I will be the first to admit that remembering to move that pesky little Elf each night can bring both joy to my heart and an ache to my head all at the same time. Parents who feel my pain likely look for alternatives to Elf on the Shelf that can keep the spirit of the season alive, but with less of the hassle that darn Elf brings. He may keep my kids on their toes in the month leading up to Christmas, but trying to keep up with the Elf on the Shelf is downright exhausting sometimes.
Even parents who aren't necessarily fed up with fueling their Elf's antics might be on the lookout for alternatives to Elf on the Shelf that more closely aligns with their values. After all, a stuffed Elf that keeps his beady little eyes peeled to watch your kid's every move is kind of creepy. If you're ready to ditch the Elf — or don't even want to start the tradition at all — these eight Elf on the Shelf alternatives feature names that are just as catchy, stories that are just as delightful, and activities that will engage your kids in festive fun throughout the holiday season.
1. Reindeer In Here
Created by a dad who wanted his daughter to have a Christmas tradition sans Elf eyes that are watching her every move, Reindeer in Here is a cuddly Elf on the Shelf alternative for kids that promotes inclusivity. Santa delivers your child's reindeer and book set as their very first Christmas gift of the season in early December as a way to get to know your child better. The story of Reindeer in Here spreads the message that "different is normal" and helps your child embrace the unique qualities in themselves and others. Your child can name their plush reindeer and enjoy snuggling it each and every day until Santa returns it to the North Pole when he comes on Christmas Eve.
2. Christmas Star From Afar
Based on the biblical story of Jesus' birth, this holiday game lets your child play hide-and-seek just like they would with Elf on the Shelf, but with a religious focus. The 14-piece wooden nativity set includes a star that is moved by parents each night leading up to Christmas. When your kids wake up, they will move the three wise men to follow the star. On Christmas day, the star and the wise men will find Jesus in the manger, teaching your children the true meaning of Christmas. The Christmas Star From Afar also includes a book that you and your kids can read together to even further understand the reason for the season.
3. Mensch On A Bench
If your family participates in Hanukkah festivities, you may be looking for an Elf on the Shelf alternative that more closely matches your family's Jewish values. Mensch on a Bench is a fun way to teach your kids all about Hanukkah traditions. Described as a person of honor on the Mensch on a Bench website, your family's Mensch will remind your children how to act as he moves around the house on his bench watching over the Menorah. He can eat latkes, play dreidel, or participate in any number of exciting Hanukkah festivities that help bring your family together to celebrate the season.
4. The Shepherd On The Search
To keep Jesus the focus of Christmas, your family can join The Shepherd on a Search as he seeks baby Jesus in the days leading up to Christmas. Each day, your family's shepherd will participate in a different activity including reading a memory verse, coloring a printable coloring page, and making a paper countdown chain. The Shepherd on a Search website even lists 29 days worth of activities (with printables!) for your shepherd to engage in so that you don't have to do a deep dive on Pinterest to keep things interesting. The interactive book tells the Christmas story and connects the advent games of your shepherd to the birth of Jesus.
5. Macabee On The Mantel
To celebrate Hanukkah, your kids can enjoy playing with Maccabee on the Mantel. Unlike the Elf on the Shelf, your kids are not forbidden to touch Maccabee. In fact, his book teaches the traditions of the Festival of Light and encourages kids to help him do traditional family activities to celebrate such as cooking latkes or playing dreidel.
6. The Little Lamb From Bethlehem
The Little Lamb From Bethlehem is a Christmas tradition similar to Elf on the Shelf that can help teach your kids about the birth of Jesus. The story is told from the perspective of a lamb who witnessed Jesus' birth in the manger and then grew up with Jesus and promised to spread the story of his birth. Although the lamb doesn't require that you do anything but share the story of Jesus' birth, families can use their lamb to encourage kids to read Bible verses, participate in acts of kindness, or enjoy fun Christmas activities together.
7. Holiday Mischief With Stitch
Disney-loving families will absolutely love the Holiday Mischief with Stitch book and plush set as an Elf on the Shelf alternative. Stitch plans to celebrate his first holiday on Earth by learning all about how your family celebrates the holiday season. Your kids can have Stitch tag along to look at Christmas lights, bake cookies for Santa, or wrap gifts. Because every Disney fan knows that Stitch can get into a bit of trouble now and then, parents can also assist Stitch with silly antics (much like the Elf) around the house while their kids are sleeping.
8. Santa's Lazy Gnome
This is the Elf on the Shelf alternative for all of you parents out there who are just sick and tired of having to move that blessed elf each and every night. As the hardcover book explains to your kids, Santa has hired a lazy elf to watch over them until it is time for him to deliver their gifts. With Santa's Lazy Gnome watching, you can still threaten your kids into being good for Santa, but don't have to remember to set an alarm on your phone to keep up with the magic.