The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition with a girl Scout Elf with brown skin/brown eyes
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778 of 806 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2011
This is a tradition that will carry on for generations!

HOW IT WORKS:
The kit comes with an elf doll and a book. The book explains that Santa has sent an elf to watch over the children and the elf reports back to Santa each night. The kids get to decide the name for the elf together - this is a touch decision! You read through the book with your child, it explains all the rules, then each night you move the elf to a new spot. One of the rules is that the children cannot touch him - this is a great rule because although he's a sturdy doll, I think he might get loved out much too quickly if they were allowed! The author was so thoughtful to think of all these helpful rules.

Rules:
* The children cannot touch the elf or he will lose his magic
* The elf can listen to what the children tell him, but cannot talk back, that's Santa's law.
* The elf flies back to the North Pole each night and tells Santa what he has seen - when he comes back he goes to a new spot in the house.

The kids start searching for the elf immediately when they wake up! Knowing Santa is watching has definitely motivated them to be a behave a bit better! This cute little tradition makes the Christmas season more fun. It's a very special tradition in our house. I love that the book has an old fashioned feel to it, the illustrations are wonderful.

CONS:
* Your children will ask you every night from Halloween to Thankgiving when the elf is coming back!
* You have to remember to move the elf every night! Sometimes this is a bit of a challenge for us. :) However, our elf does sometimes just get comfy in the spot he's in, so he must have decided to come back to the same spot.
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71 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2011
HOW IT WORKS:
The kit comes with an elf doll and a book. The book explains that Santa has sent an elf to watch over the children and the elf reports back to Santa each night. The kids get to decide the name for the elf together - this is a touch decision! You read through the book with your child, it explains all the rules, then each night you move the elf to a new spot. One of the rules is that the children cannot touch him - this is a great rule because although he's a sturdy doll, I think he might get loved out much too quickly if they were allowed! The author was so thoughtful to think of all these helpful rules.

Rules:
* The children cannot touch the elf or he will lose his magic
* The elf can listen to what the children tell him, but cannot talk back, that's Santa's law.
* The elf flies back to the North Pole each night and tells Santa what he has seen - when he comes back he goes to a new spot in the house.

The kids start searching for the elf immediately when they wake up! Knowing Santa is watching has definitely motivated them to be a behave a bit better! This cute little tradition makes the Christmas season more fun. It's a very special tradition in our house. I love that the book has an old fashioned feel to it, the illustrations are wonderful.

CONS:
* Your children will ask you every night from Halloween to Thankgiving when the elf is coming back!
* You have to remember to move the elf every night! Sometimes this is a bit of a challenge for us. :) However, our elf does sometimes just get comfy in the spot he's in, so he must have decided to come back to the same spot.
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158 of 189 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2013
I have a 3-year-old and considered entering the insanity that is "Elf on a Shelf." In reading reviews, I discovered an alternative: "Christopher Pop-In-Kins" Our local library had a complete gift set of both mischievous elf stories and companion elves. Here is a comparison..

THE STORIES ARE INCREDIBLY SIMILAR
I am utterly stunned by the similarities in the two stories. In fact, I am amazed that the author of the "Christopher" book (written in 1985) hasn't sued the "Elf" author (written in 2005) for plagiarism.
* Both elves have been sent by Santa to keep an eye on their assigned child/children and report back to Santa
* Both elves relocate within their assigned home each evening
* Both elves are not to be touched by the children in the home
* Consequences for touching either elf is the same--he/she will have to go back to Santa for awhile
* Both elves are to return to Santa on Christmas eve
* Size of books are almost identical

"CHRISTOPHER POP-IN-KINS"
* Illustrations are more vivid with a lot of primary colors
* The story is narrative in fashion
* The book spends most of the time explaining why Santa sent him to your home
(Christopher was sad and wanted to see the children who the elves had been making toys for, so Santa decided to use Christopher as a spy, of sorts.)

