Alternative elf on the shelf

By now most people have heard of the scout elf- aka Elf on the Shelf.

Long before I had my own children, I remember listening to the moms in the breakroom giggling about the fun mischief their scout elf got into the no night before. I also remembered hearing them groan after a few nights went by and the elf didn’t move… Oops!

These days it’s gone way beyond little Scout elves. Now there’s outfits, props, accessories, pets and anything else Santa’s little helpers might want. The elf accessory consumption could get way, way out of control.

And as fun as it is, not everyone loves the idea of the original Elf on the Shelf. I must say that after our elf arrived as a gift the first year, I wasn’t too sure about having a snitch around the house myself.

So if you’re thinking about introducing the idea of zero waste to your family, you might be able to enlist the help of a fellow earth enthusiast.

A Better Elf on the Shelf

If you already have a scout elf, here are a few fun zero waste ideas for you. These don’t have to be exclusive to the Elf on the Shelf either. You can use any toy or characters that you have. We have multiple elf friends in our family. Our elves don’t report to Santa, but they sure do like to move around and have a lot of fun- and sometimes get into a little bit of mischief along the way. I like to think of them as Winter spirits or fairies. Our elves all arrive when we wake up on December 1st and when we wake up on Christmas Eve, they’ve gone to help Santa get ready for the big night. We also have kindness elves that join in on spreading mindful holiday cheer.

Curious how we handle Santa? You can check out my Instagram Story highlight under Celebrate to see more details, but these two articles were helpful when we decided.

Psychologists Think Your Lies About Santa Will Damage Your Kids

How I turned the Santa ‘lie’ into something good

When Santa was a Shaman 

The gist of it is that we celebrate both Yule on the winter solstice, and Christmas as my husband and I did growing up with our families. We do tell the folk tales of Santa among many other folk tales and magical characters in our home. Santa does bring a present or two while we’re sleeping but we try to encourage critical thinking as well. On Christmas eve we set a Santa trap and the next morning we encourage skeptical questions as to why we didn’t catch him this time.

Zero Waste Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Remind your elf about the Power of Attention: What you focus on you get more of. There is an abundance of research that supports focusing on behaviors we want to see from our children instead of those we don’t. Where do you want to put your elf’s and child’s focus this season?

Meet Chester Bellbottoms, our Zero Waste Elf on the Shelf


Are there alternative characters to the elf on the shelf? Yep, here are a few of our favorites:

Alternative elf on the shelf

Rascally Reindeer They love to play hide ‘n seek, and they keep the hooligans on their toes all throughout the month of December. This is a fun toddler-friendly alternative to Elf on the Shelf that’s great for a daycare setting.

The Christmas Mouse Each morning the adorable Christmas Mouse over at “Little Page Turners” assigns the kids a daily mission. To make things easy for you, Christianne has generously provided a list of 25 creative suggestions to use with your Christmas Mouse. The Christmas Mouse is a lovely, kid-friendly alternative to Elf on the Shelf, and I especially love how this family keeps tabs on what their Christmas mouse is up to during the off-season.

The Kindness Elves are one of my favorite alternatives to Elf on the Shelf. Pay a visit to “The Imagination Tree” to see how these Kindness Elves inspire Anna’s daughters to do something for others every day during the month of December.

Jingle Bell Search

This is a great one for those of who can’t really remember to do something every day. This mom created this when her kids came home asking about “Elf on the Shelf”, but she wanted to come up with something more low key. The day after Thanksgiving, she hides jingle bells all throughout their house and backyard. The kids have to search to find them. You can check out her post for some fun hiding spots!

Hide and Hug Olaf (or any other character) If you want to do something like “Elf on the Shelf”, but you don’t love the elf…Olaf or any stuffed animal is a great alternative!

You can even make your own elf, check out these ideas here.

So, do you celebrate the Holidays with any special characters in your home?