c they will mesh together so beautifully. I’ll post a link to your blog at some point, once 12 days is back up for this season. Thanks for the inspiration!!!

  31. Sophie says

    I have made a couple of elves to do something like the elf. I refuse to buy the story & plan to use him to introduce kindness, the story of the nativity using santas help to teach her learn. I have a movie that introduces to her that santa’s sack is made from Jesus’ swaddle cloth as well a prayer from santa asking the lord to help him share His love with the children & their families. I am so looking forward to Christmas this year (these are new traditions to our family as our daughter will be only 8 months old at Christmas.

    Looking forward to seeing what you do with your kindness elves.

  32. says

    I LOVE this, Anna! Such a great way to take the fun part of an idea and make it into something that’s wonderful all around. And I’ve been a little sad because the kiddo wanted a store-bought advent calendar this year, but this would fill my desire to do something creative to make him smile every day. Thank you.

  33. says

    Dear Anna, This post made to cry. I adore this idea… Did you make these little elves yourself and did you come up with this idea? So very touching. Can’t wait to do this with my 3 littles. Thank you for the inspiration.

  34. Nicole says

    I love love love this idea! My daughter is a little too young for this (11 months), but I knew from the start that I was not a fan of the Elf on the Shelf idea and wanted to find something equally as fun, but with a different message. I have been thinking about what I wanted to do for the future (maybe next year?). I just love it so much!

  35. says

    Love this idea!! Elf on the shelf is kind of creepy; plus my past students (3 1/2-4 yr old) confessed that when the elf would “move” around the house, it would creep them out. This idea of doing acts of kindness puts a positive spin on the spirit of the holiday. Thanks for sharing

  36. says

    Oh, if people are looking for some cute elves, Magic Cabin carries various dolls or on Etsy, type in Waldorf toys or waldorf felt dolls. :)

  37. Sandra says

    Hello Anna ! I discovered the Elf on the shelf only last year (i’m french) and i liked the idea but your point of view made the things clearer…
    I’m also a mother of 3 with kids under 4 yo, and i have a question about the note you would like to leave them on the morning when they would have been kind : would it be a common note or one for each ? So the question is : are your kids going to have one doll each ? I have 3 boys who are constantly – not fighting but – concerned by the others’ gift :/

  38. says

    This is wonderful! As our twins are getting older and becoming more aware of the holidays. We just talked this year about whether or not we would be doing Santa Claus. We decided that we will not, but will teach them about St. Nicholas. I think that next year when they are 3 years old I would like to implement these kindness elves!

  39. helen says

    We are going to be sent an Elf to show him how to be kind , helpful , have fun and use good manners. Father christmas has sent him because the other Elves can’t get on with their Christmas work due to being distracted by this little Elf who doesn’t know how to be part of a team yet. Every night he might do cheeky mischevious things, ( because that can be fun to a 4 and 6 year 0ld ). On discovery the next day the children will show him what he should have done instead, ( because it’s nice when you are little to feel that you know stuff and not always being told to do something better or differently or that people older than you know better ) e.g glitter in cereal might lead to showing him how to get breakfast independently and tidy up afterwards. I want the children to notice and verbalise all the good stuff they do daily and how much they are kind, helpful , members of our family team, ( not always though ha ha ) . Father Christmas chose our family especially because he has seen lots of good stuff happening in our family and thinks we can train little Elf in time for next year so he can enjoy being back in the Workshop. FC will collect Elf on Christmas Eve with a thank you note noticing all the kind ways the children have taught Elf in his stay with us. Well, that’s the plan anyway !

  40. carriee says

    Finally, someone with a great idea! My mom did the elf years ago when I was five and he freaked me out! I would never be in the same room with it without my mom and he just looked so creepy. I’ve never been more happy to see someone else that shares my thoughts about these elves.

