Elf on the Shelf – A Modern Christmas Tradition

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The time of year is almost here. On the 1st day of December, Jolly Elf will arrive at our Hertfordshire home for the 4th year running, bringing with him a month full of mischief, fun and surprises. It is a great way to prolong the festive season and to help children manage their behaviour in a positive way. The Elf on the Shelf has truly become a fond family tradition we repeat year after year.

Our journey started when Joes mum brought us our first elf on the shelf pack 4 years ago. In the first few days, it was just a bit of tongue in cheek fun, but as the days went by, I found myself getting more involved. I was planning days well in advance and Riley who was in Nursery at the time was in total awe of all it all.

What is the Elf on the Shelf I hear you say?

For those of you who are not yet familiar with the concept, allow me to introduce you to a magical run up to Christmas Eve. Elf on the Shelf is a wonderful Christmas tradition, one you’ll wish you’d have known about sooner. The Elves live in the North Pole and adopt a family to help Father Christmas manage his ‘Naughty and Nice’ list. He arrives on the 1st day of December to greet his new family and each night flies back to the north pole to report to Father Christmas how the children have been that day. Every morning he returns to his family, precariously placed around the home. The children wake with excitement and eagerly begin the hunt to find their elf. Some days they wake to find he has been up to no good, others he will have activities prepared for the children to do, or surprise trips out.

Where do you start?

You can buy the official Elf on the Shelf kits (see link above), but we have taken a slightly different approach with ours. We have a soft toy elf with Velcro hands, which is great for positioning him in whichever way you choose. You can also purchase accessories and activities for the children to complete during the lead up to Christmas. It is possible to pick up male and female elves too if you have a preference. I actually ended up ordering 3 new elves when we thought we lost ours one evening. Luckily we found him, but when the other elves arrived in the post, we informed the boys that Jolly had invited his brothers and sisters over to stay. (PHEW!) Last year I came across a brilliant website that provided a superb behaviour pack with traffic light picture cards and behaviour charts. Perfect for Sonny who uses PECS images. Included in the pack were letters for the children to write to Father Christmas, letters to the children from Father Christmas, each pack personalised with your child’s name and tailored to what you need.

Preparation is key

Come up with a list of ideas that you can carry out each evening once the children are sleeping. It’s handy to have a list of quick and simple ideas that you can do on those busy evenings where you are just too tired to worry about your Elf. I would advise planning the more complex activities for the weekend or for times you have together as a family. This could be anything from a morning spent baking and decorating biscuits to a day out somewhere of your choosing. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. There are so many things you can do that you do during a normal week. A trip to the park, snuggling up with a movie and popcorn or themed arts and crafts. I will list the things we have done so far with our elf in just a moment. The most important thing to remember here is that it isn’t the money that makes the memories, it’s those all around you.

Make it you’re own

There are no set rules or guidelines. Make it up as you go along if you need to, do whatever feels right. Choose activities that you all enjoy. As you now know our elf, who’s name is Jolly, arrives on the 1st of December, bringing with him his sleeping bag, passport and chocolate advent calendars for the children. When Christmas Eve (evening) arrives while the little ones are preoccupied, Jolly Elf flies back to Father Christmas to make his final report and help the other elves load his sleigh. In his place, he leaves Christmas Eve boxes for the boys to help settle them down in preparation for Christmas morning.

Each Christmas Eve box contains: A pair of Christmas pyjamas, a bedtime story book, a Christmas movie to watch before bedtime, a hot chocolate sachet and some snacks to enjoy whilst watching a film. Also left out is a key for Father Christmas as we don’t have a chimney and a tub of reindeer food to sprinkle in the front garden to guide them to our house. These boxes are great and they really soften the blow of finding out we won’t be seeing Jolly until next year.

I will leave you all with some of our elf antics for a little inspiration. If you love what you’ve heard and want to start a magical tradition with your children or grandchildren then I insist you do, please feel free to share with me your elf antics.

We look forward to elf adventures for many Decembers to come.

Now you can too.

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About the Author

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Mum of three young boys. Sharing our family journey to an Autism and ADHD diagnosis.

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