“Elf on the Shelf” – Helpful Ideas to Make this Annual Tradition More Fun

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He’s almost baaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!! The thought of this little guy making his appearance every year seems to strike fear and dread in the hearts of so many parents across the country. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t need to be such a miserable chore, In fact, I really love when our little “Hermie” makes his way back to our home. With just a little planning, a dash of creativity and a positive mindset this tradition can be not only fun, but something you actually look forward to year after year.

FIRST THINGS FIRST – CUT YOUR “ELF SELF” SOME SLACK

Nothing is fun when it starts to feel a like chore. So cut yourself some slack and don’t try to do too much or do everything perfectly. Regardless of what you think, you aren’t in competition with everyone else. So if having a North Pole Breakfast is too much for you, skip it. It you love being creative, go crazy with the mischief. If you barely want to do this tradition at all, do the bare minimum. Look, there is no ONE way to handle this elf and every mom and dad needs to what is best for them. In the end, this is just supposed to be fun and not a source of stress and anxiety. So follow these simple tips to keep your sanity this holiday season.

  • Don’t overdo it! You don’t need to do a big, elaborate setup for your elf every single day. Pace yourself and on most days, keep it simple. Sprinkle in just a few extra special setups here and there.
  • Use what you have around the house! Don’t make yourself crazy buying accessories for the elf, use what you already have. Take advantage of craft supplies, your kids toys, what’s in your pantry, etc.
  • Avoid elf mishaps, place him up high! Keep the elf high instead of within your kids easy reach. Countertops, wall units bartops, on top of furniture, etc. are all good places to place your elf. Avoid the floor, if possible, unless it’s in a room you aren’t often in or you know for sure your kid won’t be tempted to touch him.
  • Need ideas? Pinterest is a wealth of great information. You will find a ton of wonderful Elf on the Shelf® ideas there. Also, Google® is your friend, when you need some inspiration in a pinch, a quick search will provide you with everything you need.
  • Have fun! This isn’t suppose to be a miserable experience so try to have a little fun with it. Remember, the belief in Christmas magic is fleeting and before you know it your children won’t believe anymore. So take advantage while they are little and enjoy this magical time with them.
WELCOME BACK – NORTH POLE BREAKFAST

As we approach Thanksgiving, preparations are well underway for our annual, “North Pole Breakfast“. This is a very special breakfast that we have the day after Thanksgiving to welcome back our little elf. We have been doing this tradition for years now and it’s something that both of my children eagerly look forward to. Not only are they excited to see the elf but it’s a fun and festive way to officially kick off the holiday season!

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On Thanksgiving night, after the kids are asleep, I get to work. I decorate the kitchen, put out the elf and elf pets and prep breakfast. Some easy and delicious things to make for breakfast and which can be prepared ahead of time are: Bacon and Cheddar Quiche , French Toast Casserole , and even Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Rolls . Another super cute idea, which is easier than making your own, is to buy store-bought Pillsbury® Cinnamon rolls and assemble the baked rolls on a platter in a Christmas tree shape. Tint the white icing with a little green food dye and sprinkle the “tree” with festive Christmas sprinkles. Other cute ideas for breakfast are white powdered doughnut holes otherwise known as, “snowballs” and mini muffins or as we like to call them, “elf muffins“. I also give them “jingle juice” which is any red colored beverage served in small, inexpensive milk bottles that I found at Michael’s®. I top them off with cute a Christmas colored straw. I always put out candy canes on the table and a few small Christmas chocolates as well. Get as creative as you would like for your breakfast but remember, do as much in advance as possible because your kids will wake up excited and ready to party in the morning so the less cooking you need to do that day, the better.

I know a North Pole Breakfast might sound like a lot but everything you see pictured above are Christmas things I already had in the house OR things I purchased for cheap at the Dollar Store and use year after year. The Dollar Store is a great place to pick up cute things to use at the breakfast. They have a nice assortment of holiday paper goods, Christmas tins and baskets, elf themed decorations, tablecloths, elf hats, gift bags and more! On the backs of my chairs I place these adorable “Santa hats” that just slide over the chair and make everything look even more festive. The best part? They were just $1/each! Once you have all of your goodies pulled together, you’re ready to go every year!

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Create an “elf bin“. I bought an inexpensive storage tote at Target and that is where I keep all of my decorations for the North Pole Breakfast along with our elf, elf pets, letters, and little goodies from the elf to the kids. It makes coordinating the elf’s return so much easier because everything that I need for a successful holiday season is all contained in one box which I keep in front of all the other Christmas boxes. A few years ago I typed up both my “Welcome Back” and “Goodbye” letters from Hermie and I keep multiple copies of each in the storage box and reuse the same typed letters every year. Trust me on this one, my daughter who is 10 years old with a memory like an elephant, still has never even realized that the letters are the same year after year. Having them ready to go saves you a lot of time and effort.