  41. Lucy G says

    It’s such a lovely idea. I introduced mine to my children last year – he’s called Fidget and he’s so excited about Christmas that he leaves them an activity a day. He leaves the advent calendar, he leaves magic money for going out to eat doughnuts as long as he gets some (because he’s so busy at this time of year!) I’ve also included ideas like making our own wrapping paper & cards, making bird feeders and biscuits for others. Some things cost nothing – like going to a carol service or a letter writing kit to Santa whilst other things cost money like pantomime tickets. What I wanted to do was build the magic of Christmas and include all the things that needed to be done. The biggest difference though is that we never see our elf as he leaves notes instead. That other elf is, as you say, creepy…

  42. Ryan Elizabeth says

    Wonderful idea!! We have the elf on the shelf, and started last year with my older kids 7, 11 and 13. It’s more fun than it is anything else & not to scare my kids into behaving….because kids have free will & threats don’t change that :) I love the idea of the acts of kindness, and am going to incorporate that into our elf this year! Thanks for the idea!

  43. Ruth says

    We’re a Christian family too and love this idea. Any tips on supporting your child to be more loving to others? My 3 year old is very loving to me, his dad and brother but struggles to empathise beyond that. We’re looking after a little girl on Friday while her mum is in hospital but my son isn’t happy about it!

  44. Angelina says

    Hello! I, like others, absolutely love the thoughtfulness behind your elves. As we just opened our Elf on the Shelf last night and the kids were super excited to find her this morning (4y/o daughter & almost 3 y/o son)…we will be keeping our “Minnie” elf. They however have no idea about the mischievous side of the usual EONTS so I’m still very much looking forward to blending your ideas within our new found family tradition. I’m a big believer in attempting to find balance in all things and while Santa visits our home on Christmas Eve, we still sing Happy Birthday to Jesus on Christmas morning. Our daughter in particular has already taken to the idea that Minnie will be in contact with Santa; but that doesn’t mean she can leave our daughter notes about how nice is was to do this or that random act of kindness! THANK YOU!

  45. says

    THIS IS AWESOME! Sorry to use all caps. I’m just really excited now :)

    The only problem will be finding cute little elves to use. :)

    Thanks for this wonderful idea!!!

    <3 jeni

  46. Penny says

    I really like this Anna and would like to buy the elves too – if there’s any left 😉
    I’ve looked on Tiger website but they don’t seem to sell them. Do you have a link please?

  47. sarah says

    anna – this is lovely! Thank you – and so beautifully written! :-) We are stealing the idea of a alternative – we have monty mouse coming to visit us…Mr amazon delivered him the other day so i have allsorts of plans for him. xxx

  48. says

    I am not a Christian and I love the idea! Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas (we celebrate Yule, aka the Winter Solstice, the original celebration of the season in the area our people hail from) one can still use elves in this way. No need to tie it into any religion, Christian or otherwise.

  49. says

    We do something similar. The Christmas Spirit Fairy visits at Christmas. She’s the Candy Fairy’s sister who is especially busy at Halloween. Anyways! The Christmas Spirit Fairy (or Christmas Fairy for short) helps with advent and loves to catch children doing good, trying hard and especially loves seeing children AND adults doing acts of love to those around them and to their self. The Christmas Fairy never shows herself to the children (because you must have faith and believe without seeing) and she respects everyone’s privacy(no creepy stalkers). She is a wonderful fairy and has been known to stop by throughout the year. After all…the Christmas Spirit is not bound by a calendar.

    Love your wee elves!!!


  50. Julie Granja says

    Thank you for a wonderful idea. My son is 7, and has told me he didn’t want the elf back this year, as he just spies on him. When the elf returns to our house this weekend, he will come with a note explaining his new role!! He will be the kindness elf, to help spread love and the holiday spirit!! Many blessings to you and your family and thank you for changing one of our family traditions for the better :-)

  51. Meg says

    Love this idea! I have a waldorf inspired elf in process in my sewing space. I also think the Elf on the Shelf is creepy looking and I did not like the idea of the spying and reporting to Santa. Santa brings a gift because of Grace… the same type of Grace that our Lord had given to us. My daughter has been begging for an Elf on the Shelf… seems “All my friends houses have a special elf…” Our elf will be a bit different…. love the kindness inspiration. :-)

  52. Wendy says

    We agree that the Elf on the Shelf is creepy looking. Last year I made my own (much cuter) elf & she gave candy, stickers, and jokes and sometimes did something silly like drive Barbie’s car. I like your kindness ideas & will include some for our elf this year.

