How to use Elf on the Shelf to Build Strong Kids

It is a magical time of year, full of family, fun and heart-warming traditions. Unfortunately, in my house, it is also the time of year when my kids start making long lists of things they want (so much for being thankful for what we have).  Furthermore, the message is everywhere around them that they will get presents if they are nice and nothing if they are naughty (so much for intrinsic motivation!). To make matters worse there is an elf that checks on them to make sure they are living up to this threat.  So the question I ask myself this year is, “How can I make it fun for my kids but also reinforce the messages/values I give them the other 11 months of the year?”  How can I make it fun, but also meaningful long term?

This year, I have decided to use the elf to teach my kids important life lessons (without them even noticing..the ultimate goal of all parenting). If I am going to take the time each night to hide her in a new place then I am going to make sure she is serving a purpose and enhancing our lives. This week our elf is focused on building a growth mindset. Growth mindset is the belief that you can improve through hard work, practice and persistence.

Here are some ways that you can introduce this important skill to your kids through this slightly sneaky means. 

1. Leaving specific notes of praise. Be on the lookout for specific behaviors that you want to reinforce and have the elf point them out. Just make sure you praise the process and not the person. Also, be sure the praise is specific and gives them information & feedback.

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Or put the elf in a shoe with this message:

“I noticed that you didn’t give up when you were tying your shoes even though you were frustrated.  Keep it up.”

Or next to the toothpaste with this message:

“You took your time brushing and flossing and your teeth look extra healthy and white.”

2. Leave challenges. Think about specific ways to help your child step out of their comfort zone.

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For a picky eater challenge them to try one new food today.

Having a hard time staying in their bed, challenge them to sleep in their bed all night.

Or challenge them to try a new strategy. “Tying your shoes takes a lot of practice, try it a new way today.”

3. Encourage them to look at something in a new way.



“Add the word YET to any sentence that starts with I Can’t…. I will be counting how many times I hear the magic word.”

Or leave a quote to discuss “I haven’t failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work -Thomas Edison”

Our elf is helping to build a growth mindset, but these same strategies can be used to foster empathy, kindness, confidence, etc. The way I see it,  if the elf is going to be living here (rent free) all month then she can help contribute and enhance our lives for the rest of the year.

Looking for more fun ways to build the skills needed to make a positive impact in the world (confidence, resilience, persistence, empathy, etc)? Each monthly Wonder Crate educates, entertains and inspires kids to use their strengths to make a difference. Learn more at www.wondercratekids.com.

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