How Does Elf On The Shelf Work?

How Does Elf On The Shelf Work?

If you’re new to the parenting game, you’ve probably wondered, “What the heck is Elf on the Shelf?”

Elf on the Shelf is a Christmas tradition where a special scout is sent to your home from the North Pole to encourage kids to behave themselves. The idea is that Santa’s little helper watches the children by day, and each night, it returns to the North Pole to report on whether they were naughty or nice.

The Christmas tradition has just two rules. First, children are not allowed to touch the elf or it will lose its magic. If an elf is touched by mistake, the official Elf on the Shelf website advises children write a letter to Santa to apologize and sprinkle a little cinnamon beside the elf before bed.

“Cinnamon is like vitamins for scout elves, and it helps them get back to the North Pole,” the website reads. “Once they arrive, the North Pole doctors will check them out.”

The second rule of Elf on the Shelf is that the elf will not speak or move while the kids are awake. The elf only moves at night when it makes its trip back to the North Pole. Once it returns home, it then assumes a new position in the house.

In the past, we’ve seen the elf get up to all sorts of crazy antics, from playing poker to taking selfies to sunbathing on the kitchen counter.

Welcome Back!

When your elf returns for another December of fun, have him arrive with a sweet message.

Source: Tumblr

Snowball Fight With A Buddy

Set up some Lego forts and arm your elf with mini marshmallows for a friendly snowball fight with your child's favourite toy.

Source: Nelly Cole Photography

Harry Potter Elf

If you can find or fashion some tiny glasses, this set-up will be a winner for a little Harry Potter fan (or fun for a big Harry Potter fan).

Source: Shelf the Elf

Stocking Switcheroo

Are your stockings hung by the chimney with care? Have your elf switch them out with your silliest pairs of underwear of each family member.

Source: She Knows

Cookie Tease

Poor Cookie Monster! Your elf could enjoy some cookies just out of his reach if he's feeling naughty, or invite him in to share if he wants to stay on Santa's nice list.

Source: Blogspot

Wrap Up The Toilet

If you're a fan of putting cling wrap over the toilet seat on April Fool’s Day, then you'll probably enjoy wrapping your toilet to help your elf play a trick.

Source: Blogspot

Playing With An Abacus

Elves have to learn too -- and they can do it with your child's abacus, or another favourite educational toy.

Source: Craftulate

Helping With Morning Coffee

Put your elf to work by getting her to have your coffee pod ready and waiting in the morning.

Source: Raining Hot Coupons

Play A Game

Have your elf hide a few Christmas treats -- how quickly can your kids find them?

Source: Skinny Mom

TP The Tree

Sometimes those elves are kind of naughty -- for example, by adding some uncalled-for decorations to your Christmas tree.

Source: My Crazy Good Life

Movie Night

Set up your elf with some pillows (so she can see the TV) and a popcorn snack. Then, pop a favourite holiday movie in the DVD player.

Source: Indulgy

Fun With The Photocopier

Your elf decided that one of him just isn't enough, so he made a copy overnight.

Source: Pinterest

Spa Day!

Your elf has been working hard all month! Give her a break with a fluffy towel and a hot shower.

Source: Pinterest


Overnight your elf broke out the Scrabble set and spelled out his favourite holiday words.

Source: Rocking My 365 Project

Elf On Strike

Are your kids vying for a spot on the naughty list? A striking elf and a little note might be a good reminder to focus on great behaviour.

Source: Over the Big Moon

Getting Into The Syrup

If you've seen Elf, then you know that elves love syrup!  

Source: Pinterest

Meet The Dinosaurs

Have some dinosaurs left over from Dinovember? Set them up on a play date with your elf.

Source: Media Cache

Making Snowflakes

Help your elf cut up some tiny snowflakes. And maybe you can put hooks on them and hang them on the tree once you've put him away for the day.

Source: Pretty Providence

Read A Book

Pick out a holiday-themed book, have your elf present it in the morning, and start the day by reading a story together.

Source: Blogspot

Let's Build A Snowman

Has it snowed in your town? Then put together a few snowballs and have them chill out with your elf in the freezer overnight.

Source: Blogspot

Colour A Picture

Elves have an artistic side and sometimes they need to let it out. For example, with your child's colouring book and crayons.

