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Elf on the Shelf

Having been around for quite some time now, the infamous Elf on the Shelf is a familiar sight for most people who have scrolled any social media platform in the past few years. The Elf on the Shelf is well-known for being found positioned in rather odd, random, and somewhat entertaining manners and locations. But, there is much more to this little mischievous Christmas Elf than meets the eye. 

The Elf on the Shelf gives children direct access to one of Santa’s little helpers, who will report back to Santa in the North Pole every night, and let him know if children have been naughty or nice. Children can tell the elf what they want for Christmas, have fun, and build great manners.

There’s actually a lot going on behind the scenes for children who have an Elf on the Shelf as a part of their holly jolly traditions, as it’s believed that these small household inclusions act as the direct line to the magic which roams the air every time December comes around.  We’ve gathered everything you need to know about the Elf on the Shelf before introducing this interesting member to your children.  

elf on the shelf advent calendar
elf on the shelf advent calendar


Give your kids a different and amazing December with an Elf on the shelf. A different type of Advent calendar where the elves are in a new fun place every morning. The elves can also fool around with the family.

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What is the Elf on the Shelf? 

Many have wondered how Santa always knows when children are sleeping as well as when they are awake, or whether they’ve been naughty or nice, and the Elf on the Shelf is supposedly one of the reasons why. They act as eyes and ears for Santa and fly all the way back to the North Pole each and every night while children are asleep. Their primary task is to inform Santa of children’s behavior every single night, after which they will fly all the way back to the home to hide in a brand new spot and wait for the children to wake up.

These spots are often incredibly interesting and creative, and the Elf on the Shelf started becoming widely popular and essentially famous for the amount of social media posts that have been based on the large potential for funny and adventurous placements. With each and every household having a unique Elf on the Shelf each with varying personalities, traits, and fellow toys to commune with, the possibilities for pretend play and storylines – thus, amusing placements – are endless. So, parents will need to be creative in how they choose the arrangement of the Elf on the Shelf – just, remember to wait for the kids to be sound asleep, of course. 

Some have been reported being found in the fridge, in shoes, in oddly high places simply peering across the room of spectators, and some have even been found appearing to be in mid-action with an inanimate object or neighboring toy or seemed to be busy doing something. This makes it far more amusing and exciting for children, and there are quite a few ideas on how to use the Elf on the Shelf for interactive, developmental, and imaginary play with children. However, their enthusiasm may extend to other means of expression, as some have said that the Elf on the Shelf occasionally rustles up the kitchen at night. 

It was originally self-published featuring the elf kit and the traditional Elf on the Shelf storybook, which provides insight into the character, nature, and purpose of the elf in every home. This assists in building the understanding and ground rules with children in a fun, memorable, and interactive way with beautiful visuals and a magical storyline. Children enjoy telling the Elf on the Shelf what they would like for Christmas and are excited to have one of Santa’s little helpers in their homes just to keep an eye on them.

The Elf on the Shelf cannot be touched, cannot speak to children, and cannot move around when children are awake. Other than the basic rules, how each family chooses to include the Elf on the Shelf in their Christmas cheer is entirely based on preference. Some families bake welcome treats for the Elf on the Shelf each year, while others make the most out of witty positioning every night. It can be whatever you make of it, and the children will simply enjoy having an exciting and comical Christmas tradition which will certainly be memorable long after childhood years have come and gone.

Elf on the Shelf History

Although this is a relatively modern commercial concept, the original story of Elf on the Shelf is rather old, potentially dating back to heritage and folklore. The concept has in fact been so memorable into adulthood that a woman named Carol Aebersold decided to commercialize Elf on the Shelf in 2005 with her two twin daughters, Christa Pitts and Chanda Bell since it was something that she had deeply cherished as a child. It was one of the traditions that she had experienced growing up, and she kept up the family tradition with her own family and children when she matured. 

She had a vision, of sharing this special tradition with the world, and wanted to see how much such a concept could impact the lives of children and families around the world. Her journey started with a big dream and humble resources, and there was very little means to go around. She got plenty of help from her supportive family, who too believed that this could be a fantastic business venture. With the aid of her sister, husband, and children, they created the international media sensation now known as the infamous Elf on the Shelf.

After Jennifer Garner was sighted clutching the Elf on the Shelf book under her arm in 2007, the Today Show shone a blazing beam of publicity on the family’s story, boosting the concept’s popularity and fame within a short amount of time. They’ve now been doing quite well with the business venture, operating as a well-functioning family business with both of her daughters still devotedly on board. They intend on continuing to expand their product selection going forward, with potential inspiration ideas involving suggestions from children and fans from all over the world.

They currently have additional options including an elf clothing line, which is a great way to add some more activity ideas, games, and overall excitement to the Elf on the Shelf every festive season. They have also begun creating  ‘Elf Pets’ and other related Christmas toys with the same traditional flare in addition to the customary Elf on the Shelf, and have been behind the production of an official Elf on the Shelf musical in certain areas.

Although they are certainly continuing to grow and spread the story and magic of the Elf on the Shelf, they are content with the classic idea and meaning behind the elf and believe that this should always be the main focal point. They steer clear of using fancy methods to make it flashier and appreciate the fact that the Elf on the Shelf is simple and suitable without added batteries or modern tech. The Elf on the Shelf tradition depends on kindness, happiness, imagination, memories, as well as emotional bonds between children and family members – that is what makes it so special.

How do you play Elf on the Shelf? 

It’s very simple to play with the Elf on the Shelf, and there are many ways in which families can find inspiration for ideas on how to include the elf during Christmastime. Regardless of how the custom is practiced under the preference of the household, there are a few basics that will need to be done for the most fun and magical experience.

