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on December 4, 2010
So, I bought this adorable elf, whom my three precious children named "Buttface" last year at Christmas time. Before Buttface arrived in our home I was at my wits end. My children would write on the walls with markers, crayons and even oil based paints. They would swing from the light fixture above our dining room table until it finally was pulled out of the ceiling. We had been dining by candlelight even since until Joey decided to light little Jimmy's hair on fire one night as they fought over who got the red fork at dinner. We couldn't even have a Christmas tree because Jack would try and climb it, or we would catch Jimmy swinging at it's trunk with his Boy Scouts ax. I didn't blame the dear child of course, he was merely using his vivid imagination to play a game of "Lumberjack". Instead we would have the Christmas Shoe Box for Santa to put the presents in. I don't care what anyone says, it was just as festive as any old tree. Eventually though I realized that my children were not behaving in a socially acceptable way when the FBI showed up at my door because the boys had called in a bomb threat to get out of a spelling test at school. Terribly upset, I consulted my pediatrician and we both agreed that my children's behavioral issues were no fault of my own and that the ONLY solution to my discipline problems was "The Elf on The Shelf".

I brought Buttface out of his box the day after Thanksgiving. For the entire month of December Jimmy, Joey and Jack were perfect angels. Cowering in abject fear over this tiny stuffed doll they behaved as well as the baby Jesus himself. It did make for a few night time bed wetting accidents as they were afraid to get out of bed at night for fear Buttface would be lurking in the hallway. Not once did they bite the dog, cut my hair while I slept or try to hotwire the car. It was a new record in our home. We actually got to have a tree that year and I thought my parenting troubles were over!! Bless you Buttface!

However, on December 26th, giddy with all the loot Santa had bought, which was a lot since they had been so extra good with the help of Buttface, my children knew they were off the hook for the next 11 months! They were back at it again, tipping over our refrigerator, trying to bathe the cat in the dishwasher and scamming old ladies out of their retirement by claiming to be princes from Nigeria in some email scam they had running.

So, in despair, I am asking that there be an elf of this nature to spy on my children and keep them on the straight and narrow year round! I know it would make my life a whole lot easier to know that I had an inanimate object in my house that was keeping my children on the straight and narrow and could take over the parenting duties on a daily basis, not just at Christmas time. Parenting is very hard work and we need all the help we can get. If I don't have a toy such as this to teach my children right from wrong under the guise of spying on them and denying them presents if they behave badly, how will they ever learn?? Please, please, won't somebody think of the children!
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on December 1, 2010
Yes my children loved this, but I thought it was creepy. This sounds like a wonderful idea until you get sick of moving the stupid elf everynight. One night you'll lie awake in bed and remember, damn it, I forgot to move the elf. Then wait until the kids tell their other friends about "their elf" and their friends don't have an elf, and then they call your kid a liar. Year after year until you can't take it anymore and you can't move the thing another 30 days another year and you finally tell them that you are the elf on the shelf and then your kids cry. I'm not making this up.
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on November 18, 2011
This is a tradition that will carry on for generations!

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.

* 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.

* 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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on December 2, 2009
I work in a store that sells 'Elf on the Shelf'.
There is an accompanying video, which has a song:

"Elf on the Shelf is watching you,
what you say and what you do.
Elf on the Shelf is judging you,
each and every Christmas."

Talk about accustoming a child to a moralistic police state! The video is filled with testimonials by children and adults, all of which sound just as canned and paid-off as the majority of those on Amazon.

Who would do this to their child? Only someone with severe control issues, who wishes their children to remain in a state of constant, paranoid pliancy. Big brother for the kiddos.
Do the little ones a favor, and treat them like full human beings with the capacity to learn a balanced approach to right and wrong through trial and error. Not like pets that need to disciplined through fear. They'll grow up to be better people.

(Not to mention, if you have to do this to someone-- I'm assuming you're a sadistic jerk-- then at least spring for a nicer looking elf, and not a cheap piece of plastic like this one).
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on September 30, 2008
The whole Santa/God thing is traumatic enough without having his evil little little spy in the house as well. My brother and I were harassed by this thing as children, we would never have it in the house now. Think about this. It's fun for adults, it's not really that fun for kids.

