Five Family Traditions You Can Start This Year That AREN’T Elf On The Shelf

Nothing against Elf on the Shelf. It’s an entertaining and fun tradition, and the kids loved it for the first couple of years. 

But, even with endless ideas out there for creative new things to do with the Elf, I feel it might be time to give him the year off and try out a few new holiday traditions. 

If you’re looking to mix things up in your household as well, here are five holiday ideas that aren’t Elf on the Shelf.

If you’re feeling crafty, make your own Advent calendar

This is a great one for daily surprise and excitement leading up to Christmas. The daily gifts don’t need to be extravagant and can be simple, inexpensive, or even homemade. Plus, they obviously need to be small enough to fit in your calendar, unless you’re going to do a hilariously large advent calendar out of shoeboxes or something, which I would not discourage.

Here’s some inspiration for DIY Advent calendars, and below are 15 ideas for tiny treats. 

  • Silver dollar
  • Mini LEGO figure
  • Shopkins toy
  • Tiny toy car or truck
  • Small toy animal
  • Wooden top
  • Wrapped candy
  • Temporary tattoo
  • Sticker
  • Lip balm
  • Tiny button or pin
  • Fortune Teller Miracle Fish
  • Scratch-off lottery ticket
  • Costume jewelry
  • Fancy hair elastic or barrette

Play “hide & seek” with the ornaments on your tree

This is a great one to replace this mischievousness of Elf on the Shelf. 

When you initially decorate the tree, make sure each kiddo points out their favorite ornament. Each night after the kids go to bed, rearrange the ornaments on the tree. And every morning, each kid has to find their favorite ornament. 

If you really want to have fun with it, some mornings put their favorite ornament randomly throughout the house, like in a bathroom drawer, or their cereal bowl (before pouring the cereal and milk, of course.)

Adopt a family through a charity

There are some great local nonprofits that open up donations for things families need like clothing, toys, household items, and food or grocery-store certificates. 

But what’s really fun is ‘adopting’ a kid for Christmas through an angel tree program. This allows you to be matched with a specific and their Christmas wish list. It’s a great way for your kids to conceptualize the impact of giving. Our kids have a lot of fun learning the names & ages of our Angel Tree children and picking out the toys on their lists, all while knowing how big of a smile they’ll be bringing to a child’s face.

Learn more here about the Salvation Army’s Christmas Assistance programs.

Have a Santa-beard contest 

Yep, this one is going to get a little messy, but it’s so much fun. for her brood. Everyone in your family makes a “beard” with shaving cream on his or her face, no mirrors allowed. 

When you’re all done, take pictures, then hold a secret-ballot vote to determine who has the best beard. (You might find that everyone is laughing so hard, you all forget about the contest part.)

Plant Santa’s footprints in your home

After the kids have gone to bed on Christmas Eve, grab some big boots and either flour, baby powder, or carpet deodorizer (perfect multitasking!) and stomp a path of footprints. 

Each year, the path can take sillier turns. Maybe Santa beelines from the chimney to the milk and cookies, perhaps he takes a pit stop in the bathroom, or maybe he sneaks a peek in the fridge. Just be sure this is the very last thing on your to-do list, so you don’t muddle the shoe prints.

And if you’re not willing to let go of Elf on the Shelf…

Tap into a bit of darker humor and put him in a COVID Quarantine box.