how to say goodbye to elf on the shelf for good
Kate Miller
21 Ways To End Your Elf On The Shelf For Good

The time has come to say goodbye...

by Romper Staff
Originally Published: 

When your children are young, you know you’ll be participating in the Elf on the Shelf tradition for many, many years to come. But parents of older children get to start plotting how to end Elf on the Shelf for good once this season is through. They're ready to officially retire their little red-suited buddy, and it’s not surprising to anyone. Elf on the Shelf may be magical for kids, but the whole premise can be kind of torturous for parents — trying to remember to move it for 24 consecutive nights, on top of all the other holiday activities they’re juggling, all the while remembering to never ever touch the elf on front of their kids... it can all start to feel absurd.

So, whether your kids are on the cusp of growing out of the Elf on the Shelf idea or you've just had it "up to here" with the constant moving and vow not to repeat the tradition next year, you need a rock-solid strategy for offing your Elf. Fortunately, there are some ingenious ways to permanently say adieu to Santa's little helper.

Below you'll find 20 reasons to tell your children why Elfie has to leave, ranging from completely sweet and innocent to borderline traumatizing explanations.

So go ahead, do a little happy dance, because you're about to say goodbye to your Elf on the Shelf forever and free yourself from the shackles of Elf-dom for good.


Santa needs help in the factory

Maurice Blucke / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images

Explain to your kids that there’s a group of elves that make toys and another group that goes to meet families. Your elf has been called to join the toy-making elves to prepare for a busy Christmas season. Santa can’t deliver Christmas magic if there’s toys still to be made.


Elfie will be on paternity leave

Maybe your elf had a baby this season, or perhaps they are currently expecting and plan on taking an extended maternity leave so they won’t be traveling to-and-fro next season. If your children are on the cusp of understanding the reality of Elf on the Shelf and Santa, this is one excuse you can use to end this season a high note and prep them for their elf’s non-return next holiday season. (And then you get to go ahead and donate or pass the elf on to another family and not worry about hiding it for another 11 months.


Elfie has to go on tour

Outfit your elf with a tiny guitar and some cool shades and tell your little one they joined a rock band and are heading out on tour. If you want to get really creative, stage a performance before you say goodbye.


There’s a pixie dust shortage

In order to fly back and forth from your house to the North Pole, elves need pixie dust. Tell your kids that there’s been a pixie dust shortage and your elf only has enough to get back home to the North Pole. Santa needs the rest of the pixie dust to travel around the world safely, so your elf must return quickly.


Elfie needs colder weather

I like to keep my thermostat at a perfect 72 degrees — not too hot, not too cold. But for Elfie, whose normal temperature is below zero, 72 degrees might not be so perfect. Have your elf write a letter saying they’re too warm and are starting to miss home. Your kids will definitely understand the feeling of missing the people and places they love.


Do you hear those wedding bells?

Your little elf has been flying back to the North Pole (almost) every night, and he just happened to fall in love with another elf while they were there. They're planning a wedding and will be starting a family of their own, so this will be the last year your Elf on the Shelf will be visiting your home.


Elfie got a promotion

Your kids might think that their Elf on the Shelf has the best job in the world, but actually the most prestigious Elf role is working in Santa's office.

Tell your kiddo that your elf got a big-time promotion and will be staying at the North Pole from here on out to work on the administrative side of things!


"The Polar Express" is waiting

Svitlana Romadina/Moment/Getty Images

Explain to your child that your special Elf has been summoned by Santa to jump on The Polar Express, and get back to the North Pole stat.

If you have a train set, put Elf on board, and chugga chugga choo choo, off he goes.


It’s time to retire

All that flying to the North Pole is hard work. No Elf can keep up that pace forever. Tell your kiddos that your Elf has reached the age of retirement and this will be his last year of service.


The dog has been naughty

If you have a dog that loves to eat everything, it might just be time to stage an Elf on the Shelf meal, in which Santa’s little helper is the main course. Leave just a little bit of red felt on the ground and say that the dog, well, ate Elfie.

