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Easy Elf on the Shelf Tips for Mindful Parents

Elf on the Shelf is a modern Christmas tradition that’s fun for the whole family. It’s a great way to get kids excited about Christmas, and it also helps them develop their imagination and creativity. The original idea is that the elves come from the North Pole and report back to Santa on how good your child has been all year and if they're on the naughty or nice list. It's caused controversy over the years, and with good reason. It's not exactly aligned with the values a lot of millennial parents are trying to instill in their kids. As someone who values gentle parenting, communication, and building trust between parents and children instead of fear, the whole "he's watching you, so you better be good" thing wasn't going to work for us. But as my son got older, friends had elves, and he asked questions; we decided to go ahead and get one and make it our own. We wrote a letter to Santa asking him o send us a scout elf, and it's now a magical and wonderful part of our family's holiday traditions.

Our elf--Buddy-- is a sweet little friend who brings joy and wonder to the season. Keep reading for some ideas on how we keep our Elf tradition mindful of our values as a family and tips to help keep from stressing yourself out over elfish antics. Keep reading to the bottom to see some of Buddy's daily moments.


Our elf on the shelf is just a friend. Not a spy or tattle-tale.

  • Our elf does not play tricks on us or taunt us with treats if we behave well or poorly (because that would be mean). And he doesn't care if we've made mistakes in life—being human means that all of us have messed up at least once!

  • Since we don't have a naughty list in our home, nor do we think one should exist. Our elf doesn't do anything bad (except for maybe eating some cookies). While some of the silly Pinterest ideas of elves causing mischief are cute and, I'm sure, are a great memory for that family, we are focused on the fun and positive nature of the elf rather than naught vs. nice. So no giant messes or pranks from our elf, only good-natured, silly fun!

  • He is here to be a friend, not a spy or scout for Santa, who will only judge us based on our worst moments (which would be unfair).

  • We talk a lot about how families have different rules and that our elf respects the rules of our house. So since we have open communication and trust in our home, we wouldn't spy! So Buddy follows those rules too, so instead of a spy, we believe he's just a friend who brings joy and wonder to the season.

  • Since we have watched the Netflix movies, he knows he's a "scout elf," so we talk about how he's scouting out to make sure we're ready for Santa to arrive before he comes! Rather than scouting for the naughty/nice list.


Keep It Simple

A lot of parents get overwhelmed with all the Pinterest perfect setups and messes they think their elf needs to make each night to participate, but here's the thing, your kids will think it's just as magical if they move from one shelf to the next as if they made a 3-course breakfast and forgot to clean up after themselves.

Our elf is a sweet little friend who brings joy and wonder to the season. Here are some of our 5-year old's favorite hiding spots so far this year:

  • The Christmas Tree

  • In a stocking

  • On top of Hotwheels garage

  • Under the wrapping of his advent calendar

  • Eating a cookie

  • In a house plant

  • In a hat

One of the fun things about getting older is my son keeps giving his elf ideas of where to hide! I try to take his ideas and use them, sometimes with a little twist, so that he knows Buddy is listening!

We hope these ideas will help you make your elf a magical and positive part of your holiday traditions!

Make sure you follow on social media @Playfulacre to see Buddy's daily antics!

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