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Elf on the Shelf Rules

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What are the Elf on the Shelf Rules?

The Elf on the Shelf tradition comes with a few key rules that add to its magic and excitement. These rules help maintain the whimsy and charm of the Elf’s story:

  1. The Elf Does Not Move or Speak: The Elf is magical and can listen to children’s Christmas wishes to report back to Santa, but it does not move or speak when people are around. Its magic allows it to move only when no one is watching, typically at night.
  2. No Touching the Elf: One of the most important rules is that children should not touch the Elf. The story goes that if the Elf is touched, it might lose its magic and be unable to communicate with Santa or move as it usually does.
  3. The Elf Returns to the North Pole Each Night: Every night, the Elf goes back to the North Pole to report to Santa about the day’s adventures and whether the children have been naughty or nice. It then returns before the family wakes up, often found in a different place from where it was the day before.
  4. The Elf Leaves on Christmas Eve: The Elf stays with the family to watch over them during the Christmas season, but it returns to the North Pole with Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, marking the end of its yearly visit. Write a goodbye letter to your Elf.
  5. The Elf Brings Joy and Fun: The Elf is there to add excitement and joy to the holiday season. Each morning, it finds a new place to sit and watch the day’s activities, often getting into playful and humorous situations. See our free Elf on the Shelf kit with 24 different Elf on the Shelf ideas for each day leading up to Christmas.

These rules are part of what makes the Elf on the Shelf a special and enchanting Christmas tradition for many families, creating a sense of anticipation and magic during the holiday season.

Elf on the Shelf Rules Printable

Elf on the Shelf Rules For Parents

The Elf on the Shelf tradition, while primarily for children, also involves some important guidelines for parents to follow. These rules help maintain the magic and spirit of the tradition:

  1. Move the Elf Each Night: After the children go to bed, move the Elf to a new location in the house. This movement reinforces the idea that the Elf travels to the North Pole and back every night.
  2. Keep the Magic Alive: Avoid letting children see you moving the Elf. Part of the fun is the surprise in the morning when children find the Elf in a new spot.
  3. Incorporate Creative Scenarios: Get creative with where and how you place the Elf each night. Some parents set up playful scenes or scenarios for the Elf, like having it ‘bake’ in the kitchen or ‘read’ a book.
  4. Follow the ‘No Touching’ Rule: Reinforce the rule that the Elf cannot be touched, as it might lose its magic. If an Elf is accidentally touched, some families have a ‘renewal’ ritual, like writing an apology note to Santa or sprinkling a bit of cinnamon (said to be like vitamins for the Elf).
  5. Use the Elf as a Teaching Tool: The Elf can be used to encourage good behavior, kindness, and the spirit of giving during the holiday season. Some parents use the Elf to leave encouraging notes or small tasks for children to spread holiday cheer. Our free Elf on the Shelf kit has many educational Elf on the Shelf ideas.
  6. Plan the Arrival and Departure: Decide when the Elf will make its first appearance (commonly December 1st or shortly after Thanksgiving) and its departure (usually on Christmas Eve). Some families have the Elf arrive with a special letter from Santa and leave with a goodbye note.
  7. Respect Your Child’s Feelings: If your child becomes uneasy or scared of the Elf, it’s important to adjust the tradition to suit their comfort level. The experience should be fun and magical, not stressful.
  8. Keep It Manageable: The Elf on the Shelf should be enjoyable for the whole family, including the parents. It’s okay to keep the scenarios simple and not feel pressured to create elaborate setups every night.

By following these guidelines, parents can ensure that the Elf on the Shelf tradition is a delightful and memorable experience for their children, fostering a sense of wonder and excitement during the holiday season.

FAQ

What is Elf on the Shelf?

“Elf on the Shelf” is a Christmas tradition based on a children’s picture book written by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell and illustrated by Coë Steinwart. The book, titled “The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition,” was self-published in 2005 and comes with a small, pixie scout elf.

