Note: There are two main rules when it comes to the official Elf on the Shelf. First, the elf is to be moved to a different location in your house every night while your children are asleep. This is to create the illusion that every night, the elf is traveling back to the North Pole to report back to Santa about how well your kids behaved that day. Second, you need to make sure your children never touch the elf, or else he’ll lose his “magic.” If your kids accidentally touch him, they can write an apology letter to Santa. They’re to leave the letter, along with a sprinkle of cinnamon, next to the elf before they go to bed, so the elf can bring the letter to Santa later that night.
Some parents love the annual arrival of Elf on the Shelf, while others look at the arrival of December with dread.
“He showed up on November 7th, and by Christmas, some of us were quite ‘elfed out,'” says my friend, Shannon.
I just laugh at her and shake my head.
People, you’ve got to pace yourself. The Elf on the Shelf is an absolutely terrific twist and tradition to add to the holiday season, but you’ve got to know what you’re doing.
The idea is simple: An Elf is sent from the North Pole to watch the kids and report back to Santa. To help keep the belief that the Elf is real, each night he/she goes to see Santa and is found the next morning in a new spot. The movement is what makes him seem real to the kids, but this movement has sparked the creativity of Pinterest parents and things have gotten out of hand.
Here’s an unofficial guide to Elf on the Shelf for parents, which will ensure your kids have a magical Christmas.
1. Wait for the tree
This is the beacon to signal your Elf to arrive. Our first year getting the Elf, we were too excited to share with the kids and unleashed him in mid-November. That meant a full 40 nights of finding hiding spots and things for that Elf to do. Too much. Now, if you’re a Christmas freak and put up your tree the day after Halloween, I’m guessing you’ve got enough Christmas spirit to make it through the marathon.
2. Keep it simple
Take it from my friend Shannon, she went crazy the first year with her Elf up to all sorts of wild antics all around the house. Now, the kids expect a very mischievous and creative Elf, and Shannon’s tapped out on ideas.
3. Perform surgery
To be honest, I’m disappointed in the structure of the Elf. It’s too light, the arms come apart and then don’t do anything, and I find it very hard to place it in interesting positions. If you’re good with a glue gun, Life So Lovely has some tips for surgery where you can add fasteners, velcro, and other devices to make your Elf more malleable.
4. The Christmas countdown
Instead of a traditional advent calendar, you can use the Elf to bring little treats from the North Pole to help count down to Christmas.
5. Feedback on surveillance
It’s one thing to have the Elf popping up in a random spot each day, but it’s quite another to add some real acknowledgement that he is working. Have your Elf land in the morning with a letter from Santa with reminders on behaviors that the kids need to work on. You’ll have them gasping in belief.
6. Set an alarm before you forget
Do it. Do it now.
Set up a daily reminder in your iCal, Google Calendar, or whatever you use to keep track of appointments. Have an alarm sound every night at around the time you would go to bed (after the kids are in bed) to remind yourself to move the Elf. There’s nothing worse than scrambling down in the morning while your spouse distracts the kids so they don’t notice the Elf didn’t move. So set the alarm now.
7. Search for help
Now, if you are right into this and don’t want to keep your Elf still, scour the interwebs for ideas. There’s a website (Elf on the Shelf Ideas), a Facebook Group (For Parents Only), and of course Pinterest has a lot of inspiration, too.
8. Any Elf will do
You can use any Elf-like character to play this game if you want. A huge knockoff market has already erupted with Elves like Christopher Pop-In Kins. Honestly? You could just use a little old Elf already in your Christmas box.
9. There are no rules
The reality of Elf on the Shelf is that it was a family tradition that they decided to market (and very well). So make it your own. Perhaps your Elf pops up in different spots throughout the day. Maybe your Elf is allowed to be touched. Maybe your Elf only shows up when they’ve been good.
The Elf on the Shelf is another bit of magic to add to this season, and to celebrate the unconditional belief in the impossible that is unique to children, so do what works for you.