How to Introduce the Elf on a Shelf

The Elf on the Shelf is a fun way to get your kids even more excited for the Christmas season while reminding them that Santa is watching. However, introducing the elf can be tricky! To get your kids familiar with the Elf on the Shelf, plan a day to explain everything about their new gift from Santa.


[Edit]Getting a Delivery from Santa

  1. Pick a date when youd like the elf to start appearing. Normally, the elf can show up as early as early November to keep an eye on the kids for the Christmas season. Some elves start coming on December 1st, to get kids in the mood for Christmas and remind them that Santa is watching!
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    • A good rule of thumb is to start the elf when you put up the Christmas tree for the year.
    • Keep in mind that the elf has to come every day until Christmas Eve. If you forget or miss a day, youll have to come up with a reason for why the elf didnt move.
  2. Come up with a name for your elf. Having a name for your elf can make it seem like a member of the family. Make sure you introduce the elf by its name and encourage your kids to call it that while its there. Soon, theyll be excited to see their elf every morning.[1]
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    • You can make your name something festive and Christmas-themed, like Jingle, or a common name, like Jeff. Its up to you as the parent!
  3. Stage the first appearance. Have the elf appear one morning in an open place where you know your kids will see it, such as the kitchen or living room. Keep it simple for the first morning, and ask your kid what they know about elves. They might surprise you with what they already know about your familys new friend![2]
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    • For example, you can have the elf sitting on the dining room table or couch with its book, waiting for your kids when they wake up.

[Edit]Explaining What the Elf Does

  1. Write a letter from Santa to arrive with the elf. This letter can explain what the elf does, how long its going to be staying, and set some rules for the kids. For example, you can have Santa tell them that kids arent allowed to touch the elf, that the elf comes every day until Christmas, and that it reports back to Santa in the North Pole every night.[3]
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    • You can also have the letter be written by the elf instead of Santa. That way, the elf can talk directly to the kids and let them know whats going on! However, hearing the rules from Santa, who they respect, might be more effective for some kids.
    • If you have more than one kid, you can write individual letters or just have one letter for the whole house.
  2. Read the Elf on the Shelf book with your kids. The book does a great job of explaining where the elf comes from, and where it goes every night. Sit down with them in the morning that the elf comes and read the book together, or have your kid practice their reading out loud.[4]
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    • The book is aimed for kids ages 5, 6, and 7 to read aloud.
    • Theres also a movie, called An Elfs Story: The Elf on the Shelf, that tells the backstory of the elf and might be more engaging for your kids if they dont like reading.
  3. Answer any questions your kids have about the elf. Be prepared for questions! This new member of your family is fun and exciting, but kids are smart and can be skeptical at first. They might have questions about why your family got an elf, or why theyve seen the elf in the store.[5]
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    • If your kid has friends who dont have an elf, you can tell them that theres a long list of families who are waiting to get an elf, and you guys were lucky enough to get one this year.
    • To explain why the elf can be bought in the store, tell them that elves can be bought in the store for families who dont get them from Santa. However, let them know that your specific elf is special because it was a gift from Santa.

[Edit]Moving the Elf

  1. Position the elf in the Christmas tree, hanging onto an ornament. This is a quick, easy idea for a night when you might have less time. The elf has velcro hands, so you can have the elf hanging from a higher branch of the tree near an ornament as if it were trying to help decorate.
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    • Placing it about mid-way up the tree will keep the kids from reaching it, but will ensure that theyre still able to see the elf in the morning.
  2. Set up the elf to play with other toys. If your kids have a favourite doll or action figure, set up a scene where theyre playing dress up, having a tea party, or fighting crime together. Doll-sized cars and trucks are also great for setting up racing scenes between the elf and other toys.
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    • If youre stumped with how to set up the scene, you could position the elf climbing into or out of a toy box or dollhouse to make it seem like it was just hanging out with the other toys!
  3. Create a stuffed animal parade with the elf at the front. Stuffed animals are great for making creative scenes with the elf. Have the elf ride a larger animal like an elephant or dog, and make an animal parade by setting up other stuffed animals in a row behind them!
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    • If youre having trouble getting the elf to sit upon the animal, try having them lean forward and hold onto the animal with the velcro on their hands.
  4. Set up a Christmas countdown involving the elf. If you get the elf started early, you can start a Christmas countdown by using small treats like chocolate to spell out the number of days until Christmas. You can make it look like the elf set out the treats, or have a few chocolate wrappers surrounding the elflike it ate some of the treats!
    Introduce the Elf on a Shelf Step 10.jpg
    • You don't have to do this every night, but you can do it on major milestones like 1 month, 12 days, or 1 week until Christmas!
  5. Use packets of hot cocoa and a cocktail umbrella in a cake pan to make a beach. Sprinkle 3-4 packets of hot cocoa mix into the pan to coat the bottom. Then, position the elf in the pan to lounge along the side. Remember to place the umbrella next to the elf to shade it from the sun!
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    • If you dont have a hot cocoa mix, you can use crushed graham crackers or brown sugar instead.
    • Use a round cake pan to create a smaller beach, or cookie sheet for a bigger one. You can get as creative as you want with a beach towel, doll-sized surfboard, or a mini drink for the elf!


  • Most children who are old enough to know the story of Santa will also be excited by the elf. If your child is still confused about Santa, or doesnt know the story of Santa, try explaining that to them first.
  • Plan your first week of elf appearances beforehand so you dont forget! The first week is important for showing your kids that the elf is really going to come every day and is watching them for Santa.
  • Set an alarm on your phone every night to remind yourself to move the elf. When things get hectic, its easy to forget to do it! An alarm will help you remember to do it quickly before bed.