Elf on the Shelf Alternatives That Your Kids Will Love

In my family, we don’t do Santa Claus.  I know this is pretty controversial.  (Please, don’t stop reading here and send me a strongly worded email! ????) We don’t really discourage our children from talking about Santa, but we just make it clear that we are their Santa Claus.  

You see, growing up, my husband’s father did not want to encourage the belief in Santa Clause in his boys because he felt like it would be lying to tell them one thing and then years later, tell them it wasn’t true. More importantly, he didn’t want them to ever confuse that “he’s real… no he’s not” with God.  

This post contains affiliate links, which means we earn a commission if you make a purchase. For more information, please read our disclosure here.


And now with our children, we want them to get excited about the real “Reason for the Season”! And I want them to learn how awesome God is that He sent His son to earth as a baby!  So, I want to put my time and energy into that instead of pretend.

I firmly believe this is something that each family has to decide for themselves, and I am not trying to convince anyone either way.  In fact, I make sure to stress to my children to NOT go to school and tell other children that Santa Clause is not real, because it’s a fun thing that their family does and we don’ want to ruin that for them!

But sometimes, it does seem like the Santa Claus believers get all of the fun!  I want my children to have a magical, exciting Christmas even though we don’t rush off to bed on December 24th waiting for some jolly fellow to fill our stockings!

To Elf or Not?

So several years ago when Elf on the Shelf became popular, things got a little more complicated!  Now, my children often have an elf in their classroom at school and all of their friends tell them about their elf’s antics at home. How was I supposed to compete with that?

I don’t think those of us who don’t push Santa Clause should just give in and let everyone else have all the fun! There are too many WONDERFUL ideas out there for our kids to feel like they are missing out! 

I don’t claim to have it all figured out, but I have tried to incorporate different activities so that my children will truly enjoy the weeks leading up to Christmas.  So, here are a few ideas to help you find a great Elf on the Shelf alternative that works for your family!  There are some really great options here so I hope you’ll find something that gets you excited!  ????

Fun Elf On The Shelf Alternatives

Advent Calendars

I have had a thing for advent calendars for as long as I can remember!  And nowadays there’s an advent calendar for tea lovers, Lego lovers, chocolate lover.. the list goes on and on!!  If you want some awesome advent calendar inspiration, you need to check out this post!

Christmas Countdowns

So, in addition to advent calendars, I also have developed a love for Christmas countdowns!  I have a small collection that I add to each year. These are great because they are low commitment (meaning you don’t have to worry about hiding anything or doing anything).  My kids actually argue over who’s day it is to change it, so I don’t really have to even worry with changing the days!  

Here are some fun options:

Christmas Bucket Lists

I have a love/hate relationship with seasonal bucket lists.  I love all of the inspiration for fun family activities!  However, I hate the overwhelm that I feel when I get in over my head trying to do.it.all!!!  If you decide to take the bucket list option, pick a few simple activities that won’t stress you out (and then suck the joy out of it for everyone), and then go for it!

The Kindness Elves

The Kindness Elves are cute little creatures created by a blogger turned Etsy business women. The Kindness Elves notice things that your children to that are selfless and giving and make notes of those things. Each day your children will wake up to notes about their good deeds!

Christ-Centered Elf on the Shelf Alternatives

Shepherd on the Search

The Shepherd on The Search has been our family’s Elf on the Shelf alternative for the past few years. Each day we move (or hide) our shepherd as he gets closer to your Nativity set. Finally, on Christmas morning he makes his way to the manger where baby Jesus lays!

I’m not great at remembering to move our Shepherd, but at times my boys have taken turns hiding it from each other. One thing I like about this Shepherd is that he comes with a book and you can purchase a 25 day family devotional to go along with it!

The Christmas Angel

With The Christmas Angel, your child wakes up each morning to find their angel and a message or mission! The mission helps encourage your children to serve others, maybe, “make cookies for your neighbor Mr Smith” or “help your little brother clean his room”. The Christmas angel helps your children learn to think of others throughout the Christmas season!

Truth in the Tinsel

I found this awesome resource several years ago online. Truth in the Tinsel is an ebook that has a daily devotion and a Christmas ornament craft leading right up until Christmas.

Truth in the Tinsel was created by a mom that wanted her kids to not focus on all the gifts, but rather say, “Jesus is the best present of all!”

The Star From Afar

The Star from Afar is a wooden nativity set that doubles as a fun family game! Each night you hide the star (with a surprise for the kiddos if you want?). When the star is found, the wise men get to move a little closer to the manger, until Christmas eve when the star is placed on the stable and the wise men arrive there also. The Star from Afar has daily Scripture cards for family devotions also.

The Shepherd’s Treasure

The Shepherd’s Treasure is another journey of a shepherd throughout the month of December. Advent cards and Scripture guide his way each day as your children learn more about the story of Jesus’ birth

Little Lamb from Bethlehem

The little Lamb from Bethlehem is an adorably cuddly sheep that your kids will find each day along with a book to tell them the story of Jesus.

Wandering Wise Men

With wandering Wise Men, you can take any nativity set that you want (although I’m kind of partial to a kid friendly kind like Little People Nativity) or this Fun Express Nativity. Each day you move the wise men into different fun locations, like the refrigerator, in the pantry near the kids’ cereal or in the bathtub.

If you want to take your Wandering Wise Men journey up a notch, you can have them write in sugar or flour (like an Elf on the Shelf), but you can leave your important messages about Jesus!

Jesse Tree

According to WhyChristmas.com “Jesse Trees are a very old Christmas Tradition and first started in medieval times. They are used to help tell the story of the Bible from creation to the Christmas Story.”

I have a Jesse Tree set that I bought on Etsy and one thing that I love about it is that it tells the story of Jesus all the way back from the beginning of the Bible! This is an awesome tool to teach our kids more about God’s great plan of salvation!

The Giving Manger

The Giving Manger is one of my favorite Christ-centered Elf on the Shelf alternative I have found! It has such a wonderful goal… to get your family to serve each other. Each time a family member does an act of service, they can add another piece of straw to Baby Jesus’ manger! What a wonderful way to encourage kindness throughout the season!

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

Bestselling author Ann Voskamp has created an absolutely beautiful coffee table-type book called, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. This special advent book contains devotions, daily Scripture readings, discussion questions, meaningful advent activities, and beautiful illustrations.

So, do you need an Elf on the Shelf alternative? Of course not! But there are plenty of creative activities that will help to get your family excited! I hope you find the perfect way to celebrate the first advent of Jesus!

How do your Celebrate this time of advent between Thanksgiving and Christmas? We would love to hear your ideas & inspiration in the comments below!



Sharing is caring!