Elf On The Shelf | Everything To Know About This Popular Festive Trend

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The Elf on the Shelf: a Christmas Tradition. What’s that all about then? This modern festive tradition has taken the world by storm during recent Decembers, and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

Those naughty elves are found all around the home during the Christmas season, often getting up to no good in the process. Kids who play are filled with anticipation each morning, as they begin the daily hunt for the elf sent by Father Christmas.

The elf moves into the family home, usually sometime during December. They then get up to all kinds of mischief – yet the kids will never see them move.

All they know is that they discover their elf visitor in some sort of compromising position each morning, such as wrapped up in toilet roll or in the fridge where they’ve finished off the leftovers.

This guide will take you through the Elf on the Shelf story, telling you all about how this modern family tradition was established.

We also discuss how to introduce the idea to the kids, some ideas for playing with your elf off the shelf and how to incorporate the trend into your festive decor and gifting.

If you need to know all about Elf on the Shelf, this guide has you completely covered!

All about Elf on the Shelf | What it is, where it started and how to get involved

From where to buy Elf on the Shelf to what you can do with it once you’ve brought a cute elf into your home, this is the ultimate guide to the Christmas elf story.

Elf on the Shelf | What’s the story?

So what exactly is Elf on the Shelf, and where did the story and this modern Christmas tradition come from?

As Christmas approaches each year, Santa Claus sends his army of elves into the homes of kids all across the world. Including here in Australia.

The idea is that they report back to Santa about whether each child is being ‘naughty or nice’ this year. An elf’s story about what the kids have been up to can thus help decide whether they really deserve to get Christmas presents.

Dating back to the mid 2000s, the Elf on the Shelf book was written by a mother and daughter team, and was apparently based on their own festive tradition of having an elf in their home, sent by Santa to keep an eye on the kids’ behaviour.

The trend first went viral in the US, then rapidly spread across the globe. Despite being a relatively new Christmas tradition, it’s already become firmly established.

Every night when the kids are in bed, parents across Australia are now placing the elf somewhere unexpected so the kids can have fun hunting for them each morning.

Sometimes parents also choose, from time to time, to leave small gifts ‘from Santa’ alongside the elf to reward their children for good behaviour.

Part and parcel of being ‘nice’ is that kids can never touch the elf. They are permitted to talk to them though, as much as they like. If they do give in to temptation, the story goes that the elf will then disappear, never to return.

The naughtier the elf gets, the better. In fact many people take to social media each day, posting pictures of their misdeeds on sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram. The only limit is your imagination. (You need to keep it clean, of course, as there are kids are involved here!)

The last time the kids will see their Elf on the Shelf is on Christmas Eve, when he or she returns to the North Pole to help deliver Christmas gifts to children everywhere.

What began with the book now includes a set with an elf figure, as well as a range of other Elf on the Shelf merchandise. Including the newer, yet already incredibly popular, ‘Elf Pets’ range.

It’s inexpensive to buy and great fun for all the family, so why not make this a new Christmas tradition in your household this year?

Read on to find out more about where to buy Elf on the Shelf – and what to do with them once the newly adopted elf arrives in your home.

elf on the shelf pets

Elf on the Shelf | What to buy and where

Want to buy Elf on the Shelf? The main product is a set comprising the Elf on the Shelf book and a soft toy elf to play the game with. Once you have the book and toy elf, you can read the tale to the kids to get them excited about the new addition to the household.

From then on, the fun is down to you! There are other Elf on the Shelf items available for purchase too.

Click here to explore the entire Elf on the Shelf range

Elf on the Shelf book and toy

Amazon stock the toy and book sets to boy online, so there’s no need to hunt around for ‘Elf on the Shelf near me’. These come in various options, where the book is the same but the included ‘elf pets’ differ slightly.

You can pick out a Elf on the Shelf that resembles the child in some way if you want to, as there are different eye and skin tones available. So whether you want a black elf on the shelf or a blue-eyed one, there are boy and girl versions of the Elf on the Shelf for sale to suit everyone.

Click here to view Elf on the Shelf options on Amazon

Elf on the Shelf pets

Like any popular piece of merchandise, the Elf on the Shelf trend has grown to include extra products. Hence the addition of ‘Elf Pets‘ to the family. These come in several options.

Click here to see a range of Elf on the Shelf pets

Elf on the Shelf reindeer

The reindeer Elf on the Shelf set includes a super cute reindeer plush toy, plus a book telling the tale of this new ‘reindeer tradition’.

The idea is that the reindeer is your elf’s best friend, and its magic powers are required to help Santa’s sleigh to fly around the world each Christmas Eve.

Your reindeer should be given a name – as well as lots of love and cuddles to help increase their stores of this special festive magic.

Click here to discover the Elf on the Shelf reindeer range

Elf Pets Saint Bernard dog

If your family are into their pooches, then an Elf on the Shelf plush St Bernard is surely a must. This adorable doggie is irresistible, with big, brown puppy dog eyes and of course the small barrel around its neck.

The accompanying book tells the story of how the St Bernard helps Santa channel the love and hope of the Christmas season, and how the dog stores the love children show to others to help things along.

Click here to check out the Elf on the Shelf Saint Bernard

Elf on the Shelf arctic fox

Another newcomer to the Christmas Elf on the Shelf tradition is the arctic fox. This very appealing plush toy in purest white even has a glow-in-the-dark snow globe around its neck!

Again the Elf Pets arctic fox comes with a beautifully illustrated book, telling the kids how they need to love and care for their new pet in order to spread the Christmas spirit.

They can even shake the glow-in-the-dark snow globe to show the world – and Father Christmas – that they believe in festive magic.

