Tag: holiday cheer

Introducing our Kindness Elves (the half cousins of that other Elf).

Elf on the shelf alternative

Not a fan of that creepy little elf on the shelf, me neither! It just doesn’t feel right to taunt my kids into being well behaved for one calendar month each year under the guise of tradition. There is no real learning or life lessons happening when you feel under pressure to please your parents in hopes of a reward. Not to mention, it takes a lot of time to plan all those clever ways to move this object every night.

We decided not to participate in this surveillance system as a tradition in our house while my twins were young. My kids began asking questions like, “why can the elf do it, but I can’t?” I mean, they aren’t wrong. And I don’t have a good reason why we should normalize 3-year-olds laughing at naughty things like tossing toilet paper over the Christmas tree or fleeing the scene of a mini elf-sized crime. It sends mixed messages. But my kids also want an elf experience like they hear everyone talking about. So, we chose to introduce, “Ho-Ho” and “Snowman” – our kindness elves. The best part is the elves never move. They magically turn into elves and teleport to the North Pole to bring back a new kindness mission every night, then return to being decorations we enjoy.

This entire tradition began as a happy coincidence when I found an adorable wooden count down calendar at a thrift store. It has individual doors to hide fun treats behind. As we count down to Christmas the kids open each door to find a new treat. After the first year, I realized my kids really do not need the extra dose of sugar on top of the daily dose of sugar from school parties and cookies we bake together. That’s when I started looking for non-edible things to fill our calendar boxes with. As I began Googling ideas, I stumbled upon the tradition of Kindness Elves. I loved the idea of the kindness suggestion turning into an activity, turning into a give back. And it included the elf experience my kids wanted. So, I ran out and picked up a couple of elves on sale at our craft store and got to work on crafting their back story.

On the day of their arrival, it was a big production. The nameless elves arrived in an elf themed box, along with a fairy door and a letter introducing them. The letter explained the magic of the box they found hidden in the thrift store waiting for just the right children to come along. The elves asked for a name, explained the rules of magic (no touching, where to place the fairy door for them to use, etc.). My kids loved the thrill of finding a new activity every day! They would run out to the countdown box to get their new mission for the day before leaving for school.

Download your free Kindness Countdown Coupons here.

The missions are not used for behavior management, the missions are used to create playful, teachable moments. When kids are fully immersed in the act of kindness, the lesson will stay with them much longer than observing some silly shenanigans. It sends a clear message that creates lasting habits through hands on fun.

That was 6 years ago.

My kids are pre-teens who no longer believe in Santa, but still believe in kindness. They now create their own random acts of kindness without prompting. They remember to hold the door for others and are eager to volunteer or include others who may feel left out. I am not a parenting expert by any means, but I do know it takes weeks for new habits to form and years of repetition for lessons to stick with kids. I also think, these kindness missions made learning fun which gave my kids something to look forward to each year.

I honestly think the elf shenanigans are funny, through an adult lens. But not through the lens of a developing toddler brain. I love the silliness it can create, but it is hardly a teaching tool for kid behavior. If you do the elf on the shelf in your house and it works for you that’s great. I am just sharing these little kindness elves for anyone looking for an alternative.

I have included free printable kindness coupons for you to use! I’ve even included a blank page you can fill in with your own missions. This makes it super easy and very minimal planning. You don’t even need to own an elf! These missions can arrive in any fashion that is comfortable for you. Kids can pick one a day. You can leave them on the tree, or in a special envelop to open together. It just works for my family to have the Kindness elves magically deliver them.

In all our years with the kindness elves, I’ve never awakened at 3:00 a.m. horror stricken because I forgot to move the elves. I simply place the coupon behind that little door first thing in the morning before the kids get up to start their day. We all sleep better without that prying little elf watching us. And who doesn’t love getting some good sleep?

Tell me in the comments below how you teach kindness at home?

Related reading: 12 Days of Service

The whatever mom blogger bio

On The Fourth Day of Service Send Some Cheer

12 Days of Service

I am loving the positive feedback about this series! I am so grateful my experiences with making holiday giving simple and easy is inspiring others to do the same. My kids have honestly enjoyed helping in these projects. I hope yours will too!

Today I am sharing how I started my own small charity. I don’t have a board and I don’t have an operating budget, but that is the beauty of using social media to ask for help. Four years ago, I started a small card writing charity called Operation Christmas Cheer. It began when my friend Gloria asked me to send just one Christmas card to two kids in our town who were battling cancer. I sent my two cards, but it just didn’t feel like enough.

I’ve shared before that my niece Ashley was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) when she was just 3-years old. Watching what she and my family endured month after month of chemotherapy, surgeries and hospital stays had a significant impact on me. Having been in the hospital room with other cancer kids (including tiny babies) I know firsthand the grief and anxiety families feel. What these kids really need is a cure. I don’t know how to make that happen, but I do know how to make a kid smile.

Design credit: Rose Door Designs
Design credit: Rose Door Designs

I made an event page on Facebook and asked my friends and family to make a card to send to each child. Then I found a few more kids who could use some cheer too. I had a total of ten kids on my list and over 65 volunteers, several class rooms and scout troops mailing cards to the kids on my list. I thought that would be the end of it. But, everyone started asking the following Christmas if I was going to do it again. My kids and I have continued this tradition every year since. Now I have several hundred volunteers sending cards.

How can you get involved? This operation is found solely on Facebook. You can like the page and get names of the children who need your cheer. Or, if you know of any children in your own home town that needs love and cheer this Christmas, start your own group on Facebook. Send an invite to all your friends and family to ask them to send out cards. Keep them updated with posts and photos of your kids making cards and encourage them to do the same. You can also contact a local children’s hospital and ask if you can deliver cards to kids staying in the hospital at Christmas.

This has been a great way to get my little kids involved with giving back. It isn’t expensive and I don’t have to leave the house (except once to gather stamps and cards). You can send store bought cards, or make them. No matter which kind of card you choose to send you will help bring some cheer to a family in need!

One The First Day of Service Host a Food Drive

On The Second Day of Service Host a Coat Drive

On The Third Day of Servic Make a Special Delivery

The Whatever Mom is a full time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here.

Find more from Roxanne at Hudson Valley Parent and at Masshole Mommy


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