Source: Blogspot

Snow Angels

A little bit of spilled flour or sugar is a delight for the elf who wants to make snow angels.

Source: Skinny Mom

Reindeer Noses

Are your kids heavy sleepers? Break out some washable paint and give them reindeer noses overnight, courtesy of the elf.

Source: Rae of Light Photography

Sack Race

With a few paper bags, you can set your elf up on a race with the household toys.

Source: Blogspot

Bath In The Sink

Elves love sweets, which means they love marshmallows -- so much that they bathe in them!

Source: Bombshell Bling

Breakfast For The Family

Have your elf ready and waiting with family breakfast -- including syrup, of course. Make sure there are some tiny pancakes for her too!

Source: Home Stories A to Z

Help The Needy

Set up your elf with some non-perishable goods and a note suggesting you all make a trip to drop them off at the food bank. You could also do this with gifts to donate to a toy drive.

Source: Blogspot

Ready For A Nap

Sometimes elves miss the chill of the North Pole. A nap in the butter compartment seems cozy to a homesick elf.

Source: Media Cache

Encourage Potty Training

Are you working on getting your child to use the potty? A little bit of encouragement from the elf -- complete with a chocolate-chip potty deposit -- might do the trick.

Source: Clumsy Crafter

Say Goodbye

Give your elf a great send-off after Christmas with a sweet letter on Christmas Eve, just before your friend heads back to the North Pole for another year.

Source: Pretty Providence

The world was first introduced to the Elf on the Shelf in 2005. That year, Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell published a children’s book called The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition. They teamed up with Aebersold’s other daughter, Christa Pitts, to market the book to kids.

The story was based on the family’s own holiday tradition that started in the 1970s. In their household, an elf would appear every year after Thanksgiving to keep an eye on the children and prevent them from misbehaving.

In 2008, the book won a number of awards, including the Best Toy Award by Learning Express and Book of the Year Award from Creative Child Awards.

Phenomenon continues

Today, the book has become a bestseller and inspired an animated TV movie called “An Elf’s Story: The Elf on the Shelf.” The phenomenon has become so strong that the Elf on the Shelf is also now a regular at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Kids can adopt an elf and register it online. They can even receive a personalized adoption certificate and letter from Santa.

Usually, the Elf on the Shelf arrives at the end of November or beginning of December. 

Also on HuffPost: The hottest toys for the kids on your list. On mobile? Click on the gallery to bring the photos up full-size.

Ms. Monopoly

Mr. Monopoly's niece, a self-made investment guru, is ready for her close-up! Ages: 8+ Get it at: Toys R Us, $24.99

KidKraft Maker's Space Project Station

Say yes to mess! Ages: 3+ Get it at: Mastermind Toys, $169.99

Baby Shark Song Puppet with Tempo Control

Your favorite Baby Shark is now available as an interactive puppet! Ages: 2+ Get it at: Walmart, $24.97

Mukikim Rock and Roll It - Piano Rainbow

Rock out, then roll it up! Ages: 6+ Get it at: Indigo, $69.99

Marvel Legends Series Avengers: Endgame Power Gauntlet Articulated Electronic Fist

This electronic fist appears to teem with tremendous power. Ages: 3+ Get it at: Amazon, $111.29

LUSTIGT 7-piece weaving loom set

With the weaving loom you can weave everything from yarn and shoe strings to plastic bags. Ages: 6+ Get it at: IKEA, $19.99

FurReal - Disney The Lion King Mighty Roar Simba Interactive Plush

A young king who wants to roar, talk, and play. Ages: 5+ Get it at: Marshalls, $99.99 (in store only)

Little Live Rainglow Unicorn Vet Set

Rainglow the Unicorn loves to share mystical adventures with you! Ages: 3+ Get it at: Toys R Us, $79.99

Osmo - Detective Agency: A Search & Find Mystery Game

Put on your detective hat and get ready to solve the case! Ages: 5+ Get it at: Amazon, $55

Play-Doh Stamp 'n Top Pizza Oven Toy

Live that Play-Doh pizza life!  Ages: 3+ Get it at: Walmart, $27.96

Sharon, Lois And Bram's "Skinnamarink"

This picture book is best sung aloud! Ages: 2+ Get it at: Indigo, $21.99

LEGO Friends Heartlake City Amusement Pier

Spend hours of role-play fun hanging out with your friends at the fair! Ages: 8+ Get it at: Amazon, $234.50