The core idea of the tradition is that the elf is a magical scout sent from the North Pole to help Santa Claus manage his naughty and nice lists. Each day during the Christmas season, the elf watches over the household and then returns to the North Pole each night to report on whether the children were naughty or nice that day.

Here are some key aspects of the Elf on the Shelf tradition:

  1. Arrival: The elf typically arrives at a family’s home around the start of the Advent season (often December 1st) and stays until Christmas Eve.
  2. Daily Movement: Each night, after the children have gone to bed, the elf moves to a different location in the house. This movement is done by the parents, who often place the elf in various playful or humorous settings.
  3. No Touching: The tradition includes a rule that the elf cannot be touched, or it will lose its magic. This rule adds to the elf’s mystique and helps explain why it doesn’t move during the day.
  4. Departure: On Christmas Eve, the elf returns to the North Pole with Santa Claus, staying there until the next holiday season.

The Elf on the Shelf has become a popular tradition in many households, with parents using the elf’s daily movements to create excitement and encourage good behavior in their children during the holiday season. The tradition has expanded to include various elf-themed games, accessories, and even additional characters like elf pets.

How does Elf on the Shelf work?

The Elf on the Shelf is a Christmas tradition that involves a special scout elf sent from the North Pole to help Santa Claus manage his naughty and nice lists. Here’s how it typically works:

  1. Adoption of the Elf: The tradition begins when a family adopts an Elf and gives it a name. Each Elf comes with a book that explains the story and the rules of the tradition.
  2. The Elf’s Arrival: The Elf usually arrives at the family’s home at the start of the Advent season, often around December 1st. Some families choose to have the Elf arrive with a special letter from Santa or in a unique way, like hidden in a Christmas tree or sitting at the breakfast table.
  3. Daily Movement: Each night, after the children go to bed, the Elf ‘returns’ to the North Pole to report to Santa about the day’s events. Before the family wakes up the next morning, the Elf comes back and settles into a new position in the house. Parents move the Elf to different locations, often creating playful or humorous scenes for the children to discover in the morning.
  4. No Touching: One of the key rules of the Elf on the Shelf is that children are not supposed to touch the Elf. The story goes that if the Elf is touched, it might lose its magic and be unable to communicate with Santa or move as it usually does.
  5. Interaction: Children can talk to the Elf and share their Christmas wishes, which the Elf will then ‘report’ back to Santa. However, the Elf itself does not speak or move when the children are awake.
  6. The Elf’s Departure: The Elf stays with the family until Christmas Eve, when it returns to the North Pole with Santa Claus after his sleigh ride. This departure is often marked by a goodbye letter or a special farewell scene.

The Elf on the Shelf tradition is meant to add excitement and magic to the holiday season, encouraging good behavior in children and creating a fun way for families to count down to Christmas. The daily hunt to find where the Elf has moved to each morning is often a source of joy and anticipation for children.

When does Elf on the Shelf arrive?

The Elf on the Shelf typically arrives at the beginning of the Christmas season. Many families choose to have their Elf arrive on December 1st, coinciding with the start of Advent. However, the exact arrival date can vary based on personal or family traditions. Some families may introduce their Elf during Thanksgiving weekend, marking the transition from Thanksgiving to the Christmas festivities, while others might choose a specific date in early December.

The arrival of the Elf often involves a special setup or an arrival letter, setting the tone for the days leading up to Christmas. This flexibility in start dates allows families to create a holiday tradition that best fits their schedule and enhances their Christmas celebration.

When does Elf on the Shelf leave?

The Elf on the Shelf tradition typically concludes on Christmas Eve. On this night, the Elf returns to the North Pole with Santa Claus after his sleigh ride. This departure aligns with the end of the Christmas countdown and Santa’s completion of his worldwide gift-giving journey. The Elf’s departure signifies the end of its annual mission to watch over the children and report back to Santa each night. Families often mark this occasion with a goodbye letter or a special farewell scene, creating a meaningful end to the holiday season’s magical experience. The Elf then returns the following year to continue the cherished tradition.

What happens if you touch your Elf on the Shelf?