  53. Eowyn says

    This came through on Pinterest and it is possibly my favourite pin ever. What a great twist – it ties in perfectly with the theme we focus on at Christmas.

  54. says

    What a beautiful tradition…you have inspired our family to reinstill the “true” meaning of the holiday season…kindness…love…sharing and being a good neighbour and friend…LOVE this!!!!! (and bless you for this creative and inspiring idea)!

  55. Andrea says

    Coming from Middle Europe,we dont do Santa not Elf either. However I made something very similar to my kids. Our presents brings by traditions Little Baby Jesus (christmaskind). and in our family on the first advent Sunday he sends The Little Angel to our house. I made small waldorf doll with wire construction inside to be flexible, white with little wings… And this angel is our advent “guide”

    Kids, even the big one, are really excited and truly love it!!

  56. Shelly says

    Love your kindness elves and has made me think of how to tie in the birth of Jesus Christ into this. I have a nativity for my boys which I will use Baby Jesus as the one who leaves the ideas of acts of kindness.

  57. says

    In love with this! We do Elf on the Shelf but not the naughty deeds. We just tell the kids he’s keeping tabs and watching for good behavior. Going to implement when you share here, great ideas! XO

  58. says

    I squealed when I saw this on a pin this morning! Great timing for my life! Last night, my sister-in-law and I were talking about how Elf in the Shelf was a bit creepy looking and we didn’t like the message that it sent about gifts being linked to behavior. I do however, like the idea of introducing a something that will delight children with joyful whimsy and teach kindness at the same time! My husband likes the idea of Kindness Elves, too.

    I was looking online for Christmas elves and wasn’t finding anything that fit the bill. Then I did a search for tomte, which is the Swedish name for elf! That was the ticket

    The Scandinavian Shoppe sells little pixies and tomtes that are perfect for this idea1 You can order directly through their website:

    Amazon sells some Scandinavian Shoppe products including tomtes as well.

    Hope that helps people looking for something similar to the one’s pictured! :)

  59. Jill says

    I LOVE this idea. We do not do Santa but and I also think the Elf looks a little creepy too. But would love for the children to be kinder to others and I am going to try this idea also. Can’t wait to see how things go with it at your house. I will be following in FB.

  60. Tina says

    I see what your saying, but maybe that is why there is so much “entitlement” these days. Kids have no real reward or consequence for their behaviors. When people used Santa & socks of coal to teach desireable behavior children (and later adults) didn’t have issues with entitlement, except for maybe a few brats that were spoiled no matter how they behaved. Not trying to argue, defend, or offend, just a pondering of mine :)

    • Tina says

      Parents give out of love. Santa gives as a reward & to teach about God’s gift to all the baby Jesus.

  61. says

    Flora Johnson created a little elf named Christopher Pop-In-Kins in 1984 out of her love for children and in an effort to bring families together during the holidays.
    According to Flora’s story, “Christopher Pop-In-Kins Pops In,” Christopher longs to visit children during the holiday season. After much consideration, Santa grants Christopher his wish and appoints Christopher to be his “Very First Children’s Elf.” Christopher pops in to play hide and seek from late November to Christmas Eve then returns to the North Pole with a report for Santa. What the report contains is up to the parents. In the book, Santa says “The boys and girls will have a wonderful time with you…I bet their moms and dads will be pleased to see you, too. If I know my boys and girls, and I think I do, they will try extra hard to be good when they discover you in their very own homes.”
    Also, as in other elf traditions,Christopher cannot be touched. If this happens, he returns to the North Pole to restore his magic. The reason for this: each elf was handmade by Flora Johnson herself. She was afraid children would play with Christopher and tear apart the handmade elf. Thus, Christopher was magical and could not be touched.
    Flora was almost 60 when she created Christopher Pop-In-Kins. From 1985-2000, she handmade over 10,000 elves at her kitchen table. Her husband Al hand-published a book for each elf. Flora and Al passed away in 2005 within three days of each other.
    Their son Rick wanted to continue Christopher Pop-In-Kins. The elf was redesigned and the book was re-illustrated. But Flora’s story about a little elf who loves children remained the same.
    Christopher Pop-In-Kins predates the “popular elf” by 20 years. This Christmas, he pops in for his 29th year.
    In 2010, I introduced a new Pop-In-Kins elf: Christina Marie Pop-In-Kins, Christopher’s little sister. In her story, “Christina Marie and the Little Tree” Christina dreams of visiting children just like her brother. But do dreams come true? According to Santa, “To those who are the very best, any dream is possible.”
    Christina sets out to be the very best elf at the North Pole but has no success. In her search, she finds a little tree buried in the snow. She takes care of the little tree and, during a winter storm, unselfishly sacrifices her security blanket to save its life.
    Santa grants Christina Marie’s wish to visit the children because she learns what it truly means to be “the very best.”
    Christina Marie’s purpose is to encourage children to discover the very best within themselves and share their very best with others.
    Both Christopher and Christina Marie Sets include a posable elf doll, storybook, and storage case.
    More information about these elves is available at