Sure, this might be a little traumatic, but it is believable.


Elf has been naughty

Iuliia Zavalishina / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images

This is the perfect excuse to use if your elf has been a little too mischievous this year. Tell your kiddo that your Elf on the Shelf has been suspended indefinitely for being a little too wily.


Elfie needs to move on

Explain to your kiddo that there are only a finite amount of elves in the world and that when a new baby is born, the elves need to move on to a new home. At the end of the holiday season, have your kid write a letter to the new kid introducing their elf, how they got their name, etc.


Elf is taking a permanent vacation


Not all elves love flying to the North Pole every night. (It's freezing there, after all.) Tell your kiddo that your little elf prefers warmer climates and has decided to move to the tropics.

Sell in the idea by sending them a tropical "postcard" from Elf.


Elfie’s been banned

You've probably seen the Elf on the Shelf ideas that have the other toys ganging up on elf. Take this idea a step further and claim that the other toys banned their elf from your home because he was getting all the attention. You can leave a clever note from the "toys" explaining their actions.


Let your child control the narrative

Ask your kid where the elf is this year. Because kid-logic is amazing, you’re bound to get some creative replies. Agree with whatever they come up with, whether the elf has gone to live at the zoo or decided to become an astronaut. It takes all the pressure off of you to come up with an explanation, at any rate.


The elf left a break-up letter

Have your elf pen a final farewell letter to your kid, saying that they’ve aged out of the elfing phase. Already reaching for ideas? There’s an Elf on the Shelf Break-Up Letter from Sunshine & Hurricanes that’s very sweet, and you can use it as a template.


There was a traffic jam

Maybe there was a severe reindeer pile-up at the North Pole, and your Elf just hasn’t been able to move. Who knows how long he’ll be stuck in traffic? Maybe until your kid becomes a teenager.


The Elf is ready to be shipped back home

Usually elves travel by more magical means, but for a more official goodbye, pack up your elf in a box, write “To the North Pole” on it, and slap every stamp you can find on there. You don’t actually have to send it anywhere, just make it seem like he’s going on a trip to a very cold and faraway place.


Santa needs a doctor

Your kid has probably adjusted to wearing a mask and getting multiple vaccinations by now, so they’ll most likely be very understanding when your elf — Dr. Elf, that is — has to fly home to the North Pole immediately to take care of Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Prepare a “get-well-soon” basket for Santa to send home with Dr. Elf, full of Christmas cookies, some warm blankets, and the medicine that always helps your kids feel better. If they ask when Dr. Elf will be coming back, say that they needed someone to fill the role of head surgeon at the North Pole Hospital and your elf humbly volunteered. He has a full-time job now.


Someone touched the elf

Everyone knows the rule: don’t touch the elf! So what if you, a grandparent, or even a pet accidentally touched the elf while the kids were sleeping? According to elf laws, your elf would disappear instantly, flying back to the North Pole while they await reassignment. Now, your kid might be mad at you for a few days, so maybe have the elf send a letter from the North Pole assuring the family that he’s safe.


The truth

Okay, this one might be the hardest strategy of all, but it's one that you can feel good about in the end. Explain to your child that you've been the one moving elf all along. If you explain your intentions — that it was all about the magic of the season — your kiddo might just take it better than you think.

Let’s be honest, the holidays are busy enough without adding the responsibility of moving an elf around your house for 24 days straight. Yes, participating in Elf on the Shelf can be a draining task for parents, but the elf was also probably one of the best parts of Christmas for your kids. Ending the Elf on the Shelf tradition in your household can be a difficult decision for any family, but it doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience either. Elfie has most likely been a consistent holiday tradition for your family, so instead of treating it like a toy, honor their connection and give them a proper send-off. Just because the time has come for Elfie to move on, doesn’t mean the Christmas magic has to end.

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