The Elf on the Shelf is a small elf doll with a fun story and purpose. Parents purchase these dolls for their children, and they become an integral part of the Christmas season for many families.
About the Elf on the Shelf's Origins
The Elf on the Shelf doll and accompanying book are both the products of Carol Aebersold, who started the tradition with her own young family, and her daughter, Chanda Bell.
Both women are former teachers. Aebersold originally used the elf to help explain to her kids how Santa would know if they were naughty or nice, and he became a treasured part of their Christmas traditions. The mother-daughter pair originally self-published the Elf on the Shelf book, including an elf doll with each order, and it has since exploded in popularity.
The Elf's Story
The elf doll that is the main character of all the Elf on the Shelf products looks like one of the usual Christmas decorations, but he serves a higher purpose. He is said to be the direct line between Santa and the children, and returns to the North Pole each night when the kids are sleeping. Once there, he tells Santa if the kids have been naughty or nice.
When the elf returns from the North Pole, he finds a new place to sit. As parents take charge of finding new and different places in the house for the elf to rest, children delight in finding him each morning leading up to Christmas. On Christmas Eve, the elf returns to the North Pole until the next year, when he magically appears once again in the house.
The book that comes along with the elf doll is a beautifully illustrated story that explains to children how the elf came to be with them, and how he communicates with Santa. The story also outlines how the elf gets his magic and gives kids plenty of fodder for their imaginations.
How to Start Your Own Elf on the Shelf Tradition
Part of the fun of Elf on the Shelf is introducing your elf to the kids. Reading the story, learning about how the elf does their job, and maybe even doing a few crafts together, such as having your kids make drawings to welcome your family's elf, are all great ways to get started.
As the story goes, the elf obtains his magic once a family brings him into their home and gives him a name, so having a fun little naming ceremony could also be a way to make it more exciting and memorable.
As far as how to handle Elf on the Shelf in your own home, parents are free to set the rules for the elf, such as:
- No touching the elf, though children can talk to him.
- Kids may not hide the elf on their own.
- The length of time the elf is "working" between Thanksgiving and Christmas
Ideas to Make Your Tradition Even More Fun
There are also many ways to make the tradition even more exciting and unique to your family (as well as answer some of the tricky questions your kids might come up with).
- Tell your kids that the elf cannot communicate with them directly, but sometimes he may bring treats or notes from Santa for them, which you can include when you relocate the doll each night.
- If a child has gone out of his or her way to be extra good, have the elf sitting in his or her bedroom the next morning.
- If you're having trouble finding the real Elf on the Shelf doll and book, pick up any elf figure or doll and write an accompanying note from Santa for your kids to read.
- If the idea of having the Elf show up in a new spot every single day is too much, once or twice per week is fine. Explain to the kids that your elf also has important business at the North Pole, but that he checks in on them as often as he can! This takes some of the pressure off of busy parents.
A Fun Family Tradition
An Elf on the Shelf can help parents explain how Santa knows whether the kids have been good, as well as giving the kids something to look forward to in the period before Christmas. There isn't really a right or wrong way to do this, so just have fun and build memories that your kids will cherish for years to come.