What is the Elf on the Shelf Tradition?

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The “Elf on the Shelf” is a Christmas tradition based on a story written by Flora Johnson. In the story, an elf named Christopher Pop-In-Kins visits children during the Christmas season and reports back to Santa Claus. The elf lets Santa know who has been naughty and who has been nice.

What is an Elf on the Shelf?

The elf on the shelf is a small, doll-like character that appears soon after Thanksgiving and finds a cozy hiding spot around the house. During the day, children try to find the elf while the elf spies on the children. When they go to bed at night, the elf flies off to the North Pole, reports to Santa and returns before everyone wakes up in the morning to start a new day of hide-and-seek.

What is the Elf on the Shelf Tradition? Where can you buy an elf on the Shelf? Fun Elf on a Shelf Ideas

What are the elf on the Shelf Rules?

  • The elf must be given a name in order to gain its magic.
  • The elf cannot be touched. If the elf is touched, it cannot return to the North Pole.
  • Tell the elf your Christmas wishes. The elf will tell Santa when he returns to the North Pole.
  • The elf appears in a new hiding space each day.

Where can you buy an elf on the Shelf?

Elf on the shelf is sold as a doll and book (and sometimes accompanying DVD) in male or female versions, and can be found at many bookstores and online retailers including:

Fun Elf on a Shelf Christmas Ideas

Elf on the shelf games are fun to play with the kids. Adopt an elf and participate in some of these elf antics:

  • Put the elf in the driver’s seat of a model car, airplane, truck or boat. Pose the elf as if it were driving the vehicle.
  • This one may be tricky. Early in the morning, paint your child’s face. Set up a display with the elf and the paints, making it the face paint suspect.
  • Let the elf hang (from) the Christmas stockings or decorate an elf-sized Christmas tree.
  • Bake some gingerbread cookies and give a plate of cookies to your elf along with a glass of milk.
  • If thekidshave been naughty, have the elf go on strike. The elf can hide in a closet or sit in the back of the refrigerator eating red and green Jello.
  • Rob a piggy bank and hide the elf in a compromising position. Display the elf with the coins and tools used during the robbery.
  • Show off the elf’s mischievous side. Catch the elf with his hands in the candy dish, tangled in the drapes, hanging from a light fixture or drawing mustaches on the family portrait.
  • When the kids have been especially good, have your elf bring a treat. Pose the elf with a stuffed animal, some popcorn and a movie.
  • Use the elf as a reminder. Pose the elf with a toothbrush and toothpaste to remind kids to brush their teeth.

Here are some other fun elf on the shelf ideas around the web:

There are thousands of games to play with your elf. Start early and create a list of elf activities for each day between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s a Christmas tradition you will enjoy playing with your children, and they’re sure to remember.

Last Updated: December 19, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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