Elf on the Shelf is a seriously polarizing creature. No matter where you fall on the love him or hate him continuum, I have rarely met a mom who didn’t have an opinion, from my friend Jill who thinks he’s Satan incarnate to my friend Jodi who loves him so much that she makes her teens play along.
Personally, I loved Elf on the Shelf, and so did my husband. We don’t do it anymore since our youngest discovered the real deal on all that Santa stuff two Christmases ago, and I am honestly thankful to not have to do the work anymore, but when we were all-in for Santa, I cherished our naughty elf.
Cookie, our Magic Elf
We didn’t have a traditional Elf. Ours was a stuffed gingerbread girl that we had long before the Elf on the Shelf was a popular thing. Ours was a little different than others, but it was the same idea: Cookie watched our family and reported back to Santa and Mrs. Clause and made mischief overnight while we were all asleep.
My husband was just as into the elf as I was. One year, he built a waterproof boat out of aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and a cardboard box so that Cookie could go fishing in our bathtub. He hung our kids’ underwear all over the Christmas tree several times. I remember Cookie bathing in marshmallows a few times. We concocted an elaborate feud between Cookie and the Barbie dolls that spanned a couple of weeks. The Barbies taped Cookie to the couch, and Cookie left them nasty notes (okay, nasty for a 4-year-old). Cookie sometimes did things that were a pain, like making snow angels in powdered sugar, but most of the time, it was clean fun that we all enjoyed.
The very best part of the whole Cookie deal was my kids’ reaction every morning. They would wake up and search for Cookie, and when they found her, they would ooh and aah and squeal and laugh about whatever she had done. Their reaction made my heart swell like the Grinch’s at the end of his movie. Every. Single. Day.
Why Elf on the Shelf is great
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am firmly in the pro-Elf camp. I think he’s a great way to create some magic and wonder for your little ones, and that is always a good thing. There is too much negativity and reality in this world, and the elf lightens the mood and gives kids something fun to look forward to.
I think the elf also helps kids to understand that God is always watching them, not in a punitive sense but in the truly omniscient sense. I think he helps them to see that waiting, while hard, can be fun and exciting. I think he reminds us all – kids and adults alike – that Christmas is a time of joy and laughter.
Why some families hate the elf
Okay, let’s put it out there. The Elf on the Shelf is a lot of work for already burdened moms and dads. The last thing they want is to have to think up some elaborate scheme at 10 o’clock at night. He is not fun for them and only represents another thing that must be done during an already hectic time of year. I get it.
Other families object to the elf because he is not God. He may be always watching, but he is watching on behalf of Santa and not looking out for good deeds or helpful kids. These families may be interested in some of the elf spin-offs that do search for most positive actions.
Still, other families object to the elf because he makes the season about getting or earning presents instead of about the joy of Jesus. I get that, too. These families may be interested in the devotional I wrote which helps families with young children to celebrate Jesus with a Jesse Tree during the Advent season.
Is an elf right for your family?
My point is not that every family needs to do the Elf on the Shelf. Not every family does Santa, and not every mom wants to be bothered. I get it. You do you, sweet friend.
My point is that the Elf on the Shelf can make the Christmas season – a season that is just plain hard if you’re a little kid who is waiting and waiting and waiting – a little easier, a little more magical, and a lot more fun.
Christmas is not about elves or Santa or presents. We all know that. Christmas is about the joy of the Savior and the eager anticipation of the celebration of His birth. All very true, and all very near to my own heart. That’s why I suggested my Advent devotional above.
But also, this season of joy and eager anticipation can be hard for our little ones. It can be a difficult concept for them to understand that we are looking forward to the birth of Jesus Christ. It can be tough to understand that this little baby, this Jesus, is the ultimate gift that saves the entire world when all they really want is a Barbie Dreamhouse.
If you can manage an Elf of the Shelf, I would encourage you to go for it. Do something little each day or just move him from one location to another. Do what you can do.
I’ve included a few pins with loads of elf ideas to help you get started: