Calm Down People…It’s a Friggin’ Toy Elf

Calm Down People…It’s a Friggin’ Toy Elf

Lauren PesinWednesday,9 December 2015

For three years now Thanksgiving signifies the annual ritual where I try (hopelessly) to recall where I put the magical toy doll, referred to as “Elf on a Shelf”.

Admittedly, I’ve tucked the elf away so securely, I was forced to buy a new one this year because I couldn’t find where I hid it last year.  I’m sure I’m not the only parent to do this. Years from now, my son may find elves randomly, inadvertently uncovering the truth behind the myth. Until then, the eight million plus copies sold and annual revenues topping $16-million certainly indicates the popularity of the book and toy elf.

For those of you living under a rock or don’t have or know anyone with children, let me explain briefly the premise of “Elf on a Shelf.”

“Elf on the Shelf” is a book that was released in 2005, accompanied with a small Christmas elf “doll.”

The tradition and subsequent controversy emerge not over the book or from the toy individually, but over the following premise and implementation of the elfin game.

The “Elf on a Shelf” is a scout elf (recon to our veteran readers) sent from Santa Claus to report on who’s been naughty and nice (Not so bad, right? Kind of like a jolly old soul we know). Each night the elf travels magically back to Santa, reporting their observations, reappearing each morning in different places in your home (hanging on Xmas trees, eating marshmallows, climbing cabinets — the possibilities are endless). Children are not allowed to touch the elf because the magic will be removed and the elf will no longer be able to travel to the North Pole. Subsequently, it’s a toy you’re not allowed to play with or even touch. Don’t worry; they also sell a cuddly plush version for your child’s enjoyment and comfort.

Honestly, I wasn’t really aware of the controversy over this “tradition” until my co-workers and I discussed “Elf on a Shelf” at the office.  One child-free co-worker asked, “What is Elf on a Shelf?”  I explained briefly. Her response was simply, “Way to indoctrinate children into accepting big brother watching over them.”

Upon researching the conflict, I discovered she’s not alone in her thoughts of what the elfin game is teaching or implying. The list below includes some common “Elf on a Shelf” opposition responses:

– “The elf is a spy. Murica!”
– Comparison to “the Santa lie” (originating from philosopher and atheist David Kyle Johnston)
– Prepares children for a police state
– Acceptance of external observation and reporting
– Lies, lies, and more lies…
– Allows for lazy parenting by bullying kids into behaving at Christmas (kind of like Santa)
– Teaches crime and punishment
– Supports disciplinary actions from forces outside of caregivers
– Encourages a belief that you will get monetary rewards for good behavior
– Legitimizes government spying of citizens inside their homes. Murica.
– Inspires childhood questions of home security due to the ability of elf to break-and-enter each night (really?)
– Degrades reason and analytical thinking in children
– “Just another nanny cam in a nanny state obsessed with penal codes”
– “Dangerous parental crutch”

You get the picture of the paranoid, joyless sect of the population. This isn’t a government conspiracy.

It is much like other stories of whimsy and childlike fun, such as the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny.

I question any practice not supported by reason or critical thinking. I get that. However, it’s a friggin’ toy people! The “Elf on a Shelf” tradition is a storybook that comes at a time of year that’s filled with stories of magic, wonder, joy, giving, kindness, and charity. The stories include topics of fancy, including flying reindeer, dancing snowmen, talking puppies, singing elves, and so much more that doesn’t really exist.

Should we stop telling stories, fairy tales or discuss mythology? We’re talking about a sense of wonder, about providing that moment, that feeling that’s driven by the imagination we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives when we were still amazed, curious, and excited about the possibility of magic. Do we want to take that away?

There’s so much in the world to shelter our children from, so you tell me: “Should we add children’s storybooks to the banned list or should we just let children be children (at least for a little while)?”



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Image Credit: Mark Baylor on Flickr

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