Need alternatives to Elf on the Shelf? These are kind, cute, fun and even religious alternatives to the elf Christmas tradition that won’t make you insane when you’re already a tired mom or dad! (But these are still holiday activities your kids will love!) If you’re asking what’s something similar to Elf On Shelf but isn’t as much work, we’ve got you covered with these Christmas ideas (and even how to replace Elf on the Shelf!).
ALTERNATIVES TO ELF ON THE SHELF
Looking for Elf On A Shelf substitutes or other Elf On Shelf options? Check out these awesome Christmas activity ideas (that won’t leave you exhausted!).
Awesome Elf On Shelf Variations:
- The Giving Manger
- Mensch on a Bench
- Santa’s Lazy Gnome
- Reindeer In Here
- North Pole Ninjas
- Star From Afar
- Angel on Assignment (great if you’re looking for a kind Elf On The Shelf variation)
- The Story of Funukkah
- Christmas Pickle Tradition
- Gnome in the Home (I love this funny Elf On A Shelf alternative!)
- Christmas Fairy Door or Elf Door
- Shepard’s Search Plush
- Santa Spy Cam
- Christopher Pop-in-Kins
- Traveling Mary and Joseph
(Keep scrolling to learn more about each of these Elf on the Shelf variations and which will be the best fit for your family! There are even religious alternative to Elf On The Shelf!)
If you’re wondering how do you get out of Elf on a shelf, don’t miss our section at the end of the post!
If you’re new to all of this you may be wondering what does Elf On A Shelf mean…
What are Elf On The Shelf dolls?
An Elf On The Shelf is a magic elf doll that shows up at a family’s house before Christmas to keep an eye on the boys and girls. Each night, Elves on Shelves all over the world fly back to Santa to report on the children’s behaviors. Each morning, the Elf lands in a different place in your house to keep an eye throughout the day. But, kids can’t touch the elf! If they do the elf loses its magic powers and just becomes a doll instead of an Elf who can fly back to Santa.
If you’re looking for Elf On Shelf easy ideas, might I suggest not using Elf on the Shelf because it is soooo much work.
(Unless you love spending hours Googling funny elf on the shelf ideas...)
I know because we’re stuck with our Elf on a Shelf named “Bud” (don’t ask) and I would love to have an Elf Shelf alternative.
(In case you want to still do it, there are now different versions of Elf on the Shelf and even some off brand elf on the shelf copies / cheaper version of Elf on the Shelf alternatives!)
Don’t get me wrong, our Elf is super cute and I really love the idea and the picture book and the general Elf on the Shelf story, but he’s… always there and needing help.
(That’s all I’ll say in case little eyes are reading.)
(Just don’t do that creepy Doll in the Hall. shudder. Although it is one of the funniest alternatives to Elf on a Shelf–twisted, but funny. I guess it’s good if you’re looking for Elf on the Shelf alternatives rude and crude…)
What to tell your kids if you don’t have an Elf on the Shelf?
If you don’t want to do the Elf Shelf tradition (or any of the alternatives), tell your kids that every family has a different way to connect to Santa and that your family doesn’t need an elf because you have a direct email address and text for Santa.
Christmas Holidays Around The World Printable
Need Christmas traditions around the world lesson plans or want to learn more about Christmas in other countries? Get our Christmas around the world activity pack complete with recipes, coloring sheets, and activities for the holidays!
Holiday Traditions & Facts From 8 Different Countries with Recipes From The Countries PLUS Coloring and Activity Pages and FREE Matching Game
Perfect for a Christmas around the world unit lesson or holiday fun at home!
15 Things Like Elf on the Shelf
If you’re looking for a new Christmas tradition to take the place of Elf on a Shelf, or alternatives to the North Pole Santa Claus and the Naughty and Nice list (or what some call The Santa Lie) try one of these!
Some of them are ideas similar to Elf on the Shelf and some are different elf ideas easy alternatives (not as much work).
Let’s get to details on the things similar to Elf On The Shelf!
Elf on Shelf Alternatives #1: The Giving Manger
If you’re looking for Christian alternatives to elf on the shelf, definitely try The Giving Manger.
In the kit you get:
- Small wooden manger
- “Straw” pieces
- Small “Baby Jesus”
It also comes with a book to explain the tradition.
With this kit, you place a piece of the straw each day for an act of kindness you performed. Then, on Christmas day, you place the Baby Jesus on the manger you made!
The Giving Manger is such a sweet idea (and it sure beats getting out of bed when you’ve forgotten to create some elaborate Elf on the Shelf games to surprise your kids in the morning)!
