Using Your Elf-on-the-Shelf to Cultivate Gratitude & Kindness

Using Your Elf-on-the-Shelf to Cultivate Gratitude & Kindness

A Silly Elf Tradition Turned Problem

Our oldest son was three years old when we started our Elf-on-the-Shelf tradition. His excitement over seeing “Elf Elf” every morning brought joy to our hearts! He would search around the house and giggle uncontrollably once he found Elf Elf doing silly things. But as time passed and Elf Elf continued to bring Jones little prizes (Kit-Kats, mini superheroes, popcorn for movie night), I watched it go from a sweet little tradition to one that was cultivating Jones’s want for more.

If Elf Elf had no surprise in the morning, it was meltdown central. This is not what we wanted for our children, and as they grow, we want them to understand Christmas means so much more than prizes and Santa Clause. Even though these can be a fun part of the season, we did not want these things to be at the center of their hearts.

We knew they loved Elf Elf and would be sad if he did not return. So, we started brainstorming how our elf on the shelf could be a positive experience for us all!

Switching It Up

My husband came up with the idea for our elf to bring the boys a challenge for their day when he showed up in the morning. Some of the challenges are meant for us to do together and others for the children to accomplish on their own. Then at the end of the day, we talk about how they completed the challenge, why it was important, and how it made them feel!

Each challenge is focused on being thankful and cultivating kindness. They can be as small as holding the door for people as you go throughout your day or as generous as making bags for the homeless to keep in your car.

These challenges were meant to open the hearts of our boys with gratitude and kindness during this precious season, and the results were beautiful. They are eager to get their challenges every morning! Our elf still shows up in random places doing silly things and still brings candy and small treats, but this little addition helped the boys see past the presents.

It also opened up discussions within our family about why these challenges were significant. For example, one of our challenges each year is to fill a box up for a child in need for Christmas. Elf Elf brings the boxes, and then we take the boys to the store to pick out things to give. This brought up conversations about why other children might not get gifts, the importance of having a giving spirit, and the practice of giving and not constantly receiving.

Start an Elf Challenge in Your Home

Are you interested in starting an Elf Challenge in your own home? I’ve got you! I created a list to get your creativity flowing and to help your family start this challenge! Below are some of our favorite ideas! In our house, the views are focused on smaller children, but you could come up with great ideas for older children too!

Simply type or write each challenge on a card and place it next to your elf.

I have also included a printable letter for your it to bring to introduce the kindness challenge!

  • Fill a box for a child in need (so many companies sponsor these)
  • Write a card of kindness to their grandparents.
  • Bring their teachers coffee.
  • Do one kind thing for their sibling that day.
  • Offer to play with someone lonely.
  • Make bags to store in your car to give to the homeless.
  • Pick 3 of their toys to donate to other children.
  • Make a list of things they are grateful for.
  • Hold the door open for someone.
  • Share a toy with someone.
  • Make treats for your neighbors and have them deliver.
  • Make get-well cards for children in your local hospital.
  • Compliment someone today.
  • Make a homemade gift for your family members.
  • Clean up your toys.
  • Paint rocks with kind words and place them around your neighborhood.
  • Have them decide their act of kindness for the day (could choose one previously done or a new one)
  • Draw a picture for someone whom you think needs it.
  • Leave a treat in the mailbox for the mailman.
  • Help Mom make Dinner.

I hope this tradition adds an extra layer of meaning to your home this year! Got any other kindness and gratitude challenges your elf wants to add to the list?! Comment below!

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Blair Sucher
Blair lives in Smyrna, Ga with her husband, Rob, two little boys, Jones and Steele, and her beloved Goldendoodle, Penny. Blair has her MA in Counseling and though she doesn’t get paid to use it, she uses it every day in her house with two wild little boys. Blair started blogging after the diagnosis of her oldest son with a congenital heart defect, which led to his full heart transplant, to process what she was going through. She continues to write and has a heart for encouraging other mothers to live out their full stories, over on her blog and later this fall she will be releasing her first book, Full, a prayer book written specifically for moms by an ordinary mother!


  1. Thanks so much for these ideas. Looking forward to changing the tradition in a more positive way in our house this year!

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