One of the popular items that we could not keep on the shelves at the bookstore is the Elf on a Shelf set. It's a book and toy combination that parents and grandparents just adore. The idea, the book explains, is that the enclosed doll is an elf sent by Santa to watch your child and monitor their good behavior. Every night as the children sleep, the elves all hurry back to the North Pole to report on levels of naughty and niceness. Before the sun rises, they return to the home to continue their vigilant watch.
Every day, the parent moves the doll into a new position for the child to find. If the doll is located, great! Feel free to share your hopes, fears, and desires for Christmas presents to the elf, who will dutifully report back to Santa. But the child mustn't touch - if they try to move the doll, the Christmas magic will be broken and Santa will not visit the house.
I find this toy unbelievably creepy. The doll itself looks like a doll that would come to life when the lights go out - because it wants to slit your throat or steal your eyeballs! That face is scary! The grandparents who buy these toys gush about how the twee little face reminds them of the dolls they had as children, so precious and beloved. That's nice, but there's a reason we no longer make dolls like the ones you once played with! Old dolls are creepy. I'm sorry. It's just a fact.
Even if I found dolls cuddly and cute, I'd still object to the Elf on the Shelf because the whole idea is just weird. I know we tell children that Santa's always watching, but having an actual avatar of his omnipresent eye is like having a security camera constantly trained on your child. It's excessive. And telling kids that Christmas will be ruined if they touch the doll? Man, that's just mean.
Don't get this toy for your children. It's a terrible idea and a hideous troll of a doll. If you must spread the Santa lie to the next generation, stick with letters and visits to the old man at the mall.