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  • Parents are loving how the hack uses the Elf to teach kids about giving instead of just threatening them about Santa.

    elf on the shelf toy charity hack
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  • Some were just happy for an activity that got kids to do the hard work of cleaning out the toy box instead of leaving the job for parents.

    elf on the shelf toy donation activity
  • But others thought the message about taking toys to the North Pole was muddying the important lesson about giving to others.

    elf on the shelf toy donation

    And you have to wonder, if kids are learning to give something away only to get something new for themselves, are they really learning about giving at all?

  • Teaching kids about giving, gratitude, and being charitable is no easy task.

    Young kids who haven't experienced poverty or gone without don't always understand the importance of what they're doing or why being charitable even matters. And although it's our job as parents to help them make sense of it, it's hard to do that through force or by promising that they'll get gifts from Santa as long as they toss their old toys into the basket.

    Plus, as someone who grew up in poverty and often was the recipient of those "old toys," I know how often people use these kinds of activities as an exercise for cleaning out old junk that no one wants or needs -- loading off broken and outdated stuff on poor children they don't think deserve anything better.

  • Still, that doesn't mean this is a useless exercise for kids.

    It's important for kids to understand that having things they actually need and use is more important than just having tons of "stuff," and any exercise that encourages them to be mindful of that is a good one. Plus, the exercise can always be adapted as kids get older, with the wording changed to put the emphasis on giving or even by going together to drop off the basket.

    This is just a simple idea to get started on a much bigger and more important lesson about giving, and if the Elf on the Shelf's wild antics can include something that actually benefits others, that's a win in my book.