With just a few weeks before Christmas, parents still have time to test out some of these clever Elf on the Shelf hideouts. At this point you’re probably feeling a bit like this about Elf on the Shelf:
Around the holiday season, the Elf on the Shelf is the delight of every child’s existence — and the bane for every parent.
Tis the season to be jolly — and to scour the Internet searching for new ideas on where to hide that mischievous lsittle rascal,tou whpile silently cursing him under your breath.
For those who don’t have young children, this holiday tradition comes from a massively popular children’s book, first published in 2005. According to the story, every year Santa sends an elf to watch over children, in order to keep track of who’s being naughty and who’s being nice.
Each book comes with its very own elf doll, which children are supposed to name. Every morning, parents hide the elf somewhere in the house, and encourage their children to seek out Santa’s little helper. The book instructs children never to touch the elf, as that will supposedly make the elf’s magic disappear.
It’s all in good fun, except some parents definitely take the prank a bit too far. Any cursory search for “Elf on the Shelf” on Instagram will bring up images of elaborate set-ups constructed by over-achieving parents with way too much time on their hands. Some parents have even gone through the trouble of creating social media accounts for their elves and then keeping track of their “adventures.”
For example, one mom has made a name for herself by inserting the elf into historical setups meant to teach her kids about history. This included creating an Abraham Lincoln elf —
— and a Nelson Mandela elf.
Another parent went through the trouble of freezing her elf, in honor of the ever-popular Disney flick “Frozen.” Judging by the photo below, it looks like, at the very least, the parent thought ahead and wrapped the elf in plastic, in order to not completely destroy it.
— jessaca chelette (@chelettesdecor) December 7, 2015
However, not even the most dedicated parenting overachievers could top the Massachusetts police department that published a wanted person ad for the elf this year.
Adults have also been known to become a bit too obsessed with photographing their elf in less child-friendly situations. These often involve setting up the elf next to bottles of booze and pills, and other scenarios that aren’t SFW. There are even some to claim to love the elf, even though they don’t have kids themselves.
Teachers have also been known to incorporate the Elf on the Shelf story in their classrooms. This isn’t limited to figuring out new, creative ways to hide the elf — there are plenty of lesson plans and worksheets available on the Internet, meant to make the elf experience part of everyday learning. Teachers are probably also very appreciative of the elf’s power to get the more rowdy students to behave themselves this time of year.
However, not everyone thinks the Elf on the Shelf is harmless fun. The huge range of elf photos shared on social media this time of year is always inevitably accompanied by a slew of think-pieces bemoaning the whole elf phenomenon. Some have called Elf on the Shelf a tactic that makes up busy moms feel bad about themselves, once they see they can’t keep up with the madness on Instagram. The implication seems to be that if you’re a mom who only hides the elf in boring places like a shelf or a sock drawer, then you’re letting your children down. Given the intricate poses that some moms invent for their elf — and then relentlessly share on Pinterest — it’s no wonder that some parents feel as though they are being pressured to take on another challenging task during the busiest time of the year.
Other critics have said that the elf — who, according to the story, is always “watching” the children and tracking the behavior — is a metaphor for living in a police state. “‘The Elf on the Shelf’ is just another nannycam in a nanny state obsessed with penal codes,” a writer for The Washington Post complained in an article published in 2011. A university professor even published a paper studying the elf phenomenon, and argued that the elf is implicitly teaching children that constant surveillance is acceptable.
Then you have those critics who argue that this holiday tradition may actually be bad for children. At the end of the day, the Elf on the Shelf is about parents lying to children (much like that whole Santa Claus thing). “The fun you have tricking your children into believing something false is not a noble cause,” writes Dr. David Kyle Johnson for Pyschology Today. “Don’t fool yourself – you’re not saving any lives.” Other critics have said the elf is a poor tool for teaching children how to motivate themselves to behave properly. Children aren’t encouraged to be “nice” because it’s the right thing to do — they’re encouraged to be “nice” because Santa is watching via the elf, and naughty children won’t get any presents. As one child psychologist pointed out to Yahoo Parenting, it’s not just about teaching kids to avoid naughty behavior — ultimately, parents should want their children to do nice things for others without expecting a reward in reward.
Others have bemoaned the fact that the Elf on the Shelf is just a big marketing ploy. The authors of the book, Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell, have turned the Elf into a massive brand. CBS turned the tale into a 30-minute movie, while a Jewish version of the book (the Mensch on the Bench, if you must know) has also been released, with a focus on Hanukkah traditions. Elf dolls are also available in a range of skin tones, which is a welcome nod to diversity. However, this is not a cheap product — special edition elves are sold for as much as $50.
In any case, for all the Elf on the Shelf haters out there, there’s thousands of fans who are having fun with it. Maybe these are the same people who start wearing Christmas sweaters the week before Thanksgiving, but who are we to judge? Haters gonna hate, and elf-lovers are going to say that this is a harmless way of adding to Christmas excitement in the household. Although it also seems like at this point, the Elf phenomenon isn’t so much about making kids happy — it’s become another way for parents to seek attention and out-do one another on social media.
