Elfcapades & Hijinks: Tips, Tricks, and Calendars!

Updated 11/14/2020

Ah yes. September. The season of snowflakes, jingle bells, Hallmark movies, and… HOLD UP!

When it comes to Christmas countdowns, my attitude sits firmly between Yosemite Sam and Scrooge. It doesn’t bring me joy to know there are 110 days until Christmas. School has just started, it’s still technically summer, and people are already neck deep in pumpkin spice, wondering if it’s too soon to put up their tree. Y’all.

You need to calm down.

Taylor Swift

Aside from the fact that some of you guys are out here using it with nefarious holiday intent, posting Elf movie memes and making us summer-lovers feel the impending doom of the inevitable holiday madness, when used wisely and kindly, the Internet is a great place to find holiday tradition inspiration that makes you feel giddy about the upcoming change of seasons. September is the perfect time to start planning for one of my absolute favorites – Christmas elves and their wild hijinks!

You see, it all started way back in 1990 when a sweet little company, Elf Magic, created snuggly holiday Elves for children to love on during the holiday season. Their elves, sold with a Christmas book, were the very first to hit the market and start a trend in annual visits from the North Pole. In 2005, Carol Aebersold and her daughter wrote the story “The Elf on the Shelf,” which kicked off a pop culture movement that made mischievous elves a happy holiday tradition in homes all around the globe.

Types of Elves

For fans of the Elf on the Shelf, the idea is that this elf arrives to ensure each child is behaving to Santa’s standards, maintaining a top spot on the Nice List. Their bodies, being long and easy to modify, can be made bendy with a little time and effort, opening them up to endless high-flying feats of daring danger and suspense! In fact, there’s an Elf Doctor Upgrade Kit available to make it even easier to get an elf capable of bending themselves into knots and hanging from light fixtures. They come in an array of skin tones and have lots of activity kit options, like pets, for families to make the absolute most of their time with their funny little friend. It isn’t all fun and games! It is entirely against all rules to touch the elf; in fact, an elf that’s been touched loses their power and absolutely must rest before they can move again. The rule is so strict, in fact, that there are templates for special gloves that can be made to aid an elf who has fallen from his or her perch.

Our family favors Elf Magic Elves. They aren’t bendy but they’re soft, sweet, and made to be loved! Their magic is not lost if a child touches the elf, so your child can play with and cuddle them as much as their little hearts desire. We welcome two 6″ pocket elves each year for a month of fun and games, a little naughty but mostly nice. They can’t be modified like an Elf on the Shelf but, because they’re meant to be touched, it’s better not to feel the wire inside of their limbs anyway. They come in a lots of skin tone and hair color combinations, have adorable outfits and accessories available, and even pets! Their joyful little faces, freckles and all, make it hard to put them away on Christmas Eve. Oh, but the best part?! Because these elves aren’t here to spy on Santa’s behalf, the pressure is off for everyone. Well. The kids, anyway.

I’m Mulling An Elf. What’s the Commitment Look Like?

If you don’t yet have an elf it’s because your children are or have been too young OR you absolutely hate all the elf posts on social media from Thanksgiving thru Christmas Eve. All of us making those posts? Yeah, we get it and we’re sorry. If you’re considering an elf now, you’re probably wondering what the commitment looks like.

Meet Pepper and Cinna Minstix, wiley brothers sent to us from the North Pole!
Surely Rebekah can’t be crafting miniature donuts while the cherubs sleep, you wonder. Alas, Rebekah’s totally up at midnight making baked goods out of Cheerio’s and frosting. Rebekah’s learned a lot over the years.
Let Rebekah be your elf guide.

The reality is that an elf is an every-day-for-a-month commitment. It requires advanced planning, alarm reminders called things like “Time for Magic” or “Move the Mini Hostage-Takers”, and lots of Pinning. The basic gist is to pose your elves in some funny act that the kids discover when they awake, making them smile and filling your cup. At some point you will oversleep and dear old Snickerdoodle Hollybottom will have the audacity to forget to move herself, prompting your kids to wonder why. Sometimes an elf gets tired traveling to and from the North Pole and needs a little rest. Don’t let that stress you out or take the fun out of this otherwise wonderful tradition!

There’s a progression to this elf thing and I’m going to be honest with you about it. Most of us are starting this tradition when our children are very young and get to ease on into it. If you keep it simple, the bare bones of it is to have that elf move without them seeing it. It’s fun, easy, and the kids love it. As the years go on and you become more confident and creative, you’ll become daring and move your elves throughout the day, numerous times, to the delight of your littles. Let’s face it, though, they can only get excited about your elf hanging from the ceiling fan once a season before the magic is gone. The life of an elf mother or father is hard and fraught with a little more stress and anxiety than most of us like to admit, but take comfort in knowing it’s short-lived and that you’ll have loved it in the end.

Case in point. We laugh about it now.