I really love this manger alternative to Elf on the Shelf! (It’s my favorite!)
Elf on Shelf Alternatives #2: The Mensch on a Bench
If you’re looking for a Jewish alternative to Elf on the Shelf / Hanukkah Elf on the Shelf ideas, try Mensch on a Bench, who might look like your favorite Rabbi! (I love these funny alternatives for Elf On the Shelf!)
It was created by a Jewish father who wanted to help his family learn more about Hanukkah and create new traditions in their family.
I love this one and think it’s one of the awesome and funny alternatives to Elf on the Shelf! (Who needs funny elves on the shelf when you have this?)
Elf on Shelf Alternatives #3: Santa’s Lazy Gnome
What is Santa’s lazy gnome?
Santa’s Lazy Gnome is the “Lazy Alternative to Elf on the Shelf.”
(Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!)
“This gnome doesn’t move because its magic helps it to see anywhere. Gnomes help Santa with the naughty/nice list.”
(No more trying to figure out crazy things Elf on the Shelf do!)
This kit comes with a plush gnome and a picture book telling you the the lazy gnome story and makes a super cute Elf on a Shelf alternative.
(For real, who wouldn’t want a gnome instead of Elf on the Shelf?)
Elf on Shelf Alternatives #4: Reindeer In Here
Reindeer in Here is the new HOT TOY for family Christmas traditions and a super cute reindeer alternative to Elf On The Shelf.
The reindeer is a “Christmas friend” sent by Santa to your child as a reminder that it’s awesome that everyone is different.
There’s no “spying” with this Christmas tradition because the dad who created it said he wanted a positive Christmas tradition.
The reindeer is meant to be a friend for your child that shows up in December and goes on all their adventures with them throughout the month.
The kit comes with the plush reindeer and a picture book and has won 12 MAJOR awards including a gold Mom’s Choice, Creative Child Magazine’s Book of the Year, and the National Parenting Center seal of approval.
Elf on Shelf Alternatives #5: North Pole Ninjas (Ninja Elves)
I REALLY love this alternative Elf On The Shelf Story!
There are no plushies or “spies” with North Pole Ninjas.
Instead, it is a book that encourages good deeds during the holiday season.
Each child who gets the book is recruited as a secret North Pole Ninja—”selected for their ability to perform top-secret missions that are all about helping, giving, caring, and listening.”
Then, there are 50 secret Ninja tasks that can be performed throughout the holiday season. If you’re looking for games similar to Elf On The Shelf, this is it!
(If you’re looking for good deed cards for all year, we also love these Sneaky Cards.)
Elf on Shelf Alternatives #6: Star From Afar
Again, if you’re looking for a Christian or Catholic alternative to Elf On The Shelf, this one is great.
Star From Afar is a nativity scene that is also an advent calendar that counts down to Christmas.
The star also becomes a hide-and-seek game as the kids try to find wherever you put it on different days.
The kit comes with a soft cover book, 15 pieces wooden nativity set, stable animals, and scripture cards.
Elf on Shelf Alternatives #7: Angel On Assignment
Angel On Assignment is another one of those sweet alternative ideas for Elf On The Shelf!
This Christmas angel alternative to Elf On The Shelf encourages kids to help others!
From the book description:
“Angel on Assignment follows the angels from the first Christmas to Easter– from the playground to bedtime and explores the ways guardian angels look out for boys and girls today.
With beautiful illustrations and rhyming verse, award winning Angel on Assignment encourages children to act as angels in disguise for friends who may need help.”
Elf on Shelf Alternatives #8: The Story of Funukkah
The Story of Funukkah is another way to celebrate Hanukkah.
The kit comes with a plush kid and picture book about Hanukkah (there’s also a girl kit).
From the kit description:
Celebrate 8 days of magic.
Take a family adventure with a Funakkah kid, make delicious Latke treats and learn what makes Hanukkah special.
Rules of this Jewish Holiday set:
If you are good every night and day, your new best friend will come out and play.
Funukkah dolls all need a name so please give your doll a name so you can play the game.
Then follow these rules for Funukkah fun and I ll leave you a present for a job well done.
Be nice and respectful to your family and friends I really like the message this sends.
Say please and thank you because manners are key. Everyone in Funukkah town agrees.
Clean your room at least once a day, especially before you go out to play.
Say your prayers like every good girl and boy!
Elf on Shelf Alternatives #9: Christmas Pickle Tradition
If you’re looking for a tradition that is fun for everyone but super easy, try the Christmas Pickle.
