Everything you need to know about starting an Elf On The Shelf Tradition and new unique ideas

Holidays are a special time of year where family, friends, and loved ones come together to celebrate. For many families, the holiday season wouldn’t be complete without their own personal Elf on the Shelf. I’m making it super simple with inspiration, free printables, ideas, and everything you need to know about starting a elf tradition.

I honestly believe that our magical elf, Daisy, brings more joy and excitement to our children than anything else in December. It has become such a special tradition, that I wanted to hare some of that with you this year. I made a lot of printables to help you out, visit our shop to download them for free! Happy holidays!

You see, my daughter is turning 10 this year. A little part of my heart knows this may be the last “magical Christmas”. If we make it through one more Christmas where she believes in the magic of the elf, I will be the happiest mama in the world. 

What is the purpose of the elf?

The elf is one of Santa’s helpers. Every night from November 30 through December 24th, while your children are asleep, the elf flies to the North Pole to report to Santa Claus on whether your children have been naughty or nice. Then, each morning when your children wake up, they will find their elf in a new location around the house. 

The purpose is to encourage good behavior, to share tradition, and to get creative. The elf is a great creative outlet for me. I find it so fun (can you tell??). For some, it’s just an additional responsibility, and that’s totally fine. The holidays are about joy, do what fills your cup! And for those who enjoy it – I hope this makes it a bit simpler for you. 🙂

Have fun with it! The whole point of having an Elf on the Shelf is to bring some extra magic and excitement to Christmas time. The kids light up so much when they find the elf each morning. I like to squeeze every bit of magic out of this time of year. It’s just so fleeting.

And importantly, if your home is privileged enough to have an elf who is doing extraordinary things – use this as an opportunity to teach your kids about responsibility, kindness, and good behavior.

The Elf on the Shelf can be a great tool for teaching kids about being responsible and behaving well. If your child is struggling in these areas, you can use the elf as a way to encourage them to do better. Just be sure not to use him as a threat or blackmail—that’s not what the elf is here for! No candy cane jails here.

When does the elf arrive and leave?

Elf on the Shelf is a special elf that comes to visit your family in December. Be sure to read the Elf on the Shelf storybook to your children before introducing them to their new friend. This will help them understand why the elf is coming to visit and what his job is. 

When the elf is expected to arrive for the first time, the family should read the book together on the last day of November, and then gift the elf a name. In the morning when the children wake up, the elf will have a new hiding spot and exciting display to show off! Sometimes they’re ultra simple and sometimes they’re elaborate. It depends on the energy of the elf. 

The elf leaves on Christmas Eve back to the North Pole.

Why don’t all families have an elf?

Elves are a lot of responsibility. Not every family wants an elf. Some people prefer privacy and don’t want a little elf watching them all day. Some families find it to be overwhelming to have an elf preforming unexpected activities.

If your house happens to have an elf, you should consider yourself very lucky and enjoy it! And importantly, teach your child that not everyone can afford an elf. 

Elves can be sneaky and get into food and miscellaneous items around the house. Some families simply can not afford this to happen, so please be courteous and don’t boast about your elf. Keep their magic at home.

Important to know when you get your elf:

While having an elf in your home can be a lot of fun for everyone involved, there are a few rules that you should keep in mind. First and foremost, remember that elves are not toys for the kids to play with. They are real elves and should be treated as such. 

Keep in mind is that elves cannot speak or move while people are awake and around. If an elf is caught moving or speaking while people are awake, it will lose its magic and will no longer be able to fly back to the North Pole each night.

DOWNLOAD THE ELF ON THE SHELF RULES

What are the elf on the shelf rules?

The most basic ones can be outlined here – print these free elf rules to hang in your home to remind you!

1) Perhaps the most important rule of all is that you must never touch your Elf on the Shelf. If you do, your elf will lose its magic and will no longer be able to fly back to visit Santa each night. Sometimes babies and smaller children who dont understand accidentally touch the elf.

Santa is wise and knows when this happens, so it will be okay. Santa says that it’s best if no one touches the elf, but parents can intervene in certain cases (say, the dog or baby grabs the elf from his hiding spot!) Just send a note to Santa letting him know what happened.

2) Don’t worry about what your friends elves are up to. All elves are different! Some elves are more active than others, creating mischief or getting into elaborate situations when they return each night. Others are more subdued and simply move from place to place each day. It just depends on their personality! All elves are special, and some have more energy than others.

3) Enjoy the season, practice gratitude, and be extra nice.

What lessons can the elf teach your children?

Some families prefer not to allow an elf into their home because of the behavioral aspect. However, you can use the elf anyway you choose, and there is a lot of good to come out of the experience. 

  • Tradition. Growing up, we always went to my grandmother’s house on Christmas Day and certain details really stand out because they were always there. Traditions are important because traditions bond us closer together; they help our kids feel a sense of belonging. They help children know what to expect, and they shape memories that will last a lifetime and that will be passed down. They give us something to look forward to and they can even help shape our character. I am certain my kids won’t remember the specific presents they received, but they will remember how busy their elf was creating magic.
  • Discipline: It is hard work for little ones to not touch their elf. Having a magical elf around that children can not touch helps them think about their actions and consequences. 
  • Appreciation: We have a rule that we are not aloud to talk about what our elf is doing. We don’t want our children to compare our active elf to others. However, I know they feel very appreciative that their elf brings them so much joy.

Amazing and unique elf on the shelf ideas:

Our elf is active and doesn’t ever really just sit on a shelf. She usually encourages our kids to get creative or do an activity of some sort. Being so busy, has to stay super organized to stay on track to do all of the wonderful things she wants to. She has a calendar planned out for the month. It only makes sense to me, but that’s fine. Here’s what our elves calendar looks like:

I made a few free calendars for you to print to stay organized too!

DOWNLOAD YOUR OWN ELF CALENDAR HERE

Daisy returns by knitting the kids some matching “elf pajamas” and brings a few little helpers along to help create magic this year.

Gingerbread making party. Make a gingerbread village and decorate your cookies! Use all of the tips I highlighted in How To Host A Perfect Cookie Exchange Party to host a gingerbread making party. 

Elf Donuts anyone? The elves make elf donuts and magically some adult sized ones appear, and disappear just as quickly…

Snowy day in the forecast? Sleigh all day! Daisy sets up fluffy cotton snow mountains for little elves to play, and enjoys some cotton candy.

Snow globe craft! Daisy brings all of the little goodies from the North Pole to craft the perfect little snow globe.

Last call! Final letter to Santa! Print your letter and send it out quick!

Peppermint spa day! Nothing like a refreshing peppermint bath soak.

Do you wanna build a snowman? We are all seriously in love with these foam snowman kits, and can make them all day! Especially since there’s no snow where we live.

Hot cocoa and Christmas movies. What could be better?

Indoor s’mores and hot cocoa board because baby it’s cold outside.

Elf games! This adorable downloadable elf twister board is the perfect way to introduce family game night! Download the twister board!

Ticket for a frappe with mommy! These downloadable tickets are perfect for a last minute elf who just needs a rest day.

Snowball balloon fight! We live in a warm climate so we will be doing a water ballon fight!

There are endless ideas for fun, lessons, creativity, and crafting through the elf, I hope this post inspires you !

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