A beginner’s guide to Elf on the Shelf - Cardiff Mummy Says (2023)

I know it’s only the start of November, but I’ve already had two conversations in the last week about Elf on the Shelf and people are sharing elf-related articles on Facebook, so I figure it’s about time I wrote something about it on my blog. And what better place to start than with a beginner’s guide to Elf on the Shelf?

This will be our third year of taking part in Elf on the Shelf, and it’s been such a fun and magical family tradition in the run-up to Christmas.

I get asked a lot of questions about Elf on the Shelf, so here are my answers to the most common ones. If you’ve done Elf on the Shelf previously, then please share any advice you think would be handy for other parents. Also feel free to share pictures of what your elf has got up to.

You can see all my previous Elf on the Shelf posts hereincluding 30 easy ideas for Elf on the Shelf.

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A beginner’s guide to Elf on the Shelf - Cardiff Mummy Says (2)

What is Elf on the Shelf all about?

Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition is a 2005 rhyming book that explains how Santa’s ‘scout elves’ hide in people’s homes to watch over events. When everyone is in bed, the elf flies back to the North Pole to tell Santa about the good and bad activities that have happened that day. When the family wakes in the morning, the elf has flown back and is hiding in a new place to be found by the family. In the book, the elf’s magic will disappear if he is touched, although you are allowed to talk to him and tell him your Christmas wishes so he can report back to Santa. Elf on the Shelf started in America, with the elves arriving after Thanksgiving (the last Thursday in November). Here in the UK, most people tend to start on 1st December and the beginning of Advent.

As it has grown in popularity, the Elf on the Shelf tradition has taken in all sorts of twists and turns as people adapt it to suit their families. Some elves hide, some elves create mischief and mayhem, others are better behaved! However you choose to adapt this tradition, it will certainly add a sparkle of festive magic.

Where do I get my Elf on the Shelf from?

The official Elf on the Shelf looks like this. Some people think he looks a bit creepy, while a lot of people used to be put off by the price (they used to be£29.95 including the book from Amazonbut are now a more reasonable £8). The first year we did it, we found two fluffy cuddly elves on Amazon for about £12 each (one male and one female). The good news is, the high street and the supermarkets have well and truly caught on to Elf on the Shelf and you can now pick them up quite cheaply. Last year, we introduced a third elf to our house to mark our third baby’s first Christmas. I found him for 99p in The Card Factory. Other mums reading my page told me they had found cuddly elves for around a fiver in Sainsbury’s and Ikea. All the supermarkets seem to be doing elves that look like the official one and priced at around £3-£4.

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Do I have to start Elf on the Shelf on December 1st and do I have to do it every day?

Not at all. You can start Elf on the Shelf any day you like. One mum told me last year that her elf only appeared at weekends when they were not up against the busy week-day rush. She told her children he had to go back to the North Pole to go to elf school and see his family during the week. Or maybe he can begin his stay in the week before Christmas, when the schools have broken up. It’s your elf, your tradition – you can do what best suits your family.

I don’t like the idea of the elf spying on my children and telling Father Christmas if they’ve been naughty.

Our elves arrive on 1st December, with advent calendars and a few other Christmas goodies. They also bring with them a letter saying they have come to our house to learn how children celebrate Christmas to help their work in the North Pole. Other families I know reinforce positive behaviour – so the elves will tell Father Christmas all the good things the child has done. Some elves bring special treats on some days – Christmas activities to do, such as books or crafts, or tickets for family days out. If you don’t like the idea of the elves reporting back to Father Christmas, then decide what works best for you and go for it. And if you don’t like the idea of the elves being naughty and possibly encouraging mischievous behaviour in your children, then keep their activities simple and fun. As I said earlier, it’s your elf and your tradition.

What if I forget to move my Elf on the Shelf?

It’s not the end of the world if your elf isn’t where he’s supposed to be when your children wake up in the morning. Act like it’s part of the magic; say you’ve heard elves can do this and it might mean he has something exciting up his sleeve. Maybe he can have assumed a new position when you get home from school, or when your child wakes up from an afternoon nap. The biggest thing that helps me is to set a little reminder to beep on my phone at 10pm every evening, just in case.

I’m not sure if I have the time to commit to Elf on the Shelf…

Elf on the Shelf is what you make of it. Some of the more elaborate scenes you see all over Pinterest might well take ages to put together, and if you have the time, then that’s great. However, most of us don’t have half an hour a day to construct a scenario for our elves. There’s nothing wrong with taking the easy path. We covered our elves with stickers. It took about 30 seconds. We put them in the pockets of the oven gloves. That took about 10 seconds. We sat them on a toy fire engine. Again, that took about 10 seconds. Wrapping them in loo roll took less than a minute, as did hiding them in the branches of the Christmas tree.