You hide the pickle ornament on the tree and the first person to discover it wins (we always give a small money prize, but you can do whatever).
“This pickle brings a year of good luck to the lucky child who finds it hung deep in the boughs of the holiday tree.”
And, if you want, you can have the winner/finder hide the pickle the next year.
To this day, it’s the first thing that adults and kids look for on our tree when they come to our house!
Elf on Shelf Alternatives #10: The Gnome In Your Home
The Gnome In Your Home is another cute alternative based on kindness.
The kit comes with a plush Gnome named Heartly, a book, and 30 kindness cards, along with blank cards to come up with your own kindness acts!
From the kit:
“The book tells the story of a group of gnomes who learn that they have a special gift of kindness to share. They find that even though they may be small, their kindness can make a BIG difference.
Heartley wants to know all about the kindness you are spreading at home, at school, and in your community!”
Elf on the Shelf Alternative #11: Christmas Elf Door (or Christmas Fairy Door)
I love the idea of a Christmas Elf Door or Christmas Fairy Door because the elf and fairy can just randomly visit throughout the holiday season.
There are no expectations of when they will come or if they will leave something. It’s always a surprise and will keep the kids guessing right up until Christmas!
Elf on the Shelf Alternative #12: Shepard’s Search
There’s something out there called Shepherd’s Search (with a plush shepherd alternative to Elf On The Shelf).
The Shepherd on the Search is a children’s book with a 25 day family devotional that lead up to Christmas.
It’s a cute Christian Elf on a Shelf alternative with a Christmas shepherd doll if you can find it!
Elf on the Shelf Alternative #13: Santa Spy Cam
Santa Spy Cam is actually a dummy spy camera that flashes and has property of the North Pole on it. During the holiday season, set it up in a prominent place in your house and forget about it. (Except when you need to pull out the ole “Santa’s watching!” thing when you’ve asked your kids to pick up their shoes for the 1,000th time.)
There are also Santa spy cam ornaments if you want to hang one on your Christmas tree!
Elf on the Shelf Alternative #14: Christopher Pop-in-Kins
Christopher Pop-in-Kins is a lot like a shelf elf, but he just arrives when the first Christmas ornament is on and stays until the last one is put away. (So there’s no every night commitment unless you want.)
Super simple option and it comes with a cute holiday book, but be aware: it does talk about him playing hide-and-seek and moving around the house (which is the same as Elf in Shelf). It’s a little like a knock off Elf on the Shelf.
Elf on the Shelf Alternative #15: Traveling Mary and Joseph
This traveling Mary and Joseph felt can be used to tell the story throughout the Christmas season. You can move the felts as it gets closer to Christmas and tell the Christmas story and Jesus birth story with this traveling Mary and Joseph instead of Elf on the Shelf.
But, what if you don’t want an Elf on the Shelf replacement? Here’s how to replace Elf On The Shelf…
How To Get Rid of Elf on the Shelf
How To End the Elf on a Shelf Tradition
One last thing I want to cover is retiring Elf on the Shelf (especially if you want to do one of these other Elf on Shelf alternatives that are less work)!
If you’ve been doing EOS for a while, you can’t just have your elf disappear with no warning or reason for it.
Remember: You make the Elf on the Shelf rules!
(He/She’s not the boss of you!)
But, how do you convince your kids that the Elf on the Shelf funny and fun times are over and not to be sad?
So, what are some ideas on how to quit Elf on the Shelf?
Elf on the Shelf Return Ideas:
- Promote your elf to be Head of Elves on the North Pole, so he won’t be coming back. (Gently do this in a letter.)
- Leave a letter saying Santa is running waaaay behind this year and needed your Elf to stay on the North Pole to help. Periodically pop your elf in to check in.
- Write a “break up” letter / elf on the shelf goodbye letter. The letter from elf on the shelf can let your kids know that they can write to your elf every holiday season.
- Maybe an Elf on the Shelf naughty list where your elf is in trouble with Santa?
- Have your elf tell (write) the kids it’s time to be replaced with someone who will teach them new things (like kindness with the Gnomes or learning about Hanukkah with the Mensch).
- Technology has arrived! Now your elf doesn’t need to fly down every night, he/she has a Santa Spy cam on the tree and checks in from there!
- Prepare your kids by making this the last year! Write an Elf on the Shelf return letter explaining that this will be the last year and why. (Get creative!)
Do you have anything that is similar to Elf On A Shelf that you use at your house?