There is something about the wonder of Christmas through the eyes of a child. The way they stand in awe of a brightly-lit Christmas tree; how they belt Christmas carols at the top of their lungs and squeal with delight at the sight of the first snow. And as parents, more often than not, we love to indulge that wonder during the holiday season. I mean, how could we not get swept up into the magic of the season with our children?

This is usually about the time of year when parents start thinking about the little elf—you know, the one who mysteriously moves from place to place and making mischief all over the house? While this tradition can be a fun (ahem, dragging) one, wouldn’t it be better if it actually had a takeaway?

Even better, what if it had a heart-shaping purpose?

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:15-17

One thing I think we all can agree on as parents is that we desire for our children to love with the kindness of Christ and be a display of His character—and not just during the holiday season. But we can’t forget it’s our job to equip them in knowing how to do this! And there is no better place to start intentionally teaching our kids about kindness than in the home, and no better time than during the Christmas season.

This is where the Kindness Elf comes in: an alternative to Elf on the Shelf and the perfect combination between wonder and reality.

While most parents find placing their elf in different mischievous places all over the house tiring after the first few days, the Kindness Elf brings an entirely new plan of action to parents and children, everywhere. And it’s one that captures the essence of the holiday spirit and serves as an extension of The Greatest Story Ever Told.

In our house, Jingle The Kindness Elf comes December 1st and comes bearing a very special gift: an empty manger. As a family, we read Jingle’s first note that instructs the kids put the empty manger in a place they will see it every day. Not only is this where Jingle will leave his notes for the kids each morning, it also serves as a reminder that this month they are getting excited and preparing for Jesus to be born. Teaching our kids to anticipate the birth of Christ and what He is going to do in their lives is by far the most crucial part of a season that otherwise teaches them to be selfish and full of so many other secular traditions.

We actually let our kids make the manger and Baby Jesus the first year. They loved it!

For the rest of the month, Jingle begins each morning with sharing a special mission of kindness that is a reflection of God’s love for our children to perform each day through December 25th. The missions range from simple to more in-depth, but the key component of each is to give our kids an opportunity to practice intentional kindness on a daily basis. And the more opportunities we give our kids to practice this at home, the more natural it will be for them to practice kindness on their own.

Here is our schedule of daily missions for your Kindness Elf to give your kids:

December 1st The Kindness Elf arrives! Ask your children what they think kindness means. Then give them their first mission, which is to hold the door open for a stranger.

December 2nd Give someone a compliment.

December 3rd Make cookies for an elderly friend and go visit him or her.

December 4th Help your sibling (or friend) read a book.

December 5th Make Christmas cards for your pastor and deliver them.

December 6th Adopt a child through Operation Christmas Child, Angel Tree, or through any local church or community center.

December 7th Ask Mommy if you can help her with something around the house (example: empty the trash cans, sweep the floor, wash dishes, etc).

December 8th Let someone else pick what they want to watch on TV (this is always a hard one for my kids!).

December 9th Call someone and tell them what you love about them.

December 10th Think of someone who might be lonely this Christmas and bring them a meal.

December 11th Clean your room (with Mommy’s help).

December 12th Let someone go in front of you in line at the store.

December 13th Make cookies and bring them to your local police station.

December 14th Say something kind to your sibling (or friend).

December 15th Tell Daddy or Mommy how thankful you are for their hard work at their jobs.

December 16th Make a Christmas card and give it to a stranger.

December 17th Pay for someone’s coffee and leave them with a note of kindness.

December 18th Make “Needy Packs” to keep in your van to hand out to the homeless and needy (bags with water bottles, gloves and hats, hand warmers, gift cards, protein bars, baby wipes, and Scripture).

December 19th Bring flowers to your local nursing home or hospital.

December 20th Make Christmas cards and bring them to your neighbors.

December 21st Donate toys to a local charity.

December 22nd Help Mommy set the dinner table.

December 23rd Play kindly with your sibling.

December 24th Read the Christmas Story, then pray to God and thank Him for sending Jesus to be born in a manger so that He could save us.

December 25th It’s the last day for the Kindness Elf to give special missions. Ask your children what kindness means to them now. Then ask your kids to place baby Jesus in the manger. We usually like to sing a few Christmas carols and pray together as a family during this time. It is so neat to listen to our kids reflect on what the last month of kindness has meant to them, and to ask them what God has taught them.

Of course, the Kindness Elf likes to have a little bit of fun, too. On the weekends, his missions are accompanied by announcements of family fun night—because we all know Christmastime is the perfect season to spend time together as a family.

Here are some of the fun family nights our Kindness Elf has announced to our kids:

  • Surprise them with a new pair of pajamas and load everyone up in the car. Head to your local gas station and pick up some hot chocolate and drive around town to look at Christmas lights.
  • The next weekend, take those same new pajamas and have a family Christmas movie night with your favorite snacks and drinks (Elf is our favorite movie!). Take out your sleeping bags and camp out in the living room under the lights of the Christmas tree.
  • Grab your coats, it’s time to go out! Head to your favorite local Chinese restaurant and then to the ice skating rink.

Our family also does an Advent reading each morning the month of December. Not only do we want this month to be one when we teach our kids to be kind, we want to use it as another opportunity for them to hear God’s Word and prepare their own little hearts to celebrate the greatest birth of all time. Every year we read through Countdown to Christmas after we find out what mission our Kindness Elf has brought for the day. If you are looking for a tangible, precious way to get your kids thinking about the true meaning of Christmas, this book is the perfect place to start if you have small children.

Here’s the thing, mamas and papas: KINDNESS MATTERS because kindness matters to our God. It’s because of His loving kindness that He sent Jesus in that manger so many years ago. And there is no better time than the season of love to teach our kids about what matters most in this life. Kindness can change everything. But it won’t be able to make a difference if we don’t take the reins and teach it in our homes first.

This year, why not let the Kindness Elf help push your kids off that shelf and into the hearts of those who need kindness the most this holiday season?

Originally published on From Blacktop to Dirt Road

For another faith-based alternative to Elf on the Shelf, check out The Shepherd on the Search

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Lauren Eberspacher

I'm Lauren and I'm a work-in-progress farmer's wife, coffee addict, follower of Jesus and a recovering perfectionist. When I don't have my three kids attached at my hip, you can find me bringing meals into the fields, dancing in my kitchen, making our house a home, and chatting over a piece of pie with my girl friends. I'm doing my best to live my life intentionally seeking all that God has for me and my family. Follow me at: From Blacktop to Dirt Road on Facebook laurenspach on Instagram