Elf on the Shelf Ideas: Navigating the Elf on the Shelf Tradition For New Parents

December 13, 2021 7 min read

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen...and if you're here then you are probably looking for Elf on the Shelf ideas and thinking about starting this new tradition.

This enchanting creature, bursting with Christmas spirit, may or may not have a reindeer-inspired name and I'm here to walk you through the whole process of navigating the Elf on the Shelf as a new parent of little ones.

The Elf on the Shelf has become a big part of our holiday traditions over the years and Poodle (yes,Poodle), is very special to our family. Named the year the boys wanted a dog for Christmas, he arrives at the beginning of December with St. Nick. 

(Smart boys, because we ended up with Junie shortly after. Well played fellas. Well played.)

As a parent, Poodle brings moments of joy, and total panic. As a kid, the reactions can range from belly laughs, to elatedness, to 'meh', to complete disappointment. There have been times when white lies may or may not have been made up on the spot and times when Poodle has saved the day. 

One thing is for certain: our holidays season would not be the same without the Elf on the Shelf tradition and we hope that it becomes just as much fun for your family, too. 

Elf on the Shelf Ideas: Navigating the Elf on the Shelf Tradition For New Parents

Whether you have older children coming home from school with questions about the Elf or a new baby at home that you want to introduce the Elf to for the very first time, my goal is to make the process as seamless and as magical, and memorable as possible.

.And of course, if you have a few laughs or “oh fiddlesticks” moments, it just makes the memories that much greater. They are also fun stories to tell when your kids are old enough to hear them. 

How does the Elf on the Shelf work?

First and foremost, The Elf on the Self is a sweet holiday tradition that should be fun (re: not stressful) for your whole family. The Elf is categorized as a Scout Elf, as in they are a special type of Elf that doesn’t participate in toy making but has the important job of showing up in your home to watch over your kids during the holiday season.

Once your child is asleep, they fly through the night to The North Pole and deliver the news of the day to Santa. 

Translation: they keep the jolly old fellow up-to-date onnaughty and nice behaviors. 

Bottom line, The Elf on the Shelf encourages kids to put more effort into being well-behaved during the holiday season since their Elf is always watching them. 

When does the Elf on the Shelf arrive?

The answer to this question is going to be different for each family. At the end of the day, when to start the tradition is truly up to you. However, it makes the most impact on little ones when they are old enough to have some memories of the start of the tradition. The sweet spot for this is between the ages of two and three, as they are able to understand what’s going on and how much magic the Elf really brings.

Then there's the question of which day the Elf arrives. Poodle makes his way to our house with stockings on St. Nick's Day (he doesn't like to travel alone). Other elves are known to arrive on Thanksgiving, or sometime between Thanksgiving and December 1st. In other homes, he makes his appearance whenever parents can find where they hid them the year before.

Where can I get an Elf on the Shelf?

First things first: go purchase the Elf from an official Scout Elf Adoption Center (meaning, go to a store without your kiddo in tow, or head online).

There are many different options now and if you buy a set, it will come with a sweet book that you can read to your children when the Elf makes its grand entrance.

The elves come in different shapes, colors, sizes, and genders, making a great opportunity to teach children to embrace differences. 

If your kids are with you and spot the Elf on the Shelf in the store, no worries! Keep the holiday spirit alive with a straightforward explanation. Share that Santa has set up adoption centers, allowing families to pick their very own elf for a season of festive fun.

How should the Elf on the Shelf be introduced?

For our first year, Poodle rang our doorbell late one night, and the boys found him on the porch with the book and marshmallows.

Another way to introduce the Elf for the very first time is to have it show up in a common place where your kids will notice it right away. Choose a theme of some sort that is unique to your family, as this will let your kids know that the Elf has been paying attention to your home. For instance, does your family love donuts? Have the Elf show up with donuts for breakfast. It can honestly be as simple as that, and the Elf doesn’t need to go overboard every single time it visits. The first introduction is important though. 

