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Sunday, November 1, 2020

What is the Elf on the Shelf? The Ultimate 2023 Guide to Elf on the Shelf

A few years after my daughter was born this concept called the Elf on the Shelf seemed to start popping up. At the time I had no idea what it was until some friends started getting on board. In fact you could probably say I was team anti-elf for a while, until I realised just how magical it would be for my girls. 

Now we have our own special elf, Elfie, who visits us each December and many other families have their own elf too, I've even heard of some classrooms that have their own elf visitor at the end of the year.

the ultimate elf on the shelf guide

The Elf on the Shelf is a popular Christmas tradition stemming from the children's book, The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition, by Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell. The Elf on the Shelf {a special scout elf} is sent by Santa to a child's home for the month of December. The elf watches over them and reports back to Santa at the North Pole each night, until they leave on Christmas Eve. 

Each morning the elf finds a new spot that they can watch from, making it exciting for children to wake up and look for the elf each day. During their stay the elves are also known to do funny tricks and sometimes get up to lots of mischief! You could say the Elf on the Shelf is the ultimate form of bookish play that's taken on a life of it's own, bringing magic to thousands of children and sparking creativity in adults across the globe.


The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition was written by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell in 2004 and they self published the book in 2005. The story for the book is based off of their own family tradition with a Christmas elf, Fisbee, when Aebersold's children were little. 

The mother daughter duo joined with Aebersold's other daughter Christa Pitts, who sold her house, to create the family company. Originally the first Elf on the Shelf sets were sold at trade shows then online. Over the years the popularity of Elf on the Shelf has grown exponentially and it's now a Christmas tradition for families across the globe, an astronaut even took an elf into space.

Aebersold, Bell & Pitts created The Elf on the Shelf to share their own special family tradition with the world and never dreamed it would become the empire it is today. As the popularity grew more books were added and now there's also an animated movie An Elf's Story, that kids can watch to learn more about the elves.


The Elf is sent to scout for Santa to help him compile his naughty and nice lists by observing children's behaviour and reporting back to the North Pole each evening. The elves don't just report bad behaviour though, they also tell Santa when children have been kind, helpful or have done good deeds. Some elves even bring their own elf surveillance camera as an added reminder that they're always watching, but it's up to each elf if they bring a camera or not.


One of the golden rules is that you can't touch the elf or it might lose some of it's magic. If an elf loses it's magic completely then it won't be able to fly back to Santa at night. 

Don't worry though if an elf is accidentally touched there are ways to help them get their magic back. You can apologise to the elf, sprinkle cinnamon next to them {cinnamon is a special elf vitamin that helps them get well enough to fly to the North Pole hospital} or sing Christmas carols to them.

It's up to your individual family if you include this element or not as some children simply want to hug, squeeze and love on their elf while they're visiting. Some families use special elf tongs or mittens so the elf can be touched without losing their magic.


Santa has started sending special pets to selected houses because he needs your help. Some elves may arrive with an arctic fox, St Bernard or their own reindeer. Santa has sent these pets because he needs your help to keep the Christmas spirit and Christmas magic alive.

Arctic fox cubs help the northern lights glow so Santa can fly around the world delivering presents undetected. Each time a child shakes the foxes snow globe it lets Santa know they believe in Christmas magic and helps spark the northern lights. 

Reindeer will absorb Christmas magic while they visit your house and once they've absorbed enough they'll grow to full size so they can help Santa fly his sleigh. 

St. Bernard's help kids spread Christmas cheer, they collect all the Christmas cheer and send it to the north star to help Santa stay magical at the North Pole.

elf on the shelf pets


Unfortunately we can't fly to the North Pole to collect an elf so Santa has left lots of them in toy shops all over the world for mums and dads to adopt. There are boy and girl scout elves that can be adopted and each elf's personality is perfectly matched to the family that adopts them. 

In Australia parents can adopt an Elf on the Shelf from Kmart, Lime Tree Kids, Catch, or Amazon AU and there's also teeny baby elves available on Etsy. Other countries can find an elf on Amazon. Once you have an elf give them a special name and they'll come back to visit each year in December.

elf on the shelf options


As the popularity of Elf on the Shelf has grown, so have the official accessories. Claus Couture is the official clothing line for all elves, girls or boys. There's a number of fun outfits and costumes available that will help your elf with all their elf antics. There's also play kits and special letters to Santa

Of course elves are also very resourceful and can usually find everything they need from around your house. They're often very good at borrowing miniature doll accessories and household items to get creative with each night.


The elf will be with you for 24 nights in December and each morning they'll need to find a new spot to watch from. Some elves are very messy, some play funny tricks, some bring activities to do and some just like to move around the house

Each elf will have it's own personality and this will determine where it moves to each night, however if they need a little help I've put together a big list of easy Elf on the Shelf ideas and 18 Elf on the Shelf arrival ideas

It's also a good idea to use an elf planner to keep up with elf's antics each night, or invest in an elf kit to be completely prepared. Join our Facebook group Elfing Around for lots of elf ideas from parents all over the world.


If you decide the Elf on the Shelf isn't right for your family, there are many other elf alternatives you can use to start a Christmas tradition with your family.

what is the elf on the shelf?

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