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Another tradition that we have at our North Pole Breakfast is that each of my children receive a gift from the elf. I don’t go overboard, just a few cute things to get them in the Christmas spirit. They each have an Elf on the Shelf® themed gift bag that I fill with chocolate Santa lollipops, holiday PEZ dispensers, coloring books, Christmas word searches, little notepads and pencils, Christmas themed Chapstick® and other cute things I find in the dollar section. In addition, every year they each get a special ornament chosen just for them to place on the Christmas tree. Sometimes I get them personalized ones but often I try to find an ornament that is meaningful to them in some way whether it’s a favorite hobby, character, toy etc. I love looking back at these ornaments every year and the kids get so excited to have a new and special ornament to hang on the tree. You don’t have to spend a lot, a few little things are all it takes to make them happy that morning and they really love getting a gift from their special elf.

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Lastly, no North Pole Breakfast would be complete without adorable matching Christmas pajamas! You can find so many cute choices at children’s clothing stores or even at Target or Walmart for cheap. I always give them their pj’s on Thanksgiving night because I love having pictures of them in the morning in their cute, festive, coordinated pajamas.

ELF BUSINESS

First things first, it’s time to remind your children of the rules. A good way to do that is to reread to them the book that came with your elf. Remind them that the elf’s magical powers only work if they don’t touch him. They can look at him, talk to him, show him things but “no touchy”! This reminder really makes your job easier because the last thing you want is for the kids to touch the elf, he falls down and then looks like some lifeless, splattered toy on the floor. You want to keep up the allusion and for the elf to stay put in whatever scene or mischief you create for him so the easiest way to achieve that is if the kids are reminded to just leave him alone.

Let’s face it, this elf has a job to do and that’s to keep our kids in line until the big day arrives. What good would the elf be if he didn’t give any status updates? I found this cute Daily Elf Report plaque at a nearby home store for less than $3. No matter where our elf shows up in the house, this little plaque is right nearby so the kids can see if they are behaving or need to do a little better. If you cannot find one of these, make your own reusable little sign. Anything that can give the kids a quick update will work fine, even a basic small white board will do.

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On the rare occasion I need to check off “naughty” I also leave a written “Elf Report” so that they know what behaviors they need to work on. You can find a ton of these cute little printables right online. This one below is my favorite, click here to print out your own.

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Sometimes our elf likes to leave them a treat which is usually coordinated with whatever mischief he created the previous night. Again, the dollar sections in stores are a great place to pick up fun items such as Elf on the Shelf® themed toys, coloring books, Christmas candy and other cute little things. A fun gift to leave every so often is one of the “elf couture” outfits available for both the elf and elf pets. My kids get a kick out of these!

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Occasionally the elf will leave them edible treats as well, such as special Christmas cookies, candies or the makings for hot chocolate. On the first on December he always brings them their chocolate advent calendars which my kids LOVE! They have so much fun counting down to Christmas and being able to eat a sweet treat each morning. Be as creative as you like with the gifts and treats, it really makes the whole Elf on the Shelf® experience so much more fun for them. One last tip, try to buy all of the treats and goodies at one time, store them in your elf bin and you’ll always have something on hand to pull out when you need it.

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When it comes to this Elf on the Shelf® business there is nothing more heart stopping than realizing right as your kids wake up that you FORGOT TO MOVE THE ELF!!!!! Don’t let this happen to you by simply setting a reminder on your phone for right before you go to bed. This will ensure that you never run into any problems because there is nothing worse than your kid waking up to find the elf sitting in the same place as the day before. Don’t ruin the magic, set a reminder. Oh, and should you STILL forget, make sure you have a few clever excuses up your sleeve such as, “The elf wasn’t feeling well so Santa told him to rest” or  “He broke his leg“. If you need a few more in your arsenal, click here for “25 Reasons Our Elf Didn’t Move“.

So what happens if you’re headed off on vacation this holiday season? The kids might be panicked that there elf won’t know where to find them. No worries, just bring him along. We’re going to Walt Disney World in December and I plan on tucking our elf away into one of the suitcases (carry-on, of course) and I will have him show up all around the hotel room while we’re there. I’ll keep the mischief simple and try to incorporate a little Disney magic into the fun as well. If you need a few more traveling suggestions for your elf, just click here .

Lastly, I like to photograph my elf every night, it’s a good reminder for me of the things I’ve done plus, when I am feeling stumped at night I have some inspiration to draw from. If nothing else, having the pics will be a nice reminder down the road of all the fun you had when your kids were little. Maybe one day they will carry on the tradition with their own children and those pics will come in handy!

FAREWELL ELF

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Inevitably, Christmas will roll around and it will be time to say goodbye. Our elf always leaves the kids a special plate and mug for Santa’s cookies and milk, carrots and food for the reindeer, the special Santa key so he can get into our house, a goodbye letter and his final “Naughty or Nice” report. I found these adorable Naughty and Nice cards at Target for under $3.

