The Elf on the Shelf Christmas tradition

Elf on the Shelf is a relatively new Christmas tradition where toy elves help create some extra festive magic for kids (and big kids!).

The story accompanying the tradition says that the elves keep an eye on children and, each night, return to the North Pole to let Father Christmas know if they’ve been ‘naughty or nice’.

Each morning the elves return and get up to mischief in a different area of the home.

Adults have the job of coming up with ideas for different ‘scenes’ and locations for the elves, either setting them up in the evening after the children are asleep or getting up early in the morning!

From 1 to 24 December, children race around as soon as they wake up, searching for their elf and the mischief they’ve been up to.

I think Elf on the Shelf is a lovely way to create some Christmas magic for young children and everyone in the household can be involved.

The families I know who’ve started this tradition in recent years say it’s already become their favourite part of the festive run-up.

If you’d like to give it a go but avoid the more commercial aspects of the tradition, you can make your own elf (or use a suitable toy you already have at home) instead of buying an ‘official’ one.

It’s also very easy to make your own environmentally-friendly scenes and locations for your elf using items you already have around the home if you don’t want to buy anything new – just allow yourself plenty of time to come up with ideas and create them!

Where did the Elf on the Shelf tradition come from?

Elf on the Shelf started in America and was developed from a game Carole Aebersold played with her children and their toy elf Fisbee in the 1970s.

In 2005 Carole – and her now grown-up children – decided to share their childhood tradition with the rest of the world, creating an ‘elf kit’ and a self-published book.

US actress Jennifer Garner helped the tradition really take off in 2007 when she was seen carrying a copy of the Elf on the Shelf book: it received lots of media attention and many more people got to hear about it!

Where can I get an Elf on the Shelf?

You can easily make your own elf or use a suitable toy you already have at home.

But if you’d like to buy the ‘official’ Elf on the Shelf, they’re available from toy shops in the run-up to Christmas, or you can buy one now from Amazon.

You can also buy a selection of clothes for your elf, including Christmas onesies, a ballerina outfit and a superhero suit!

If you need some quick and easy ideas for activities and scenes for your elf to take part in, you can choose from a variety of ready-made ‘pop ups’, including a campfire, hairdresser’s, Christmas car ride and many more!

What are the rules of Elf on the Shelf?

  • Elves don’t speak or move while children are awake. Although they can’t talk, they’re great listeners – so kids can share their secrets and Christmas wishes with their elf as often as they like
  • If a child touches the elves they will lose their magic – but don’t worry too much as if you put some cinnamon next to the elf, their magical powers will return
  • The elves must return to the North Pole on Christmas Eve to help Santa prepare for the big day.

I hope you enjoy trying out the Elf on the Shelf Christmas tradition this year!

You can share your Elf scenes on Instagram using the #ElfontheShelf and #ElfontheShelfideas tags – or just check out what other people are doing!

If you’re on the lookout for more new festive traditions, you might also find my Christmas traditions from around the world blog post helpful.

Have fun – and remember to keep a close eye on those cheeky elves!

Alex x

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