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The holidays are here, which means many families have begun engaging in annual festivities: decorating trees, crossing items off shopping lists, and hanging lights. One holiday tradition that is also certain to make a comeback is “The Elf on the Shelf,” a festive sign that the season is in full swing. If you’re unfamiliar with the tradition or looking to find the best Elf on the Shelf products, consider this your go-to guide.
What Is the Elf on the Shelf?
Even if you’re not acquainted with the magical elf, you’ve probably seen one without even realizing it at a holiday celebration, or perhaps heard it referenced in popular culture. The trend is something of a phenomenon. There’s an animated film, and the elf has even made an appearance at the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. However, this is still relatively new when compared to other holiday traditions; it’s only been around since 2005 when Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell published their book, The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition. With every purchase, readers also got a box that contained a small elf inside.
In interviews, Aebersold explained that the thought behind this was to place the elf in different areas of your house (sometimes even staging it in different scenarios, such as snapping a selfie) each day leading up to Christmas as a way of engaging with kids during the holiday season. During the day, the elf keeps watch on everyone and then heads back to the North Pole at night to report to Santa on what they’ve seen and who has been naughty or nice. Then the next morning before everyone wakes up, the elf “lands” in a new part of the house in a new position; think of it like a festive version of hide and seek.
There’s only one other rule when it comes to Elf on the Shelf: kids cannot actually touch the elf if they happen to find it. Otherwise, the elf will lose its magic powers and, according to the Elf on the Shelf website, the child in question will have to write a letter to Santa with an apology, and then sprinkle cinnamon (the elf equivalent to vitamins) next to the elf before they go to sleep that night. You can also “adopt” your elf by registering it online; doing so will get you a personalized certificate and a letter from Santa himself.
The Best Elf on the Shelf Products
Below is our roundup of the best Elf on the Shelf products to help you and your family get in on this fun holiday tradition.
1. Elf on the Shelf Boy with Customizable Christmas Sweater Set
For those who may be new to the Elf on the Shelf franchise, there’s no better place to get started than with the book that started it all. This gift set includes Aebersold’s and Bell’s picture book along with the iconic elf figure, as well as a sweater and five different festive decals you can attach for a personal and festive touch.
2. Elf on the Shelf Totally Tubular Snow Set
Looking to really make your elf stand out from the rest? This Totally Tubular Snow Set from the Claus Couture Collection features a winter-themed inflatable snow tube, stylish fleece earmuffs, and a cozy scarf that can be used to create a fun and festive scene wherever your elf lands.
3. Elf on The Shelf Accessory Kit
Did you know that elves love donuts? Then again, who doesn’t? This collection includes an apron, mixing bowl, spoons, a paperboard spatula, and trays filled with festive treats so your elf can show off their cooking skills, as well as two party skirts designed to fit any Elf on the Shelf figure.
4. Elf on the Shelf: Letters to Santa Set
Looking to get a special message to Santa? Now you can. This gift set includes special paper that “shrinks” letters to elf-size, so when your elf leaves for their nightly North Pole check-in, your message goes along with them. Included is an illustrated storybook, eight pieces of special Santa paper, and ribbon sashes that you can use to tie your notes to your elf.
5. The Elf on the Shelf: Scout Elves at Play
Whether you’re new to Elf on the Shelf or a seasoned pro, this set has everything you need to build a variety of fun scenes with your elf throughout the holiday season. There’s something for every elf in the 60-page idea book; use the included tools and hooks to help them scale the walls, windows, or furniture, or the fun signs and boards to stage whimsical scenes that help ring in holiday cheer for the whole family.
6. Elf on the Shelf Report Cards
Use these Official Elf Report Cards to track who’s been naughty and who’s been nice as your elf makes trips to and from the North Pole. Each card includes elf observations, so you can communicate with your child about their behavior. After all, nobody wants to end up on the naughty list.