Kindness Elves: A Take on the Elf on the Shelf Tradition

As the holidays are now upon us, how many of us sit and wonder how we can teach our children the meaning of the old adage, “It’s better to give than to receive”?

In December 2013, when our first son was 21 months old, we were gifted the ever popular “Elf on the Shelf”. A gift of great fun that encourages a sense of magic and wonder for our children.

In keeping with what we said we always wanted for our children, to be happy and kind, we came up with a a twist on that tradition in our home.  In our world full of  entitlement and “I want”,  we look for every opportunity to send our children a positive message emphasizing kindness, sharing, and gratitude. And so evolved, “Dot”,  our Kindness Elf.

Dot arrives in our home each year on the first of December with an empty cradle, straw, and a note for the kids to find and read. Each act of kindness earns them a piece of straw to lay in the baby’s manger, preparing for His arrival at Christmas.


Many are simple, everyday gestures such as smiling at those we pass, saying please and thank you, holding the door open, or playing with a new friend at school.

Many of our ideas are for celebrating and thanking those in our local community who serve us, such as leaving a box of coffee for our DPW workers, fresh baked cookies for our postal worker, fire and police departments, and sending Christmas cards and socks to the men and women serving our country.

There are also grander gestures of good will, such as filling a box with unwanted stuffed animals and blankets for our friends in the local animal shelter,  delivering groceries to the food bank and holiday shopping for a family we sponsor, who is in a less fortunate situation than our own.

Some mornings they may wake up to find their elf has put away their shoes or fixed a broken toy, modeling direct ways to be kind and helpful.

Of course, kindness is not just for Christmas and I love the open ended way our little friend has left us each year to continue our celebration with a weekly “Thoughtful Thursday”.  Every Thursday for the entire year, we choose something kind to do for someone else.

The Kindness Elf has been a very valuable tool in helping our children learn and focus on the positive attributes that we try and teach them in everyday life…”love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

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