In the Elf on the Shelf tradition, it’s said that if the Elf is touched, it may lose its magic. The story goes that the Elf’s magic is what allows it to move and communicate with Santa Claus, and touching it might interfere with its ability to do its job – reporting back to Santa about the children’s behavior and helping to maintain the Christmas magic.

However, if an Elf is accidentally touched, there are a few playful “remedies” that parents can use to restore its magic:

  1. Write a Letter of Apology: Encourage your child to write a letter to Santa or the Elf, apologizing for touching the Elf and promising to be more careful in the future.
  2. Sprinkle Cinnamon: Some families use cinnamon, which in the Elf on the Shelf lore acts like a vitamin for the Elf and helps it regain its strength and magic. Just a sprinkle around the Elf can do the trick.
  3. Sing a Christmas Carol: Elves love the joy and cheer of Christmas, so singing a Christmas carol with your family can help restore the Elf’s magic.
  4. Perform a Good Deed: Doing something kind for others can also be a way to restore the Elf’s magic, as it aligns with the spirit of giving and kindness that the holiday season represents.

Remember, these “rules” are part of a fun and imaginative tradition and can be adapted to fit the comfort and enjoyment of your family. The Elf on the Shelf is meant to add joy and magic to the holiday season, not stress or worry.

Can parents touch Elf on the Shelf?

Yes, parents can touch the Elf on the Shelf. In the tradition, it’s generally said that children should not touch the Elf so it doesn’t lose its magic. However, parents are often the ones who help the Elf move to different spots around the house each night, after the children have gone to bed.

When moving the Elf, parents are encouraged to be discreet to maintain the illusion that the Elf is moving by itself. This is part of the magic of the Elf on the Shelf tradition, where the Elf ‘reports’ back to Santa each night and then returns to a new position in the home.

If the Elf is accidentally touched or falls, parents can also ‘restore’ the Elf’s magic through various playful means, such as writing a note to Santa, sprinkling a bit of cinnamon (which in the Elf lore acts like a vitamin), or having the children sing a Christmas carol.

The key is to keep the experience magical and fun for the children, ensuring the spirit of Christmas and the excitement of the Elf’s daily adventures are preserved.

Why can’t you touch Elf on the Shelf?

In the Elf on the Shelf tradition, it’s said that children should not touch the Elf to maintain its magic. The story goes that the Elf’s magic is what allows it to move and communicate with Santa Claus. Touching the Elf might interfere with its magical ability to move and to fulfill its role in watching over the household and reporting back to Santa each night.

This rule serves a few purposes in the tradition:

  1. Maintains the Magic: The no-touch rule adds to the mystique and magic of the Elf, making it seem more real and enchanting to children.
  2. Encourages Imagination: By not touching the Elf, children use their imagination to think about how it moves and what it does each night, enhancing the creative aspect of the tradition.
  3. Prevents Damage: From a practical standpoint, not touching the Elf helps to keep it in good condition year after year.
  4. Teaches Respect for Boundaries: This rule can be a tool for parents to teach children about respecting boundaries and following rules.

If an Elf is accidentally touched and the magic is ‘lost,’ families often incorporate a special ritual to help restore the Elf’s magic, such as writing a letter of apology to Santa, sprinkling a bit of cinnamon (which in the Elf lore acts like a vitamin for the Elf), or singing a Christmas carol. These rituals can add to the fun and interactive nature of the tradition.

What happens if Elf on the Shelf falls on the floor?

