What the Elf?! Christmas Gone Too Far


It’s Christmas Eve, and all through the house, not a creature is stirring, not even … an elf. Or is it?

Nope, it’s just Mom and Dad, strategically planning Buddy’s next epic caper for their eager children. Buddy the Elf has been seen coloring, hiding in the fridge, hanging upside down from the mantle, and waiting in the bathroom. And those are the simple adventures.

So, we’ve got parents and teachers reporting to Santa. Mall Santas reporting to the Big Guy (if you’re trying to explain to your child why there are multiple Santas). Random strangers, encouraging your kids to be good. And now, the Elf. Santa doesn’t have time for this, and neither do I. 

Let me be clear. I am all for elves. I love Lord of the Rings. We watched The Shannara Chronicles as a family last year. And I love the movie Elf. But Elf on a Shelf has no place in our home. Count. Me. Out.

Team #ShelfIt

In a recent conversation over at the blog, we talked about this. Throughout the friendly yet lively debate, one thing was clear: you either love the Elf, or you hate him. Many of my fellow writers on Team #ShelfIt expressed similar concerns and drawbacks. I’m not anti-Christmas. I’m not anti-fun, or against letting my kids experience the magic of the holidays. None of us are.

Says Writer Nicole Tanner Ging: “While the Elf seems like it could be fun, how many things do we need “watching” our children this time of year? I feel like it’s gotten a little too commercialized with various elf accessories now as well. I guess in a way I just like the traditional Christmas ideas: Santa, flying reindeer, the elves staying in the North Pole to make toys…to me that’s plenty of Christmas magic and fun.”

Here’s why we won’t be inviting a mischievous doll into our homes to “watch” over our children.

Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That

Seriously, guys. Planning out nightly adventures for a toy doll? It sounds exhausting. After we finally get the baby to sleep – assuming he stays that way – the last thing I want to do is figure out which fun new pose or activity this elf is going to do next.

Writer Michelle Walter added: “No elf in our house, just mostly because I never wanted to take the time to do it with the many other things I have going on during the holidays.”

What If I Forget to Move It?

At the end of the day, there are about 10,000 things going through my head. None of them is about an elf. God forbid I forget to move it. Kids are perceptive, you know? They’ll notice.

Writer Marissa Sherrill agreed: “No elf here. We don’t even get a tooth fairy to respond on a regular basis…the elf would be stuck.”

Up Your Game

Each year you continue to do the Elf, you must up your game. Your kids won’t be satisfied with the same stuff. They want to see their Elf fishing, making cookies, hanging decorations, and interacting with other dolls and toys.

Not to mention the Elf on a Shelf TV special. #overit

Big Brother’s Watching

Call me paranoid, but it makes me uncomfortable teaching my child that someone is always watching in the month of December. When our teen was younger, we also did the “Be good or Santa will know!” line to encourage good behavior. But for a little kid, the concept that something in their own home is watching them is kinda creepy.

Writer Jen Forsyth agreed, and commented that “We find it creepy that something watches you and reports back to someone. Besides, isn’t the magic of Santa enough? Do we really need to be so perfect and Pinterest like all the time and add so much pressure? Keep things simple during the holidays. The kids will still be happy and it will all be magical.”

If you thought Elf was taking the watchful eye a little too far, wait until you see the Santa Cam. Yikes.

It’s been easy for us to be a No Elf family; after all, our teen son was too old for it by the time it became popular, and the baby is too young. Sometimes, parents have peer pressure from an unlikely source: their own kids.

Writer Anny Bezilla said that “My daughter has been asking because her friends do it, but I am also trying to teach her that she has to be content with what she has and not try to do what everyone else is doing…to be her own person. Not easy!”

We’re Not Anti-Christmas!

It’s not that we frown on Christmas traditions that are fun or take time to do. I bake cookies every year, which is arguably more time-consuming than moving an elf once a night. We also go see Christmas lights, watch our favorite Christmas movies, and host an Ugly Sweater party (three years running).

Writer Teresa Glasgow has started a new tradition to remember the spirit of the season. She writes: “Instead of the elf, we are focusing on putting the “Christ” back in Christmas. This year I made a “super special” advent calendar (that’s right, the brown paper bag with numbers on them in the picture). Each bag contains a daily scripture reading focused on the events leading up to Jesus’s birth and something small for my boys. Some days it’s stickers, and others, it’s a make-your-own ornament kit, but it’s almost always something we can do together after reading our scripture verse.”



Writer Amanda Piacquadio added: “We do not participate in the elf because I already have a hard time lying about Santa. Second, I don’t need to add another thing to my never ending list of things to do. And third, Lorenzo is easily creeped out so I feel like I would be giving him a complex from making an elf “watch him.” But I love seeing all my friends participate. There are really cute ideas!”

The Elf just isn’t our thing … but it doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy seeing what new adventures yours has come up with! We’re just happy we didn’t have to do it.

Tell us, readers: which side are you on? Team #ShelfIt or Team #ElfIt?  


  1. Hello, we did join the elf club, but we got the upgraded plush form, so it’s cute rather than creepy looking. We were team, Shelf it, until the kid wondered why his friends had an elf and he didn’t. So we succumbed to the marketing and brought the stuffed guy into our home. The kid is 9, but with some special needs and didn’t notice the elf didn’t move very often. I think he’s only noticing this year because I picked up the a Hershey’s Elf Kisses. It’s a good way for me to remember also; a kiss for me and one for you! We don’t do anything more than literally move the fellow around the dining room and living room and have a kiss next to him for the kid. When, yeah it’s happened a few times already, we forget to move the elf, we explain the dogs must have scared him, or wow he remembered where he was! Lol! The best part of having the elf was the year my hubby gave the tree a face and arms because the one arm was holding a sign. That sign read ” Feed me elves, I poop presents”. Yes, we had an elf to feed it!!

    • It can be really hard when kids are wondering why their friends or classrooms have the Elf, but they don’t. One of our writers struggles with this, too. Good idea to “blame” the dogs! 🙂

  2. So we have an elf but do not follow it the way it’s meant to be. Our son is 19 months and he just likes his elf as he likes his other stuffed animals. He asked for it at the store. He sits in our tree as a decoration whom Romeo likes to carry around sometimes and then put back in the tree! We are definitely not anti Christmas but it’s not us. We learn about Frosty and Rudolph in our house ?

    • That’s great, Sara! Sounds like you’re dipping your toe in the Elf Game, and still having fun with other Christmas traditions. Wonder if next year, your son will start asking about the Elf doing “cool adventures” or if he’ll continue to admire him in the tree!

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