I'm a stay-at-home mom with a teacher's heart. I'm always looking for new & fun things to do with my kids that are educational & memorable.
What Is an Elf on the Shelf?
The Elf on the Shelf is a 2005 children's picture book written by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell and illustrated by Coë Steinwart. The book tells a Christmas-themed story, written in rhyme, that explains how Santa Claus knows who is naughty and nice. It describes elves visiting children from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, after which they return to the North Pole until the next holiday season. The Elf on the Shelf comes in a keepsake box that features a hardbound picture book and a small soft toy in the form of a pixie scout elf.
The Elf Moves Around Each Night
So the idea is that, each night, the elf flies back to the North Pole and then will come back to your house and do something silly or pose in a funny way to amuse those in the house. That's the basic idea of what the Elf on the Shelf is, and some parents get really elaborate in what the elf does each night and other parents just move the elf around the house.
The rules are such that you aren't supposed to touch the elf, lest his magic disappear and he won't be able to fly back to the North Pole. Parents have had all sorts of creative ideas of what to do when kids inevitably touch the elf, despite not being allowed to.
I like to go for cute and creative ideas for moving around the elf—but ones that don't cost me any money or are simple enough that I'm not up until the wee hours making cookies or decorating ridiculous things that I'm only going to have to clean up the next night.
A Holiday Tradition!
We have only recently started the tradition of the Elf on the Shelf in our house, and while I'm not a huge fan of planning/setting up the Elf, I do enjoy my kids' reactions. They absolutely love to look for the Elf each morning—so for now, it's still worth it to do.
Every year, I stress over what to do and not to forget to move the Elf each night, so I've started a folder on my phone of all sorts of ideas to help in future years. I've included some ideas here to help you out this holiday season.
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The Best Ideas Are the Simplest
Simple ideas like the one above are what it's all about. This took me all of three minutes to put together with a jar I already had and a gift bag tag on the top to make it festive. I wrote the note on a post-it, and the kids laughed about this one for days. They actually will still bring it up now that December is almost here.
Around the holidays, we have easy decorating supplies like tissue paper, ribbons, and wrapping paper. Use the supplies you already have on hand before going out to buy things that you'll only use once.
Do You Want to Build a Snowman?
We Elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.
— Buddy the Elf in the movie, Elf
Magic Skittles Trick
This magic trick with Skittles is super fun and easy and pretty foolproof. By pouring the warm water in the plate, the skittles will start to dissolve and form a fun rainbow-looking pattern. Plus, if your elf leaves the rest of the skittles, the kids will be excited to eat those as well.
A Few More Ideas
Some easy ideas that you can do with minimal preparations:
- Bring a bag of popcorn/candy/movie snacks and have him suggest a family movie night.
- Bring a game for a family game night.
- The night before Christmas, he can bring a toy or pajamas for the kids as he departs for the North Pole.
- Use a dry erase marker and draw silly mustaches/funny doodles on family photos.
- Spell out a message in M&Ms on the counter.
© 2018 Lisa Bean
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 11, 2018:
The Elf on the shelf is such a cute idea. I am going to pass it along for my little granddaughter as she would love it. You have several fun ideas for children over the holidays.