  62. Ecila Rose says

    It isn’t really YOUR idea, it’s derivative of the EOTS idea. We do Santa, we do the elf. You can make the elf whatever you want, even this idea.

    • says

      If this is a derivative of the other elf’s idea, what does that make Pop-In-Kins? Pop-In-Kins is the hide-and-seek elf that pops in from late November to Christmas Eve, cannot be touched, and gives Santa a report on Christmas Eve. And it began 20 years prior to that elf. (Check copyright dates.)

      • Ketta says

        And my grandfather came up with an elf that sat on the mantlepiece and reported back to Santa, and that was at least 35 years ago. EOTS and Popinkins just capitalized on something lots of people do anyway.

  63. Iona says

    Thank you Anna, Love this idea… going to give it a go too. Having lived in Denmark, where the store Tiger originates, we too have the little elves, they are called ‘Nisse’ in Denmark and are actually mischievous. The children wake up in Denmark to discover the Nisse have been naughty over night, turned the milk blue for example. A bit of fun for the parents but not an example for the children to follow. I love your use of elves… Kindness, just beautiful!!

  64. Stephanie says

    I love the idea of showing kindness and loving others. We too do not do Santa for two reasons. One is Biblical in that even though the idea of him is fun, it’s lying to our children and that breaks one of the Lords commandments. The other is like you mention about doing good works for rewards, the very opposite of the gospel. Thank you for sharing this lovely idea. I think I will tweak it somewhat so our children understand that the fairies are fun but dont magically appear overnight like the Elf does. :)

    • amy says

      Please consider that not everyone who participates in the tradition of Santa is breaking the Lord’s commandments. Because we also don’t believe in lying to our children, here is what our family does: We tell them that we think the game of Santa is fun and ask them if they want to play. We explain to them that, like Mickey Mouse & Raggedy Ann, Santa is fiction. Of course in the early years they are still learning what all that means, but by the age of 4-5 they understand the difference between real and fiction. Like the author of this blog, we have always explained to our children that gifts are given out of love and grace and not based on behavior. On the internet, it is easy to judge others without knowing the full story.

  65. Sydney Lyons says

    Bingo! I really really don’t like the elf on the shelf but I love the idea of helpful elves. I hope I can find some cute little elves like yours, they are so sweet. Enjoy and have fun.

  66. Dawn Mills says

    We have done the Elf for the last few years. As much as we have had fun with it, it does require a lot of cleaning up on my part. The kids also have fun with him going back to Santa. With that being said, I LOVE this idea MUCH, MUCH better!!!! I think this year we will transition from a mischievous elf to a good deed elf! Thank you, thank you!

  67. lissy says

    Anna! Thank you for being so inspiring ONCE AGAIN!! You’re teaching me how to be the momma I want to be. Thank you. Happy advent!! xxxxxx

  68. says

    Wow! This blog looks just like my old one! It’s on a totally different subject but it has
    pretty much the same layout and design. Wonderful choice of colors!