"ELF ON A SHELF"
* Illustrations are more subdued and resemble dry water colors with a lot of peach/orange/rust
* The story is told in a rhyming fashion
* The book spends most of the time telling the reader about the actual process of hiding each day

COMPARING THE ELF FIGURES
* For something that is to be a family heirloom and last year after year, both elves are remarkably lacking in substance, quality and design. If I saw these sold as Christmas decorations in a store, I would never even consider buying either one. It's a shame because elves and Christmas figures can be so cute.
* Both elves are of passible quality
* "Elf" is about 10-inches tall and quite lanky; "Christopher is about 8-inches tall, but much more substantial
* Both elves arms and legs are very very thin and wiry
* "Elf" has very long, very thin legs; "Christopher" has shorter thin legs with more substantial body and large boots
* Both elves have a soft plastic head/face/hair
* "Christopher" also has soft plastic boots, hat & scarf
* "Christopher" looks a bit more cute and cartoon-like
* "Elf" has more of a sophisticated pixie look
* I find both elves to be pitiful and would like to find an alternative somewhere else

PROS
* "Elf" - You get to name your elf
* "Elf" - Elf comes in a variety of eye/hair/skin colors and choice of gender
* "Elf" - I found the relaying of the story a bit more cleaver and engaging because of the rhyming

CONS
* "Christopher" - I find his name (Christopher Pop-In-Kins) to be rather hokey
* "Elf" - You can now purchase a number of accessories for you elf (skirt, apron, etc.) While some may find this to be a positive, I find it to be a great example of marketing vultures. (Dear Company: Put some more time and money into making a decent-looking elf in the first place so people don't have to pay even more for a half-inch semi-circle skirt to try and jazz up a sorry looking felt figure.)
* "Elf" - I am pretty disgusted by the blatant plagiarism of story and idea. I mean, could they have at least made him a reindeer or snowman?

BOTTOM LINE: I really Really REALLY wanted to like the "Christopher Pop-In-Kins" book and elf better. I really did. This author would seem to be the initial person behind the idea, and I tend to go for the little guy. However, I found myself more interested in the "Elf on a Shelf" book--probably due to the cleaver rhyming. I also liked the idea of being able to name your own elf. I would probably give the illustrations in the "Christopher" book a slight edge due to the colorful pictures.

As far as the elf figures go, it is really a matter of personal preference. Their length and quality are quite similar, and I think either one would work well in different hiding places and poses. They have such different looks that one is bound to appeal to a person more than the other.

I will probably go for "Christopher," simply because he looks different than every other elf in everyone else's house. Not to mention, I would like to support the camp of the person who came up with this idea so long ago but didn't seem to have the marketing power behind her.

Let the Insanity Begin...

Merry Christmas!
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183 of 220 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2006
My kids just received this Thanksgiving day as a gift and I am now ordering them for every child I know. It is such a cute idea. Santa sends the elf to watch the children and then the elf reports to Santa every night and comes back to a different spot in the house. My kids wake up with a running start to see who can find the elf first. The kids must name the elf and they really enjoyed that as well. It is such a nice tradition to help make the Christmas Season even more fun and special. I know it will be with our family for a very long time.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2011
I bought this elf and the book years ago. My daughter was probably 3, and she's going to be 9 this Christmas. Well I can't vouch for what will happen this Christmas, but up until now the elf has been a big hit.
It has been a huge surprise to me that 1) she still believes in our elf "Timmy" and has rationalized away all explanations for him not being real (e.g. he looks like a doll because Santa made him to look just like a doll") and
2) there is this unintended consequence that she and her little sister actually improve their behavior, and consider the possible consequences of bad behavior.
Now I have to tell you, I've got friends who have the Elf on the Shelf and it's not so effective. To achieve this level of magical sweetness, my husband and I make a real effort. (but SO worth it!) We read the book on Thanksgiving night. "Timmy" comes the next day (the day after Thanksgiving), and every night when they are asleep, we move him to a different place in the house, usually in our Great Room, which comprises our kitchen/dining/fireplace-Christmas tree room. Timmy is always out of reach, above the cupboards, in the Christmas tree, on a window ledge, hanging off the fan, perched on a wall clock, or in the fireplace. Timmy stays until Christmas Eve, when he disappears to help Santa with his job, and goes back with Santa to the North Pole until next year's post-Thanksgiving.
Ok my kids are so into it: they've written books and drawn pictures about Timmy, and they sometimes even go up and talk to him (which provides very helpful information for us parents)
So I highly recommend the Elf on the Shelf. It's really a pure and sweet childhood tradition.
Monica
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2008
I have a five-year-old daughter and thought this would be a great tradition to start in our home. Last night we read the book for the first time, and the elf magically "appeared" this morning. Bad idea. Apparently I should have let her see the elf in the box first because when she came down stairs and saw him sitting on top of the TV, she let out an ear-piercing scream and literally jumped a foot off the ground and wrapped herself around me. I didn't want to pick the elf up and show it to her because according to the book, if you touch him, it will take away his magical powers. And in the event that she calmed down, I didn't want her to think the elf wasn't magical anymore. So, while she was cowering in her bedroom, the elf was "shooed away with a stick". Needless to say, I was late to work this morning, and I'm waiting to get a call from preschool asking me why my daughter is talking about an elf in our living room that is alive that got spanked with a stick.

