5 Alternatives to Elf on the Shelf that Celebrate the True Meaning of Christmas

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The true meaning of Christmas has been lost in the materialism and consumerism of the holiday season and in some cases, Elf on the Shelf only amplifies this. I realize that for most it’s a fun way to gear up for Christmas and ‘good will toward men’ is taught alongside the Elf in other ways, but the very premise of behaving in order to be rewarded with gifts didn’t sit well with me.

I’m not casting judgement on anyone that chooses this holiday tradition for their children, I understand that it’s fun and the kids love it, it just isn’t a good fit for my family.  Plus, there’s no way I’m creative enough to come up with fun, new ideas and poses for the elf!

What I did want to do for my youngest son though, is to foster a sense of the true meaning and spirit of Christmas.  Over the last few years, to do this,  I’ve added some traditions to our Christmas season that I believe will foster a sense of gratitude, spirit of giving and understanding of the  meaning of the holiday.

I wanted to share these resources with you in hopes that you may incorporate some of them, use some of the resources and remember to sit back and enjoy time with your family vs trying to make Christmas happen for them.

Truth in the Tinsel

Each day Truth in the Tinsel will lead you through a passage of scripture, a corresponding ornament craft and talking points for you and your kids. It’s more than a devotion, it’s meditation and hands-on learning for kids. It’s more than a craft book, it’s a memory builder for your family and it’s more than an ebook, it’s an expereince and adventure in God’s Word.

Kindness Elves

The Kindness Elves are magical friends who love nothing more than to sprinkle kindness and joy wherever they go! 
They love to visit your home and spread this happiness with children, encouraging them to do small acts of kindness in their daily lives. This simple, yet powerful, idea of spreading kindness amongst kids has become incredibly popular with parents and teachers alike.

Operation Christmas Child 

Individuals, families, churches and groups fill empty shoeboxes with a “wow” item—like a doll or soccer ball—and other fun toys, school supplies, hygiene items, and notes of encouragement.

During National Collection Week (Nov. 14 – 21) Samaritan’s Purse collects the gift-filled shoeboxes at more than 4,000 drop-off sites in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Operation Christmas Child also offers a year-round opportunity to pack personalized shoeboxes online. Go to samaritanspurse.org/occ to select toys and gift items, write a note of encouragement and “pack” them in a shoebox. These gifts will go to children in some of the hardest-to-reach countries around the world.

Christmas Around the World Unit Study

Christmas Around the World is a unit study designed to introduce students to how different cultures across the world celebrate the Christmas holiday! Since it’s nice and simple, you can easily insert this unit wherever Christmas falls within your school year. It covers 9 different countries across the globe and includes fun hands-on activities, recipes, and cultural traditions! A great way to learn the true meaning of Christmas across the globe!

Since the activities are mostly hands on crafts and recipes it’s great for all ages!

Countries Included: 

  • Japan
  • China
  • Russia
  • Great Britain
  • France
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • Spain
  • Mexico

What’s included?

This mini-unit study includes some fun facts for each of the above countries and their customs regarding Christmas celebrations. Included are some fun hands on recipes and activities to help make the study memorable!

It also includes a set of Christmas flag ornaments representing 31 countries that are included in the Confessions of a Homeschooler Expedition Earth curriculum so you can create your own international Christmas tree!

Sparkle Stories: Martin & Sylvia’s Audio Advent Calendar

We’ve enjoyed Sparkle Stories off and on for the last few years. They’re stories with a  Waldorf approach that are sweet and gentle and tell meaningful, respectful stories.

Follow the 25 magical days of Advent with Martin and Sylvia! From the playhouse to the library, from the Webers’ restaurant to the Spunderful Shop, you can spend all of December with the delightful brother and sister as they follow their own Advent adventure. Twenty-five stories for December 1 to December 25 with over five-and-a-half hours of audio help your child discover the true meaning of Christmas in a warm, cozy way.  There are coloring pages that go along with each day of Advent as well!

Christmas Bonus: Santa’s Favorite Story – Read Aloud Book

While this isn’t exactly an Elf on the Shelf activity alternative, we read this book yearly and it is easily one of my favorites for the holiday season. In  Santa’s Favorite Story  your kids will discover the true meaning of the holidays as Santa Claus retells the story of the first Christmas in this sweet picture book from Hisako Aoki and Ivan Gantschev.

When Santa Claus tells the forest animals that he is not looking forward to delivering all those heavy packages, they are worried that there won’t be a Christmas anymore. To help everyone understand that Christmas would still come even if he didn’t, Santa tells the story of the first Christmas, and they all learn a good lesson about the meaning of this special holiday.

Each year we all vow to simplify, and scale back on how we approach Christmas, gift-giving, yet we still somehow find ourselves caught up in the commercialim that the season has become.

Let this year be the one where you actually do less, buy less and spend more time enjoying the true meaning of Christmas while enjoying more relaxed time with your family. 

How are you scaling back to enjoy a family-time centered holiday season this year, comment below!

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