Parenting Question

When should I start elf on the shelf? Is Klara too young? My fear is that I won’t be able to explain the not touching him and not dragging him everywhere with her part at this age. (Or her, rather. Because she doesn’t accept the idea of male toys at this point.)

Has anybody done it and what are your suggestions?

We did the switch witch this year, and it went great. We’d started playing the switch witch in August, so by Halloween she was perfectly ready for her.

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16 thoughts on “Parenting Question”

  1. I started this year—my girls are 6 and 3. My 6 year old is very excited and had already heard about the rules from classmates. My 3 year old is less enthusiastic but does understand the concept. I’d say either this year or next. Btw, you can buy a girl elf.

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    1. “a quick internet search ”

      You neglected to ask the grandfather of all knowledge: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Elf_on_the_Shelf

      I read it as an attempt to create another secular tradition that all can participate in around Christmas (since secularization is a major component of the American Christmas tradition). The trend in recent decades has been fragmentation into smaller and smaller groups rather than a collective celebration.

      Personally, I’d massage the message a bit. The elf isn’t spying on the kid (creepy, I’d hate that as a kid) the elf just really digs being around the kid and can’t wait to get back to the North Pole each night and tell Santa how awesome they are (I’m much more into positive reinforcement).

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  2. Nobody I knew did elf on the shelf growing up, and I’m not that old. I’m not sure if that elf on the shelf book invented a tradition or merely popularized it.

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  3. It’s a Christmas tradition that originated in 2005, during the height of the Bush years and the middle/beginning of the Iraq War. The color coded Homeland Security Advisory system was in effect. Memories!

    I think it’s a great way to normalize the constant surveillance which is part of our cultural moment and to remind Klara that everyone is a narc, even friendly gift giving elves and that Alexa speaker. Enjoy moving that elf around on a shelf or around the house when she isn’t looking!

    Of course, this is part of the air everyone breathes now so all of this is just normal to her. :-)))

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    1. I really love how your brain works, Shakti. For real. This is a very profound perspective. Of course, now you killed the experience for me but I still prefer a profound interpretation.

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  4. It’s not obligatory. It didn’t become A Thing until my girls were a little too old for it, but I don’t think I would have done it. Partly because of the creepy “promoting complicity with the surveillance state” thing, but mostly because it’s another damn thing to do at a time of year when there’s already plenty of sources of added activity. Embrace your consumerist agency, Clarissa! If you find the creativity and whimsy to be a fun addition to your holiday rituals, go for it. If not, channel that time and energy into something holiday-related that you find meaningful.

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    1. “Embrace your consumerist agency, Clarissa!”

      Not a sentence I would think of using with out hostess…. she has many virtues, but consumer self-control doesn’t seem to be one of them….

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    2. This is how I feel – I don’t want something that should be fun to become a stressful chore (I know various families where this has happened with Elf on the Shelf), and I don’t like the whole “spying on the child” schtick. We haven’t done it with our kids yet (5 and 3) and they haven’t asked about it, but maybe it’ll happen one day. Gosh, I sound Grinchy in this comment! I love Christmas and traditions but I don’t want to feel forced into one.

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    3. I’m with those who think the Elf on a Shelf is creepy because of the spying. I don’t have children, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t do that if I did.

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      1. My sister does the elf and the spying is definitely not part of it. The point is that the elf appears in unexpected places and it’s fun to try to guess where it will show up each day. Her kid just turned 9 but they are still doing the elf because it’s so much fun.

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  5. Definitely an American thing, never heard of it in the UK, where elves are usually armed and far from benign (See Lord of the Rings) and certainly nothing to do with Christmas – which never begins until 1 December when we put up our Advent calendars and open door number one to find a dear little (and deeply disappointing) picture of a snowy bunny.

    Whoops, showing my age! Obviously I meant, open door one to find either a small ‘chocolate’ bunny made entirely from palm oil and artificial chocolate flavouring, or a bottle of Huda Beauty Liquid Matte Material Girl- depending whether you bought said Advent calendar in Asda or Harrods.

    Oh, to be young enough to once again be impressed by any of this stuff! I’m old enough to be able to afford it, yet so old that I can’t succumb to cynical commercial pressures to buy more seasonal tat. I can out cynic the lot of them!

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