It's kind of like an advent calendar — only more work for parents, with less chocolate.
The idea is the elf lurks around your home and spies on your kids, making sure they're being nice. Then every night he spirits away to Santa's home in the North Pole to report on them. When he returns by the next morning, he's in a new location (the parents are in charge of moving him while the kids are asleep).
From the "Elf on the Shelf" book, which accompanies the doll:
Have you ever wondered how Santa could knowGreat, so the elves are kind of like Santa's Schutzstaffel. Thanks for making the Santa narrative even more disturbing than it already was. (I kid. Our family loves the little guy, who was a gift from the kids' great-aunt.)
if you're naughty or nice each year as you grow?...
At holiday time
Santa sends me to you.
I watch and report
on all that you do.
Anyway, we began the routine this week. After moving the elf last night, I woke up this morning to find Elliot ransacking our home in search of the doll. I had placed the elf on the shelf above our kitchen counter, but apparently that was too challenging a hiding place.
Let me tell you, the kids don't need another excuse to trash our apartment.
But when I pointed out the elf's location to Elliot, his face lit up with joy. That made the whole thing worth it.
Now it's just a matter of remembering to move him each night.
UPDATE: Huffington Post had a sweet story about a boy who talks at length with his elf (in part because no one else will listen). Like our elf, theirs is called Fred. Are we seeing a glimpse of our future?