Forget Elf on a Shelf—Try a Dote in a Note

Give your kids the gift of affirmation this year. Instead of elf on a shelf, try a dote in a note and re-invent the joy of Christmas.
elf on a shelf


No other words are necessary. This year is a noun, adjective, verb, figure of speech… all-encompassing. Different, for sure. 

An undeniable change agent in its power to sweepingly force us to have universal introspection of what truly matters in each of our lives. 

We were summoned to protect the most vulnerable among us. Some, we held them a little closer to our chest. Others, we had to tearfully push away. All from love. All because of love.

As we go into the full experience of this holiday season, this might be the year to change some of the gimmicky games that in prior years, would delight your little ones, like “Elf on a Shelf”.

This tradition is a creativity-inducing activity for parents as they find innocuous ways to stage and hide this most clandestine elf! Sometimes, he’s the one who’s naughty – often caught in, er, deviant adult situations. 

Hilarious, in other years. It feels inappropriate in this one.

Perhaps we have to find a new way of bringing our children back to the confidence levels and fearlessness they had prior to the pandemic. 

Dote in a Note

Every day, for the remainder of this year, write a love note to each of your children and hide it around the house for them to find.

Ground Rules

  • Keep it short. It should only be 1-3 sentences: I saw you hugging your sister when she fell today. It just shows how incredibly kind you are. We love you.
  • Keep it current. Choose your note on something that happened in the last 24 hours. Thanks for taking out the trash early this morning without being asked to do it! You are so responsible and such a delight to this family.
  • Keep it separate. If you have more than one child, assign a different color card note to each of them. Therefore, their scavenger hunt is more focused and it becomes a fun activity
  • Keep it up. After the holidays are over, keep this new tradition going. Reduce the number of times that you write your love notes so it’s an unexpected surprise when found

The beauty of performing such an exercise is that it powerfully affirms what you have been saying to your children all along. That they are valued. That they are loved. That they’re more nice than naughty. 

Writing these notes provides tangible proof of their inherent goodness. And for those moments when their confidence is shaken, your child can re-read them to feel better about themselves.

Besides, as the note writer, you’ll feel a groundswell of love when you witness their reaction to receiving your message. 

And guess what, you can write these notes to the grownups in your household, as well. Your spouse, partner, parent, and adult children, will be filled with joy upon finding that personalized note showing your appreciation for them.

There’s always room for more joy.  Be the giver of it.

Laura Borland
Laura Borland is a 20+ year Journaling Practitioner and the Creator of Rebound Journaling. She is the author of Glum to Glad: 40-Day Mind Transformations™ - an evidence journal series designed to help people overcome major life events. Her other passions include entrepreneurship and she is the President and Co-Founder of a tech startup, Vyllage®. A Florida resident and public speaker, Laura has several published articles focused on journaling, mindfulness, and business. Her new book, Gladversity, will be released in October. Find free journaling ideas on her website and subscribe to her YouTube Channel: Glum to Glad.