Last Updated January 19th, 2018

How To Get Your Kids Talking

How To Get Your Kids Talking

How hard is it to get your kids talking? This varies quite a bit by age and personality. The toddler who narrates every minute of their day may become the teen who doesn’t want to talk about anything. You know communication with your kids is important, but it can be so difficult to get your kids talking. The question is how.

What works will change as you kids get older. Bringing out the board games for a family game night may get kids talking at one age, but be greeted with rolling eyes at another. Or they might play the game, but still not want to talk about what’s going on in their lives.

Let It Happen Naturally

This is my first recommendation to get your kids talking because it often works. Don’t pressure your kids to talk unless there’s a reason for it.

There will be times when you need to draw your kids out to have a good conversation, such as when you notice a change in mood, behavior, academics, interest in friends and so forth. Those are the times when you may need to give your child an extra nudge or ten to get them to open up to you.

But if all you do is push your kids to talk to you, they might feel pressured, which will make them reluctant to open up. Just think about how you felt at certain times in your childhood about having to talk about what was going on. Sometimes opening up was the best thing. Other times it wasn’t.

The easiest ways to get your kids talking is to give them lots of opportunities. Take one on one time with each child as opportunities arise. Go on a hike. Take them out for a special treat. Watch a movie together.

Sometimes the best opportunities come when you don’t expect them. My teen daughter and I got talking one evening in the garage (it’s set up as a play and relaxation zone for the kids), and kept it up past one in the morning. We considered making it a sleepover out there, but since there were actual plans for the morning decided to go to sleep in our rooms instead.

Suffice it to say that was a very good conversation. Ones like that don’t happen often, but they’re so much fun. But they can’t be planned. They come from letting things just happen.

Talk As A Family

It can also help if you all have conversations regularly as a family. That’s one of the good things about having at least one meal a day together at the table, no screens allowed. The conversations can flow all around the table without singling any one person out. That can ease the pressure some kids complain about when their parents keep asking them about their day.

Family game night is good for this as well. Give everyone a chance to pick the game so that no one is left out of it all of the time. This is especially important if there’s a wide range of ages or game interests.

We’ve had some interesting game nights where three kids were playing two different two person games at the same time, with the older ones taking turns playing the game the youngest really wanted with her. Everyone was happy with the solution and there was plenty of chatter.

Don’t Insist That It Be On Your Schedule

Kids do not always want to talk when you want them to. That’s okay. If they want to be quiet on the ride back home from school, it might just be so that they can wind down from their day.

I’ve found that if I let my teen be quiet on the days she doesn’t have anything she wants to talk about on the ride home, she really opens up when she needs to talk. I hear about it when a teacher or classmate is giving her problems. I hear about it when she’s worried about a friend. She even tells me the fun stuff sometimes. I don’t know that I would hear all that if I demanded a detailed answer about her day every time.

Talking to your kids shouldn’t be an interrogation, most of the time. Making a habit of having pleasant conversations will make it easier at those rare times when you need to be more insistent on a particular conversation.

But even if a particular conversation is urgent, you can often give your kids some downtime first if they need it. Difficult conversations are easier if both parties are relaxed.

Ask Open Ended Questions

Asking your kids open ended questions can help get them talking. It’s harder to give a short answer to an open ended question.

Of course, this doesn’t always work. How often have you asked your kids how their day went, and the only answer you get is that their day was fine. I get the single word answer pretty often to that one.

If you want your open ended questions to get interesting answers, you need to make the questions more interesting. If you ask the same thing day after day, you’re going to get a boring answer most days. Ask different questions each day to encourage them to talk more. Here are some question ideas to get you started.

Don’t Overreact

When your kids tell you about something that surprises you, worries you or otherwise makes you want to react strongly, try not to overreact.

Overreacting to things your kids tell you make it harder for them to tell you things in the future. It can even make them feel awkward telling you more about the thing you’re overreacting to.

If your kids think that you’re going to overreact to things you tell them, they won’t want to talk to you about them. It can be scary hearing about drug users at their school or uncomfortable dealing with a question about sex that you weren’t expecting, but a calm reaction will help your kids feel comfortable in these conversations. Your calm reaction might help them take your perspective more seriously on those big topics.

Do Things They Like With Them

Time you spend just having fun with your kids gives you opportunities to talk. This doesn’t have to be planned in advance or involve going anywhere together.