It's a very cute and clever idea, I just wish I would have introduced the elf prior to him making his grand entrance. The elf is going to write her a letter today and hopefully smooth things over. Wish me luck!
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36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2010
My sister and I had an elf growing up who reported back to Santa on our behavior leading up to Xmas, and I wanted to do that whole shindig for my son. This kit is great because it comes with the elf that works for Santa, plus a book to explain the mechanism of how the elf system works (don't touch the elf or he loses his magic, the elf can listen but not talk back (Santa's law), the elf flies to the North Pole each night to speak with Santa and comes home to a new spot each time so that your kid gets to look for him each morning). You also get to name and register your elf--my kid picked Larry. This is one of my favorite childhood memories, so I like that we can institute it with our own son. It's a nice tradition, if you're into the whole Santa thing, and this book takes the guess work out of the back story that you need to come up with to convince your kid.
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41 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2014
We had the Elf on the Shelf for about 2 weeks this holiday season and one day out of the blue he never showed up and all of my wife's diamonds and underwear were missing. Do not under any circumstance let this criminal trickster in to your house or you will be sorry.
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187 of 244 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2011
Let me begin by admitting that I was a bit reluctant to let one of Santa's helpers into our home with the task of surveilling my five year old daughter. Would his fear-driven monitoring technologies and reports (he uploads data to the Fat Man every night) serve as a carrot or a stick to our kindergartener? Are these the kind of values we want to impart? We pulled the trigger and Larry began his stint as the eyes and ears of Santa two weeks ago.

Everything was going well... or so it seemed. Our daughter said goodnight to Larry each evening and then my wife and I moved him according to the supplied instructions. His new vantage point in the house allowed him to "get the goods" on our daughter every day until she worked out his new location and could adjust her behavior accordingly, so as to improve her chances of scoring big on Christmas.

And then it happened. Larry was out "shopping" one night (he generally stays out late) and I came across his laptop and Excel spreadsheet detailing my daughter's behavior. The workbook was open to the "naughty" tab and his notes covered everything from "not washing after wiping" to "picking one's nose" to "breaking wind in mixed company." Seriously? Who needs this kind of oversight? I knew it was time to bring the elf down a peg. I bided my time.

The opportunity presented itself last weekend at poker night. Four of my buddies and I gathered around our humble table to trade chips over a few hands of Texas Hold 'Em. Larry watched intently for a while before announcing that he wanted to "sit in for a few hands." Suffice it to say that Larry has no poker face whatsoever. Elves may also be color blind (not sure he can count either) and things quickly went from bad to worse for the poor little guy. By the end of the night, he was into me and my buddies for Two Large. "I wonder what Santa would think about all this?" I asked him pointedly.

Long story short, the reports on my daughter back to Santa have improved dramatically, and Larry has started down the long road of working off his debt by Christmas. I hope you can share the excitement of fabricating new chores each day for your own elf. We use an advent calendar to track the compound interest and keep things simple. Big fat five stars for this product!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2014
Sorry elf fans. I just don;t like this. The book is patronizing and at times I felt downright nasty. THe implication is that your child is badly behaved and the tone is pretty threatening. I forget the words but there was one page in particular that was the nail in the coffin for me. Christmas is meant to be fun! I expected this to be a sweet, entertaining story- I'm a preschool teacher and mum of to, of course I have used 'Santa is watching....' as gentle nudge from time to time, but this takes it to another level. Even my husband agreed with me and he is generally more 'tough love' than I. I will add that the lf itself is very poorly made. This has been returned and we are having fun with a toy elf we bought from the toy store who is much friendlier!
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