‘Tis the season, and Elf On The Shelf is back for more fun! Some parents adore the concept and cannot wait to move that little elf around the house every night, and others mock him and his expanding merchandising. Now that he is getting kids to write and draw, and parents will be able to save the heartfelt message as an ornament, I’m in with the Elf! Not familiar with the Elf story? Read Elf on the Shelf Controversy: Let’s Try Positive Gossiping to Santa. Used as an encouragement and not a punishment or a threat, I am OK with this holiday tradition.
You use the paper and materials in the kit to write and bake-off a letter into an ornament that the elf “shows” to Santa on his nightly trip, and then he “returns” it to your tree. The kit includes a storybook, materials to write, bake and hang your ornament.
As a pediatric occupational therapist, I wanted to share a few ideas that could make this more fun and a bit less stressful for children that struggle with handwriting, learning and attention issues:
- The set includes 8 special sheets of paper that will get baked off in the oven to create an ornament, but I would encourage everyone to have their child refine their message and practice writing/drawing the note on regular paper before putting it on the special sheets. Use these sheets as a template so that your child is aware that they can’t write more than a few lines at most. There is no way to erase on the special sheets, and although some errors are charming, a child can be heartbroken if they think that they are sending a messy message.
- I would encourage parents to consider copying the message so that kids have a sample to copy, rather than free writing. Copying is an easier task in the developmental progression of handwriting, and reduces the stress for success on kids. Nobody needs stress when making a special request to Old Saint Nick.
- Younger kids, or kids with strong fears of failure or anxiety in general can draw or decorate a parent’s writing. As long as they are involved, I don’t think it has to be all or nothing. Many of my most avoidant clients get excited when I tell them that they just have to draw a sun (circle with rays) or some grass (short vertical lines that start at the top and descend to a baseline) to a picutre that I am drawing, and I will take care of all the hard stuff. Sometimes they even decide that they want to draw much more than they were planning to contribute.
- Encourage your child to make the letters and designs a bit large, since they will shrink with the baking process. Most young children cannot comprehend this step and will assume that the finished product will come out of the oven the same size that it was when it went in. Tiny details may not be visible, tiny letters may be illegible. Make a sample if possible for children that need proof of everything before they believe you.
- If you know that your child may be impulsive or has such significant struggles with design, handwriting, or decision-making that you will need more than 8 sheets to create one final project, buy two kits. The holidays are challenging enough without a fun activity ending without even one finished ornament. If things go well and you don’t need the extra box, you have something that can be a wonderful gift for another family this season!
If you use this kit with your child this Christmas season, please write a comment and let my readers know how it worked out for you!