Play video games together. Make something. Play together. Things like this open up opportunities to talk naturally.

Really Listen

If you want to get your kids talking, you have to really listen, in ways that they know you’re paying attention. Ignore your phone and computer.

Some conversations with your kids everyone in the family can get involved with. Other times you may need to move to a more private place to get things going. Each has their advantages. That one on one time can be vital, but having more people in the conversation can take the pressure off.

Start Conversations Yourself

Not every conversation with your kids has to be you asking them questions. Talk to them about your day, current events, favorite shows or whatever you enjoy talking about with your kids. Don’t make every conversation about them.

Let Them Talk To Someone Else

There may be times when no matter what you try, your child just doesn’t want to talk about a problem. Try not to take it too personally, and think about someone else they might be willing to talk to. An aunt, uncle, grandparent, older cousin, family friend, etc., might be able to talk to your child about things they don’t want to tell you.

Don’t get upset about this. It’s normal. Be glad that they have someone they trust and can open up to. With luck, talking to someone else will eventually lead to them talking to you as well. But if it doesn’t, you can hope they got good advice elsewhere.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated January 11th, 2018

Help Keep Your Kids Safe Online

Keep Your Kids Safe Online

How much do you worry about your kids on the internet? Do you limit their access to certain sites or review their devices to see what they have been up to online? It can be hard at times to figure out the best ways to keep your kids safe online.

What you need to do varies quite a bit as your kids get older. You don’t want your younger kids to see inappropriate things. You worry about cyberbullying as kids get older. And there’s always the concern that they’ll give too much personal information to total strangers online, thinking that they are good enough friends.

It can be pretty scary. But you need to let your kids explore the internet while they’re still under your supervision, so that they can learn to avoid hazards when possible and to deal with hazards that can’t be avoided, while you’re there to help. Protecting them from the whole thing is not the answer.

There are many things you can do to help keep your kids safe online.

Decide On Limits To Keep Your Kids Safe Online

The limits you set on your child’s internet usage should vary by age. There are things a 5 year old shouldn’t do that are entirely appropriate for a 15 year old.

Some things may come down to the kind of language you want your kids exposed to. It can be difficult to find safe YouTube channels or online games for your kids.

Roblox, for example, is a very popular game, but it has often been controversial. Parents have complained about the chat feature and how easy it is for kids to friend complete strangers. Some say there is a huge bullying problem on Roblox, while others don’t.

Discuss as a family which websites and games are acceptable. Lay down some rules. Make sure both parents are on the same page with the rules. Give the children reasons for the rules. It’s easier to obey a rule when you understand why it’s a rule.

My kids always tell me when they want to try something new. The older ones have the password to install new apps on their phones, but they know to ask first. Same for installing software on the computer. The password simply ensures that they can’t claim they didn’t realize they were installing something. You type that thing in, you meant it. The youngest is not allowed to install anything.

Also have a talk about sharing personal information and photos, especially photos that might be considered sexual. Photos sent or received need to be talked about, as it may not be your child who sends the inappropriate picture, but having it on their phone is still a major problem.

Give Your Kids An Appropriate Level Of Trust

How much you trust your child online depends on you and your child. You do need to trust them a little.

Consider the age of your child, how they behave with friends, how they’re doing academically, and any other factors you think are relevant. Some kids need a lot more watching. Others will be quick to report the slightest problem and may need less supervision.

If you don’t trust your kids, first of all, they’ll know. Kids need to know they’re trusted in general. If they don’t feel that you trust them, it’s hard for them to feel like they need to earn that trust.

My kids know that for the most part, I trust them online. I have on occasion had to check on accounts when the kids didn’t ask me for help, but that has been rare, and the reason explained.

Be Ready For Mistakes

Mistakes will happen. My son one time tried to type in the website address of a site he played on regularly. It was on his new computer, and he typed the name in wrong.

You guessed it. The site came up claiming he had an awful virus and that he needed to click the link to take care of it.

Yeah, he knew better. He got me and I helped him shut down the browser without clicking the pop over. Then we ran a scan on the computer to ensure that no viruses or other malware had been installed on his brand new computer.