If your Elf on the Shelf falls on the floor, it’s an opportunity to maintain the magic of the tradition while handling the situation gently. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Don’t Touch the Elf: Remind children of the rule that the Elf should not be touched, as it might lose its magic. This helps preserve the enchantment of the Elf’s ability to move on its own.
  2. Use Elf Magic Recovery Tools: If the children are concerned about the Elf’s well-being, you can use tools like tongs, gloves, or a special “Elf spatula” to carefully reposition the Elf. This can be turned into a fun and imaginative activity, reinforcing the idea that the Elf is magical and needs special care.
  3. Write a Note to the Elf or Santa: Encourage your children to write a note to the Elf or Santa Claus, expressing concern or asking if the Elf is okay. This can be a comforting activity for kids and a way to engage with the tradition creatively.
  4. Reassure Your Children: If the fall causes worry, reassure your children that Elves are very resilient and that Santa’s magic helps them recover quickly. You can explain that the Elf will be just fine and will continue its holiday duties.
  5. Return the Elf to a Safe Spot: Once the Elf is back in a safe spot, you can continue the tradition as usual. The next morning, finding the Elf in a new location will reassure the children that it has regained its magic and is back to its usual activities.

Remember, the Elf on the Shelf tradition is flexible and should be a source of joy and fun during the holiday season. Adapting the story to fit your family’s needs and keeping the magic alive in a way that works for you is what’s most important.

Is Elf on the Shelf a girl or a boy?

The Elf on the Shelf can be either a girl or a boy, depending on the specific Elf you bring into your home. When you purchase an Elf on the Shelf, you often have the option to choose between a boy or a girl Elf. Additionally, these Elves come in different skin tones to accommodate a variety of family backgrounds and preferences.

The idea is to select an Elf that your family feels most connected to or one that your children will enjoy. The gender of the Elf does not change the fundamental aspects of the Elf on the Shelf tradition; it’s more about personalizing the experience to make it more enjoyable and relatable for your family.

Some families even have more than one Elf, with a mix of girl and boy Elves, adding to the fun and dynamics of their holiday storytelling and traditions.

Does Elf on the Shelf have pets?

Yes, in the expanded Elf on the Shelf universe, there are indeed pets that can accompany the Elf. These pets add an extra layer of fun and imagination to the Elf on the Shelf tradition. The most common Elf pets include:

  1. Reindeer: In the Elf on the Shelf lore, the Elf Pets® Reindeer helps Santa with his sleigh’s magic. Children can adopt and name their reindeer, and just like the Elf, the reindeer can be a part of various playful scenarios throughout the holiday season.
  2. Saint Bernard: The Elf Pets® Saint Bernard is another addition, and it comes with a storybook explaining its role in helping to generate Christmas cheer to help Santa’s sleigh fly.
  3. Arctic Fox: The Elf Pets® Arctic Fox is known in the story for its cleverness and loyalty, helping to make sure Santa’s sleigh can travel as planned on Christmas Eve.

These pets are designed to be touched and cuddled, differing from the Elf on the Shelf itself, which traditionally should not be touched to maintain its magic. The pets often come with their own special storybook that explains their role in the North Pole and how they assist Santa and the Elves.

Including Elf pets in your family’s holiday tradition can provide additional opportunities for imaginative play and storytelling, making the Christmas season even more magical and engaging for children.

What does Elf on the Shelf do?

If you are looking for Elf on the Shelf ideas then see our free Elf on the Shelf kit.

The Elf on the Shelf is a Christmas tradition based on a children’s book written by Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell. The idea is that the Elf is a special scout sent from the North Pole by Santa Claus to help manage his naughty and nice lists. Here’s what the Elf typically does during its stay:

  1. Observation: The Elf watches the family’s activities during the day and acts as Santa’s eyes and ears. The idea is that the Elf reports back to Santa each night about what it has seen, particularly focusing on children’s behavior.
  2. Nightly Trips to the North Pole: Each night, after the family goes to bed, the Elf ‘returns’ to the North Pole to report to Santa. This is when parents typically move the Elf to a new location in the house.
  3. Hiding in New Locations: Every morning, the Elf is found in a different place in the house. Parents get creative with where they place the Elf, sometimes setting up playful scenes or scenarios for the children to discover in the morning.
  4. Encouraging Good Behavior: The presence of the Elf is meant to encourage children to be on their best behavior, as the Elf is watching and reporting to Santa. Some parents use this aspect to promote kindness, good manners, and helpfulness during the holiday season.
  5. Not Moving or Speaking: The Elf does not move or speak when people are around. Part of the magic is that it only moves when no one is watching, typically at night.
  6. No Touching: The tradition includes a rule that the Elf should not be touched, as it might lose its magic. This rule adds to the mystique and magic of the Elf’s ability to move on its own.
  7. Departure: The Elf stays with the family until Christmas Eve, when it leaves to help Santa with his Christmas Eve duties, marking the end of its visit for the year.