The first step would be to read the Elf on the Shelf traditional storybook with the children. This would allow insight for the children, and assist in their understanding of the elf, where the elf came from, and what it’s doing in the home. The rules of the elf’s inability to speak or move while children are awake and the fact that the elf cannot be touched should be established with the story and information. The elf can then be introduced to the children, and they will need to give a special name to the elf in order for it to receive its magical powers. After that, the rest is mostly up to the parents and the will of a child’s imagination.

Fun things the elf can do for small kids

The most popular age group for the Elf on the Shelf is between the ages of 2 and 3 years old, since this is not too young to understand rules or games, and is a ripe age for the blossoming imagination of a child. Since children at such an age are more prone to fantastical stories and are still quite egocentric, involving them in such a tradition would be great for instilling values, teaching principles, and involving them in imaginative play. 

Parents can certainly benefit from such an enthusiastic age group, with an easier approach and potential for wildly ingenious Elf on the Shelf placement which is sure to spark an entertaining reaction from young children. It’s also great to have the freedom to establish familiarity with long-term traditions for children at a young age. 

Fun things the elf can do for older kids

Although children at young ages would certainly benefit from having being introduced during the early stages of their lives, children at older ages can also benefit from the Elf on the Shelf in various ways. Children who are starting to age and develop social awareness and a better understanding of rules will be able to build accountability, and responsibility since the elf is always watching their behavior and will tell Santa everything that happens. Such interactions provide experience with action versus consequence, which is a way to assist in children developing remorse. 

Children which are starting to become aware of what goes on at night, tweens, or teenagers for example – can also stay involved with the Elf on the Shelf. They can assist in finding interesting ways to celebrate the tradition for younger children and may find some amusement in placing the elf in comedic ways. This also gives older children a chance to experience a role reversal and allows for the tradition and story of the Elf on the Shelf to continue into their adulthood for future generations. 

Some have drawn attention to the fact that there should not be a misconception surrounding the purpose of the Elf on the Shelf. Yes, it does offer a means to influence the behavior of your children, as one could insist that the elf is watching and they should be good for goodness sake. But, such a direct approach may result in effects that may only be visible in years to come, and some professionals have considered that such a tradition may create a dysfunctional internal working model – or, a false perception of reality within children.

Certain influences such as ‘behave, and Santa will bring you a present’, or ‘stop doing that, or the elf will tell Santa you’re naughty’ may not be the best tactic. While it may be said in jest, children may take it to heart over time, which may lead to an unrealistic expectation in the real world. For example, it may become an ‘action for a reward’ type situation, and as all adults know, there simply won’t always be a tangible reward in the real world.

This is, however, mainly due to the approach as opposed to the Elf on the Shelf itself, and it has to be understood that no inanimate object can enforce boundaries that parents should instill. There are plenty of other approaches, which have more focus on immaterial rewards, such as ‘be good, it makes the elf happy’ or, ‘it makes the elf sad when you do that’, with less focus on a ‘present’ as the end reward. This may be more effective in having a balanced inclusion of the Elf on the Shelf, and also assist children in developing emotional gratification through being kind and respectful, as opposed to reaping a personal reward due to good behavior.   

But, the truth is that this would be true for all fantastical beings or imaginary friends. Imagination is in fact extremely healthy for children, as imagination is the primary root of many great human accomplishments, and is something adults use every day. Children are still developing control over their imaginations versus reality in addition to social awareness, respect, rules, and responsibility, and the Elf on the Shelf provides an opportunity for that development in a fun and interactive way.

What are our Elf on the Shelf doing?

What happens if you touch the Elf on the Shelf? 

There are a few golden rules when it comes to including one of these adorable elves in your holiday cheer routines. But, one of the most important rules is to never touch the Elf on the Shelf, according to an interview with those behind the idea on The Morning. This is since it will result in the elf losing all of its magical powers or possibly become ill, causing an inability to complete the task at hand or make it back to the North Pole at night. 

One of the key features of having an Elf on the Shelf in your home is that it serves as a direct link to Santa for children. It’s an Elf on the Shelf’s primary job to ensure that reports on each and every child within the household is provided to Santa every single night. These reports dictate whether children have been naughty or nice, and describes incidences relating to either of these boxes being ticked. 

Sometimes, accidents happen, and children can often make contact with the Elf on the Shelf without meaning to, or by other means. There are some measures that can be taken in the event that a child touches the Elf on the Shelf, including an initial apology in either verbal or written form from the child. Measures such as these assist in developing a sense of remorse and accountability within children of varying ages, allowing them to take responsibility for having broken the established rule or having harmed the Elf on the Shelf. 

The Elf on the Shelf is said to thrive from good manners and happiness, and when children show the Elf on the Shelf that they are behaving well, and these conditions may help some magical powers to be recovered. Another ‘natural elf remedy’ is to sprinkle some cinnamon around the area in which it is seated. This will act as a sort of ‘medicine’ for the elf, and he will at least be able to make it back to the North Pole at night, where there are ‘elf hospitals’ available to treat them and return them to full health for the next morning.  

With so many families and children ‘adopting’ elves who act as eyes and ears for the legendary Santa, it’s certainly a special tradition which can add a ton of fun and golden memories to an already incredibly festive season, while serving as a nifty incentive for happy, well-mannered children. This is one of the most prominent factors which sets the Elf on the Shelf apart from many Christmas themed toys or accessories, and this special story connected with the magic of Christmas is something that children will cherish.

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Elf on the Shelf
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