All he did wrong was type one letter wrong. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

That’s better than my oldest daughter, who did make the mistake of clicking on something claiming she had a virus. I had her sit through the entire scanning process and work through the problems as they came up. She was old enough that she should have known better. She now knows a lot more about the process of removing a virus, which is a good thing to know at her age anyhow.

Teach your kids that if they have any doubts about what’s on their computer to get an adult immediately. Don’t click anything.

Find out how the mistake happened. Was it a typo? What about a site that had previously been trustworthy, but has perhaps been hacked or has some other problem?

If the rules have been broken, deal with it appropriately. Don’t make things worse just because things went more wrong than your child expected. If the mistake results in a virus or malware being installed on your computer, have your child help if they’re old enough, so that they learn to handle it. This is pretty much a life skill these days. the things you use now to keep your kids safe online should help them throughout their lives.

Know Your Child’s Passwords

My kids all know that I expect to have all of their passwords. They know I won’t use them often, but that I reserve the right to check their accounts if I feel a need.

The easiest way to keep track of your child’s passwords is a password manager such as LastPass. LastPass offers a family account at a very reasonable price. This allows you to share passwords as a family. You can store the passwords to your children’s LastPass accounts in yours so you can always have access to the whole thing if you need it.

You can share passwords between accounts if you like. This allows you to decide if you want the kids to have easy access to the Netflix password, for example.

If you don’t want to use a password manager, have each child make a password sheet they keep somewhere safe that you can find. Kids are great at forgetting passwords. For the most part, their passwords are of relatively low importance, so long as their game and social media accounts have no access to credit cards or personal information. This is the one reason I let kids write their passwords down. It’s a bad habit otherwise.

Teach Your Child That You Can’t Believe Everything You See On The Internet

We had fun with this one when my oldest was small. We told her about the tree octopus and the miniature giraffe and convinced her that these were real by showing her pictures on the internet.

Once she was convinced, we taught her how to recognize that they weren’t real.

Teaching kids that they can’t believe everything they see on the internet is important, not just for their safety, but so they can do reports for school accurately. It matters when they’re adults too.

My kids’ school teaches them early on the basics of recognizing websites that are good resources for online research. I find their rules a little simplistic (.org does NOT ensure that it’s a reputable source!), but it’s a start.

Teach them to be suspicious of things that try too hard to get them to click on something, and especially of anything that wants money or wants to be downloaded. They won’t always be bad, but until they know how to recognize what’s safe, they should ask first.

Talk About The Hazards Of Social Media

There are a lot of good reasons to teach your kids to be careful in their use of social media. Cyberbullying over social media and texting applications is a huge problem.

There’s also the risk of strangers friending your child or just following their account. It’s easy to worry about the intentions of random strangers who follow a child on social media.

Many social media accounts can be kept private to some degree, with pictures and posts visible only to friends and followers. When you feel your kids are ready for social media, help them pick places where they can control who sees what they post.

Remember, there are good reasons why most social networks want users to be at least 13 years old. By that age, most kids can understand why they need to think about what they post.

Keep Online Use In Shared Areas Of The House

It is generally advised that you should keep all internet capable devices in shared areas of the house, and that’s generally good advice. Kids are less likely to deliberately do things online they know they shouldn’t when they know a parent could look over their shoulder at any moment.

This is, of course, more difficult with smartphones and tablets. You have to decide whether those are allowed to be used in bedrooms.

The challenge can be that kids will naturally want more privacy at the ages where you will worry most about inappropriate behavior. Older kids may get curious about porn or consider sending inappropriate pictures of themselves to others, or asking for such pictures from their friends.

Teach your children why they shouldn’t share such things. Say more than just “don’t do it;” explain why. Kids are more likely to obey if they understand that a rule is not arbitrary.

Be There For Your Child When There Is A Problem

When problems do come up, be there for your kids. Trusted friends can be involved in cyberbullying. A phone number can be shared with other kids in school and elsewhere, and suddenly the issue has become a bigger problem than your child can handle on their own.

If your child is a victim of cyberbullying, your role as parent is emotional support and figuring out what steps can be taken to stop it. Sometimes you may have to get school officials or law enforcement involved. Other times a talk with the other parents is sufficient

If your child is the cyberbully, it’s your job to make them stop it.  Talk about why and the serious harm cyberbullying can do.

