For years, our children have made it onto Santa's nice list every year with the help of Sprinkle, an elf that does not live on a shelf. Instead, Sprinkle lives in my closet and climbs into the air conditioning ducts to spy on the kids. No one sees him, because Sprinkle is super sneaky. Okay, so Sprinkle is actually imaginary. I've just never had the time to hide an elf every night, and my kids never minded. But if your children insist on a real elf and you're similarly time-strapped, there are some quick Elf on the Shelf ideas that are almost as easy as going the imaginary route.
As it turns out, this year I might have to make the transition from invisible elf to the shelf-sitting variety myself. Everyone at my house was content with the Sprinkle arrangement until recently. Our third grader was miffed when I explained that Sprinkle had taken on another family of younger children, hoping the Nesmith children would be ready to self-govern a bit thanks to their advanced ages, and now she wants an Elf on the Shelf like the rest of her friends. We ordered it and Sprinkle's going to be so mad.
It's not like I'm the only parent to give in on this one: Introduced to the U.S. market in 2005, 11 million households were home to an Elf on the Shelf by 2017, as CNN reported. And of course, millions of those Elf owners have come up with millions of quick, easy ideas that you can use as inspiration or outright steal. Some of them are outrageously involved, but others, like these, will only take a few minutes out of your evening to achieve.
1. Elf Greetings
It's only fair that Santa's elves would announce themselves so little ones know they're being watched. Add a little Christmas flair by using baby powder or confectioners' sugar for "snow."
2. Troublemaker Elf
Elves like a little harmless vandalism with an easily removable dry erase marker to test kids' self control, so don't let your children think these sprites are saints just because they're Santa's monitors.
3. Yoga Elf
Elves need lots of flexibility to get into all those nooks and crannies. Kids will love seeing their little friend working on his fitness.
4. Baking Elf
Endear your new friend to your child by baking some Christmas cookies with him.
5. Crash Landing Elf
Santa's helpers like to make an entrance, but sometimes can't stick the landing.
6. Film Buff Elf
Elves have the house to themselves when everyone's asleep, but sometimes they can't keep their eyes open either. Doesn't everyone fall asleep in front of the television?
7. Snow Angel Elf
It's good to have a few quick and easy ideas ready for those mornings you forget to reposition your Elf, so toss some flour on the counter and help him make "snow" angels for your child.
8. Caught Red-Handed Elf
Put Spiderman to work with a little bit of cling wrap when your Elf has a difficult time keeping himself on the nice list.
After experiencing a traumatic c-section, this mother sought out a doula to support her through her second child’s delivery. Watch as that doula helps this mom reclaim the birth she felt robbed of with her first child, in Episode Three of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below. Visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes, launching Mondays in December.