Update: here's proof we aren't the only ones who think this thing is messed up: [...]
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on December 15, 2011
OK, I think kids have enough pressure from the world without having a fake elf sitting around watching them. I totally disagree with this concept. If you want children to enjoy life, stop with the judging threats and just teach them to be happy and to expect to make mistakes from time to time. That's how we learn what's important in life and what is not....(a "not" exmple would be like not planting fake elves around the house to tattle on kids being kids...)
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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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on November 30, 2017
I bought this product at Bed Bath and Beyond, but it's the same exact thing (just clarifying why I'm not a "Verified Purchase" reviewer for this specific product).

In terms of quality, I have no issues. It's well made, the quality of the book is really good. The illustrations seem like they could use a little more color and a little more skill, but they're fine overall. This book and the box it comes in along with the Elf are made to last few years.

With all that being said, I have a really big concern about the whole idea behind this "tradition." We did it at our house last year, and unfortunately, we're doing it again this year, although I'm trying to figure out now how to get out of it without crashing my daughter's feelings and destroying the trust that she currently has in us.

So you might want to know what my issue with this Elf is.... Well, I have a regular kid at home (to me, she is perfect, but to the outside world she is most likely just a regular kid). She misbehaves sometimes, she doesn't always follow my directions or requests (don't we all hate asking our little people in the house to brush their teeth multiple times just to discover that it was never done?!). She sometimes throws tamper tantrums, but overall, I love her just the way she is. Which is why I keep asking myself, why on earth did I ever lie to her about an Elf who tells on her everyday to Santa?! I read somewhere that it's just lazy parenting, and it really is. It feels like it. I don't like threatening my child. I like teaching her about consequences of her behavior, which is absolutely necessary, but threatening her with a toy who creepily comes alive at night and tells Santa that she was "bad?" That feels just cruel, and stressful to her, which brings me to my second point.

Even though my kid absolutely adores this Elf (she couldn't wait for her to come!), she is also very stressed out about it. I don't ever even say anything to her about the Elf watching or the Elf reporting bad behavior to Santa. I try to give it as little significance as I can, but she still is stressed (she is 6). Ever since the Elf came, she has trouble sleeping through the night. She tries her best to behave well for most of the day, but it's followed by a temper tantrum in the evening, because it's probably emotionally just too difficult to handle to have to be "perfect" all day long. Whether it's because of excitement or stress, or maybe it's just too much stimulation for her imagination (believing that objects come to life at night is a little creepy and unsettling when you think about it). She is not herself, and her sleep (and mine) is interrupted because of that. The home should be a relaxing, safe place; not a place where she is constantly watched and judged by her beloved little Elf.

And then, I already feel bad about lying about Santa. Now I'm lying about the Elf. Will this kid ever trust me when she finds out? Will she think that we lied about other things as well?

For us, adults, the elf is simply a fun toy, but to the kids, he is REAL. And that can be very unsettling for them. Just don't do it to your kid. It's not worth it, it's mean, and as a parent who has done it I can tell you that it doesn't feel good to me to have to lie to my child on daily basis and make her be so excited about something that I know is a one big lie.
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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..

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

* 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.)

* 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

* 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

* "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

* "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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on December 13, 2012
We got this as a gift recently. At first glance it sounded like a good idea, until I read the story.

1. The elf "watches" your kids and then tattletales on them to Santa. Really? We teach our children not to tattletale. I don't like the idea of anything, real or imaginary being a dedicated tattletale.

2. Religion. The elf makes sure you do your prayers. This is a non starter, we are not a religious family, so this book is basically written for Christians, but that seems to be the theme for the whole book.

3. Santa is a bad enough idea (he is not "real" in our family, just a mythical figure for fun, like Frosty). But this elf is a tangible object and he is supposed to fly back to Santa every night and tattletale on your kids. This is insulting my myself and my kids.

This story is basically just a reinforcement of the Santa mythos, "do good or else you get no toys". I teach my kids to do good for good sake and the golden rule. I don't want them to think they have to pretend to be good just for a reward or because some magic person is watching them. 'Be careful the elf, Santa or god(s) are watching you!'is a horrible thing to teach kids.

The best fun we had with the elf was the fact that is is freaky looking and my four year old is scared to death of it in a Chucky sort of way. So we beat it up and play fetch with it with the dog just to make her laugh and not to fear it. After the holiday season I think I will just toss the elf in the garbage and donate the book.

So in short, want to instill fear into your children, buy this product. Otherwise respect their intelligence and invent something new - not just the repackaged Santa story. I'm sure the inventors have made millions on this crap, don't add to it.
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