If you need to talk more to your kids about cyberbullying, there are a number of videos that may help. Here’s an example.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated January 4th, 2018

The Financial Hazards Of Being A Stay At Home Mom Or Dad

The Financial Hazards of Being a Stay at Home Mom or Dad

I’ve gone over the financial benefits of being a stay at home mom or dad. They can sound pretty good, but they are not the full picture. There are also a number of financial hazards of being a stay at home mom or dad. It’s vital that you know them as well.

Loss Of Income

Obviously, you’re losing a lot of income when you stay at home and don’t work at home. While that loss may be offset by not having to spend money on childcare and such, this is not the complete picture.

There are also lost career opportunities when you’re a stay at home parent. Staying home with the kids for five years means you’re missing out on five years of raises and chances for promotions. It’s five years that you might not be keeping up with your industry well enough to return to the same position as you had before.

This is why it is important for stay at home moms and dads to keep up with their industries or work to improve their educations. Another option is to work at home, whether you telecommute from your old job, find something else that can be done from home or start your own online business, such as a blog.

It can be more difficult to find a job as you get older too, especially if you haven’t worked for a while. Age discrimination is a thing, and it’s very hard to prove.

Working at home part time doesn’t entirely resolve these issues, but it’s a start. Some moms will be fortunate enough to find something that brings in enough money to replace a full time outside the home job, but many others will not. It’s something to consider.

Decreased Savings For Retirement

Few stay at home parents save for retirement, yet it’s just important for them as it is for a parent who works outside the home. It’s hard to save the money when things may be tight already. But the younger you start saving for retirement, the more benefit you will gain from each dollar saved. Vanguard has a great chart on this on their site.

Loss Of Network

Your network of friends and professional contacts can make a huge difference in your career path. When you take a break from working to raise a family, your professional network usually shrinks dramatically. It’s hard to keep in contact with people on a professional level when your lives are in such different places. Plus, you aren’t showing yourself to them as a professional; when they see you, it’s as a parent.

Financial Dependence On Someone Else

You love and trust your spouse, or so I assume. You believe that they will be able to provide for you and your family. That’s a part of why you’re at home with the kids and they’re working.

I touched upon this in the work at home section of the financial advantages of staying at home post yesterday. I reiterate this today – there is a lot of risk in being financially dependent on someone else.

Not because they’re unreliable. Not because they’re untrustworthy. But because you never know what life is going to bring you. Unemployment, disability, divorce and death can all happen, and you won’t always see it coming.

You need to have a plan in place to handle a financial crisis, whatever the cause may be. Shit happens. Take some time with your spouse and make sure that you and your family will be taken care of, no matter what happens.

That includes if something happens to you. Stay at home moms and dads provide a valuable service to their families. What would your family do without you? Your financial emergency plans should include something for if you can’t continue to care for your family for whatever reason. Life insurance for both parents is a good start. It doesn’t hurt to have small policies for the kids too. You know you would both be wrecks if something happened to one of your kids, right?

Get into the “what ifs.” They aren’t fun… in fact, they can be downright scary to consider. But they are important. Plan for them before you have a problem. They shouldn’t rule your lives, but they should be acknowledged.

Having One Parent Manage All The Finances

Even when both parents work, it’s not that uncommon for one to handle most or all of the finances. One usually has more interest in the subject or more time for it. That doesn’t make this an ideal situation.

Make sure both parents know what your financial situation is. The parent who works outside the home should not be the only one to know how your finances are doing. The same goes for the stay at home parent.

Both parents need to know what the bills are, when and how they get paid, what your income is, and what’s in savings. Take some time and talk about these things regularly, regardless of who handles the finances for the most part.

Offsetting The Financial Hazards Of Being A Stay At Home Mom Or Dad

There are some things you can do to offset the hazards of being a stay at home mom or dad. You need a safety net, for your own sake and the sake of your family. I mentioned working at home and improving your education in the benefits of being a stay at home mom or dad article. Those are the two big things you can do to minimize the risks.

Finding the right work at home opportunity is quite challenging. The scams are numerous and much easier to find than the legitimate opportunities. The skills you already have may or may not be suited to working at home and you may have to pick up an entirely new skill set. If you can make it happen, however, it can be well worth it.

Many parents plan on going back to working outside the home, at least part time, once the kids are in school. These jobs are generally easier to find than work at home jobs, but a part time job that makes the most of your skills can be very hard to find.