  69. Mary says

    Thank you for this lovely idea, the elves had all sold out but they had some lovely mice so we are doing kind mice instead!!

  70. A. Wright says

    This is a stellar idea! We don’t use and won’t adopt the (creepy) elf either, it irks me a bit when I see in store promoted as a “tradition”.

  71. says

    I love this idea. My little one is too young to start traditions yet (13 months old0 BUT i think I will steal this idea and use the kindness ideas as part of the advent calendar in the future. Replacing chocolate and presents with ideas of things to do with the kids and spreading kindness to others. 😉 Thanks for sharing your idea and have fun this holiday season!

  72. Carrie says

    Love this idea and love your elves! Wish I knew someone in England to send me some of those elves because I really love those too!!

  73. Catholic mom of 3 says

    I so want to do this!! But I can’t find any dolls to use that I like. The ones pictures are awesome!! Can’t really find anything like them.. Any ideas?? What key words should I google?

    • says

      Do you have a Target near you? Check the ornament section. I found some on skies that look just like these for $3 tonight.

  74. Abbey says

    Hi Anna! Thank you for this post! My Dad purchased and EOTS for my daughter although we don’t do Santa and I didn’t like the idea of a mischievous elf. This is perfect!

    Quick question! As a Christian mother who still wants to foster fantasy and imagination for my children who would you say sent the kindness elf??


  75. says

    Love this idea! I found something similar tonight at Target in the ornament section for $3.00! Can’t wait to do this! :) I was refusing to pay the $30 for the elf on the shelf. We do not even promote Santa around our house, we keep the entire focus on Christ.

  76. misty says

    my elfs came undercover this yr. as a sock monkey an owl the deguised to find out who is eatin all the candy canes. i thought i change things up a bit.

  77. jennifer says

    I am SO glad I am not the only on who finds the ‘elf on the shelf’ a little creepy looking!! I will definitely keep this idea in mind for future use. :)

  78. Jenni says

    Thank you for this post.

    I just bought Elf on the Shelf for our almost 2 year old (I actually think he looks cute in a retro sort of way!) but like you I’m not keen on the concept of ‘uh oh, you’ve been bad so I’m going to tell tales to Santa.’ I don’t like the idea that we behave nicely in order to get rewarded, or that gifts are conditional, and I think it could be stressful to certain personalities of kids, since realistically all kids are going to slip up and misbehave occasionally.

    I was planning to do almost exactly what you posted with our elf. I think it’s possible to focus on doing good things without focusing on the flip side of ‘being naughty’.

  79. says

    I absolutely LOVE this idea! I’m sure if these sweet little elves were procurable in the US, we’d have all jumped on board! If anyone finds them or something similar, I hope they’ll post it here!

  80. Annalisa says

    Those elves are so adorable! I wish I could find them in the States. I think the Elf on the Shelf is creepy looking too, but I have one and my girls love looking for it every morning. I too am very against using gifts/Santa as a manipulator and have never used that focus with the elf. I love the idea of a kindness elf though and would love some ideas that don’t cost anything (we’re on a tight budget this year). I requested to follow you on Instagram and can’t wait to see what you do with your elves.

  81. SaraHP says

    We do an Advent tradition already (an activities Advent Calendar) so don’t think we can squeeze in another idea (I have infant twins plus a 5 year old so time its at a premium). However I’m thinking of adapting the idea of the kindness elves to work for another month of the year , maybe make February the month of super kindness.

  82. Sandra Humphrey says

    I love your idea of kindness elves. So much better than the elf on the shelf I really want to try it. Hope I can find some elves

  83. Jill says

    Love this idea, as for the Elf on the Shelf I still have one that my parents had in the 60’s. Definitely conjurs up wonderful memories for me

