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7 Cute and Kind alternatives to Elf On The Shelf

If you’re not big on the Elf on the Shelf concept, but enjoy making the December countdown fun for your kids, you’ll love these kind and friendly Elf on the Shelf alternatives.

We don’t do Elf on the Shelf here because my boys were teenagers before I ever learned about him. I don’t have a real problem with the whole elf thing, but I know some folks aren’t crazy about him.

I do love a creative way to count down the days to Christmas though, and that’s where these awesome alternatives to Elf on the Shelf can be a lot of fun.

You may also like these awesome advent calendars and these kid-friendly nativity sets.

#7 on the list below is the fun and creative way I used to get my boys through those final days before Christmas when their excitement and anticipation was off the charts. The other 6 suggestions are fun and friendly ways to do elf on the shelf that don’t involve an actual elf.

What is Elf on the Shelf?

For your conviencience, this post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

In case you’re not familiar with how “Elf on the Shelf” works, let me explain. Elf on the shelf is a Christmas tradition that many families have fun with in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

The traditional way of doing Elf on the Shelf is that an elf comes to live with you for the month of December.  It can be an elf you pick up at the dollar store, or one you make yourself, or you can get authentic, store-bought “Elf on the Shelf” kits that come with an elf as well as a book of suggested pranks for your elf to perform while your children sleep.

During the day, your elf sits high-up on a shelf (hence the name Elf on the SHELF) so he can watch your children and report their behaviour back to the North Pole.

Then, while the family sleeps, the elf frolics about the house, getting into all kinds of mischief, making messes and pulling pranks for the kids to find in the morning.  It’s all fun and innocent, but some people find the whole concept a little creepy and unsettling.

Ok, so what if you want to get in on some of the holiday countdown fun, but you’re not a fan of the elf himself?

Is there a way to do “Elf on the Shelf” without that cheeky little elf and his naughtiness?

You bet there is!  And I’ve rounded up 7 cute and creative EOS alternatives to get your wheels turning!

7 Cute and Creative Elf on the Shelf Alternatives:

Some of these ideas are thoughtful and meaningful, some focus on the nativity and the birth of Christ, and some are just for fun. Hopefully you’ll find one that inspires you to start an annual Christmas tradition that’s perfect for your family.

Rascally Reindeer

3 stick reindeer with red pom pom noses stuck into the snow

Meet our Rascally Reindeer .  They love to play hide ‘n seek, and they keep the hooligans on their toes all throughout the month of December. This is a fun toddler-friendly alternative to Elf on the Shelf that’s great for a daycare setting.

finding jingle bells

Finding Jingle Bells

Drop by “Edventures with Kids” to see how they have fun finding jingle bells in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  This easy Elf on the shelf alternative doesn’t require a daily commitment, and it you can even take it outdoors.

Advent Angel

7 cute alternatives to Elf on the Shelf

Pop over to Mama Hall, to see what Mary, the Advent Angel delivers to the kids each morning. This is a lovely Christian alternative to Elf on the Shelf.

The Christmas Mouse


Each morning the adorable Christmas Mouse over at “Little Page Turners” assigns the kids a daily mission. To make things easy for you, Christianne has generously provided a list of 25 creative suggestions to use with your Christmas Mouse. The Christmas Mouse is a lovely, kid-friendly alternative to Elf on the Shelf, and I especially love how this family keeps tabs on what their Christmas mouse is up to during the off-season.

Kindness Elves


The Kindness Elves are one of my favourite alternatives to Elf on the Shelf. Pay a visit to “The Imagination Tree” to see how these Kindness Elves inspire Anna’s daughters to do something for others every day during the month of December.

You can order a set of Anna’s Kindness Elves which come complete with the following accessories:

  • User’s Guide for Parents
  • 50 Acts of Kindness Cards
  • Little Book of Big Kindnesses
  • Mini Postcards for the Kindness Elves to write to the children
  • 8 Sheets of Stickers
  • Bottle of Magic Sprinkles

What a wonderful way for your family to focus on love, gratitude and positivity during the holiday season.

You may also like:

Travelling Mary and Joseph

Mary and Joseph elf on the shelf

This Christian alternative to Elf on the Shelf by “Walking in Grace and Beauty” focuses on the true meaning of Christmas and the birth of Christ. When they were young, each day, the children helped a travelling Mary and Joseph get a little closer to the birth place of Baby Jesus.

And now, number #7.

My favourite Elf on the Shelf Alternative is:

I haven’t a blog post or photo to share with this Christmas Elf idea because it’s something we did years ago when our boys (now in their 20’s) were little.

On the 20th of December, when my boys couldn’t stand the Christmas anticipation any longer, “The Christmas Elves” would pay a visit while we were sleeping.  

Let me explain:

For each of my boys, I would buy a set of 4 matching toys – maybe a set of 4 matchbox cars or 4 plastic dinosaurs or Little People figures. Safari Toob sets are great for this too!

On those last few mornings before Christmas, the boys would awake to find one toy on the foot of their bed.  If it was a car, they knew they could look forward to another car the next morning as well.  Similarly if it was an action figure, they knew they had 3 more action figures coming their way.  It was such a small thing, but SO exciting, and it was just enough to get them through those last few days before Christmas finally arrived.

I don’t know how I thought up idea. No-one had heard of elf on the shelf back then, and it’s not something my parents did for us kid, although my mom has often said she wished she HAD thought to do it for us.

I just came up with it as a way to help my boys get through those last few days of waiting.  I’m so glad we DID do it though because my boy still say those elf visits were one of their favourite things about Christmas-time.

See, it really isn’t all about the gifts under the tree. It’s about the traditions you create with your family and the memories you make together that mean the most.

You may also like: 32 Classic Christmas Movies to Watch as a Family this Holiday Season.

Share your tradition with us!

Have you and your family put your own spin on the Elf and the Shelf? I’d love to hear what family traditions you’ve created at your house to help countdown the days until Christmas.

Now, if you ARE doing Elf on the Shelf, check out these fun Elf on the Shelf Ideas from Spaceships and Laser Beams!  There are even letter templates you can print off that your elf can leave for your kids!

Get my latest e-book: Fizz, Pop, Bang! Playful Science and Math Activities

40 hands-on, learning activities for kids ages 3-8. Recipes, experiments, art projects, printables and play ideas with links to 80 activities not featured in the book. Regularly $9.99, on sale for $7.99 until Nov. 9/14.

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