Taking classes at night at a college or online when the kids make it possible is always an option. Improving your education is a great choice if your career wasn’t where you wanted it to be before you became a stay at home parent. There are so many options now, although paying for it can be a challenge if your budget is tight.

Whatever you do as a stay at home parent, consider your financial future. Don’t leave it as some vague thing to be handled when the kids get older. Plan now so that you can make the most of your time as a stay at home parent and still have a good career later. You will thank yourself later for thinking of your financial future now.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated January 3rd, 2018

The Financial Benefits of Being a Stay at Home Mom or Dad

 

The Financial Benefits of Being a Stay at Home Mom or Dad

The decision to become a stay at home mom or dad is usually not made lightly. There can be significant financial consequences, both to the family and to the parent who stays home with the kids. But there can also be financial benefits of being a stay at home mom or dad, and these are worth considering.

No Daycare Costs

The cost of daycare for young children is significant, and this is often a large part of why a mom or dad may choose to stay at home. The more kids you have, the more this costs. Sometimes a family comes to the realization that one paycheck is going almost entirely to the cost of daycare. There is little point in working outside the home if all your money goes to that.

The cost of childcare in much of the United States is higher than the cost of attending an in-state public college. This is why it’s difficult for many families to keep both parents working if they have more than one child – too much income goes to daycare.

I live in California, and according to the Child Care Aware map, the cost of in-home child care for an infant is $7,678. It’s $11,817 for a daycare center. The costs are a little less than double that if you have an infant and a 4 year old in childcare. That’s a lot of income out of your paycheck. Getting rid of that is a huge financial benefit.

These numbers get better, of course, once the kids go to public school and need less daycare. They’re pretty much irrelevant for me now, as my oldest is 15 and my youngest is turning 9 soon. That’s why so many parents go back to work once the kids are in school – you can earn enough to make things worthwhile more easily.

Income Taxes

Your income tax burden may drop when one parent has no income. Not only do you have less income to tax, you may fall into a lower tax bracket. The change in tax bracket, of course, depends on how much the family earned with both parents working versus having just one work.

Remember that the higher tax bracket only applies to the income above the previous bracket. The income below that is taxed at the lower rate. This makes estimating your taxes difficult, but you can give it a good shot if you want actual numbers to work with.

Spending Goes Down

Your family can decrease spending in many ways with a stay at home mom or dad. It’s not just about child care.

A stay at home parent’s wardrobe costs less than a professional wardrobe, as a general rule. Pretty much everything can be washed at home rather than dry cleaned, which helps as well. How much of a benefit this depends significantly on the job the parent had before.

Stay at home parents eat lunches out less as a general rule too. They also don’t grab coffee out as often as parents who work outside the home. Getting coffee and a little something for breakfast on the way to work can easily run $5 a day. When stay at home parents do go out, on the other hand, it’s usually with the kids, so things can add up a little faster.

These savings can also extend to dinner. Having a parent at home makes it easier for that parent to cook meals at home, so the family eats out less in the evenings too.

A stay at home parent can do a lot to help the family live more frugally. They have time to find the best deals on groceries and other things the family needs. Food is one of the major expenses for a family, and there are many ways to save money in this area.

Transportation Costs

The stay at home mom or dad no longer has commuting expenses. This can be a huge savings. We went through a time when we had only one car because I drove so little. The savings was incredible, as that means we only paid for insurance on one car, having sold the other. Where we live now, it’s not practical to have just one car, but my insurance premiums are pretty low since I still don’t drive as much as someone who commutes.

Your transportation expenses will probably go up some as the kids get older and go to school or join activities. How much of an impact this has depends on how far away these things are – I was able to walk my kids to and from school for years.

No Hidden Work Expenses

Working outside the home can have some hidden expenses beyond commuting and clothes. Consider the social side of working in an office. Some of these expenses don’t come up often, while others are more frequent.

Some places have employees contribute to a coffee fund, for example, so that coffee is always available for everyone. There may also be requests for contributions for birthday gifts, baby showers and retirement gifts for coworkers throughout the year.

While all these things are pretty small in most places, they can add up through the year.

Better Career Focus For The Working Parent

The parent who continues to work outside the home can put their complete focus on their career when the other parent stays at home. They don’t have to worry about being called home when one of the kids gets sick. Staying late to finish a project is easier when you don’t have to worry about being on time to get the kids from daycare, which also looks good to employers.