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It’s always sad to say goodbye to our elf because the kids have so much fun in those weeks leading up to Christmas but at least we know that he’ll always be back. On Christmas Eve, before they go to bed, they say their goodbyes and it’s the one time they are allowed to pick up the elf because he no longer needs his magic as he will be returning to the North Pole on Santa’s sleigh. They like to give him a hug, a kiss and to wish him Merry Christmas. With that, another season of The Elf on the Shelf® comes to a close.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND HAVE FUN

I hope that these tips and ideas are helpful as you embark on another season with your own Elf on the Shelf®. Please feel free to comment below and share any of your own elf ideas! I’ve done so many fun things with our elf over the years but I’ve had a few standout favorites. Check them out below and let me know what you think. Happy Holidays to all!

SOME OF MY FAVORITE ELF ON THE SHELF® IDEAS

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Feeding the Ducks

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Christmas Trivia Challenge

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Oops! Reindeer Poop

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Potato Sack Races

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Potty Time

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Hot Cocoa Break

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Zip Line Fun

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A Friendly Reminder

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Elf Sandwich………Hold the Mayo!

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Story Time with Frosty

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Phone Calls from Santa

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Christmas Melodies

 

Edible Pudding “Slime/Dough/Oobleck”

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My kids are obsessed with slime and dough so when I came across this “Edible Pudding Slime” recipe from The Soccer Mom Blog I though we’d give it a try. It is very easy to make as it’s just cornstarch, instant pudding mix and warm water. Three simple ingredients.

The kids really enjoyed making it and I have to say, using pudding mix made the slime/dough/oobleck smell delish! My daughter decided that if vanilla would work she would try chocolate as well and although it wasn’t as visually appealing as the vanilla dough it certainly had a nice rich scent.

As with any recipe made with cornstarch it’s very easy to use too much which results in a drier, tougher dough. My son made the vanilla dough and at first it was very sticky so we added a bit more cornstarch. I thought we had the right consistency but fairly quickly his dough went from pliable to crumbly. So we added a little more water to his batch and then it took on the consistency of an “oobleck“, it would run through your fingers like a liquid but it would hold together like a dough. With my daughter’s chocolate version we got it “just right” and even the next day it still had a nice, soft, pliable texture.

The key to getting this recipe to work as a dough is in using the right ratio of cornstarch to water. I started by following the recipe exactly as written and then I added a little more of each as needed until it came together the way we wanted. Don’t be afraid to play around with this recipe until you obtain the consistency (and scent!!) that you are looking for. Make it into a slime, a dough or some oobleck. The choice is yours! Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup instant pudding mix (any flavor)
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup warm water, more as needed

Instructions

In a bowl, add the pudding mix and half of the cornstarch. Stir in the water until slime begins to form.

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Slowly add in the remaining cornstarch and any additional water, as needed. Begin to knead together until the dough comes together.

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Turn the dough out of the bowl and have fun! When finished playing, store the dough in a sealed plastic bag or airtight container.

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**Please Note – While this recipe is considered “edible” I would not recommend kids actually eat any of it. It is not harmful but it won’t taste good due to all of the cornstarch. Plus, it’s unsanitary to eat a dough that you’ve been playing with.**

 

 

Pumpkin Spice Dough

Pumpkin Dough 3.jpgAs the summer begins to wind down my kids are starting to tire of the heat, sun, and outdoors and that’s when the boredom sets in. To counteract the constant whining from them that the having nothing to do I decided to whip them up a batch of Pumpkin Spice Dough to play with. It’s made with common kitchen ingredients and smells delish! They love it because it’s a change from their usual Play-Doh and because it’s a little softer, it’s easier for them to work with.

I came across this recipes a few years ago on the The Idea Room blog site, you can find the original Pumpkin Spice dough recipe here . It is super easy to make and the nice thing is you can change up the overall scent and color with a few adjustments. Another great fall smell to try is apple pie spice and for Christmas, make a batch of peppermint dough! The possibilities are endless. Because it’s such a simple recipe to pull together it is a great activity to do with your kids, they will love watching the dough change from a liquid to a nice, soft, pliable dough.

All you need to make this dough is as follows:

  • 2 cups of water
  • Orange food coloring (or combine yellow and red)
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 cup table salt
  • 4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour

Place all of the ingredients in a pot over medium heat and cook until the liquid mixture turns into a soft dough, this will take just a few minutes.

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Once the dough is finished, place it on the counter and knead it a few times. Be careful, the dough will be very hot. If your kids want to play with it right away, flatten it out on a flexible cutting board or pan and place it in the fridge for about 3 minutes then flip it and cool for another 3 minutes. Give it a quick knead when you remove it from the fridge and you’re good to go! Store the dough in an airtight container for later use. Have fun!