If you want to join in the fun of counting down to Christmas with the kids, but don’t really like the idea of Elf on the Shelf as it currently stands, here are 17 great Elf on the Shelf Christian alternatives.
Our family has never done the Elf on the Shelf, not because I think he’s really all that creepy, or because he’s evil or something.
Mostly, we haven’t jumped on the Elf on the Shelf bandwagon because we’re lazy parents and having one more thing to do every day in December, especially after the kids go to sleep does not sound appealing.
But, some people really like spending a little bit of time doing things each day to make the month of December extra magical and special for their children.
This means, some parents buy the Elf on the Shelf.
What is Elf on the Shelf?
If you don’t know what Elf on the Shelf is, it’s a stuffed toy Elf (and you can buy the Elf in boy or girl versions with different eye colors and skin colors) that comes with a book “The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition” which tells the story of the Elf.
The premise of the elf is that he serves as Santa’s eyes and ears, traveling back to the North Pole each and every night after visiting your home all day, to make a detailed report of the day’s activities.
The children are not allowed to touch the elf, but can talk to, sing to, or whisper to it. It observes what your children do each and every day so he can tell Santa whether your children have been naughty or nice.
The elf disappears after Christmas and reappears the following December.
Many take to placing the elf in unique locations, doing naughty things itself, each night. There are tons of fun and unique ideas online about what to have your Elf on the Shelf do, notes he can leave, and so on.
Why Christians Want an Elf on the Shelf Christian Alternative
The problem many Christians have with the very popular Elf is that it’s just another Santa tradition, another lie we tell our children to coax them into obedience and good behavior.
They also don’t like the idea of the Elf on the Shelf doing naughty things, perhaps encouraging their own children to make messes and mischief.
They maybe don’t like the idea of someone spying on their family.
Whatever the case, many Christians seek out Elf on the Shelf alternatives.
Because their children often hear about the Elf from classmates or friends or relatives, some still buy an Elf on the Shelf, but they don’t have the Elf do naughty things. Instead, they will have him give service or something else.
My friend Brittany over at Equipping Godly Women has a post with 8 simple Christian Elf on the Shelf ideas that help point your kids to Jesus still.
But, if you want to avoid the Elf on the Shelf altogether, and adopt a countdown to Christmas advent idea that is more Christian from the start, I hope you’ll be inspired by the following ideas.
Elf on the Shelf Christian Alternatives
1. Truth in the Tinsel: An Advent Experience for Little Hands
This ebook is a great way to make Christmas really meaningful!
It’s more than a book and devotional: it’s mediation, hands-on learning, and memory builder for your family.
It’s a great way to really experience God’s word leading up to Christmas with your family and a fun way to make decorations for your Christmas tree too! Perfect for kids from preschool to elementary ages. You can buy a copy here.
You can also check out my list of 25 Ornament Advent Calendars too!
2. Advent Angel
This is a very DIY Christian Elf on the Shelf that goes perfectly with the previous idea!
The Angel, which is an ordinary tree-topper angel, arrives gift-wrapped on your front porch on the evening of December 1, with a letter explaining her mission: to celebrate the coming of Christ and keep Him the focus of Christmas through fun activities, crafts, and Bible stories.
The Advent Angel, named Mary, hides in a silly place every night.
In the morning, the kids find her and read the letter that she carries in her arms. The letter tells the children their Advent activity and that day’s Bible verses, and accompanying ornament from Truth in the Tinsel (mentioned previously).
This is a great way to combine the fun of having an object around your house every night leading up to Christmas and advent activities, advent scriptures, and even advent ornaments and crafting!
3. The Shepherd on the Search
Very similar to the Elf on the Shelf, but with an awesome focus on the true meaning of Christmas is DaySpring’s Shepherd on the Search.
Instead of hiding that darn naughty Elf on the Shelf, you hide a shepherd, who is on the search for Jesus’ arrival, ending Christmas day with him finding the Nativity.
And bonus, the whole set comes with a book (yeah for more books!), CD, the Shepherd, and a little Nativity for just $30.