This makes that parent look more dedicated to their employer, and may improve his or her chances at advancing their career. This benefit can be hard to define because it depends on so many factors, but it can be significant.

Time To Improve Your Education

Taking some time to improve your education while you’re a stay at home parent is an expense, but you may be able to make that into a financial benefit when you return to work.

There are a lot of online education options these days. You might decide to learn to be a medical coder while you’re at home so that you can earn money. You might look at getting a degree from an accredited college.

Improving your education is never a guarantee that you will earn more money when you go back to work, but you do improve your chances. This can help make up for the opportunties lost while raising your family.

You Can Work From Home

Working from home is a benefit I strongly recommend to stay at home moms and dads. My income has saved us many times. Several years ago my husband was laid off from the job he held at the time, and the fact that I was bringing money in meant that it was a complication, but not a complete financial disaster.

Working at home is so affordable in most ways. Costs will depend on what you do, but many work at home jobs and online businesses don’t add a lot to your monthly expenses. If you need only your computer and your internet connection, well, these are things you’re paying for anyhow.

It is not easy to get started working from home for most people. Work at home jobs can be challenging to find, and businesses… are businesses. It takes time to make one into a success and there are no guarantees that you will ever succeed with an online business. On the other hand, they’re cheap. It costs very little to start a blog, for example.

I strongly recommend working at home, at least a little, when you’re a stay at home parent. A single income family can be hit hard if anything happens to the breadwinner parent. Unemployment, disability, divorce, and death are all things you probably won’t see coming but can happen to any family. Working from home gives your family a buffer against these problems.

These financial benefits of being a stay at home mom or dad aren’t meant to dismiss the very real financial risk a stay at home parent takes. I’ll be covering that next.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated December 6th, 2017

Geeky Elf On The Shelf Ideas

Geeky Elf On The Shelf Ideas

My kids really enjoy when we use the Elf on the Shelf. My older two don’t much care what the elves do, aside from laughing when we do something particularly funny, or snagging their share of candy when candy is involved. As we’re a bunch of science fiction geeks around here, so I’m often working on geeky Elf on the Shelf ideas. That way it’s more fun for me.

We have two elves. The first is Peppermint, the second is Cocoa. Cocoa started last year as an elf in training when we couldn’t find Peppermint for a while. This year, Cocoa is still around, helping Peppermint while waiting for a permanent position. I made Peppermint poseable, but Cocoa isn’t

The challenge is deciding which fandom to use. There are so many choices.

I started out simple this year. The elves have been messing with my dragon, Norberta. Peppermint started things out by stealing Norberta’s eggs (the eggs were made in the thumbtack, Game of Thrones style) and putting them in the fridge with the regular eggs. Peppermint hid the next night in the cat carrier because Norberta was after her. She has since tried to use Minecraft TNT to blow Norberta up. The feud continues.

Elf on the Shelf dragon egg

Elf on the Shelf hiding from dragon

Minecraft stuff is easy to make. The TNT is paper. The emerald egg Peppermint is holding was made for a Minecraft themed birthday party some years ago and is made of Perler beads. Perler beads are great for making Minecraft stuff if you can spare the time.

Elf on the Shelf Minecraft TNT

There are so many fandoms to work with, and you may have some of the things you need for geeky Elf on the Shelf poses on hand.

Geeky Elf On The Shelf Basics

Take a look around your house to see what you have to make this easy. Funko Pop vinyl figures make it easy to have characters from just about any fandom. Disney Infinity characters are very useful, as are Lego Dimensions and Lego building sets your kids have made.

Dolls, action figures, and anything else you and your kids have for shows you love help as well. Plan things out so that you can easily reach what you need while the kids are sleeping.

I scout things out while the kids are at school. Usually, even my older kids don’t know what I plan for the next day. This is more fun for those ideas that they actually like.

I do not focus on the idea that the elf is spying for Santa. I’m honestly not fond of that part, so we ignore it. My kids have heard that one from friends, not from me. Our Elf is more fun and has been known to do thing such as replace the ice in the ice maker with candy. That was a really fun one. A lot of work, but worth it.

Elf On The Shelf With Harry Potter

My oldest loves Harry Potter stuff, so we have done quite a bit with that fandom. This one with Harry Potter and Peppermint going up against Voldemort was an easy setup. The elf’s wand is a bamboo skewer cut down to size.