    • Lulu says

      I completely agree! It is all about memories and creating traditions within our families. Kindness and all things that Christmas represents should be acknowledged through out the year and I grew up with the traditional Christmas beliefs and I really think it is sad that the idea of Christmas is being taken from kids. Removing Santa, removing Christmas concerts and even the idea gets taken away from those who choose to ” reinvent” Christmas. Soon there will be no Original “Christmas ” left and that is heart breaking to me. We all grew up with believing in Santa and elves etc and did it screw us up or make us less kind or generous people. Well I can’t speak for everyone but I know it didn’t ruin me as a child or even a grown up. It really makes me sad that there will come a time that my kids wont believe anymore. I think that the EOTS is a great idea and it really is what you choose to make of it! Whether it be an elf from Target or Amazon or one that you made yourself, Christmas is a traditional belief but let your kids be kids and not wreck the idea for the rest of the people who still celebrate traditionally. Teach you kids throughout the year to be good people, kind people and which ever other values are important to you and enjoy Christmas for the holiday and the joy it brings to children throughout the world.

  84. Haili says

    I’ve searched for a way to email you and can’t find it so I really hope you see this! When you get a minute I’d love an email response from you. I love this idea. I have a three year old and a 10 month old and have been contemplating wether to do the whole “Santa” thing. Do you do the Santa thing? Or do your kids know he’s not real?

  85. says

    I’m not an Elf on the Shelf fan for all the reasons you mentioned, but I LOVE THIS idea so much! We already focus on random acts of kindness in December, but this idea would add to the fun!

  86. Lindsey says

    What a fabulous way to move from entitlement to kindness in this world. If only everyone saw this. As a teacher, I see the “entitlement” attitude day in and day out. Thank you for wanting to instill such a great quality in your children!

  87. Gina says

    Shared on FB. I hate the Elf on the Shelf and love this idea so much more! Still, I probably won’t be doing it this year but maybe next.

  88. says

    I love this and feel like a variation on this is something I’d like to do ALL YEAR with my boys to highlight and recognize their good behavior. This is absolutely brilliant. We are doing a Kindness Countdown to Christmas this year that has similar aspects to what you’ve shared. I’ll be sharing it on my blog tomorrow. As for this post, I’m going to share it as part of my Ten Ways to Give for Giving Tuesday tomorrow b/c it is a beautiful way to encourage giving, sharing and loving kindness in children.

  89. Sharon says

    My daughter just took a little elf that I have had for years for her family’s Elf and she does cute and nice things. Nothing is said about the elf watching for Santa or anything that will scare my grandson who is 3. He forgets that he is not supposed to move him from where he is found but that’s ok. My daughter just puts him back and talks about what he is doing that day. Cute but not scary at all.

  90. Heidi says

    What a wonderful idea! Our son is just shy of four, and as he is very into all the holidays now, we were thinking of doing “the elf on the shelf.” Especially as my husband started the tradition during the month of October to hide a small pumpkin at bedtime, for which our son would have to search using his flashlight. This quickly became a favorite bedtime routine!

    However, I find the elf on the shelf to be incredibly creepy and can’t bring myself to buy one. How thrilled I was to stumble upon your website while researching alternatives for the elf.

    We are Christian too and want our son to know the true meaning of Christmas. We have birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Day as part of our yearly celebration. Kindness elves – what a wonderful and thoughtful way to focus on the “giving” part of Christmas. Thanks and blessings to you.

  91. Tricia says

    I have not been able to find a site to buy the red and gray elves shown in this post. Does anyone know where I can purchase them?

  92. Amber Weatherly says

    I love your post and the sweet little elves. I am going to use some of your ideas, but don’t want to purchase more elves. How about those of us who did buy the elf last year, or several years ago, implement these ideas into your EOTS experience? Just a thought. :) Blessings, Amber

  93. Meg says

    I absolutely love this idea! We are going to have a “Kindness Bear” in the classroom during the holiday season, and then,in January, the bear will take turns going home with a child and the child will report back about a an act of kindness that they did together.
    Thank you for sharing this wonderful alternative idea! ~Meg~

  94. Jennifer says

    Thank you for the ideas! I, too, cringe with the threat of Santa at Christmas. We gave in and got Elves last year b/c my son wanted to know why he didn’t have one when everyone he knew did. They got into mischief but in the back of my mind I wondered what was I teaching my son? It must seem confusing the elves can get into trouble but you (kid) had better be good! Anyway, thank you. This year our elves will be much nicer and giving (something I have been trying to teach my son all year!). Also we tell our kids that Jesus watches us all year long and Santa just delivers the physical presents for Jesus at Christmas. Just wanted to share. I struggle with the whole Santa thing. I was raised with Santa and it was fun, but more importantly I want Jesus to be in my child’s heart.

