7 Reasons Why I Don’t Like the Elf on the Shelf


Ah, the Elf on the Shelf. If you are perchance unfamiliar with this Christmas tradition (I didn’t know anything about it till Christmastime last year), an elf doll is placed throughout the home doing precocious things whilst spying on the children’s behavior to report back to Santa. Well, I don’t like him. I don’t like him at all. Here’s why.

  1. He’s ugly. I mean, he’s just ugly. He’s got an unnatural facial expression, he’s out of proportion, dangly, has overly pudgy cheeks, scarily buggy eyes, his feet have been lopped off at the ankle, and, well, he’s just gross to look at, okay? Oh and he totally doesn’t even have pointy ears!
  2. He’s creepy. I’d whip out a shotgun or a kitchen knife or something if I was a kid and saw this thing somewhere in my house. It’s up there with the Shutterbug on Special Agent Oso. That’s breaking and entering, man, and that’s not cool! I’d kill it! I don’t know if this would be my children’s reaction to it, but it sure would have been mine as a kid.
  3. He’s expensive. This thing costs like $30! I could DIY one with an empty toilet paper roll, a couple sheets of construction paper, a few markers, some felt, and glue for $2. And he’d have feet. And non-creepy eyes. AND POINTY EARS. $30–I don’t think so!
  4. Elves should be cool. One of my all-time favorite books is Lord of the Rings. Ah, Legolas (in the book, not the movie)! Elves should be tall, agile, wise, and kick-butt awesome at archery. Not pint-sized, creepy, and snoopy.
  5. He reinforces Santa. Some of you might remember my post from last year about why I won’t teach my kiddos to believe in Santa (I’m teaching them about Santa, just not to believe in the modern version of him). So I dislike the elf because I don’t want to reinforce Santa and I don’t want to lie to my children. Even if it does help in some small way to eliminate the omni-presence of Santa.
  6. He misdirects wonderment. Just like Santa, the Elf on the Shelf misdirects the wonderment of Christmas. Christmas should be a time to be in awe about how Jesus came down to earth, lived a sinless life, died to save us from our sins, rose from the dead, and is coming back some day. God and Jesus are really, really cool! Way more awesome than Santa or the Elf on the Shelf.
  7. He’s high maintenance. From the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas. Every day, he must be moved and staged. While you’re in the midst of all the other hustle and bustle of Christmas (you know, cards, shopping, decorating, planning parties, cooking or baking for parties, baking in general, visiting people, etc.). Not doing the elf is just one less thing to stress about around Christmastime (not to say it’s necessarily a burden to everyone, of course).

What I DO like about the Elf on the Shelf is the creativity and the fun behind it. If I did the Elf on the Shelf thing, I’d probably be one of those annoying parents that did really neat things with him and make all the lazy or uncreative parents jealous. But I just don’t stand for what’s behind the idea.

Now, what I may do one day is get some kind of toy, stage it somewhere in the house doing something silly (not necessarily at Christmastime), and let my kids discover it. But I’d make sure they knew it was me doing it, not that the toy magically came to life. I’d make it a game. I’d let them stage the toy, too, so that my hubby and/or I could find it. This would be just as fun, maybe even more creative (because they’d be in on it, too), completely honest, and have no ulterior motives behind it.

Another idea I really like and would love to do when my kiddos are a little older is this one, where the elves (hers are actually cute, not creepy, and they have feet) suggest doing acts of kindness and encourage giving for nothing in return.

Now, let me proceed to say that once again, I am not a Nazi. If you or someone you know does the Elf on the Shelf thing, awesome. I’ll enjoy hearing about the creative ways you’ve staged him (in fact, I’d love to hear it, that part is really fun to me!). And I will always respect the decisions that other parents make for their children (even the Elf on the Shelf or Santa).

What do you think about the Elf on the Shelf?