L.O.L. Surprise! 2-in-1 Glamper

The 2-in-1 Glamper includes 55+ surprises to unbox. Ages: 6+ Get it at: Mastermind Toys, $159.99

Wow! Stuff Deluxe Harry Potter Invisibility Cloak

Now you can own your very own all-new Wizarding World-inspired garment. Ages: 6+ Get it at: Indigo, $99.95

Spin Master Boxer Robot

Big on personality and interactive fun, the Spin Master Boxer robot arrives ready to play right out of the box. Ages: 5+ Get it at: Marshalls, $39.99 (in store only)

Sesame Street Love to Hug Elmo

Elmo loves to give hugs, and he loves when YOU hug him, too! Ages: 18 months + Get it at: Walmart, $34.94

CIRKUSTÄLT Children's tent

Creates a sheltered spot, a room in the room, to play or just cuddle up in. Ages: 18 months + Get it at: IKEA, $29.99

Treasure X: Aliens Single Pack

Ooze your way through the galactic quest for real Gems with Treasure X Aliens!  Ages: 5+ Get it at: Toys R Us, $19.99

"Guts" by Raina Telgemeier

Bestselling author Raina Telgemeier’s latest graphic novel Guts is sure to inspire conversation. Ages: 8+ Get it at: Indigo, $10.12

Pictionary Air Drawing Family Game

Introducing Pictionary Air, a hysterical way to play the classic family drawing game!  Ages: 8+ Get it at: Walmart, $24.93

Eco Recycled Plastic Rocket Ship Toy

3-2-1 blast off - the Green Toys Rocket launches into another eco-awesome deep-space mission! Ages: 2+ Get it at: HomeSense, $19.99 (in store only)

Casdon Dyson Cord-free Vacuum

This toy replica of the famous Dyson Cord-free Vacuum makes pretend play so much more realistic! Ages: 3+ Get it at: Mastermind Toys, $49.99

Baby Alive Happy Hungry Baby

Baby Alive Happy Hungry Baby loves to eat! Ages: 3+ Get it at: Walmart, $69.97

Disney Frozen 2 Plush Olaf, 24-in

Disney Frozen 2 Plush Olaf is soft and cuddly. Ages: 3+ Get it at: Canadian Tire, $29.99

Melissa and Doug Folding Princess Castle

Welcome, your Majesty! Decorated with regal accents, this wooden play castle is fully assembled and ready for royal play. Ages: 3+ Get it at: HomeSense, $79.99 (in store only)

furReal Cubby, the Curious Bear, Interactive Plush Toy

Cubby is a curious young cub, and is eager to be picked up and held. Ages: 4+ Get it at: Walmart, $129.97

Osmo Little Genius Kit

Inspire a budding technology whiz with the Osmo Little Genius Starter Kit. Ages: 3+  Get it at: Indigo, $119.99

DUKTIG 24-piece pizza set

A dream for all the little pizza chefs. Ages: 3+ Get it at: IKEA, $12.99

Sharper Image Fun Classic Lightweight Launch Pad Portable Tabletop Basketball Game

Like having an arcade right in your home. Ages: 3+ Get it at: Marshalls, $29.99 (in store only)

Owleez Interactive Baby Owl Toy

Owleez is the interactive baby owl toy that can REALLY fly, but needs your help!  Ages:  6+ Get it at: Canadian Tire, $69.99

Melissa & Doug Take-Along Tabletop Vehicle Set Town

Built-in tracks, colourful scenery, and fun play pieces. Ages: 3+ Get it at: Indigo, $39.99

LeapFrog RockIt Twist

Play 12 games in a cool, new way using four sides of colorful, light-up controls including buttons. Ages: 4+ Get it at: Walmart, $69.97

PAW Patrol, Super Paws, 2-in-1 Transforming Mighty Pups Jet Command Center with Lights and Sounds

Bring the action and excitement of the hit TV show home. Ages: 3+ Get it at: Amazon, $97.33

LEGO Star War Millennium Falcon

Millennium Falcon model has loads of details to impress fans of any age. Ages: 9+ Get it at: Canadian Tire, $179.99

LUSTIGT Tag game with vest and balls

Challenge your family and friends to a match! Ages: 3+ Get it at: IKEA, $24.99


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