  95. Kelbi says

    LOVE this idea very much. Ours is just barely 1 so we won’t be starting anything just yet, but this gives me hope for something better. Any chance you have a link to the elves you have, they are adorable and I’ve looked at Tiger with no luck..???

  96. says

    I love this. My son thought the Elf on the Shelf looked creepy, too. I was also put off by how expensive he is. I don’t have (nor do I want) a FB account or twitter. I do hope you share your ideas here as well, as I would like to follow your example. Many blessings to you.

  97. Susan says

    Yes the word hate is a strong word but I don’t believe the writer meant it in a way it’s being perceived. When my daughter says she hates chili it’s an act of explaining her dislike.

    I myself disliked the idea of Elf on the Shelf from the start, it is a tradition that is being shoved down our throats weather we want to adapt it or not.

    My daughter’s friend explained to her about their elf and said it’s a special elf that only comes to special kids? My little one was in tears not understanding why she wasn’t special. She even wrote to Santa and asked for one.

    For me I refused to purchase the traditional elf as well due to the fact that I don’t like feeling forced to and I also feel it looks creepy. We found ours on Ebay hand made to see our elf go to “Blonde Boy Christmas ELF ADORABLE! Must see!!!” in collectables, Holiday, and Seasonal, Christmas. We bought the girl version.

    I am so happy a friend of mine brought me to this page as I can’t wait to start our own “ELF” tradition one that suits my families beliefs and values!

    And yes we do teach these all year long!

  98. Ashley says

    We have always had our elf learn a value from the children each year. This year is the holiness of the season, last year was grace. My kids learn better when they are teaching others. Even if that other is stuffed.

  99. Tammy says

    This could be kindness Angels instead. More of a focus on heavenly things. Great idea. It could be a kindness anything really.

  100. m. ford says

    Just wanted to say that I love this idea. My kids never wanted an elf on the shelf. Now they are 13 and 11.. their kindness elves just made it to our home and they cannt wait to see where they will be and what acts of kindness and love they will ask them to share. So glad you shared this idea.

  101. Susan says

    I love this idea and hope to use it with my granddaughter when she is a little older! Thanks for giving an alternative to the commercialism and excess that the holiday can sometimes become. May God bless you and your family this Christmas and every day.

  102. says

    I LOVE this. I too am not a fan of the popular Elf on the shelf and the antics, etc. I have my own blog that promotes family focused activities and helping others. It’s main focus is showing how easy or cost effective helping others can be to inspire acts of kindness and generosity. I would love to share about your idea. I’d like your permission to write a brief synopsis with a direct link back to your page and a couple of the pictures. Let me know if that would be ok. I’d really love to promote your idea and share it with others. You can view my blog and see if it’s something you would be ok with me promoting here: Thank you so much, Nicole

  103. says

    I LOVE this idea! My kids are afraid of the elf on the shelf, so this is a great alternative to that. I love the idea about doing kind things for others, which is more important than the “behavior issue” that the shelf elf teaches. Thanks for sharing this!!!

  104. Watching elves says

    The Elf on the Self does indeed sound like a bad idea, if you’re going to make your children feel monitored you might as well actually monitor them with the new peevish technology. I like the idea by not scrupling children with fear- “Present giving is because you love someone, not because they deserve it.” It doesn’t sound like this idea would be overbearing on their conscious as would the Elf Shelf; I think this’d simply be another fun imagination for kids.

  105. Sharon Gerveler says

    God bless you for such a wonderful idea. I will be sharing this one for sure!!!
    I’m sure the good Lord is smiling down on you!

