The Elf on the Shelf is definitely a cultural phenomenon. Loved by millions of children worldwide, it seems like parents either love it or hate it. I know that for us, when we first brought an elf into our home, we thought it would be a wonderful and magical experience for our kids. It turned into a stressful experience simply because it was so difficult to remember to move it every night!
Then you have your Pinterest moms who started creating magical experiences for their kids with crazy set-ups, adoption certificates, elf activities and more, and kids started expecting more from their elves. What are normal (lazy) parents supposed to do?
Well if you are like me, and you just don’t have it in you to create everything from scratch, I’ve got you covered. I delved deep and found my inner Martha Stewart and created the ultimate Christmas experience for our Elf on the Shelf, and I’m sharing it here. I’ve done everything for you. This free Elf on the Shelf printable bundle includes everything you need to make your holiday magical for the kids.
You can buy many different versions of the OFFICIAL Elf on the Shelf. There are boys, girls, different skin tones, eye colors, etc. But it’s not important to get the official version. You can buy any elf or even make your own. The kids don’t care, and it really doesn’t matter. The only thing the official version has is a story book that comes with it. There are a ton of merchandising gimmicks that go with it, and your kids will want them all. Make life simple for yourself and just buy an off-brand version.
First up, let’s go over the “rules” for the Elf on the Shelf.
The elf can arrive whenever you want, but we generally bring him out on the first of December. Believe me, even that is a LONG time to be dealing with the elf. Any longer, and it gets really overwhelming. We used to do the day after Thanksgiving, but those extra days feel like years.
The elf goes back to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. So your kids should say their goodbyes then.
Every night, the elf goes back to the North Pole to report back to Santa whether the child(ren) were good or bad that day. When he comes back, he’s in a new spot, and the kids have to find him.
Finally, no one should touch the elf. Touching the elf makes him lose his magic. Of course, kids are often quite curious and can’t help themselves, so we have found a way around this by making it so that the elf loses his magic for 24 hours. Bonus – we don’t have to find a new hiding spot for him that night! YAY!
So all of this is very simple. Bring the elf out, move it each night, use it to blackmail your kids to be good for the days leading up to Christmas. Easy.
But sometimes we want to make it just that extra bit more special for the kids. That’s where our free printable comes in.
First up we have our Elf on the Shelf Adoption Certificate. This should arrive with the elf. Your family should come up with a name for your elf, and you can fill out the form to formally adopt the elf into your family.
Next up is the Elf on the Shelf Welcome Letter. There are two versions included. One is already filled out, and one is blank. If you want to create your own, you can write in the blank version. Or if you want it done for you, just use the pre-printed version. Either way, this should be rolled up or folded and placed near the Elf and addressed to your child or family. It will introduce the elf and explain how things will work.
Coming up with a name for your elf can be tricky, so I’ve also included an Elf on the Shelf Name List. There are 100 Elf on the Shelf name ideas for you. My kids named our elf Garbage Can. Don’t let that happen to you. Give them some ideas.
Also included is an Elf on the Shelf Advent Calendar to “grade” your kids each day. It lets the elf decide whether they’ve been Naughty or Nice that day so he can report back to Santa. Your kids will get to see how they’re doing, allowing them to change their behaviors to make sure they’re not on the Naughty List.
Next up are Printable Holiday Activity Cards for the entire family. You can print them out, cut them into individual cards, put them in a jar or box and pick one to do each day in December. There are 31 pre-printed, as well as several blanks so you can write in your own.
Elf on the Shelf Notes are a big thing. I’ve included several that you can print out to leave for the kids to find. They can be used to help guide their behavior or give rewards. There are some pre-printed as well as several blank for you to fill in yourself.
Christmas Countdown Cards allow you to write how many days are left until Christmas. You simply fill in the number and let the kids collect them. You can do them every day or every few days to keep the kids excited.
The final pages are for the final day. When the elf leaves on Christmas Eve, he will want to say goodbye. I’ve included an Elf on the Shelf Goodbye Letter so the children will have a final farewell. As with the welcome letter, there is a pre-printed version and a blank version you can use as you wish.
And finally, as a bit of fun, I created Santa’s Driver’s License. For this, you need only print it out, cut out the shape, fold down the middle, then laminate it. It will look just like Santa’s real license. Leave it near the fireplace or another entrance, and let the kids find it. It’s a fun little thing that will blow their minds on Christmas morning.
There you are. Everything you need to create the perfect holiday with your Elf on the Shelf. Now all you need is to figure out where to hide your elf each night. Good luck, my friend!
Don’t forget to check out our free Kid’s Christmas lapbook planner. It’s another great way to keep kids occupied and involved this Christmas!
Katie Reed is a passionate writer and mother of four vivacious boys from Salt Lake City, Utah. Drawing from her own journey through TTC, pregnancy, and the joys of raising children, she offers a wealth of insight into the world of motherhood. Beyond her heartfelt tales, Katie delights her readers with family-friendly recipes, engaging crafts, and a curated library of printables for both kids and adults. When she’s not penning her experiences, you’ll find her crafting memories with her husband and sons—Dexter, Daniel, Chester, and Wilder.