The Kindness Kids {an alternative to elf on the shelf}

Am I the only one struggling with the ever popular Elf on the Shelf tradition?

Last year was the first year Ace came home from school asking for one.  Of course, he heard all the silly things his classmate’s elves were doing and wanted in on the fun.  Who can blame him?  Secretly, so did I!  DH and I went back and forth with thoughts of getting one for our house but there was something that just felt unsettled with both of us.  We don’t celebrate Santa Claus in our house at all.  It’s not that we completely ban the man in red entirely, we have quite a few movies with him in them, but generally I veer away from things centered around him.  For the simple fact that I think Christmas should be centered around Christ’s Nativity.

Many people celebrate St. Nicholas when including Santa in their holiday, but we celebrate St. Nicholas on his feastday December 6.  It just makes sense to me that if Santa is derived from St. Nicholas, and we know all about the real St. Nicholas, why wouldn’t I just teach my children that?

After St. Nicholas day, we enjoy a simple advent season, making memories by doing things together like baking, crafting and cuddling on the couch reading stories.  We count down to Christmas with a little advent house and a fun little Advent Storybook about a little bear who follows the Star of Bethlehem and each day encounters someone new on his journey who teaches him a different lesson about life.  We try really hard to keep our focus and this is sometimes pretty challenging because each year there is less and less about Jesus at Christmastime and more about everything else.  It’s still mostly good stuff, I can’t complain about that, there is still plenty of emphasis on kindness and goodwill toward our fellow man but Christ is just not a part of it and I personally don’t like that.  I just feel like if Christmas is about the birth of Christ, it should be about the birth of Christ and if we rarely talk about it or include Him in that event, then we really aren’t celebrating Him, are we?

To make a long story short (or as short as I’m capable of making a story), I wasn’t comfortable bringing an elf that reports back to Santa each night into our home when it’s hard enough already to keep the focus off of that very concept.   So, last year we used a gingerbread man.  I wrote a little story about how the gingerbread man did not really get eaten at all and now hops from house to house causing mischief.  He showed up under the tree on Christmas morning along with the Gingerbread Man book and my addition to the story and stuck around for the 12 days of Christmas before taking off to visit another family.  I figured this way, the boys can have a little fun with the different pranks he’d pull and it wouldn’t cut in on Christmas because it didn’t start until Christmas Day.

Here is a photo of him the time he followed us to the Christmas village.  He stole my phone and took random photos of things he liked and wanted for Christmas, lol.

The Gingerbread Man

Here he is after his capture by Lego men.

Gingerbread Man tied up

Unfortunately, while this sounded perfect in theory in didn’t play out as well in real life.  The stuffed animal was very difficult to pose, making it hard for him to manipulate his stunts.  Then, I started noticing that the more stunts he pulled, the more mischievous my boys became.  They randomly began to do naughty little things around the house, blaming it all on the gingerbread man.  {smart kids, huh?}  Don’t get me wrong, they loved it and kept asking if he was coming back this year or not.  Just in case you’re wondering too, he’s not.  Because I forgot where I packed him, lol.  {whoops}

Now, I know there are plenty of families that use the elf in great ways, my sister Geri does some really awesome things with hers, but this was the scenario in our home. After he disappeared, and the Christmas season passed we didn’t hear anything more about the Elf on the Shelf…until this year. Ace desperately wanted one of the little guys and they really are super cute.  I know some people think they’re creepy but I don’t think they are, they actually remind me of the old fashioned dolls from the fifties and sixties.

So, this year when Ace and Lucky started asking about them again this year, I caved.  One of the most difficult things of raising an Orthodox family is finding balance.  There are so many things I have to say no about, different books and movies and toys and video games, that I started to feel sort of bad.  Was having the elf really that big of a deal? During the week of Thanksgiving, I got a 30% off coupon from Barnes and Noble and finally agreed to let them have one.  Well, one turned into two because the following week they won one at school.

The first couple of days were fun.  We named them together and registered them online.  Lucky’s elf was caught writing him a note telling him to have a good day at school and Ace’s elf made sure to brush his teeth before bed.  But then, more and more conversations and imaginative play about the magic, Santa Claus and all the other little elves, emerged.   Things for all these years, we’ve managed to keep out of our home. I immediately felt a major shift.  Maybe the shift was inside of me, maybe not, but it was not pleasant.  I felt somehow robbed of something inside.  That might sound strange, but it’s how I felt; like something inside of me and inside of our home just disappeared.  Most homes “do Santa” and obviously I have no problem or opinions with that,  I grew up believing in it all too, but when DH and I got married we decided we wanted to do things a bit differently.  Each family has to do what they feel is best for their family and like I tell the boys, they will come across people all of their lives that do things differently, not necessarily better or worse, just different.  Every family has different rules based on their needs, beliefs or whatever.  In no way am I saying families that believe in Santa and elves celebrate Christ any less.  This is simply the situation in my house and the way DH and I are choosing to raise our children.