4. Kindness Elves
This one might be my favorite. Anna at The Imagination Tree posted this idea and I love it.
Kindness Elves are kind of like Elf on the Shelf, in that they are around all the time, but they promote acts of service instead of, well, Elf stuff.
They (the elves) say that they have come to share the magic of Christmas and have heard that the children have kind and loving hearts, and they want to see them for themselves! They let the children know that they will be putting out little notes each day, either praising them for the kind acts they have witnessed, or suggesting more ways we can help others either at home, school, community groups or in public.
I love that the elves make suggestions for acts of service, and I especially love the aspect that the elves will sometimes do a bit of service for members of the household too.
If you to do this, you can pick up your own unique Kindness Elves set (they’re only $24.49).
5. Little Lamb of Bethlehem
Little Lamb of Bethlehem tells the story of Jesus’s miraculous birth from the perspective of one of the lambs in the stable on that sacred night. The lamb loved baby Jesus, and as they both grew, the lamb promised to share Christ’s story with everyone.
Now the Little Lamb can teach your family about the Savior’s life and share ways to follow His example and serve others throughout the Christmas season.
It’s designed to be flexible and to fit your family’s needs. You can use it once a week or every day. It comes with a fresh supply of ideas on how to use it, like including the lamb in the nativity scene you act out with your family, or taking him as you do service at a nursing home, or have the lamb write little notes every day expressing love for a family member.
6. Melk the Christmas Monkey
Melk, The Christmas Monkey, is an excellent tool for teaching God’s character to children through 30 fun Bible lessons and activities that the entire family can enjoy during the Christmas Advent season.
The activities can also be easily adapted for a Sunday school class or Children’s Bible club.
Each day your child finds Melk (a monkey or other plush friend of your choice) in a new setting with a new note teaching something about WHO GOD IS and explaining a fun reinforcing activity.
There are also activities that can be incorporated into other holidays such as valentine’s day, Easter, etc.
Most of the props are things commonly found around your house or printable from the internet for free so it takes very little prep work.
7. The Christmas Star from Afar
The Christmas Star from Afar Advent Calendar and Game is where you set up your nativity then hide the Star every night! Once your children find the Star move all Three Wise Men to its location.
You repeat this every day until Christmas Eve, where you place your star on the top of your nativity stable so that on Christmas morning your Three Wise Men reach the nativity scene and find their king, baby Jesus!
8. The Christmas Angel
The Christmas Angel provides an exciting and creative way to capture new memories during the Christmas season.
You will have countless opportunities to help your child in serving others, and have an absolute blast doing it!
Each morning the Christmas Angel leaves a message for your child(ren) to act upon. Several examples are provided in the book on how to play a part.
9. Ewe on a Pew
Ewe on a Pew will keep children interested in the message of Jesus for generations to come. This book and plush toy combo include a 10-inch plush toy and 8″x9″ fully Illustrated children’s book.
Here’s how Ewe on a Pew works:
The Ewe on a Pew is the story of a little lamb from Bethlehem that witnesses the very first Christmas, the birth of Jesus! The lamb and his shepherd are so inspired by their tiny Savior that they make it their mission to spend the rest of their days traveling the world and telling the true story of the miracle of the first Christmas!
Children are encouraged to hug and love on their Ewe on a Pew.
Once the kids are asleep the Ewe On A Pew will “travel” to a new location in the home (with a little help from parents) bringing new tidings of Joy each morning.
The Ewe may write a scripture message on the bathroom mirror one morning or maybe you’ll find him joyriding under the Christmas tree in a toy car, or maybe you’ll find him in a party hat throwing a birthday party for Jesus with the other stuffed animals!
Who knows what kind of adventures your Ewe On A Pew will go on!
What’s great about Ewe on a Pew is it’s adaptable to the style of each family but his message is the same in all households – Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ!
Get your own Ewe on a Pew here. It’s only about $20.
10. The Traveling Wisemen
The Traveling Wise Men shares the story of Christ’s birth and the long journey the Wise Men made to meet the King of Kings.