It helps to be prepared, so create a Pinterest board with ideas, follow the hash tags on Instagram or Twitter (#elfontheshelf #elfonashelf), save a couple of articles with ideas to your phone, join an Elf on the Shelf Facebook group, or make your own list and brainstorm ideas so you have something to refer to on those days when inspiration is low and life is busy.

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How should my Elf on the Shelf say goodbye?

It’s worth letting your children know in your elf’s welcome letter how long they are staying for. Last year, ours left a little note on Christmas morning saying they’d had a fantastic time but were going back to celebrate Christmas with their own family now. You could get your children to leave their elf next to the mince pie and drink they leave for Santa, or next to the chimney, ready to catch a lift home on Father Christmas’s sleigh. Or perhaps spell out a goodbye with magnetic or Scrabble letters, rather than a formal letter. Maybe you could throw him/her a goodbye party or get your children to wrap their elf a Christmas present.

If you’re planning a pre-Christmas toy declutter, maybe your elf can ask for toys your children longer play with to take back to the North Pole so Father Christmas can recycle them for other boys and girls. Or maybe your elf sneaks away with no fanfare at some point on Christmas Day when your child is distracted with their new toys.

Some easy Elf on the Shelf ideas to get you started….

Have you taken part in Elf on the Shelf before, or are you planning on doing it for the first time this year? Any questions? Or any ideas you’d like to share with other parents? Do let me know on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page, or by tweeting me on @cardiffmummy You can also follow our elves’ adventures on the Cardiff Mummy Says Instagram feed or the Cardiff Mummy Says Elf on the Shelf Pinterest board.

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A beginner’s guide to Elf on the Shelf - Cardiff Mummy Says (8)



How do I tell my child the truth about the elf on the shelf? ›

Be honest with your child.

Tell him/her that the Elf on the Shelf is something parents do to make the Christmas season a little more fun for kids, and you are sorry he/she is so smart to have figured it out too soon but Santa (or you) will be proud of him/her for letting siblings/friends continue believing in the elf.

Why can't you grab the elf? ›

Children are not allowed to touch them.

Elves are very fragile, and if they are touched by human children they lose their magic and ability to communicate with Santa.

Do your mum and dad move your Elf on the Shelf? ›

But what happens if your elf falls or gets themselves into a sticky situation? Are grown-ups allowed to intervene? Santa advises that no family member touch their Elf on the Shelf, but he does describe a few rare instances when an adult may use tongs or potholders to help an elf in an urgent situation.

What happens if you touch Elf on the Shelf? ›

The first and most important rule is that you must NOT touch your Elf. If you do, they will lose all their magic - and nobody wants that to happen. When scout elves lose their magic, they can't go about their Christmas duties. This means no presents for anyone in your family!

What age do kids stop believing in elf on shelf? ›

By age eight, kids begin to acknowledge the unlikeliness of one man travelling the world in a single night. The good news? If you started the tradition of Elf on the Shelf in your household, you can likely send the elf into early retirement around your child's eighth Christmas.

What to say if kid touches elf on a shelf? ›

What to Do If Your Elf Is Touched
  • Write a nice apology note to your Elf telling your Elf how very sorry you are for touching him. This is a great way for your Elf to regain Christmas magic.
  • Sprinkle some cinnamon near the Elf. ...
  • Sing your Elf a Christmas carol with all of the family.

What happens if your elf doesn t move and you didn t touch it? ›

If your elf didn't move, they may be trying to communicate an important message to you! If your elf is accidentally touched, they may have just enough energy to get to the North Pole but not enough magic to create a whole new scene in your home.

What if your elf didn t move? ›

Elves need to wait until everyone is asleep before they can move around. If there was too much activity around the house last night, perhaps your elf only had time to get to the North Pole and back, but not enough time to find a new position. Make sure you get to bed early tonight to help them out!

Do parents hide elves? ›

Each morning, the elf chooses a new vantage point from which to keep an eye on the kids. The night before Christmas, the elf flies off one last time to spend the year with Santa until reappearing next season. Every night, a parent hides the elf in a new place.

Is 9 to old for Elf on the Shelf? ›

The Elf on the Shelf tradition can be started at any age, but most parents recommend waiting until your child is between the ages of 2 and 3. They claim it's the perfect sweet spot for children to appreciate and understand the elves' magic while establishing this family tradition at a young age.

How do you get your Elf on the Shelf to talk? ›

eMessage Your Elf

Instantly send a message to Santa or your Scout Elf. Each letter makes it to Santa's Mail Room Grotto, where the Scout Elves will read and sort each message, so you can be sure your elf reads your note! After you contact your elf, learn some new North Pole Knowledge about your red-suited helpers!

How does the Elf on the Shelf return each year? ›

Does your Elf on the Shelf® come back every year? Most Scout Elves return to their families around the same time every year, during Scout Elf Return Week – a week-long window at the end of November, leading into December.

