Is the Elf on the Shelf taking away from the true meaning of Christmas this season?
Some would say yes, including writer Hannah Bird who sums up The Elf on the Shelf as “a super labor-intensive holiday tradition that teaches your children incorrect principles about how life works and how they should behave while normalizing super-creepy behavior and making the focus of Christmas as convoluted and worldly as possible so that I can sell you a book and a doll” (see “Why There is No Elf on My Shelf” ).
However, I think that The Elf on the Shelf speaks to a much larger issue facing parents today. How do we have fun with our kids? A few weeks ago, Dinovember went viral. The Tuma parents devote the entire month of November each year to convincing their children that, while they are sleeping, their toy dinosaurs come back to life and wreak havoc around the house – similar to The Elf on the Shelf. The Tumas answer to why they do this? “…in the age of iPads and Netflix, we don’t want our kids to lose their sense of wonder and imagination. In a time when the answers to all the world’s questions are a web-search away, we want our kids to experience a little mystery. All it takes is some time and energy, creativity, and a few plastic dinosaurs.”
Many parents are searching for ways to connect with their children. Not every parent has the creative spark that the Tumas had, thus the excitement over Dinovember and the sharing of the Tumas’ photos captioned “Best parents EVER!”. The Elf on the Shelf is merely providing a creative stimulus, much like a journal prompt, for parents to play with their children, creating a close bond. I think what parents are really asking is “How can we play together and bond as parents and children?”
Perhaps in the past, this wasn’t even a question. What has changed?
Parents used to spend a lot of time outside playing with their kids. Watering-hose fights and made up ballgames in the backyard were broken up by camping and beach vacations where we played in the sand and the water. We went sledding, caught snowflakes on our tongues, and built snowmen and forts outside in the winter – not just after the first snowstorm – after every storm. We caught insects and kept them in bug jars and watched what happened and played in massive piles of freshly raked leaves.
Parents today need to remember the importance of time spent playing with your child, no matter how silly or time consuming it may seem (when you spend all that time raking the leaves and playing in them means you will just have to do it all again)! We need to play together to bond as a family. Putting down the iPad and laptop, turning off the TV, and stepping away from work is important. The Elf on the Shelf is not the only way to play!
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With questions or for more information on Community of Christ Family and Children’s Ministries – contact Jeri Lauren Lambert at firstname.lastname@example.org