Like many American parents, Jessica Zand and her husband were excited to start the popular Elf on the Shelf tradition once their Christmas-loving son was old enough. And this year’s finally the year for the Zands to find the best Elf on the Shelf ideas.
“My son thinks Christmas is a place we go to, and he always wants to go there. He says ‘Mom, I want to go to Christmas!’” she said. “My friends would tell me about all these fun scenarios, but I didn’t think Cyrus would understand until he got older.”
For those unfamiliar with the Elf on the Shelf, it’s a holiday tradition that’s as entertaining for kids as it is for parents. According to the tale, Santa’s “Scout Elves” (which can purchased at major retailers) travel to homes and keep an eye on a child’s behavior for Old Saint Nick. Its purpose is to encourage kids to stay off Santa’s naughty list. Every kid names their own elf, and many parents say it becomes part of the family during the holidays.
At a minimum, the elf is only supposed to move every night to give the illusion he or she travelled to the North Pole. But parents have become more creative over the years by putting the elves in funny situations every night for kids to find in the morning.
If you’re new to this tradition like Zand and are looking for the best Elf on the Shelf ideas to entertain your family, we talked to parents around the country to hear their tried-and-true tips to share with you. So keep reading to hear what crazy capers your new watchdog elf can share this season!
Hide-and-Seek Elf on the Shelf in Boise, Idaho
Although his oldest son is nearly 10 years old and starting to doubt Santa’s existence, Kurtiss Nielsen still takes the time to hide his duo of elves in funny places.
“I like the whole concept of it,”said. “Every day they get up, and it’s the first thing they look for.”
When his son was younger, Nielsen put their elves in comedic situations. One of their favorites was when the elves teamed up to bake cookies for Santa, but instead they just made a mess (pictured above)!
These days, since their oldest son is getting older and wiser to their tricks, the Nielsens try to hide their elves in hard-to-find places.
“He already knows Santa’s probably not the one giving him presents, but he’s still stoked on finding the elf,” said Nielsen. “It’s a fun game of hide-and-seek.”
The couple plans to keep the tradition going, since their youngest son is only two.
“My wife and I take turns on who hides the elf, so it can be fun for us too,” Nielsen added.
Elf on the Bathroom Shelf in Stuart, Fla.
This season is the first time Jessie Cauchey’s son is old enough to hunt for his new elf named Chucky. (Her son’s a big horror movie fan, although he’s only six.)
“We were excited to start the day after Thanksgiving,” she said. “Anything that can help with behavior, I’m all for it. My oldest son is autistic, so he has a lot of behavior issues.”
Since she started a few weeks ago, she said her son’s behavior is already improved!
“He really wants an X-Box One, so our elf has helped for the most part.”
In one of her first Elf on the Shelf moves, she placed Chucky on the bathroom counter and made snowflakes out of cotton swabs and baby powder. It didn’t take up too much time, and her son was excited to find snow in his Florida home!
Best Elf on the Shelf Ideas from a California Family
Kristy and Dave Burke started the Elf on the Shelf tradition with their two adopted daughters a decade ago. Now that the older kids are grown and in college, the ritual lives on for their 10-year-old son Casey.
“Casey absolutely behaves better,” said Kristy. “I’m going to feel really bad when he figures it out, and he’s already starting to ask questions. But he still gave his elf his Christmas list this year all stapled up, so we couldn’t read it.”
Dave is the mastermind behind the Elf on the Shelf strategy at their California desert home.
“I know Dave thinks about these things all day long,” his wife laughed.
“Every year, the elf picks a fight with Lego characters,” said Dave. “This year, he’s going to take on a 3-foot TIE fighter (Star Wars spaceship). If I can get myself to do it, I’m going to try to attach it to the ceiling so it looks like it’s flying!”
Photos courtesy of Jessica Zand, Kurtiss Nielsen, Jessie Cauchey and Dave Burke (in order of appearance).