This poetic story is filled with captivating illustrations and its readers are invited to join in the tradition of The Traveling Wise Men.
An ageless ADVENTure that brings the past into the present as the Wise Men travel through the entire season of Christmas.
The book is paired with family activities and stories found on www.travelingwisemen.com.
11. The Donkey in the Living Room
The Donkey in the Living Room Nativity Set and Picture Book celebrates the true meaning of Christmas.
The beautiful keepsake box opens to form a stable scene, and nine nativity pieces are waiting to be placed around the manger as you count down to Christmas.
As you read the book, children will learn the true meaning of Christmas through individual stories of the characters present at Jesus’ birth—the Donkey, Cow, Sheep, Shepherd, Angel, Camel, Wise Men, Joseph, and of course, baby Jesus.
On each of the nine days leading up to Christmas, introduce the story of a new character, unwrap that character’s piece from the nativity set, and share a new appreciation for the advent season.
The advantage of this Christian Elf on the Shelf alternative is that you only have to do it for nine days, which is good for those of us who don’t like to commit to longer advents.
12. The Christmas Critter
The Christmas Critter is a PDF pack that focuses on making Christ the Center of Christmas in a fun and meaningful way.
Each family shops for and chooses a personal “Critter” to adopt as their family Christmas Critter. Children wake up each morning to find the Critter has done something crazy overnight. (The scene is set up by the parent following the simple instructions given in each pack.)
Each day they also find a letter beside the scene explaining the situation. The letters are included with the instructions in the pack all of which work to build godly character.
The Christmas Critter gives the opportunity to share the Gospel with your child in a simple way. The activities have been kept simple using supplies that are easily accessible in most places.
Only available through purchase on Facebook. Each pack is only $4. You can bundle all four different packs – Follow the Star, Super Hero, Clyde, and Pack 2 – for only $13.
13. The Shepherd’s Treasure
The Shepherd’s Treasure is a faith-based countdown to Christmas.
During the month of December, children follow their Shepherd on a fun, interactive treasure hunt to find the true meaning of Christmas.
On Christmas morning, they find their Shepherd kneeling before the greatest treasure of all time: JESUS! This will teach little ones to truly seek Jesus both during the Christmas season and after it’s over!
The great thing about this too is that they have cards to adapt this for Easter too, as The Lost Sheep Easter Quest.
14. Traveling Mary And Joseph
Keep in mind that you can really use anything Christian-based as the object to move around your home. Cyndi used the Joseph and Mary figurines from her children’s nativity sets.
15. Trying to Be Like Jesus Advent
Premeditated Leftovers created different instructions for the children to do each day that was based on service and love.
It turned into both a Random Acts of Kindness advent calendar and general spiritual focusing for her children.
16. Nativity Advent Calendars
If you want something really cheap, easy, and affordable, you can do one of several nativity advent calendars.
Many have you reveal new scriptures every day leading up to Christmas, or a new member of the nativity scene, or a combination of these ideas.
16. Children’s Christmas Books about Jesus
It’s a fun idea to gift your children Christmas books each day leading up to Christmas as a sort of book advent.
While this isn’t exactly like moving an elf around your house, it is a great way to encourage faith and the Spirit of Christmas into your home, as well as family bonding, as you sit and read a new book each night, together, about the Savior and his life.
I have put together a huge list of children’s Christmas books about the Savior for you to look through and pick 24 or 25 out (or less)!
17. Christian Christmas Songs
Another fun countdown idea is to sing a new Christian Christmas song each day of December leading up to Christmas.
Our family LOVES singing so this one is so much fun! You can run around the house while singing the song (or just listening to them if you aren’t very musical).
You can see my list of 25 Christ-focused Christmas songs with lyrics and where to buy the sheet music here.
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas season! That’s really the beauty of any sort of countdown Elf-on-the-Shelf Christian alternatives – you get to spend every day for a whole month focusing on the gift that is our Savior Jesus Christ’s birth!
Be sure to visit a church as part of your worship this holiday season. If you need a place to go, you can always find one of our church’s meeting places here.