When Adam Reed went to the store about two years ago to purchase an Elf on the Shelf kit for his daughter, he was disappointed by what he found.
“I didn’t realize that kids can’t touch it or it loses its Christmas magic. And that I’d have to move the darn thing every morning,“ he said. “For me and my family, it wasn’t the right tradition. But I searched and searched and didn’t feel I could find a truly positive tradition with a Christmas friend the child could really bond with.”
So the Los Angeles-based producer and children’s book author decided to create a new Christmas tradition for his daughter and other children to enjoy: Reindeer In Here.
It’s a book and plush toy set, à la Elf on the Shelf and Mensch on a Bench, featuring a reindeer that Santa sends to a child in early December to get to know them. The reindeer learns the child’s likes and dislikes, bonds with them and accompanies them on adventures, according to the story. While the child is sleeping, the reindeer sends letters to Santa reporting on the adventures they’ve shared and what the child’s true Christmas wishes are.
The reindeer is meant to be a holiday friend that children can touch, cuddle with and take everywhere. On Christmas Eve, families put the reindeer under the tree to return to the North Pole with Santa.
Reindeer In Here also celebrates that being different is normal. The toy has one antler that is smaller than the other, meant to represent the uniqueness of every child.
After Reed conceived of the Reindeer In Here, he wrote the storybook, worked with an illustrator to give it kid-friendly art and self-published it. He then found a company to help him create the plush toy and a designer to put together the packaging. Although Reed spent “a significant amount” of money to bring the product to life, he felt it was worth the investment.
“I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I knew that the message of ‘different is normal’ and creating a no-stress tradition for parents and Christmas friend for children would work,” he said. “I’d found there were a lot of parents like me who were searching for a more positive and stress-free Christmas tradition for their kids.”
Reindeer In Here debuted on Amazon on Black Friday in 2017 and sold out within two hours. In 2018, the kit was available in more than 1,200 retailers, most of them independent. Reed told HuffPost he’s sold Reindeer In Here to families in Mexico, Australia, South Africa and the U.K.
The entrepreneur said he’s most proud of the connections he sees children form with their reindeer.
“The child makes it their own ― they name it and decide if it’s a boy or girl,” he said. “Many parents at book signings have said, ‘Thank you, finally a tradition that has no stress beyond me giving it to my child and saying it’s their first gift for the holiday season from Santa. My child can have a magical experience where they take it everywhere.’”
Many celebrity parents have also posted about Reindeer In Here on their social media accounts, including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jewel, Beverley Mitchell, Kristin Cavallari and Snooki.
While Reindeer In Here has been positioned as a “less creepy” version of the Elf on the Shelf, it still involves a story about being watched. But Reed said that it’s up to parents how to frame it.
“The book says that the reindeer writes notes back to Santa about their adventures ― it doesn’t say reports good or bad behavior,” he said.
“So for instance, my daughter was having a bad night and didn’t want to take a bath,” he continued. “If she had an elf, I could say ‘the elf is watching you and you’re not being a good girl.’ But I didn’t want to take that path, so I said ‘You know, Fuzzy the Reindeer has never seen a bathtub ― Do you think maybe you could show him the bathtub and take a bath?’
Ultimately, Reed wants to make it clear he harbors no grudge against Elf on the Shelf.
“I’m not here to bash them. They have an incredible business, and I’m in awe of what they’ve done,” he told HuffPost. “But when I went to the store to start that tradition, I realized it wasn’t right for me and my family.”