Elf on the Shelf beginner's guide

Elf on the Shelf – a Beginner’s Guide – Part 1

Kel Activities With Kids 5 Comments

***Elf Warning! Not for little eyes!***


A beginner's guide to Elf on the Shelf - what is it, how do I do it? Find out here!


Love it or hate it, the Elf on the Shelf is growing in popularity here in the UK. There seem to be two camps: those who embrace the tradition with gusto, and those who think the elf is a creepy little thing who will never grace their abode with its presence.  Those of you who do ‘elf’ are probably, like me, frantically planning activities and such ready for next month.  But don’t worry; whether you’re an old hand at ‘elfing’ or a total newbie, here is a guide to all things elf and a few ideas to get you started!


What on earth is ‘Elf on the Shelf’?!

‘Elf on the Shelf – A Christmas Tradition’ is an illustrated story book about scout elves, who visit families during December to keep an eye on the children’s behaviour, reporting back to Santa Claus every night.  The book comes in a box set with a scout elf figure.  The idea is that your scout elf ‘appears’ each morning in a different place, giving the impression that he or she has gone back to the North Pole the previous evening to report to Santa.  We also have the DVD ‘An Elf’s Story’, which I used to set the scene; our elf ‘arrived’ in a parcel at the front door just like in the film, which really helped convince Big that he’s real!


elf on the shelf


Of course (shhh, don’t tell the children!), it’s actually down to us parents to move the elf around each night.  For some, that’s all they do – move it to a different place for the children to find in the morning, and that’s cool.  For others, like me, it’s a chance to really have some fun; our elf has been quite mischievous over the last two years!  He’s also kind and pretty generous – he often brings (cheap!) little gifts for my two.


Are there any rules?

Really, it’s up to you – it’s your elf! However, many people follow the lead from the book and insist the elf must not be touched or he will lose his magic.  Sometimes this has posed a problem, if our elf has ‘appeared’ in a place that is easily reached by little hands.  I got round this by saying that it’s ok for adults to move him, but children must not touch! Some people let children handle the elves, others use ‘magic dust’ (glitter!) to give a touched elf his magic back. The other rule is that the elf must not move during the day – his job is to watch and observe! Other than that, the rules are your own to make up as you go.


Where do I get an Elf on the Shelf?

There are lots of different ‘elves’ on the market at the moment.  The ‘official’ Elf on the Shelf box set is available from ‘Elf Adoption Centres‘ around the UK as well as online stockists, for a RRP of £29.95.  There is also a range of cute accessories for these elves, including pets and clothing – ‘Claus Couture‘.


elf on the shelf raincoat


elf on the shelf parka



elf on the shelf pet reindeer


However, if that’s a little out of your price range, look out for more affordable, cuddly elves in card shops and other high street stores. Anything goes – it’s up to you to create the magic!


I’ve found an elf – what do I do next?

Now you have your elf, it’s time to plan! If you’re just going to be moving your elf around, there won’t be much to do. However, if you want your elf to get up to some mischief, you might want to make a plan so that you know what is happening when and what props you might need to get in preparation.  I download a calendar and fill in each day’s ‘antic’, then make a note of what I need to buy in advance.

But, here – just for you – is a blank planner I’ve made, all ready for you to fill in with your Elf ideas! Click on the image below to open a PDF version that you can print.




Pinterest is your best friend here – there are hundreds of ideas for elf antics. Props don’t need to be expensive; there’s a lot on eBay and Amazon, and pound shops are a real treasure trove. There are groups on Facebook that will give you some good ideas of where you can source different things as well as ideas for antics, downloads and more.


Oh, and don’t forget, your elf will need a name! I let Big choose ours (predictably, he chose ‘Chippy’, like the Elf in the book and film!).


Now see part 2….   Some ideas to get you started!


Disclosure: We were sent an ‘Elf on the Shelf’ product as a ‘thank you’ for writing about the tradition, however all views and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

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The Mum DiariesClaire BaylissKelMrsreynolds@outlook.com Recent comment authors

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The Mum Diaries

This is great! Thank you for linking up with #ELFotShelf16 can’t wait to see your antics!

Claire Bayliss

We have the ‘grown-up’s can touch the Elf’ rule too, but the kids can also touch him if they’re ‘helping’ him, like if he’s fallen over x


Love it Kelly, give me more!!! C