For those looking to prank their kids, here are 38 of some of the most creative — and sometimes just plain bizarre — set-ups for the Elf, very few of which actually involve a shelf.
1. Elves trapped in jars, cups, bottles
To make it especially distressing, slip a note in there alongside the elf. Remember, kids aren’t allowed to touch the elf or the magic will disappear, so this is a surefire way to test your child’s distress tolerance.
2. Screensaver or desktop image elf
This has the advantage of being relatively straightforward and easy to do. But if you’re an Elf-on-the-Shelf-type parent, you’re not doing this because it’s EASY, right?
3. Superhero elf
Also applicable to your child’s favorite character in the Marvel Universe. We recommend Hulk, because he’s a merry shade of Christmas green.
4. The photocopying elf
Why would the elf be photocopying himself, you might ask? Chalk it up to another existential day full of ennui and mindless tasks in the office.
5. Basketball elf How about taping the elf to a basketball hoop? This concept can also be applied to hockey and soccer-loving elves.
Elf’s got game, what can I say. #elfontheshelfideas #basketball #nba #baller #gotgame #elfontheshelf2015 #elfontheshelf #elf #basketballneverstops #ballislife #christmas2015 A photo posted by Molly (@just_a_little_creativity) on
6. Cat elf
Of course there’s a way to make the house pets suffer along with you during this most wonderful time of the year.
7. Candy cane trapeze elf
Just look at that expression of joy on that child’s face. It almost makes it all worth it, doesn’t it? No. No, it doesn’t.
8. Pooping elf
They poop candy canes! Don’t use Hershey chocolates for this particular set-up, that’s just gross. Be creative, not nasty.
9. Balloon elf
Don’t worry, there’s tons of parenting message boards and Facebook groups discussing different techniques for getting the elf inside the balloon. Apparently, there’s a fine art to it.
10. Wrapping paper elf
Wrap household objects in gift paper and blame it on an overenthusiastic elf.
11. Le chef elf
Place the chef next to a plate of food and the kids will be sure to believe that the little guy cooked it up himself.
12. Christmas ornament elf
Don’t forget, this is all about celebrating Christmas. And peace on earth and goodwill to men. Or something.
13. Karaoke elf
Don’t be boring and pick a holiday tune. Wouldn’t the elf prefer to belt out some Beastie Boys?
14. Artistic elf
This also gives the parent an excuse to spend a few hours cutting out elaborate paper snowflakes, which of course everyone loves to do.
15. Toilet paper elf
Simple, yet effective. It’s safe to say that anything remotely related to toilet humor is going to blow a five-year-old’s mind.
16. Snow angel elf
According to the tradition, children aren’t allowed to touch the elf, but surely parents are allowed to make them clean up elf-related messes, right?
17. Jesus elf
Not for those who are easily offended.
18. Martini elf
Maybe Santa and the elves are also fans of “Mad Men?”
19. Decapitated elf
Just blame it on the dogs.
20. Depressed elf
Somebody get this little guy some Prozac, and fast.
21. Star Wars elf
As if you need another way to acknowledge and then celebrate the release of the new “Star Wars” movie.
22. Silence of the Lambs elf
If “Star Wars” isn’t your thing….
23. Player elf
Just wait until he finds out that Barbie isn’t a single lady.
24. Despicable Me elf
Technically, you can still eat those bananas even after drawing all over them with permanent marker.
25. Downward facing dog yoga elf
Even an elf needs to stretch it out every now and again.
26. Spoon elf
Send your kid to get a spoon for his cereal and give him the surprise of his life.
27. Adele elf
The British diva isn’t the only one who can appreciate the value of a good old-fashioned flip phone.
28. Sadistic elf
Actually, there’s a fair number of scenarios you could dream up involving the elf and a Chuckie doll. And none of them are appropriate for sensitive souls.
29. Work-out elf
The elves always seem to be photographed working out with marshmallows, which makes us think that Santa’s helpers have some ways to go before getting well and truly ripped.
30. Glutton elf
Someone’s gotta eat that holiday candy before Mommy does.
31. Make-up tutorial elf
If only we could get official word on what mascara brands the elf recommends for those baby blue eyes of his.
32. Gone fishing elf
This set-up could work just as well with an aquarium, but as long as we’re dealing with small children here, why not just use the toilet? Kids and toilet humour, it’s a match made in heaven.
33. Piano elf
Make it that much harder for your child to practice his scales!
34. Reader elf
Obviously, all the toys in the nursery are enthralled when hearing the elf’s origin story, year after year.
35. Vending machine elf
Extra points to you if you figure out to get this set-up to work.
36. The elf that kids ARE allowed to touch
According to this household, if your child wears gloves while touching the elf, the magic doesn’t go away. Who are these people? Everyone knows magic doesn’t work like that.
37. Candy message elf
This one also counts as an educational activity because kids get to practice reading. And then they get to eat a ton of candy.
38. Classic elf
Last but not least, keep your elf classic this Christmas, and keep him as a stocking stuffer.