When Elf on the Shelf hit homes several years ago, it wasn't immediately clear if it would be the sort of tradition families would keep around for the long haul. But it's obvious now that Elf on the Shelf is absolutely still going strong, both in homes around the world and on social media. You can't visit Facebook or Instagram in the month of December without seeing an Elf getting into some dustup that inevitably ends with mini-marshmallows. But if you're new to this magical world, you might be wondering how to introduce Elf on the Shelf to kids for the first time. There's the whole "don't terrify them" bit with the idea of an elf moving around at night, but you also want to make sure you tie up any loose ends with the magic so your kids don't have any questions.
Elf on the Shelf all began in 2005 when Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell wrote the children's picture book The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition. The story is all about an elf who was sent from the North Pole by Santa to observe how well a little kid was behaving in the days leading up to Christmas. Every night, the elf would return to Santa to tell him how the children were doing, and then he would zip back to the family to find a new spot in their house where the kids wouldn't be too quick to find him right away.
According to the Elf on the Shelf website, families are now encouraged to adopt an Elf on the Shelf for their own family and give it a new name. You can even get an adoption certificate from their website. But you might be a little stumped as to how to introduce your kids to their new friend. Thankfully, the rise of the elf has also given rise to a plethora of ideas for introducing your kids to their Scout Elf for the month of December.
A personalized letter is one way to introduce your kids to their new buddy who will be sticking around for the holidays. It can explain to them that the elf has been sent from the North Pole to watch their behavior for Santa, and that the Elf will report back to Santa every night. Writing in the first person, according to blogger Amy, from Oh So Savvy mom, makes the Elf feel even more real. In fact, she re-introduces the Elf to her kids when he arrives every year after an 11-month hiatus.
Another way to introduce the Elf on the Shelf to your kids is to read the book to them. This way you can familiarize yourselves on the story together and the kids can understand why the elf will be hanging around the month and what he'll be up to. Mamapedia moms suggested keeping the box the elf came in hidden. Instead, find a spot for your kiddo to find the elf and wrap up the book so that his appearance looks like a surprise.
And if you want to take the extra step in 2020 and actually give yourself a break, have your elf come to visit in a mason jar so they can quarantine. It could be a fun way to slowly bring the scout elf into your family's tradition without too much hoopla, and if you're worried your kids are going to be a little freaked out about how the elf moves at night, this is a great option.
Honestly, beyond that, it's really as simple as popping the elf somewhere in your home. Pinterest is awash with ideas that trash your bathroom and kitchen, but even if the elf is just sitting on the edge of the mantel with a candy cane, your kids will be surprised and excited. As long as they know the story of the elf — that they can't be touched or they'll lose their magic, and that the whole point is for the elf to return to Santa each night and report their findings — it really doesn't take much.
But whatever you do to introduce the Elf on the Shelf to your kids, just know that you're in it for the long haul between now and Christmas. So long as your kids are old enough, they're bound to notice if the elf doesn't move a few nights in a row, so try to do your homework and prepare yourself with some elf on the shelf ideas in advance.
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