Your Elf, Your Way: 13 Alternative Elf on the Shelf Ideas for Less Stress, More Kindness and Fun

Do you like the Elf on the Shelf idea but not all the work it takes?

Are you not thrilled with some of the spying concepts implied with the Elf visit?

Are you looking for a way to incorporate magic, kindness, and fun to your child’s holiday?

If you answered YES to any of those questions, keep reading!

If you browse Pinterest you may get caught up in (and perhaps overwhelmed with) all the amazing, intricate, time-consuming (albeit cute) Elf ideas. But you don’t have to be fancy, creative, or elaborate to still enjoy the Elf on the Shelf tradition. It’s OK to change the “rules” to fit your parenting style, family values, available time, or energy level.

It’s your elf, you can do it your way!

Here are a few alternative ideas to help reduce the stress and increase the fun, along with some photos of what our Elf has been up to! (If you are not sure what is going on in a photo, just ask and I will explain.)

Less Stress for Adults

1. Shorter Elf visit. If the thought of having to think of new Elf ideas every day for 24+ days is too stressful, then change the rules. It’s your Elf! I think the Elf is supposed to arrive right after Thanksgiving. That’s just too many days of ideas for me. Our family directs a trail running race which is always in early December so that’s a very busy time for us. Thus, our Elf does not arrive until that race is over, usually around December 7 or so. BAM! I just got rid of 7+ days of Elf ideas!

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(Close Enough) Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup: 30 Minutes to Happy Tummies


Soup season is upon us and nothing soothes the soul like a great chicken noodle soup. Lauded as helpful for colds and sniffles, many people turn to this classic soup when they are ill as well as when they just need some warmth.

While chicken noodle soup right out of a can isn’t as healthy as homemade chicken noodle soup, who has the time to spend hours making it from scratch?

I have come across a great middle ground recipe that I think is close enough to homemade chicken noodle soup. It feels much healthier than store bought, pre-canned soup but doesn’t take hours stuck in the kitchen.

In fact, this chicken noodle soup is ready to eat in 30  minutes!


(Use all organic, if possible)

-8 cups chicken broth or stock (2-32 ounce boxes)

-1 large onion, finely chopped (or if you don’t like onion, like me, you can use onion powder or granules)

-6 carrots, peeled and chopped

-3 stalks celery, chopped

-2 Tbsp parsley

-1 tsp dried thyme leaves

-2 tsp salt

-1/4 tsp pepper

-1 bay leaf (you can leave this out, like I do)

-4 cups pre-cooked cubed chicken thighs

-3 cups wide egg noodles

-1 cup finely diced zucchini (about 2 zucchini)

-2 Tbsp dill weed


1. Add chicken broth to large stock pot and bring to a boil.

2. Add onion, carrots, celery, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Add cubed chicken, noodles, zucchini, and dill. Bring to boil and cook for 10  minutes or until noodles and vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaf (if added). Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.

4. Enjoy with a warm piece of bread. We usually buy some sea salt ciabatta rolls from Whole Foods, warmed with butter on them.


Remember how I pre-cook chicken thighs for lunches? This is another use for those. Just grab some out and let them thaw.

And if you are looking for another great soup recipe, our other staple is potato kale soup, made with a side of cornbread!


Wendy –

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Connection Before Correction – In Action! (aka The Jelly Bean Story)

I’ve been on a quest to develop gentle parenting skills. I have read countless books (check out my Books page) but one of my favorite mentors is Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids and Her website is full of THE BEST, MOST USEFUL information for parenting with loving guidance.

One of the things I’ve learned is Connection Before Correction. What that means is that when we see an act of misbehavior in our child, we should connect with them before we try to correct them. My first instinct is to go right to the correcting, but as Dr. Markham explains in this article on How to Use Positive Parenting, kids misbehave when they feel bad about themselves and disconnected from us.

All of us, including kids, are always trying to get our needs met. At the moment we see bad behavior from our child, it is their attempt at getting some need met. If we can pause and, instead of punishing the misbehavior, try to figure out the need behind the behavior, we can move towards understanding the need, maybe help filling the need in another way, and create more loving connections.

Dr. Laura Markham says:

Parenting is 80% connection; otherwise kids can’t accept our guidance.

How’s your ratio?



I try to connect with each of my kids daily – for at least 15 minutes, as Dr. Laura recommends. This creates the base of connection with you.

But you can also connect with your child in a challenging moment, too.

Connection Before Correction – In Action

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