Is 11 too old to believe in Santa? ›

"There is no such thing as being too old to believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy," Kelman tells Yahoo Life. "Letting kids figure it out on their own is preferable to parents breaking the news to them.

Why are parents against Elf on the Shelf? ›

“Elf on the Shelf” undermines a child's natural motivation to try hard and do her best. For example, if a child cleans up her room in the hope of getting more presents at Christmas, she'll be less likely to clean up her room at other times of the year, because there's no incentive.

What happens to elf when kids are bad? ›

Not so fast. The crux of this toy is that the elf is not-so-secretly spying on your kids on a daily basis to report their behavior to Santa Claus. If your child is bad or doesn't follow rules, the obvious risk is that their Christmas presents will be sacrificed, and they will instead receive that dreaded lump of coal.

What to tell your kids when they see Elf on the Shelf in store? ›

Make sure you explain to them the rules. For example that they can't touch the elf or they lose their magic power. Let them know he is watching them and that they need to look for him each day ect. The book that comes with Elf on the Shelf has all the rules in it.

What to do if your elf doesn t come back? ›

Missing Your Elf? We've Got You Covered!
  1. Whip Up a North Pole Treat. Mrs. ...
  2. Capture the Memories. Little ones will feel better about their elf's return to the North Pole if they're able to compile their favorite memories and save them to revisit throughout the year. ...
  3. Write a Letter to Your Elf. ...
  4. Keep Building Cheer.

Why did my Elf on the Shelf disappear? ›

They need extra time to complete their important Christmas duty. If your family was away during the holidays, your elf might stay a while longer to continue scouting good behavior to report to Santa. They wanted to celebrate one more holiday together—Christmas day.

Are there cameras in Elf on the Shelf? ›

The story in the book, written in rhyme, reveals that the elf doll is an emissary sent by Santa Claus to observe children and report back on their behavior for judgment. The elf cannot be touched or the magic will be broken; it is a silent observer, a CCTV camera with pointy ears.

What time does the elf move? ›

The Elf on the Shelf website recommends your Elf arrive between November 24 through December 1. This is also known as Scout Elf Return week, a.k.a. the time when Santa's little helpers flee the North Pole and head out to the houses they'll be staying at until Christmas.

How do I move my elf without touching it? ›

Perhaps you have the rule that adults can move the Elf on the Shelf, as long as they don't use their hands. This means using kitchen tongs, two forks, a spatula, chopsticks or any other kitchen utensil in your arsenal.

Can your elf come late? ›

As everyone knows, the North Pole are busy little fellows. They've got millions of toys to design, construct and wrap up, all in time for Santa's big delivery on Christmas Eve. So it's no wonder a few of the elves get a little delayed when they're heading for their December homes!

Is Santa real or is it your parents? ›

Santa is real in the sense that he was an actual person. Otherwise known as Saint Nicholas, his story goes all the way back to the 3rd century. He was a monk who was born in 280 A.D. in modern-day Turkey. As an only child, he was given great affection by his parents.

Does each child get their own elf? ›

Do I need one Elf per child or one per household? The choice is yours. We have included two Nice List Certificates and two Letters to Santa in each kit, as these items are personal. All the other items can be shared as a family.

Do you cut elf on shelf hands apart? ›

Steps to Make your Elf on the Shelf Posable

Step 1: Elf on the Shelf comes with his hands connected together, cut the thread that holds them together so the arms can be separated.

Do parents buy elves? ›

The elf can be purchased as a toy to be used by parents in the Elf on the Shelf tradition and ensure their kids are earning their place on the nice list. Here are some simple rules to be aware of when carrying out the Christmas tradition.

What is the most famous line in elf? ›

Buddy. “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

Is elf OK for kids to watch? ›

Parents need to know that although Elf has some potty language and mild swearing ("pissed," "hell," "damn," etc.) and a few references to bodily functions, it's family friendly at its core.

What is the oldest age for an elf? ›

Age: Although elves reach physical maturity at about the same age as humans, the elven understanding of adulthood goes beyond physical growth to encompass worldly experience. An elf typically claims adulthood and an adult name around the age of 100 and can live to be 750 years old.

What is the youngest age to watch elf? ›

Parents Guide: Is Elf Appropriate For Kids Under 8? We think Elf is one of the more family-friendly Christmas movies out there. It should be something kids ages 6 and up can handle in most cases. There are a few issues as noted above, but if these do not concern your family: enjoy Elf together this holiday season!

How do you catch an elf age? ›

The perfect elf book for kids, funny stocking stuffer or Christmas gift for ages 4-8, this festive read aloud is loved by children, parents, and educators alike.

What is elf's number? ›

Available throughout the United States (as well as 13 countries including France, Sweden, and Australia), it's a simple concept that will add that little extra pinch of magic dust to your holiday. Simply dial +1-319-527-2680 or +1-712-770-4404 and get talking!