Anyway, my wheels began to turn and I tried thinking of ways I could get around this whole elf thing.  What exactly was it that my boys found so fascinating?  Though, there’s a bit more to it than this, I decided the two main reasons they wanted in on the whole thing were:

1.  All their friends were doing it.   (this is a bad reason for pretty much everything)

1. Anticipating what the elf would do next.

2.  The sheer fun of doing things in secret.

This reminded me of the RACK tradition we also started doing last year.  My mind also went back to the gingerbread man.  How could I incorporate something positive/Christ-centered and enjoyable for them without focusing on Santa and his elves?  I really wanted something that would promote virtue and give my children the truly magical feeling you get when you give to others.  That magic only comes through Christ. 

Then, during my morning Pinterest break early last week, I ran across this post.  It all clicked right then and there.  Anna’s idea was exactly what I needed.  I simply love her post and agree with it entirely.  She also basically took the same type of ideas we used for our RACK projects and combined it with the concept of the gingerbread man!  Except she used these adorable little dolls that were flexible enough to pose in different positions.  I LOVED it! But there was one problem.  She lives in the UK and the dolls she used are nowhere to be found here in the US.  People were leaving comments of different types of dolls they were going to use but I had already fallen in love with these little guys.

I found several that were similar on Amazon and a few Swedish sites but the prices were more than I was willing to spend.  Most were in the $15-$20 price range plus shipping for just one doll.  I wanted something cheap{er}. And wouldn’t you know during my swing through the Christmas section at Target, I found almost the same exact dolls she used for only…are you ready? $2.50 each!  I almost screamed.  Actually, I did gasp dramatically when Ace and Lucky (they get the credit of finding them) held them up for me to see!  “And they’re on sale!” Ace exclaimed.  That’s my boy… 

They didn’t have very many left so I grabbed the few that they did.  If you’re looking for them, h u r r y.  If they’re out, they did have quite of few of this doll ornament and she could work too, she just not as flexible.

We got home and I set to work.  What would we call them?  Geri and I brainstormed a bit about this and then finally we decided.

So without further adieu, I present to you The Kindness Kids!


The Kindness Kids come from the city of Goodwill and travel from place to place spreading kindness and cheer in the name of Jesus (through the little cards) all Christmas season.  Every year on November 30, they show up somewhere on the front porch in a little suitcase.


I decorated a plain cardboard suitcase (also found at Target for $4.99) with a stamp that looks like a postage stamp and stickers from different countries.  The stamp I bought several years ago at Michael’s craft store and the stickers were from Lucky’s Little Passports subscription.

Every day, they appear doing silly little things on their own, but more plain silly than naughty this time.   And several times a week, they give us our RACK project for the day.  So they help us spread Christ’s love and we have fun with it in the process.  It’s perfect!

There are so many ideas out there for Elf on the Shelf that can be used with our Kindness Kids, too.  It feels so much better to create this tradition in a way that fits our family.  The boys are so excited and we’ve had a blast with them so far!  They were thinking of naming them each for one of their favorite city’s.  So far we’ve got Brooklyn, Paris, Athens and Frisco.  <3  I’m not quite sure who is who yet though, lol.



The boys took their elves into the playroom, they were not very keen on the no touching rule anyway, and instead of making them a major focus of our holiday season they remain toys.   And to my delight, after they played with them for a few days, the novelty wore off and they aren’t even thought about now.  We have a blast with our Kindness Kids and it gives me peace of mind because they’re not bringing in any ideas we don’t already have while making our RACK project even more fun.  It’s a win win situation for us!



I’ll be doing another post that will be full of RACK ideas and silly fun ideas next week!  Stay tuned!  If you end up creating your own version of Kindness Kids be sure to post photos on my facebook page, tag me @OrthodoxMom on Instagram and Twitter and hashtag #omkindnesskids.  I’d love to see them!

Stay tuned!

UPDATE:  Check out these 40 Ideas for Kindness Kids here!

25 thoughts on “The Kindness Kids {an alternative to elf on the shelf}

  1. I can’t express how much I love this idea! I can’t wait to start this tradition when the hubby and I start a family. Thank you!

  2. You are one clever Mama! I am 9peasmom on Instagram and just LOVE this idea! Thanks for sharing all the particulars, we may have to copy this for next year!

  3. Brilliant, just brilliant! I purchased Elf on A Shelf this year and when I got it home and read the book, I promptly returned it before the kids could see. I just didn’t feel right about it either. Such a wonderful idea!

