The holiday season has finally arrived, which means it’s time for the Elf On The Shelf to make its triumphant return! Whether you’re a seasoned elf parent, or this is your very first year introducing the concept, chances are you’re looking for some creative elf activities to keep your kids entertained all December long.
While there are certainly plenty of ways for the Elf On The Shelf to make mischief, it can also be a useful tool for learning, especially over the long winter break from school.
So, we’ve put together a list of entertaining games and activities you can do with the Elf On The Shelf to help boost your children’s reading and language skills.
1. High frequency words in the “snow”
Using flour to have the Elf On The Shelf make snow angels is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but you can change it up by having the Elf write some high frequency words instead.
If you have a child in elementary school, you’re likely familiar with high frequency words. They are those words like but, is, the, and am that appear most often in reading. Grab a few words off of the high frequency word list sent home by your child’s teacher (or find one online), spill out a pile of flour to work with, and start writing.
The kids will be so excited that the Elf On The Shelf is learning how to read and spell, too!
2. A special delivery
Reading is one of the most important ways to help kids develop their emerging language skills and get familiar with new words. The Elf On The Shelf can help by delivering some new books!
Whether your kids are still listening to you read board books or they’re zooming through chapter books on their own, the Elf On The Shelf can bring something for all ages. If your child is an emerging reader, you could even include a note from the Elf On The Shelf asking your child to read their new book aloud.
This activity is particularly great for the arrival of the Elf On The Shelf at the beginning of the season, because it involves a special gift that kids can use all month long. It’s also a good one for Christmas Eve, since it lets the Elf On The Shelf can say goodbye for the year with a few special Christmas books to read before bed that night.
3. Word hunt
Scavenger hunts are a fun way to start a weekend morning with the Elf On The Shelf. For this version, the kids will be hunting words!
Grab a stack of sticky notes or a set of index cards and some tape. On each note or card, write a high frequency word, a word your child needs extra practice spelling or reading, or a holiday word that’s all scrambled up (like “hcristsam” for Christmas). Stick the words around one room in your house, or throughout the whole house if you really want to make it challenging.
Have the Elf On The Shelf write a note saying how many words they’ve hidden. It can also challenge the kids to find each one and read it aloud to earn a special treat. The treat can be a candy cane or hot chocolate, a small gift you’ve bought, 30 minutes of screen time—whatever works for your family.
4. Letters to Santa
Kids love writing letters to Santa Claus. Little do they know that when they’re drafting these special letters, they’re also getting valuable practice with writing and punctuation (Sneak it in when you can!).
To get children even more excited about their Santa letters, get the Elf On The Shelf in on the action! Have the elf deliver special stationery, pens, pencils, and even stickers or other decorations that kids can use to write their Santa letters.
If your children are just getting used to writing independently, working on the letter will give them a chance to get comfortable with greetings and sign-offs, simple punctuation, and small words. If your children are already great writers, you could even challenge them to use certain words in their letters or to make the lines in their letter rhyme.
5. Elf Scrabble
Scrabble is a useful prop for the Elf On The Shelf because the tiles are perfect for writing simple messages, staging a funny game between elves, and challenging kids to practice reading and spelling without even realizing it.
You can set a whole Scrabble board with holiday-themed words and challenge kids to read them out loud. You could also have the Elf On The Shelf write one word on the Scrabble board and ask siblings to take over the game and finish it. Or, you can lose the board entirely, and use Scrabble tiles to write words and messages all over the house.
Check out our Scrabble Word Finder if you need some word inspiration.
6. Word of the Day
Just like Dictionary.com features a Word of the Day for grown-ups, your Elf On The Shelf can do a Word of the Day for your kids!
Using our handy Word Advent Calendar for kids, you can have the Elf On The Shelf start each morning with a quick vocabulary lesson. Or, if each day is too frequent, you can pick one word for each week that your Elf On The Shelf is moving around your house.
The words on the advent calendar will give you a chance to talk about different holiday beliefs, themes, and objects with your kids, and maybe they’ll learn to love learning vocabulary a little bit more since that the Elf On The Shelf is taking on the role of teacher for a day.
7. Movie Bingo
Holiday movies provide a great opportunity to practice some word awareness and seek out vocabulary boosters in the wild. For a fun activity that compliments your holiday movie viewing plans, have the Elf On The Shelf deliver some popcorn and movie theater candy snacks, along with a Dictionary.com Holiday Movie Bingo card.
These cards feature words from classic movies, like The Grinch, Elf, and Home Alone. While you’re watching together as a family, kids can be on the lookout for the words from the Bingo card. It’ll be a challenge to see if they can get every word before Christmas day. When they’re all done, they could even have the Elf On The Shelf deliver the card back to Santa for a special thank-you or prize!
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