Whatever, haters: I'm LOVING coming up with Elf on the Shelf ideas

It's possible the novelty might wear off. But for now, it’s boatloads of fun, and gives us all something extra to look forward to in the mornings.

Hi, I’m Christine, and I’m an Elf on the Shelf convert.

After hearing about these mysterious elves for years, and somehow avoiding the seemingly annoying tradition, I finally decided to take the plunge before my son, who is six, is too old to care.

And just like that, mine became one of many households where a cute little elf shows up on December 1 to keep a watchful eye on my kid, fly back to the North Pole nightly to file his report with Santa, and return to cause a little mischief while everyone’s still sleeping.

As I anxiously awaited his arrival, I scoured the Internet for ideas of what to do with the yet-to-be-named elf, and was pleasantly surprised by the creativity. How do these parents come up with these scenarios? I thought it would be fun, and I was right.

Elf on the shelf in a bowl of candy

But what takes it to another level is the simple, yet magical, element. Once I saw my son’s jaw drop when he received the elf with a letter from Mr. Claus, I knew I had made the right decision. He darts out of bed every morning to find Justin Elf, as he was eventually named, and laughs excitedly at what debauchery Justin caused overnight, like delving into the leftover Halloween candy or sunbathing under a light in a fruit basket. It has been loads of fun.

Naysayers are rolling their eyes right about now at this newbie mom who’s clearly still in the Honeymoon phase. “Wait until you get to Day 20, or Year Three!” they smirk. It’s just sooo much work.

Guys, moving the elf each night is only as much work as you make it. There’s no need to keep up with the Pinterest Jones’ who have devised elaborate scenarios for their elves that require a degree in art and endless amount of crafting materials. It doesn’t take much effort to wrap toilet paper around the Christmas tree and sit the elf on a branch, or have him swing from a chandelier or squeeze into the door of the refrigerator. This is neither a job nor a competition. Have fun with it!

Others suggest that welcoming an elf into your home is an expensive proposition, starting with the full kit, and expanding to accessories, props, and outfits. Fair enough—but that’s not the only option. I bought an elf toy and typed my own letter. Total cost: under $15. Want to up your elf game? Search the web for ideas on how to use everyday household items to create fun scenes. (It’s worth “hacking” your elf to add wires so he’s fully posable, too!)

“But what if I forget to move it?!” Don’t sweat it. Have a cover story on standby, like that you overheard yesterday was a vacation day for Santa, or the elves have been working so hard, they needed a day off. (Or set an iPhone reminder for 9 p.m. each night.)

Some parents seem to be against Elf on the Shelf’s seemingly threatening purpose. “The elf just scares a child into being ‘good!’” To that I say: Darn right, it does! This wide-eyed, red-suited Big Brother worries kids that Santa will know if they had a tantrum or weren’t sharing, and dangles the promise (or absence) of presents over their tiny little heads. (I swear I caught my son checking if the elf’s eyes followed him as he moved.) But the elf is really a holiday-themed stand-in for tactics you already use: the promise of dessert if they eat all their dinner, a day at the amusement park for good grades, or yes, the warning “Santa is watching” every time they misbehave. Sure, some kids might find the elf creepy. But for most, it’s just innocent fun.

It’s possible the novelty might wear off. But for now, it’s boatloads of fun, and gives us all something extra to look forward to in the mornings. I’m just as excited when coming up with the ideas of where to put the elf as my son is to discover the nightly mischief. Will he feel like a fool when he’s older? Doubtful. He’ll probably appreciate the effort we made to keep the magic alive.

“So where is he going tonight?” my husband asked me on Night Five, after our son had headed to bed. I wasn’t yet sure. “Why, do you have an idea?” I asked. “Yep!” he giggled. Looks like dad’s a convert now, too.

This article was originally published online in December 2018.

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