Editor/Contributor at Measuring Flower
TJ is a former chef with a Bachelor of Science degree in writing turned stay-at-home wife to a loving, hard-working husband and mom to two very active, adorable little boys.




    • 2


      Hi, Amy! :-D We do the advent calendar, but I just fill all the windows with chocolate like the day before December 1st and that’s it. They take one chocolate per day. So how we do it, it’s very low maintenance I guess, lol.

  1. 3

    Brittany Thomas says

    My feelings are exactly the same as yours! Another alternative is the “wandering wisenen” which is three wisenen searching for the baby Jesus. Or one that my friend is doing is Camel on the Countertop which had the camel doing something (and teaching the kids) to learn about Jesus. I’m really liking that idea

  2. 4

    Jackie says

    I have a friend who does this with her daughter. A friend posts the pics of where she puts the elf.. I did not know this was a tradition for many people until I read your post. I have been so creeped out by it and have commented on how I if I was a kid wouldn’t be able to sleep knowing that creepy doll was in the other room! Now it makes sense to me. I still wouldn’t share this tradition…..

  3. 5

    abedabun dawn says

    I had never heard of the little elf until a few weeks ago. I feel the same as you. When my son was small, we (of course you have to discuss Santa at some point, and you do not want your children to think you are a liar) told our son the “real” Santa story and that Mom and Dad are the ones who buy the gifts that are under the tree. Some of my friends did not like us being honest with our child because they were afraid he would “tell” the truth to their child. LOL! Chirstmas is NOT Santa. Its about something much more important. People seem to forget that.

  4. 6

    Margot C says

    Just a niggling semantic note; the “Elf on the Shelf” is not a ‘tradition’ – it is a marketing campaign for a product and that is all it is.

    One fascinating proof of this is the ongoing battle the Elf on the Shelf Wikipedia page. When anyone edits to point out that you can’t create a “tradition” in four years of TV marketing the proprietors of the toy swoop in and edit it back out. It goes on and on and is amusing if you are interested in Wiki wars. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Elf_on_the_Shelf

    My initial reaction to this particular marketing gambit was much like yours and can be summed up as ‘Ewww, what a creepy concept. Kids will be over supervised and monitored adults soon enough without Santa sending ‘spies’ into their bedrooms in childhood. George Orwell would shudder along with me I am sure.

    Now the idea of toys animating themselves is not in and of itself creepy but is actually fun and pretty much an integral part of all children’s fantasy life. The ‘Toy Story” films obviously mine this theme but there are many other instances; the most ‘traditional’ if you will being the story of Pinocchio.

    I adore these charming parents who work deep into the night to stage vignettes with their kids’ plastic dinosaurs: https://www.facebook.com/dinovember/photos_stream and I don’t think it would take too much effort for an intuitive parent to do something like that with any toy that they chose and hold the spying part of the narrative all together ::sheesh:: Plus there would be absolutely no need to do this during the already overstimulating Christmas season but maybe save it for summer when nights are long and the imaginations might benefit from a creative nudge.

    To the ‘Elf on the Shelf’ and his marketing elves I say ‘Bah, Humbug!”

  5. 9


    I agree 100%! I think he’s creepy, and it seems like one more to-do item around Christmas. I do love the idea of staging toys (like the parents with the dinosaurs). I’m going to share your post because I agree so much!

    • 10

      Margot C says

      Me too, (re the dinosaur parents – who I might add did not feel compelled to make a corporation out of their idea and just had fun with it); I can remember as a kid setting up my dolls and sort of telling myself that they were doing things when I wasn’t looking.

  6. 11


    I am not a fan of the elf on the shelf either…I find it creepy and there are sooooo many posts about it, that it’s overdone. My daughter is still young and I haven’t quite decided what I’m going to tell her about Santa. While the holiday has no religious meaning to me, I do consider it a time of year to celebrate family, friends and giving. Great post!
    Sarah @ Living As We recently posted..7 Things Becoming a Single Mom Has Taught MeMy Profile

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