  4. I LOVE this idea so much that I ran out to Target immediately and found the suitcase and two of the dolls (mine had ski poles and skis that I have to remove)? (I am definitely NOT too proud to copy an awesome idea that fits in with our family values)!! I got the last two….whew ! We don’t “do” Santa here either….and this is the first year I started to sense some envy of their friends Elfs….so this timing could NOT be better ! Thank you !

  5. I have been searching for these dolls!!! I didn’t see them on the Target website, but I will run there first thing tomorrow morning! I saw this original post a few weeks ago and I’m so excited to get this idea going 🙂

  6. I love this idea! I went to Target and couldn’t find the suitcase, but I found the bigger doll ornament (2 different girls) and got one of the skiers and a fox. I think the skier is going to be the “little brother” elf and the fox is going to be the “friendly fox” and I’ll use him for kindness to animals. How did you remove the ski poles?

  7. Could you please write this up step by step? Is there a storybook about this? It sounds like a wonderful activity to do to help children to lean Christian values and actions. I emphasized St. Nicholas when my children were growing up and now my daughter is doing the same with her children. Thank you for the idea!

  8. This is a great alternative to the mischievous elf (the elf dolls remind me of the Danish elf decorations my Scandinavian mom always put up in our house, but this whole idea of a little character always getting into trouble – and encouraging my kids to be more mischievous – does not sit well at ALL. It’s one more weird tradition that seems to run exactly opposite the goals of Nativity Lent.) Really cute idea.

  9. I was so excited when Anna from The Imagination Tree Posted this idea on her website before Thanksgiving. It’s really inspired our family during this holiday season too. She’s been sharing so many fun ideas on instagram can’t wait to see the posts as they go live on her website. Can’t wait to see what your elves are up to this holiday season.

  10. Would you be able to post the item number of the dolls? My sister in law and I have been to a handful of Targets each and can’t find them anywhere. I’m wondering if our southern Targets even carry them. Thanks in advance!

    1. Anna, unfortunately I don’t have one! I cut all the tags off and threw them away before I realized how hard to find they were. 🙁 I do know they were in the woodland pioneer section, if that helps. Sorry! You can find similar ones by searching for “tomte” dolls on Amazon…

      1. I found them at Target yesterday 11/14/2014. They aren’t nearly as cute as the ones you have and they were all girls. I plan to “fix” two of them to look like boys.

        My daughter and I are planning to use these all year around to teach her children to be kind to one another, as well as others. I’ve asked a friend to write a story to go along with it, so we can have a little book like Elf on a Shelf. We’ll take pictures of the “kids” doing some of the things in the book, to illustrate it. I love this whole idea. We’d been thinking how fun the Elf on a Shelf seemed, except the emphasis on Santa and also doing naughty things. My grandchildren are still very young, so we’ll get them started on these “kids.”

    1. That’s a great idea! I love it! I will definitely be doing something with that next year. Thanks so much for sharing! 🙂 Merry Christmas to you!

      1. I was just about to share the same wise men ADVENTures link, but I see someone has beaten me to it 🙂 we practiced that this year and it was so wonderful! I’ve been resisting the elf on a shelf for years now, and felt so blessed to stumble upon her blog post about it. Our wise men actually continued on until we celebrated their feast day, which was a neat way to keep the kids mindful that Christmas lasts ever so much longer than just one day 🙂

  11. I can not express with adequate words how grateful I am for this idea! I have always felt that Elf on the Shelf stuff was at best lies, at the worst – demonic. Ick. I want my children to seek the truth and do things in secret that are glorifying to God, not naughty, not out of fear, but out of joy in Christ’s name. Thank you so so much for giving me inspiration to encourage my children to joyfully spread good news without expecting recognition and accolades.

  12. I love your wonderful kind idea for children of all ages. I would love to purchase Kindness Elves. Do you sell them or know where I could purchase your adorable Kindness elves?
    Thank you so much for your suggestions!! They will be greatly appreciated!!

    1. Hi Kathy, I’m so sorry but I don’t sell them! However, so far every year Target carries some version of them. These were ornaments and I did take the string and skis off. If I see them this year I’ll post it on my Facebook page! 🙂

  13. Do you remember where in Target you found the suitcase? I know this was a couple of years ago but I cannot find it anywhere, neither Target or craft stores. I am wondering if I have been looking in the wrong area or if I need to bite the bullet and order online but it is more expensive. Thank you in advance!

    1. If you have a Hobby Lobby or a Michael’s, they usually carry these plain cardboard suitcase boxes. They also have many travel sticker pack options in the scrap-booking section. I agree that dolls as cute as these are not easy to find. It would be great if a very doll crafty person started making these and selling them on Etsy or something. Thank you so much OrthodoxMom for your lovely and inspiring posts!

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