Also, have the book with the Elf so that you can read it as a family and learn everything about your new friend. If you want to be a little bit extra, you can include a special note from the elf, too. Making the experience as personalized as possible is the best way to introduce your kids to the Elf for the very first time. Once the introduction has been made, you can move on to the naming ceremony…

What's a good name for our Elf on the Shelf?

If you are looking to choose a name that is more unique than all the elves named Sparkle that you probably see showing up in yourFacebook feed (or not, Sparkle is a great name, too - no judgment here!), boy do we have an idea for you!

Choosing your elf’s name is very important. After all, the Elf on the Shelf will become a beloved part of our kiddos' Christmas traditions and they need a name worthy of those memories. In the Fulcher household, we play a game calledThe Tournament of Names when choosing a new baby's name (you canread all the instructions here), as well as when any new pets or magical creatures have been added to our crew. 

What are the rules for Elf on the Shelf?

There are only three rules that must be followed for The Elf on the Shelf and they are very important, so you will want to listen up:

  1. First and foremost, no one is allowed to touch the Elf under any circumstance. Ever. Why? Because if an Elf is touched by a human, they will lose their magic. This rule applies to adults too (though emergency situations may arise).
  2. Your Elf can’t talk. I know, that’s not what you wanted to hear. I’m sure you wanted another person in your home talking your ear off all day, but that is not the case with this Elf. However, your Elf is a fantastic listener. Children and parents can both talk to the Elf as often as they would like.
  3. Lastly, on Christmas Eve each year, your Scout Elf will return to the North Pole to stay with Santa Claus and help him prepare for next Christmas. (Hint: give yourself a little reminder about where you hide the Elf. This will come in handy next year...promise!) 

What if the Elf on the Shelf gets touched or bumped?

Magic can be restored by a parent in some homes. Kids are clumsy.

If touching Poodle is truly an accident at our house, we bend the rules a bit to save the tears.

The rumor mill is running rampant on whether this works or not, but some kids swear that you have to sprinkle cinnamon or glitter on your elf to restore the magic. It works like vitamins to bring them back to health. Others hold their elf with tweezers, sprinkle the magic, and spin him around while everyone sings a Christmas song.

If the elf falls, they must be left where they are and not touched. All will be resolved once your child goes to sleep and their magic takes them back to the North Pole. 

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

Forgetting to move the Elf is the fuel for the panic that I mentioned earlier. This is when you need to get creative and think on your toes. But you are a parent, so you have already mastered those skills. If you have a“mom brain moment” here are some solutions:

  1. The most creative way, especially if you have older children, is to change someone’s name to Santa in your phone, text them with the situation and have them send back a heartfelt response. 
  2. Tell them that the Elf on the Shelf fell asleep...you even heard snoring last night!
  3. A rogue toy must have glued him in place, and although we can't move him to check, sprinkling something on him will release him. Try glitter, sprinkles, or cinnamon.
  4. Explain that he is probably saving his magic for something extra-special tomorrow. 
  5. Blame the pet. The dog accidentally touched him so he’s not allowed to move until tomorrow.
  6. He didn't eat enough brain food yesterday, and must have forgotten that he was already in that spot yesterday.

A few extra “Elfy” things to note:

  • To snip or not to snip? Hands and feet that is. Ours currently has free legs, but his hands are stuck together. It makes it easy to setup ziplines, hang him on hooks, and have him hug other toys. The moral of the story is that families approach this differently. When your kids are old enough to start comparing notes with their friends, or they catch an elf in a position theirs wouldn't be in, be prepared to explain why your elf is, or isn't stuck together.
  • This definitely won't win me any parenting awards, but Poodle takes on the enforcer role in our house. When the boys are being extra wild, or having a moment, a quick 'I hope Poodle didn't see that,' helps get the situation under control. I'm also known to whisper 'Poodle is right there.' Our kids find joy in the magic, and I see no harm in letting some of that magic spill over into getting an extra set of eyeballs for a few weeks.

I hope you enjoyed all of my Elf on the Shelf ideas and that the process of starting this new family tradition is a memorable one for you and your family.

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