bernard the christmas elf – advent activities

Last December I came up with the idea of having an elf leave the children an envelope every night, with an activity or small gift, to count down to Christmas. We named our elf Bernard. He was bossy, and funny, and a bit cranky. The kids LOVED HIM. He was such a huge hit that we are doing it again this year, although I think his sister Bernice may be taking over the job.

This is what I did:

First, I came up with a list of activities for Bernard to bossily tell us to complete every day. Here they are, in the language he used.

Go to Starbucks for hot chocolate
Have dinner by candlelight
Cuddle under a blanket
Cut out tissue paper snowflakes and decorate your windows
Play with a puppy
Get your tree!
Decorate your tree!
Make breakfast for dinner and eat in your pajamas
Write your Dad a letter listing your favorite memory, your favorite thing about him, and how much you love him. (This fell on Jeff’s birthday.)
Make a Christmas card for someone you love that lives far away, and mail it.
It’s time to decorate the outside of your house, you lazy’s! MAKE IT GOOD!
Your Aunt Alisha is coming over today! Take her to the park and bring your scooters!
Today you get to pile in the car and travel down to Seamus and Finn’s house!
Bake cookies and share them with a neighbor.
Wrap up in your warmest clothes. You are going up to play in the snow!

Some other advent activities can be found here or here. Also, here are some fun Christmas games.

I also came up with a few small little gifts that Bernard could give.

“Snowman poop” – powdered donut holes (It was Bernard’s job to pick up all the snowman poop in his village – and when he heard that human’s liked to eat it for breakfast, he was disgusted, but he shared with us.)
Family game night in a tin
A new ornament for each of the children to place on the tree
A small painted portrait of an elf – it was a “self portrait”

Gumballs for the gumball machine – he filled it up and made the children find it

Then I gathered together some old supplies for Bernard’s letters. The only thing I had to buy were the number tags, everything else was on hand. I wanted to use the same things over and over, things that the children had never really seen before. I thought airmail envelopes would be a nice touch. I also used stickers, stamps, twine, square envelopes, labels, and number tags. Some other tags I like here or here.

Every night after everyone else was asleep, Bernard would put together the envelope for the next morning. He would slip it under one of the bedroom doors before heading back to the North Pole.

My kids talked about this all the time, have even continued through-out the year. I absolutely loved doing this for them last year. It made everything just that much more magical. They are really looking forward to Bernard (or Bernice?) coming back, and so am I.



Join the Conversation


  1. that is so clever!!!
    I love this Tara!!
    thank for sharing!
    I think I saw this last year and meant
    to get the elf, but never did!

  2. /you are so good! This is the kind of thing that I used to do, but I’m really finding it hard to find the magic this year. We usually have an advent calendar that I made years ago with pockets filled with 4 chocolates for the kids to have after dinner every night, but this year my 16 and 14 year olds are on the wrestling team and watching their weight, so we haven’t even done that!!!

  3. are any of your kids scared of bernard?
    we just started this at my house (thanks for the idea!) and my 3 year old is terrified of the elf. and has resorted to carrying around a bag filled with every raccoon figurine imaginable. (to be honest. i had no idea how many raccoon figurines we had.)

    why, you ask?
    because on the movie elf? the raccoon attacks elf. so therefore elves must be scared of raccoons now. right?

  4. Hi! We have an elf named Snowflake(also elf on the shelf) and I LOVE your ideas. I’m going to start this weekend since they are going to be home for the holidays after that it’ll be perfect for activities. I found some mini-elf size knit sweater and hat ornaments at Target. Snowflake’s going to be donating them for the kids to use as ornaments. ;)

  5. I love this! I wanted to do an advent calendar but I didn’t want to plan out the whole month in advance. Your way gives me the flexibility to plan day by day!

  6. Going to make a Elf package for my son’s family with three children. I think the elf on the shelf is rather scary looking so I purchased an Annalee poseable elf with a cute expression on his face. I’m going to give them all of your ideas plus many more. Thanks for sharing

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