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How To Do Elf On A Shelf, For Free

Northern Cardinal - bird (Cardinalis cardinalis)

Is this The Watch Bird? Maybe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last year, someone told me about Elf On A Shelf. Elf On A Shelf is a way to milk a little more good behavior out of young children around Christmas.

The way this works is that you buy an elf doll and put it in your house. You tell your little one that the elf works for Santa and is in the house to see who is being naughty or nice. The elf supposedly goes to the North Pole to report to Santa every night, so you’ve got to move him while your children sleep.

Theoretically, with this elf watching what goes on in their home, kids won’t chance being caught misbehaving.

Eurasian Eagle Owl. Français : Hibou grand-duc...

Is this The Watch Bird? Maybe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This elf business has become a business. Elf dolls, books and assorted other paraphernalia are sold to support this “tradition”.

You know what isn’t really for sale? Tradition. Tradition happens, tradition develops. Tradition doesn’t come with a receipt.

In the spirit of the holidays and of tradition not being for sale, I am going to give you something. This is something my parents used to great effect with my brother and me. When my son was young, I used it too. If you’re thinking about buying Elf On A Shelf, put your money back in your pocket. I’m giving you the gift of The Watch Bird.

He’s A Bird Who Watches

The Watch Bird arrives as the Christmas holiday season starts building. Both The Watch Bird and the Elf report back to Santa on who is naughty and nice. So what’s the difference?

Spot billed pelican

Is this The Watch Bird? Maybe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Elf On The Shelf costs between $12 and $29. The Watch Bird is free. No props or storybook to buy. All it takes is a parent who “hears” The Watch Bird outside.

No one ever really sees The Bird; he lives outside and peeks through the window to see what’s going on in your home. When your little ones are playing nicely you might say “did you hear that? I think it was The Watch Bird. He probably saw you sharing your toys.” Good behavior, reinforced.

Things aren’t always smooth with children at the holidays. There’s a lot of excitement and sometimes arguments erupt between siblings. Saying something simple like “did you hear that tap at the window? Oh I hope that wasn’t The Watch Bird”  ends most arguments.

And Elf On The Shelf, by its very name, implies that the elf must be physically present to work. Who wants to tote an elf doll to restaurants, shopping and to holiday parties? If the elf gets lost in all that moving around, how do you explain that?

The Watch Bird is a bird. He can go anywhere, at anytime. He can’t get lost and he’s always on the job.

Watch Bird Frequently Asked Questions

What does The Watch Bird look like?

I don’t know. It’s a secret. There are probably millions of them. The Watch Bird probably looks a lot different in Saskatoon than he does in Key West.

How do we know he’s here?

He’s quiet, so you don’t know he’s coming. Sometimes you might hear him accidentally tap the window or bump against the house. The watch bird might be one of that flock outside your window. Don’t lock yourself in to a species. All you know about The Watch Bird is that it is a bird. Oh, and he watches and reports to Santa.

What if there’s not a sound that we can say is The Watch Bird.

There doesn’t need to be a sound. You simply say you heard it. When you tell the kids you think you heard The Watch Bird – bang, instant change in behavior. Eventually, your children will start attributing routine sounds outside the house to The Watch Bird.

My child is so advanced, she’ll never buy this.

Sure, but she will accept that a freakishly tiny human that you bought and carried home in a plastic shopping bag will sit motionless on a shelf for eighteen hours a day and never respond to any attempts at social interaction.

On another note, we are all correct to think that our kids are bright. But the rest of us parents? We talk about you and your constant yammering about how your child is too advanced for just about anything. Frankly, we are sick of it. Get over yourself and recognize that your little Einstein is picking her nose.

How does Santa find out what The Watch Bird sees?

The Watch Bird flies up to see him when he has enough good or bad things to report.

Can we put some food out for The Watch Bird?

Of course. We want him to stay around and see as much good behavior as possible.

But Is The Watch Bird Effective?

You might wonder if The Watch Bird works. Hell yes, it works.

Oh, I hope The Watch Bird didn’t hear me curse like that.

I can tell you that when I was a boy, back when the world was in black and white, it worked like a charm. I can also tell you that more recently, in our color and HD world, I have used it and seen it used. It works, and there’s no lame doll to move around your house all the time.

It’s up to you. Christmas is coming. Thirty bucks for Elf On The Shelf or The Watch Bird for free?

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23 Comments on “How To Do Elf On A Shelf, For Free”

  1. lbwoodgate says:

    “You tell your little one that the elf works for Santa and is in the house to see who is being naughty or nice. The elf supposedly goes to the North Pole to report to Santa every night, so you’ve got to move him while your children sleep.”

    Ah, a childhood version of NSA spying. They might as well learn early because it has become a part of all our lives. 😦

    Would efforts to bribe the elf or the bird become a form of behavior of children who felt they might engage in “naughty” behavior that get’s reported to the Chief at the North Pole? 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on Cool Yule: A Christmas Blog and commented:
    A funny and inspiring holiday blog post from Blurt Blog! Watch Bird! I love it…

  3. Debbie says:

    Outstanding! Domer was past the point of Elf on a Shelf, but somehow (probably because he didn’t have annoying siblings!), he managed to behave. When I was a kid, “Santa” himself was the watcher, but I guess he’s too busy to do much watching these days. A Watch Bird sounds like a reasonable solution!

  4. Aussa Lorens says:

    This is absolutely hilarious and reminds me of the “Giant Purple Turkey” I told my nieces about the other night when convincing them they needed to go to sleep. As we all know, the Giant Purple Turkey goes from bedroom window to bedroom window looking for little girls to gobble up– but he only likes to eat them while they’re awake because we get salty when we fall asleep.
    Too much? Nah.

  5. Wait a minute! Are you telling me that kids are expected to use their (gasp!) imaginations to figure out what this bird looks like? It’s madness I say!

  6. Katie says:

    If I was a bad kid in danger of being on Santa’s naughty list, I’d be more worried about a bird that could peck my eyes out than some elf doll.

  7. knace says:

    I can just imagine the watch bird’s effectiveness on a mischievous little Oma, but I think it would have scared the bejeebies out of me. I actually think it has the makings of a decent horror story. Then again, as a kid I broke down sobbing at the Aristocats and had to be taken from the theatre. Just a tad neurotic. =)

  8. List of X says:

    I think Elf on the Shelf and the Watch Bird could combine forces. Also, you could tell children that because they have cell phones, they can report everything to Santa without having to go to the North Pole at night.

  9. 1jaded1 says:

    People will sell anything. No kids here, no problem. My sister says the elves are invisible and report their findings to Santa, who is also invisible, when he delivers coal, underwear or toys. That elf is Meh.

  10. I told mine I talked to Santa every single night on the phone. Since they heard me on the phone every night they never thought I might be lying.

  11. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    Oh, yes – what you can’t see is the thing that works! You’re so right. After all, the little miscreants you call children will eventually disembowel Elf on a Shelf. Then they’ll discover he has no real power. But the Bird – the Bird is the unseen threat. It works. You’re brilliant, Oma.

  12. Blogdramedy says:

    I don’t have curtains on my windows. I hope Watch Bird has a sense of humor.

  13. That Elf sounds a bit more like Big Brother than I am comfortable with. I bet his eyes follow you around the room. If I’m going to be watched I’d rather not know about it or see it. Watch Bird works for me.

  14. Pie says:

    I had to go and find out about Elf on a Shelf, because we don’t have this in the UK (at least I don’t think so).

    I’d go for the Watch Bird.


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