All You Need to Know About Elf on the Shelf

When you become a parent, there are certain things you expect and sign up for. You expect sleepless nights, attempting to bake birthday cakes, helping with homework. But before you got pregnant, did you ever stop to think about how much of your future time may be dedicated to moving around an Elf on the Shelf? No, us neither!

The Elf and the Shelf phenomenon is one that seems to have taken over the UK almost overnight and then returned from the North Pole year after year. We asked Bump, Baby and You members if they took part in this modern Christmas tradition and discovered it’s one of those Christmassy things that can be a little controversial. We found one third of you embrace the Elf but almost as many swerve it completely. Wherever you stand on elf shenanigans and committing yourself to many collective hours of Elf creativity, today we’re taking a look at this Christmas craze and its origins and asking; Where the eff did Elf on the Shelf come from?

Elf picture courtesy of Tessa Parker!

 Bump Baby and You-ers views on Elf on The Shelf

To find out just what festive fun looks like in different people’s homes (we’re nosey like that), we recently asked you whether you have an Elf on the Shelf. The poll queried who already took part in Elf on the Shelf and also who would like to do it but are restricted by time. It also asked if anyone just didn’t agree with the concept and didn’t take part. The results were very mixed with just over 33% (33.76) saying they have one or more elves who get up to mischief. Nearly as many (28.31%) said they would like to take part but don’t have time. Because y’know, sometimes it’s nice to sleep rather than tinfoil the toilet. However, 28.83% of you told us that you didn’t agree with the whole elf snooping concept . Plus, a sheltered 12.28% were yet to discover just exactly what an Elf on the Shelf is! Here are those numbers broken down for you:

  • We have one or more elves at home, who get up to daily shenanigans over the festive period. – 76%
  • I don’t agree with Elf on the Shelf so we swerve it. – 28.83%
  • We’d like to do it but we don’t have time.– 28.31%
  • What’s Elf on the Shelf…? – 12.28%

Where does Elf on the Shelf come from?

Did you know that Elf on the Shelf is a copyrighted and trademarked term? This modern tradition came to us from across the pond in the US. It began with  a short story – The Elf on the Shelf – which was created by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell. The book commemorates their family tradition. Each Christmas, an elf was sent from Santa to watch over the home and report back to Santa on who was naughty and who nice.

The story is told in rhyme and when it began selling in 2005, the book was supplied with an elf for the recipient. While you can buy decorative elves in a number of shops, trademarking means they’re unlikely to be marketed as ‘Elf on the Shelf’ unless they’re official. And strictly speaking, you don’t buy an elf! An elf is adopted from an adoption centre and as part of the process, the little girl or boy who the elf will be watching over gets to name the elf. Cute or creepy? You decide!

Elf photo courtesy of Jade Howitt!

The Unofficial Elf on the Shelf Rules explained

There are a surprising number of rules to get your head round when it comes to doing Elf on the Shelf the ‘traditional’ way. For example, did you know that children aren’t supposed to touch elves as it affects their magic? And what’s the deal with those special elf breakfasts? Here are some of the key questions covered, so you’re in the know when it comes to elf fun.

When does the elf arrive or when does he come back?

If you’re following the book, the elf usually arrives during a return week at the end of November/start of December. However, it’s best to tie it in with whenever your family’s celebrations start. You might want your elf to come back when your Christmas decorations go up, for example.

Credit: Tessa Parker

What’s a North Pole Breakfast?

Many families choose to welcome back their elf with a special breakfast. If the excitement of your surveillance elf coming back isn’t enough, a festive themed breakfast could be just the thing to power your kids into Christmas overdrive! You’ll find heaps of North Pole breakfast ideas on Pinterest – from décor and place settings inspiration through to recipes for stacks of pancakes and strawberries decorated as Santa Claus. A North Pole Breakfast can include more ‘treat’ foods and sugary options than the average breakfast, but it’s not essential. You could create a healthy breakfast on the theme too.

Credit: Tessa Parker

Is elf on the shelf a boy or a girl?

You’ll find male and female elves available for adoption from the official sellers. There’s also a host of other naughty decorative unofficial elves available from other places too. Sometimes it’s a little hard to know at first if glance if they’re a boy or girl elf, but we’re sure your little boy or girl will be able to decide.

Who names the elf on the shelf?

It’s up to their adoptive family to give an elf a name. Being given a name is actually part of the process whereby they receive their Christmas magic. This allows them to fly home to the North Pole each night to report back to Santa.

Who moves elf on the shelf?

The elf moves by magic of course! If you follow the rules of the book, boys and girls aren’t supposed to touch or move their Elf. Mummy or Daddy or other adults may want to give the elf a helping hand in finding fun and other things to do. Not sure what your elves should get up to? Follow the antics of other elves on twitter or Instagram for inspiration on the #ElfontheShelf Hashtag.

Credit: Tessa Parker

What does your elf on the shelf eat?

Elves are just like people and therefore like different foods. However, it’s good to bear in mind that with all that flying back and forth they are probably hungry little guys and girls. This means lots of healthy energy foods are in order. Runners like to eat lots of pasta and grains before a big race, so these could be good for you elf. Of course, you could ask your elf what they like to eat. If you’re lucky, your elf might write you a list and leave it out for the children to read!

Why is elf on the shelf naughty?

This is a really tough question. If an elf is meant to be reporting back to Santa on who should be on the naughty or nice list. So, why would they be getting up to no good themselves? And what kind of message does that give to the children the elf is reporting on?

It was good to learn in our poll that different families just do their own thing. Some families do have elves that get up to mischief, though some of these exploits could be filed under ‘misadventure’. For example, elves accidentally leave a mess while trying to do something nice like making breakfast. Others have kind elves who leave nice notes, treats and motivational messages or congratulate good behaviour. Here are some of the things our lovely Bump members told us about how elves behave in their homes.

Jodie: “We have an elf that Santa sends to look after my kids and make sure they are behaving. I don’t do any of the naughty bits as I’m trying to instil good behaviour especially in the run up to Christmas.”

Amy: “We have an elf but he brings Christmas goodies and things. I don’t want to encourage negative behaviour, so he brings rewards for good behaviour and does a report to Santa!”

Kara: “We do it and the kids absolutely love it, they can’t wait to wake up each morning and see what the elves have been doing. Hard work for us parents though thinking of new things each night, but worth it.”

Credit: Tessa Parker


When does elf on the shelf leave?

Naturally, elves need to report back to Santa before he actually dishes out presents, so most elves head back to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. In some homes the elf is responsible for filling and leaving Christmas Eve boxes before he goes, but that’s not always the case. As with all traditions, it’s up to you how you make the festive fun your own.

Are elf on the shelf really magical?

Of course! But for many parents, the most magical thing is seeing their children’s reactions to the elf. Some of you told us it’s your favourite thing about Christmas or that your little ones cried when their elf left!

For the uninitiated among you, hopefully our unofficial elf guide has made things a little clearer for you. Do you think an Elf on the Shelf is a good or bad idea?