Love it or hate it, Elf on the Shelf is here to stay. There are literally entire articles on the internet and groups on social media devoted to sharing festive ideas for this seasonal interloper — people are that obsessed. Of course, there are also plenty of parents who don't have the energy or desire to screw around with a frickin' doll. But what if you're somewhere in the middle?
You want to create that extra holiday magic for your kids, but the likelihood of you setting a new scene every night is slim to none. Hey, that's OK! Just take a cue from TikTok mom Lindsay Gentry (@craygardens), who has the perfect Elf on the Shelf hack for hot mess moms everywhere.
"Let me put you onto something. Go to Target or the Dollar Store and get a cheap little Christmas village house," says Gentry. "When your kids are asleep, you're gonna put it somewhere with a little note. And when your kids wake up? Surprise! An elf has moved into your house. He's at Santa's workshop all day long — because that makes sense — and he comes here at night."
So, you see, the key to making your elf work for you this season is to get the festive little fella a place of its own. It doesn't have to be big. It doesn't even have to be fancy. Any house made for any size creature will do. Just get your little spy friend from the North Pole his own digs.
"Your responsibility is to feed him one piece of sugary cereal every day," she suggests telling your kids. "On occasion, he will leave a mess that we have to clean up or a note of encouragement for your kids. Or maybe even a treat or two. But that is all up to the creative inspiration of the elf."
By design, your Elf on the Shelf doesn't have to (and likely won't) do something daily. Not only does this get you off the hook, but it also means the elf isn't "constantly surveilling your child, which is kinda creepy," says Gentry.
The genius mom says most days their elf, Elfie, doesn't do or bring anything. Though, he recently delivered a board book about elves. Some other inexpensive ideas? A cookie per kid from that stash you open after bedtime. Or a Little Debbie Christmas tree cake. Maybe even have him make an Elmer's squishy and leave it in the mold for them to open.
But, again, introducing your family's elf this way means that, most times, you don't need to do anything to create a bit of wonder and incorporate the elf into your traditions.
What if you already started Elf on the Shelf but regret it?
It's never too late to change tactics! Buy the tiny house and leave it with a note. Santa gave Sprinkles, Elfie, or Gum Drop a promotion! As a result, he bought him this cool new house, but he'll be working longer hours in the North Pole now. He might even want to thank your kids for being "so good" last year and "helping" him get promoted. On the occasional long weekend, when your kids lament their missing friend, consider busting out your own elf doll and leaving him folded up in the house or "passed out" outside for a "quick vacation."
Just keep in mind that the house is all you need. Anything beyond that should only be done because you can and want to. This is a no-pressure version of Elf on the Shelf — don't make it more complicated than it's supposed to be.
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