• Kirsten Smith

What is Elf on The Shelf and Why Should You Make This a New Christmas Tradition?

Updated: 3 days ago



If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen an elf on the shelf. Tons of families post pictures of their elves online, but what is all the fuss about this Christmas tradition? 5 years ago, I made it my mission to learn more about it.


I’ve created this guide to help answer your questions and give you the information you need to know about elf on the shelf. My kids wanted to try out this fun Christmas activity, and I wanted to know why so many people loved these elves. Now you can understand the hype behind the elf on the shelf too!


What is Elf on The Shelf and How Did it Start?


What exactly is elf on the shelf and how did this Christmas tradition start? Elf on the shelf was created by Carol Aebersold. Carol and her daughters came up with this tradition in 2005. They self-published a book called Elf on The Shelf: A Christmas Tradition and began a worldwide phenomenon that has gone viral. The trend really took off in 2007 and has been going strong ever since.


Still, you might be wondering what this tradition entails and what the rules of the elf on the shelf are. The idea behind the elf on the shelf is pretty simple. Each year, a Scout Elf, this is the elf on the shelf, comes to visit your house from the north pole.


The elf comes with a book and a set of rules. You and your kids set up your elf in a single location. Your kids can’t move the elf or touch the elf, otherwise, he loses his magic. You can put cinnamon next to the elf so it regains its magic. Only do this if your kids move or touch the elf.


Then, according to tradition, the elf on the shelf won’t move or speak to kids during the day. Instead, the elf watches over your kids and goes back to the north pole at night. Your elf on the shelf makes a daily report to Santa. The best part about this holiday tradition is that your kids will try to stay on their best behavior. This way they can get on Santa’s good list!


When is The Best Time to Start Elf on The Shelf?


You can start this Christmas tradition anytime you want. Most families begin their elf on the shelf activities around November 24th to December 1st. The elf will remain in your home on display till Christmas Eve, then they go back to the North Pole to prepare for next year's Christmas holiday.


Kids of any age can enjoy this fun Christmas tradition. From what I’ve found online, most parents begin elf on the shelf around 2 to 3 years old. Older kids who don’t believe in Santa might not have as much fun with this, but they can help set up the elf on the shelf for their younger siblings.


What Can Kids Do With Their Elf on The Shelf?


I’ll talk about some fun elf on the shelf ideas in this section of the post. There’s a lot you and your kids can do with your elf. You might not know where to start. Look at these ideas to begin your new Christmas tradition:


1. Elf on The Shelf Sledding Idea


Get a pair of candy canes or a small toy sled. Then place your elf on an incline for the perfect photo op. You can put your elf on a stair railing or other easy-to-see locations.


2. Elf on The Shelf Blinds Idea


Another creative way you can set up your elf is by placing it in your blinds. Put the elf behind the blinds and let its head peak out. This is a great location for an elf if you want it in your living room.


3. Elf on The Shelf Dental Floss Idea


If you’re trying to get your kids to floss or brush their teeth more, why not put your elf on the shelf in the bathroom? Wrap the elf in some dental floss. This will remind your kids to floss and brush every morning.


4. Elf on The Shelf Dress-Up Idea


You can also have your kids dress up the elf on the shelf in fun outfits and costumes. You can make the elf into your kid's favorite character and put some interesting props around them for a picture.


5. Elf on The Shelf Candy Message Idea


Place your elf on the shelf in your kitchen and write a message with candy. You can write “I’m back” or other fun messages for your kids. Use gum drops, m&m’s, and other candy your family likes!


If you need more elf on the shelf ideas, check out this link I found. There are tons of ways to set up your elf on the shelf this year!


What Supplies Do You Need For Elf on The Shelf?


Depending on what you’re doing with your elf on the shelf, you might need to stock up on supplies. Look at my list below to begin your elf on the shelf journey. These are just a few supply ideas you can try out this year:

  • Elf on The Shelf Kit: This includes your elf on the shelf and the rule book that comes with your elf.

  • Candy Decorations: If you want to make a candy cane sled, candy messages, or other candy props for your elf, you can use almost any kind of candy for this.

  • Fake Snow: Get creative with some fake snow. You can use cotton balls, instant snow, and fake snow substitutes to make a fun environment for your elf on the shelf.

  • Balloons or Party Decorations: Some kids like to place their elf on the shelf around balloons and other party decorations.

  • Pre-Written Notes: If your kids forget the elf on the shelf rules, print out pre written notes from the “elf”.

  • Costumes and Fun Props: Finally, consider buying costumes and props for the elf. This could make elf on the shelf even more fun for kids.

Final Thoughts on Elf on The Shelf


As a parent, I’m always looking for new ways to celebrate the holiday season. My family already has some great Christmas traditions, but we like to try out new things each year to make Christmas more fun.


While I didn’t know what elf on the shelf was at first, but now I can definitely see why so many people post about this online. Elf on the shelf is great for families with younger kids. This is a fun way to remind kids they need to stay on Santa’s good list!


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