Kids can get a first-class Elfucation — and parents can get a break — thanks to a new online program.
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Santa is throwing his red hat into the hiring-spree ring. Like many places, the North Pole is improving its operations and looking for new talent. In this case, Santa would like some new elves to join his team to help spread the holiday spirit, and kids can bolster their resumes at Elf Prep Academy.

Husband-and-wife team Ryan and Kate Gaspar came up with the concept last year, and the class of 2021 will be Elf Prep Academy's first. At the academy, kids can sign up for 12 courses through the Elfucation platform. There's an orientation and then history lesson about elves, plus tons of fun and interactive classes with a holiday twist. Think snowflake making, cookie baking, and tree decorating. Some lessons focus on more practical skills, like caring for reindeer and sleds.

Each course includes hands-on activities, like word searches, quizzes, and worksheets, which not only help kids become better elves but reinforce the reading, writing, spelling, and listening skills they're learning in school.

Kate Gaspar, who now holds the title of Head Elf at the Academy, says kids from 1 to 92 can get something out of the courses.

"But ages 3 to 8 is the sweet spot," she says.

After completing a course, each child will be honored at an Elfchievement badge ceremony.

Professor Peppermint, who was recently named Elfucator of the Year by Santa, serves as the teacher for every class. She comes on screen for instructional videos in cookie baking and elf history lessons. Her cheerful disposition and fun rhymes could even put Scrooge and the Grinch in the holiday spirit.

"Professor Peppermint is the ultimate holiday personality," says Kate. "She offers encouragement and holiday cheer, perfect for kids and adults alike."

An image of a child holding presents wearing a Santa hat.
Credit: Getty Images.

After completing Elf Prep Academy, kids get to participate in a virtual graduation ceremony.

The concept is perfect for these still-in-a-pandemic times. While increased vaccinations and decreased restrictions have allowed more families to come together this year, the constant uncertainty, including an uptick in cases across some areas of the country, may leave some recalibrating their risks.

"Elf Prep Academy is an online platform, so it makes it easy to get in the holiday spirit without leaving your home," Kate says. "Many of the activities allow for offline engagement that you can do with just your family or if you're comfortable with a larger group."

The cost is $24.99 to enroll, and a portion of the proceeds go towards the Marine Toys for Tots program.

It can sometimes seem like this time of year involves a whole lot of build-up for one big day if you celebrate Christmas — regardless of your plans for holiday get-togethers. Kids feel the excitement and sometimes can't help but get impatient. Cue the questions about asking how many days until Christmas. Elf Prep Academy is a new and unique way to keep kids engaged (and off your back).

Here are some others:

Focus On Giving, Not Receiving

Gifts can be a fun part of holiday celebrations. But all of the consumerism can get a bit exhausting. Not all parents can grant their children's biggest wishes for financial or other reasons. Engaging children in activities that emphasize giving instead of getting can teach them important lessons while also keeping them busy. Gratitude journals and Advent calendars that focus on performing acts of kindness rather than receiving a small gift are great ways to teach children to help others and be thankful for what they have.

Start New Traditions

You may already be carrying on holiday traditions that have been passed down through generations of your family. But if you and your kids are getting restless with anticipation, it may be fun to start a new one. Some ideas include:

  • Holiday movie marathons. Have each person in the family pick their favorite holiday movie. Pick a day, grab some snacks, and watch all of them together.
  • Volunteer. Volunteering in your community, such as at a local food pantry, can cultivate a spirit of gratitude and giving.
  • Child's choice day. Dedicating a day to each of your children by letting them choose what they want to do, from the meals they'd like to a spot they want to visit, can make them feel loved, special, and empowered. You may even learn a thing or two about your kid's favorite activities.

Get Crafty

Simple arts and crafts keep children of all ages engaged and foster creativity. They may even leave you with some new décor for your home. Pine cones, pipe cleaners, and old T-shirts are all inexpensive — if not free — materials you can use.

The holidays can be stressful, but they should be fun. Finding ways to keep the excitement going for children may feel like one more item on your already endless to-do list, but it can also make room for fun bonding experiences. If nothing else, interactive courses and arts and crafts can keep them occupied while you cook, clean, and wrap gifts.