Click here to find out more about the Elf Pets arctic fox

Mini Elf on the Shelf

A mini Elf on the Shelf can be a super cute way to carry the Elf on the Shelf theme throughout the festive season.

There are several ‘World’s Smallest Elf on the Shelf‘ options, including a set with a tiny slinky dog or glo worm, or keychains with elf pets or figures.

Click here to see a variety of mini Elf on the Shelf options

Elf on the Shelf advent calendar

Get the kids even more involved in the elf story by adding a themed Elf on the Shelf calendar into the mix.

There are various official and unofficial options available, and we love the set of magnets that comes with the Christmas Countdown Calendar.

You can also buy different kinds of Elf on the Shelf advent train products made by other manufacturers.

Click here to explore the range of Elf on the Shelf advent calendars

Elf on the Shelf clothing

There is also various clothing with an Elf on the Shelf theme. You can purchase official clothing like an elf skirt for the elves themselves, or garments like pyjamas and Christmas sweaters for kids.

Click here to find an Elf on the Shelf skirt, sweater or other clothing

Elf on the Shelf bedding

Yes, you can even buy Elf on the Shelf bedlinen. If you want to brighten up your child’s room with some Christmas Manchester, you can buy an Elf on the Shelf duvet set in cool, comfortable cotton.

Click here to view bedding with an Elf on the Shelf theme

Other Elf on the Shelf merchandise

There are other options too. Some of the Elf merch we like includes a larger plush Elf on the Shelf that’s ideal for younger kids, a superhero Elf on the Shelf, an Elf Pets reindeer in tartan pyjamas, a sleeping bag for the elf – and even a large Gemmy Elf on the Shelf inflatable.

Click here to discover a range of Elf on the Shelf merch

buy elf on the shelf

15 Elf on the Shelf ideas

So once your Elf on the Shelf is in the house – what do you do with him or her? Here are 15 fun ways to display your elf so you entertain the kids each morning during December!

Elf on the Shelf clues

Make each day a learning experience by writing or printing out a set of clues to indicate the elf’s whereabouts.

Swinging Elf on the Shelf

A makeshift swing crafted from a toilet roll inner and a length of ribbon can be hung just about anywhere in the home – such as beneath a shelf.

Spelling Elf on the Shelf

Use Cheerios or another suitable cereal so the elf can spell out a secret message. What does your elf want to say?

Elf on the Shelf cutlery

That’s not a stack of spoons! The sections inside a cutlery drawer are the perfect shape and size for concealing a cheeky elf.

Coffee break Elf on the Shelf

This one’s ideal if you use coffee machine pods. Pop a paper straw into a pod and sit your elf down ‘drinking it’, so it looks like he or she is taking a morning coffee break!

Elf on the Shelf sledding

A pile of white washcloths or towels can easily be made to resemble a snowy slope that your elves could be riding down. A cut out piece of plastic bag will do in lieu of a sledge.

Snowman Elf on the Shelf

Hide the elf inside a stack of two or three toilet rolls before using black and orange felt tip pens to draw on the face and buttons of a snowman.

Elf on the Shelf at the movies

Use the kids’ toy cars as seats for the elf or elves and place them as if they’re watching a movie screen made from your propped-up smartphone.

Snow angels Elf on the Shelf

Scatter some rice on a smooth surface, then place your elf on it so he or she is making a snow angel. (Flour or icing sugar will look more like snow, but they’re far more messy to clean up.)

Elf on the Shelf wrapping

Let the kids catch the elf in the act of wrapping some Christmas presents. Small, cheap items will do, so why not raid the supermarket or local dollar store for some little goodies?

Peeping Elf on the Shelf

Turn the tables by placing the elf so it looks like it’s peeking into the gift bags being kept beneath the Christmas tree. Naughty elves!

LEGO® Elf on the Shelf

Add some LEGO® to your daily display to make it look like the elf has been ‘kidnapped’ by the kids’ LEGO® figures. You could tie the elf to a vehicle or other large piece with string, twine or ribbon, before surrounding him or her with angry little LEGO® people.

Arty Elf on the Shelf

Bananas make the perfect canvas for any artistic or mischievous elf. You could draw faces, words or anything that takes your fancy. The best things is, the fruits will still be edible afterwards.

Elf on the Shelf snacking

Place the elf anywhere there’s food – inside a bread bin or cake dome, or even in the fridge. You could even place them atop a slice of bread, with a smear of Vegemite or Nutella behind their rear end. Oops!

‘Bye ‘Bye Elf on the Shelf

When it’s time to say ‘see you next year’, sit your elf inside a toy vehicle – perhaps with some presents or luggage stacked up on the back – so it looks like he or she is returning to the North Pole until next December.

What will your Elf on the Shelf get up to?

From an Elf on the Shelf train advent calendar to the Elf Pets range and the best Elf on the Shelf ideas for festive mischief, we hope this guide has given you some ideas about what to do with your December visitor.

And finally – you could also use your elves to create funny Christmas decorative displays of your own. If you’re prepared to spend a little time making simple props such as kissing or photo booth, a candy cane sled or a fishing rod, there’s a myriad of ways in which to inject fun into the festive season!

Join our Facebook group to jumpstart your Christmas planning all year long!

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Janine Mergler

Janine has a Bachelor of Education (Secondary) from the Queensland University of Technology and works as an editor of the popular Families Magazine. Janine owns the Christmas in Australia website because she is a huge fan of Christmas and everything about the festive season and she wants to share it all with you! Travelling the country to find all the best Christmas experiences in Australia, she can be found celebrating Christmas in July and getting more and more excited as 25th December approaches! Join my Christmas in Australia Facebook group too!

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