  106. Crystal Burch says

    I am totally anti-elf on a shelf and teaching your children to be good just to get presents. I just do not agree with teaching them just to be good for Santa or to get something out of it. I also agree that we give gifts out of love and they should learn that. I love your alternative elf idea!! Spread the love and magic of Christmas! :-)

  107. cindi says

    I love your elves. I would love to figure out how to make them. The knitted sweaters are just amazing! I, too, do elf activities in my classroom at school. But, I also did not like the purpose of elf on the shelf. I teach English as a Second Language so I have many students who are Muslim or Buddhist. I wanted the fun of an elf on the shelf but I did NOT want the Santa connection. SO last year I started an elf on the shelf, but he did NOT work for Santa (though some of his cousins did). He encourages acts of kindness, kind words, and hard work. SInce then we have experimented with making many different elves in macrame and felt and beads. Even my 4th and 5th graders are excited each day to see what the elf has done that day. So thank you for sharing. I will be watching your facebook to see what your dear elves are doing. By the way, is that store online? I would really like a couple of these elves to add to my collection.

  108. LEH says

    Ghandi once said he would like Christians more if they were more like their Christ.

    You, my dear, do just that. What a wonderful idea!

  109. Pat says

    HOW MANY TIMES CAN I LIKE THIS??????????? Wonderful, wonderful idea! LOVE IT!!! THANKS FOR THE INSPIRATION!!!!

  110. Tammy says

    I just received my elves from Amazon, came rather quickly. I am gathering ideas on how to use them for the next few weeks, but I’m unsure on how to introduce them to my 7 year old. Thanks for any suggestions.

  111. Sandy says

    I like your elves because they model good behavior…I’m not crazy about the Elf on the Shelf and the double standard he sets, i.e. I’m spying on you to make sure you behave, but I can wreak all kinds of havoc with no consequences!

    Thanks for sharing!

  112. Debbie says

    Ok, so you want to serve, and teach your children to serve out of one side, and trash other people, and what they do, and their idea,while yours is SO much better out of the other side?
    Merry Christmas!
    At our house we have a nativity, the children can handle it. Baby Jesus is not in the manger yet. He will be, though. And in the meantime, we try to be like Him. We are baking cookies, and making gifts for others, donating to our favorite charities, and ‘elf ing ‘ people we know need a lift.
    I would rather see someone with the elf, than listen to this self righteous talk. Especially this time of year!

  113. Dixie Lee says

    I asked my 21 yo dd whether she felt the elf was different from me reminding her to be good because of Santa. She feels it’s very different, and creepy, because the idea that one’s home can be invaded willy-nilly by these creatures means that other creatures (ghosts and goblins, etc) could do it too. The idea that Mom and Dad are watching and would tell Santa didn’t bother her.

    If you have a child who is a thinker, or fearful, it might be better to have this all happen outside your home – have the elves leave their messages on a porch or welcome mat, to preserve the child’s sense of security.

  114. says

    What a brilliant idea!!!!! I’m going to do this with my children AND my students! By the way, I recently stumbled across your Blog and made your recipe for homemade was a hit! I’ll definitely be following! If you’re ever in need for the little ones (if you have any, that is) feel free to check out my blog!


  1. […] For the last 3 years we have done the traditional Elf on the Shelf.  This was all fine and good, but my kids weren’t learning ANYTHING about what Christmas is all about…GOD!  They were so focused on the Elf, Santa, and the mischief the little elf got into that we missed the birth of our Savior. We missed the lessons on kindness, giving, sharing, generosity and so on. I decided this year was time for a change.  I was inspired by this blog post here. […]

  2. […] Kindness Elves: An Alternative Elf on the Shelf (The Imagination Tree) is an intriguing tradition that I would like to try next Christmas (because starting involved traditions when you’re living in someone else’s house is a bit difficult); I’ve also heard of skipping the idea of an “elf” altogether and having a “Giving Angel.” […]

  3. […] I had never heard of Elf on the Shelf until last Christmas when several of my Facebook friends started posting pictures of their elves. I guess I thought it was cute. Really, I don’t think I thought much about it and then this year I saw it for sale at Costco and considered buying one. My son would really get into it and I decided it could be a lot of fun. I haven’t bought it yet but scrolling around the internet the other day I saw another idea: Kindness Elves. […]