Elf vs Voldemort

The most fun Peppermint has had, however, has been chasing Niffler around. I got my oldest well with that one. Peppermint chased Niffler all around the house for days as Niffler stole shiny things. My daughter was quick to ask to have the Niffler figure when we were done with it. It was a stocking stuffer for her.

Elf vs Niffler

This year I might have Niffler bring in some candy in shiny wrappers. Not chocolate coins – the chocolate in those is usually awful. Some Ghirardelli squares might work. Not that Niffler will make them easy to reach.

Many other people have done a lot with Harry Potter and the Elf on the Shelf. Rather than recreate them, take a look at these links.

A Little Moore has a sorting hat printable.

This Harry Potter meets Elf on the Shelf idea on Pinterest is cute.

Elf On The Shelf Vs. Disney Infinity Characters

As I said above, the Disney Infinity characters give so much range to set up your Elf on the Shelf. Disney owns so many popular franchises that kids adore. We have rather a lot of characters in our Infinity set because my sister handed down a bunch when she got tired of having duplicates.

That means we can do the simple “horde of characters attacking the elf” scene very easily.

elf vs disney infinity

With the various Star Wars characters, I decided Peppermint needed her own lightsaber. This was easy to make.

I used a bamboo skewer and some nail polish. I have a nice, bright green nail polish, so that was the best choice for Peppermint’s lightsaber. The handle was painted with my black polish.

Paint an appropriate length of the skewer for the lightsaber. It will take a couple coats. I stuck the unpainted end into the edge of a cardboard box so the polish could dry. Once it was completely dry, I cut off the excess and painted the ends with the nail polish. To let those dry, I set up some other skewers and laid it across them so the ends wouldn’t touch anything as they dried.

elf lightsaber

Now Peppermint can join the Jedi in battle. Or will she betray them? Who knows.

elf vs jedi

Stitch is another fun character for an Elf on the Shelf to play with. Who else gives the elf so good an excuse to get a little messy or get into the food?

elf Stitch eating fruit

Especially the candy.

elf Stitch and candy

There’s always the good old snowball fight with Elsa and Anna. I used cotton balls because one of my cats would eat the marshmallows if I used those for a snowball fight. My kids like to use cotton balls for summer snowball fights anyhow. It’s kind of a thing around here.

elf vs Elsa

Peppermint also had a nice chat with the feelings from Inside Out. If I had some Orbeeze or other small, colored balls there’s more that could be done there, but without that, they just relaxed together.

elf and inside out

Given the range of Disney Infinity characters that we have, I could probably do the entire season using nothing but them. That would get dull, though, wouldn’t it?

The Elf And The Doctor

We have some Doctor Who fans around here, so naturally Peppermint has to play along. In fact, the Doctor should be careful, because the elf has the Tardis. Okay, it’s just a Lego Tardis, but there still might be a problem.

the elf has the tardis

Peppermint and the Doctor can have a lovely chat, aside from what’s behind them… what was I talking about?

elf doctor silence

I don’t know what Peppermint is doing to my router with the sonic screwdriver, but I hope it speeds up.

elf router

Geeky Elf On The Shelf Ideas With Other Fandoms

Around here, you can’t forget the other animated shows, anime or manga. My kids especially enjoy movies by Studio Ghibli. So naturally, soot sprites make an appearance.

elf soot sprites

They’ll have to hide shoes some other time.

Soot sprites are very easy to make. Black puff balls and googly eyes make very simple ones. You can use black pipe cleaners if you want to give them legs, but I’m too lazy for that. I used a hot glue gun to attach the eyes, but you can use whichever glue works for you. I like how fast it dries and how well it holds.

Peppermint seems to enjoy manga. It’s easy to set an elf up with whichever book your kids like. I’m not sure if I should be concerned that Peppermint is reading Death Note, however.

elf death note

I couldn’t resist bringing Bill Cipher from Gravity Falls into the game. My oldest still loves that character from the show – she dressed up as him for Halloween. So, I had Bill give the elf some advice.

Bill Cipher and elf

Finally, I have to mention the cute, printable Elf on the Shelf superhero costumes over at Simple Made Pretty. They’re an easy way to dress up your elf as the superheroes your kids like.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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