How do I register my elf name? ›

You can register other North Pole helpers, like Elf Pets, as well: https://elfontheshelf.com/registration. If you are worried you don't have an official Elf on the Shelf Scout Elf, please visit Santa's Store to purchase one.

What are good elf names? ›

Famous Elf on the Shelf Names
  • Buddy (from Elf)
  • Dobby (from Harry Potter)
  • Winky (from Harry Potter)
  • Kreacher (from Harry Potter)
  • Bernard (from Santa Clause)
  • Hermey (from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer)
  • Gimbel (the store name in Elf)
  • Bing (from The Great Santa Claus Switch)
Dec 9, 2022

How do I find my elf name? ›

Simply find the first letter of your first name and match that up with your birth month to discover your true elf identity.

Where should I hide The Elf on the Shelf? ›

Here are 25 places to hide your Elf on the Shelf:
  • Above the stockings. Difficulty level: EASY. ...
  • Inside the holiday wreath. Difficulty level: MEDIUM. ...
  • Inside the family photo area. ...
  • Tucked in the kids' toys. ...
  • Poppin' out of a Rice Krispie cereal box. ...
  • Scaling the wall with bows. ...
  • Scaling the tree. ...
  • On the coffee table display.
Dec 3, 2017

How old is my Elf on the Shelf? ›

How old are elves? Scout Elves are as old as Christmas itself. No one knows for sure the exact age of a Scout Elf, but tales have said Scout Elves are over 1,000 years old.

Do elf pets leave on Christmas Eve? ›

Do Elf Pets Stay all year? While The Elf On The Shelf Elves do leave on Christmas Eve, Elf Pets don't have to leave. Our Elf On The Shelf Saint Bernard stays for year round cuddles and collects Christmas cheer year round.

How do you explain elf on shelf to kids? ›

The premise is that each night, your elf flies to the North Pole to tell Santa Claus whether your children have been naughty or nice. It's a cute way to keep the spirit of Santa alive—and encourage good behavior in your children in anticipation of Christmas (and hopefully all year round).

What to do if your kid finds the elf after Christmas? ›

This is the most effective way to help your Scout Elf get back in action quick! Sprinkle a little cinnamon next to your Scout Elf. Cinnamon is like vitamins for your elf, and it will help him or her get back to the North Pole where the elf doctors can give them a quick check-up! Sing a Christmas carol with your family!

What are parents supposed to do with Elf on the Shelf? ›

Elf on the Shelf is a Christmas tradition that sees parents moving an Elf on the Shelf (also known as a "Scout Elf") around the house every day to keep an eye on children ahead of Santa's visit.

Should I tell my kid Elf on the Shelf isn't real? ›

When they do come to you and tell you that they without a doubt no longer believe in Santa and Elf on the Shelf isn't real, then you can come clean. Explain to them that while they may not be “real” in the sense they once believed; their overall message is still important.

When a child touches Elf on the Shelf? ›

If your kids purposefully touch their Elf on the Shelf, you can have their elf spend a day away at the North Pole. Write a brief letter from your elf to explain that because they were touched, they have to spend the day getting their magic fixed at the North Pole and there will be no fun antics happening that day.

How should Elf on the Shelf arrive? ›

What is it? The Elf on the Shelf® is a Christmas tradition centered around Scout Elves who fly to the North Pole each night. Scout Elves arrive at homes in a keepsake box set that features a storybook.

How do you end Elf on the Shelf for older kids? ›

Usually elves travel by more magical means, but for a more official goodbye, pack up your elf in a box, write “To the North Pole” on it, and slap every stamp you can find on there. You don't actually have to send it anywhere, just make it seem like he's going on a trip to a very cold and faraway place.

Does the elf leave a gift? ›

Many times when the elves leave they leave a good bye letter or sometimes a tiny gift.

What to do if elf falls? ›

The official Elf on the Shelf website recommends three ways to remedy the situation:
  1. Write Santa a note to apologize.
  2. Say sorry to the scout elf.
  3. Sprinkle pure cinnamon around the elf before bed.
Dec 23, 2015

Does each kid get their own elf? ›

Do I need one Elf per child or one per household? The choice is yours. We have included two Nice List Certificates and two Letters to Santa in each kit, as these items are personal. All the other items can be shared as a family.

How does Elf on the Shelf leave? ›

According to The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition, the night before Christmas, an elf's job comes to an end. On December 24, most Scout Elves say farewell to their families and fly back to the North Pole following Santa's sleigh. This way, they can help him begin preparing for the year ahead.

Is the Elf on the Shelf real or is it your parents? ›

Because the Elf on the Shelf “moves” each night, belief can sometimes be suspended into thinking that it is real. And for all intents and purposes, the Elf on the Shelf is real. It's a real doll, after all.


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