Elf on the Shelf is not for children

I was filing away old copies of these columns last night when Chloe’s eyes landed on last year’s Elf on the Shelf debate. Across the room I watched her pull the illustrated pages out of the pile and sit down to read them.

I propelled myself across the room, tripping over the chair and stubbing my toe, landing beside her in a panic. “Um, you can’t read that one,” I said. “It’s just for grown-ups.” I was immediately informed that the Elf “is actually for children mummy” accompanied by a great deal of exasperation and eye-rolling.

Nevertheless, I removed the pages, distracted her with something else and so we are safe for another year. I know there will come a time when I have to explain that all these magical characters in her life are a work of fiction, but please not yet. We have almost as much fun with it as the children do.

The Elf on the Shelf is not for everybody. It can give you so much — Christmas fun and the behaviour incentives being key (the Elf reports back to Santa to tell him whether you have been naughty or nice) — but it can also cause a bit of drama.

He is supposed to move every night and it sucks to be the grown-up getting out of bed at 3am because you forgot! Worse is when you forget completely and the children come into your room in the morning looking desolate. The Elf didn’t move! What can it mean? Is he dead? Has Christmas been cancelled?

It also doesn’t help that your most creative of friends will help their elves get up to all sorts of entertaining tricks — climbing inside cereal boxes, taking a bath, getting caught in the act of making a cake. Each to his own, until, the children discuss it all at school. Then comes the pressure. Of course you have the option of delegating this job to your spouse. But when I did this, our elf Chippy was discovered the next morning in among a pile of naked Barbies. Naughty!

Despite the organisational headache, I’m very excited for Chippy’s arrival. Roll on December 1 when the girls’ behaviour improves drastically. It has been the sole topic of conversation over dinner recently which has already done wonders when it comes to mealtime manners. There’s no doubt about it, fun conversation at the table has revolutionised how well our children eat. At the end of the day, when everyone is a bit frazzled, it’s easy for meal time to descend into domestic Armageddon. Regular favourites can be rejected, hungry children can refuse to eat, nobody will try anything new (or if they do, they certainly won’t be ready to like it)…. and so follows the whining and the frustration that drives parents to the brink. But for us, everything changed when we simply started talking more. Not just asking questions, but the right kind of questions — giving our children the opportunity to share and use their imaginations. Of course, dinner time chat can be really simple. A friend of mine uses “what was the best and worst part of your day?” to get her children going and it works like a charm. We have a bowl of silly questions in the middle of the table and everyone takes turns to pick and answer — things like “if you could have a pet dragon or a pet dinosaur, which would you choose?” With Christmas approaching I have prepped a whole load of festive questions using a great cheat-sheet from Creative With Kids.

They have a “Keeping Christmas Cozy” download ($5.99 at http://creativewithkids.com/keeping-christmas-cozy/). The ready-made questions slips make it super-easy and include things like, “What do you think Santa eats for breakfast?”, “What’s one naughty and one nice thing you have done this year?” and “What’s the best present you have ever given someone?” The download also has daily slips you can add into advent calendars that give you craft ideas, suggestions for family time, or help your children think about others. It’s simple stuff like “make paper snowflakes”, “bake a Christmas treat” or “take some pet treats to an animal shelter”.

If you do go with the baking option, whether it’s within this context or not, give this recipe a go! I was told about Nigella’s Christmas Morning Muffins a few years ago and they sounded so delicious I whipped up a gluten- and dairy-free version to accommodate the allergies in our house. I absolutely love baking these because they really do make the house smell like Christmas. I slide in some ground seeds to bump up the protein, fibre and good fats because I always have them around, but those are optional as they are a more costly ingredient. If you do skip them, just use an extra ounce of one of the flours instead. I also use the Eden organic dried cranberries (Supermart, MarketPlace) which are sweetened with apple juice rather than sugar, but you could use any brand.

Christmas morning muffins (gluten- and dairy-free)

Ingredients (makes approximately 30 mini-muffins):

5oz almond flour or ground almonds

3oz brown rice flour

1oz linwoods ground seed mix (from Miles — I used the ground sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, flax and goji mix)

2½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

4oz Sucanet or brown sugar (plus extra for the topping)

4oz (weight) apple sauce (unsweetened)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

2 clementines/satsumas

Approx 350ml milk (I used Hemp, you could use any — obviously use dairy-free if need be)

¼ cup melted coconut oil

2 eggs

4oz dried cranberries


1. Get the eggs and “milk” to room temperature. Melt the oil in a small pan over a very low heat if yours isn’t already liquid.

2. Preheat the oven to 390F. Line the pan with muffin liners and spray lightly with coconut (or other) oil.

3. Mix the flours, seed mix, baking powder, bicarb soda, sucanet, cinnamon and nutmeg into a large bowl. Stir in the dried cranberries.

4. Zest the two satsumas over the flour mix, catching as much as you can.

5. In a large measuring jug, squeeze in the juice of the two satsumas. Now top this up with your milk until the 200ml mark. Whisk in the melted coconut oil, apple sauce and eggs. Make sure everything is at room temperature otherwise the coconut oil will harden. Whisk quickly!

6. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well but lightly.

7. Spoon into muffin cases and sprinkle the tops with a little sucanet.

8. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes (seems a long time but they will need it) or until the tops are firm but springy.

9. Cool for five minutes in the pan and then move to a rack to cool.

The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns BA Hons, Dip ION is the managing director of Natural Ltd and a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a registered dietitian. For details, please go to www.natural.bm or call 236-7511. Join Catherine on Facebook: www.facebook.com/nutrifitandnaturalnutritionbermuda

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Published Nov 28, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 28, 2014 at 1:48 am)

Elf on the Shelf is not for children

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