The Elf on the Shelf tradition is designed to add excitement and magic to the holiday season, creating a fun and interactive way for families to count down to Christmas.

What age should you start Elf on the Shelf?

The ideal age to start the Elf on the Shelf tradition can vary depending on a child’s understanding and family preferences. Typically, children between the ages of 2 and 3 might start to appreciate the fun and magic of having an Elf in the house, but they may not fully grasp the concept until they are a bit older, around 4 or 5 years old.

Here are a few considerations for determining the right age to start:

  1. Understanding the Concept: Children who are old enough to understand the story of the Elf on the Shelf and the idea of Santa Claus will get the most enjoyment out of the tradition. This usually happens around preschool age.
  2. Engagement and Excitement: Children who are excited about Christmas and enjoy participating in holiday traditions are ideal candidates for starting the Elf on the Shelf.
  3. Ability to Follow Rules: Since one of the key rules of the Elf on the Shelf is not touching the Elf, it’s good to start when children are old enough to understand and follow this rule.
  4. Long-Term Enjoyment: Starting when children are at an age where they can remember the tradition from year to year can build anticipation and create lasting memories.

However, every child is different, and parents know their children best. Some might find that introducing the Elf at a younger age and adapting the tradition to their child’s understanding can be just as magical. The key is to ensure that the experience is joyful and not overwhelming or scary for the child.

What do Elf on the Shelf eat?

In the Elf on the Shelf tradition, it’s generally not specified what the Elves eat, as the focus is more on their activities and adventures in the household. However, for the sake of imagination and fun, many families like to incorporate the idea that Elves have a diet similar to Santa Claus, favoring festive and sweet treats. Common pretend foods that families might associate with their Elf include:

  1. Christmas Cookies: Just like Santa, Elves are often thought to enjoy Christmas cookies.
  2. Candy Canes: These holiday treats are a fun and festive food that Elves might ‘enjoy’.
  3. Hot Cocoa: Imagining that the Elf might like a warm drink after a trip to the cold North Pole can be a delightful idea for children.
  4. Elf Cereal: Some families might pretend that their Elf enjoys a special kind of cereal – perhaps something sparkly or colorful.
  5. Maple Syrup: Playing off the idea popularized by the movie “Elf,” where Elves have a taste for sweet, syrupy foods.
  6. Fruit and Vegetables: To promote healthy eating habits, some parents might suggest that their Elf also enjoys fruits and vegetables.

It’s important to note that these are all imaginative ideas and part of the playful fantasy surrounding the Elf on the Shelf. The Elf doesn’t actually consume any food – these concepts are just for fun and to add an extra layer of magic to the tradition. Families can get creative and come up with their own unique ideas about what their Elf might ‘like’ to eat.

Is the Elf on the Shelf real?

The Elf on the Shelf is a part of a Christmas tradition based on a children’s book written by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell. The Elf itself is a fictional character, and the story is a part of holiday folklore, much like Santa Claus and his reindeer.

The idea of the Elf on the Shelf is to create a fun and imaginative experience for children during the Christmas season. The Elf is a playful tool for bringing the magic and excitement of the holidays into the home. While the Elf itself is not real in a literal sense, the joy, traditions, and memories it helps create are very real for many families.

Parents often use the Elf on the Shelf as a way to encourage good behavior, with the Elf acting as Santa’s scout, reporting back on who’s been naughty or nice. This aspect of the tradition is based on storytelling and make-believe, much like other aspects of cultural holiday lore.

Ultimately, the reality of the Elf on the Shelf, like many holiday traditions, is rooted in the spirit of the season, the joy it brings to children, and the creative ways families choose to celebrate the holidays together.

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