If you’ve somehow managed to find me via Pinterest and clicked the link because you absolutely had to know why I was sharing photos of elves bent over food graters making change out of dollar bills, please know I’m not some cheap labor money launderer. If the introduction above painted me as having a humbug attitude about the circus act that has become premature Christmas celebrations, well, it’s accurate. But please let me assure you that a Scout truly is kind, and even my winter-hating heart has love for a little bit of Christmas mayhem. I find the spirit of the season in the joy on my children’s faces, and the Christmas elf tradition is a source of happiness that makes that wild, exciting, stressful month a lot easier on my heart.

What exactly are Elfcapades, you ask? The basic premise is that each child magically receives an elf to keep an eye on them during the holiday season, powered by their holiday spirit and partaking in one unexpected adventure after another. Throughout their stay, the Elves magically move from place to place, leaving behind mischief, mayhem, and memories each night. They can be as simple as hanging underoo’s from Christmas stocking holders and as complicated as, well…

Fruit chorus with miniature holiday sheet music. The kids thought this was hysterical and enjoyed packing
“happy fruit” in their lunchboxes for a week.

There are countless resources on the web to inspire your elf antics. Pinterest is a great place to start – in fact, I have an Elfcapades board with a “Tried and True” section that highlights the ones we’ve had the most luck with.

A Few Of Our Favorite Elfcapades

We’ve been enjoying our time with Pepper and Cinna since 2008 and have truly done it all. It’s been interesting to see how our elves have evolved as the children have gotten older. There are some Elfcapades that flop (they didn’t think the green toilet water was very funny) and others that are an unexpected hit (The Floor Is Lava went over very well). Here are a few of our favorites (many of which you’ll find on the calendars below).

What You’ll Need

First, decide which type of elf your family prefers. Elf on the Shelf and Elf Magic are two totally different creatures, each with their own benefits. The most essential deciding factor will if you want for your children to handle their elves or if you want them to be hands-off.

Second, you’ll need a plan. I create a calendar each year and pencil in ideas I’ve found on Pinterest or want to recycle from years past. I’ve created a blank calendar for you to use in that way AND a calendar with ideas for every day of the month, both are FREE for you to use! You’ll notice that the prefilled version is a little lighter during the week days than on the weekend – that’s to save you a little sanity! 🙂

“Jingle Bells, Batman Smells”
“Robin’s Revenge”

Next, start compiling your materials. Some activities will require balloons, a specific snack, and even a craft. Start with what you already have and tweak the calendar to suit your own household. Don’t have time to make a craft stick sled? Use one of your kids shoes! When I suggest “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” and “Robin’s Revenge,” and you don’t have a Robin figurine available to exact said revenge? Make it “Jingle Bells, Army Men Smell” and go from there. FiveBelow and any of the dollar stores will be your friend now through December as they love selling miniature versions of just about everything you can imagine, from travel games and figurines to treats, and their party aisles are full of balloons and other fun items. Michael’s Crafts regularly issues coupons for 40-50% off single-items, which is perfect when you need to buy large plastic ornaments.

Last, a good sense of humor and a flair for the over-exaggerated! For “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells,” unroll a lot of a craft paper roll or paper towel roll and write the poem out in huge letters. For “Balloon Parade,” line up ALL of their favorite stuffed animals. “We’re Making a List” is a great opportunity to clip paper catalogs like crazy, you can even make paper snowflakes out of a few pages just for fun. Go nuts, focus your creativity, and use these elves as your source of Christmas joy!

My Personal Elf Must-Haves

For years, our Elves have arrived as soon as the Christmas tree lights are first turned on, normally the day or two after Thanksgiving. In the early years we would arrange them in one of the kids rooms, while they were distracted with decorating the tree, and my husband would drop a book on the floor upstairs signaling their crash-landing or the giant atomic bang of the magical power required to transport them to our home from the far away North Pole. As the kids got older, we got stealthier because they knew to expect the elves to arrive while we were decorating the tree. We got daring, hiding the elves well ahead of time and putting up a Christmas-themed fairy door (using 3m Picture Hanging Strips) as soon as the kids headed off on their search, signaling their return and keeping them occupied long enough to finish the tree in peace. 🙂

We put it up high so the kids can’t touch it or see the 3M strips.

When it’s time to say goodbye, we trace the elves on cardboard, cut them out and use Snow Frost aerosol spray snow to look like they zapped through the window in a puff of snow, writing them a sweet message with a fingertip in the dried spray.

Until next year!

A mini light box sounds like a passing trend, but it took our Elfcapades to a new level last year. Sure, it adds another layer of stress to this endeavor, but “hearing from the elves” made for great fun. I found my colorful light box at FiveBelow. It’s the perfect size for these little fellahs and the colorful letters and emoji’s were a nice, festive touch.

2020 Shopping Suggestions

Are You Ready for Some Holiday Fun?

As much as it pains me to be thinking Christmas in September, knowing our buddies Pepper and Cinna are gearing up for their annual visit is truly just enough to get me into the spirit. I’m looking forward to putting together our new calendar and picking up supplies.

Are you ready? What is your favorite Elfcapade? Introduce me to your Elves in the comments and tell me all about their antics.


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Published by Look Wider Still

Rebekah is the mother of two wonderful sons, Michael and Nate. She and her husband, Mike, married in 2002 and have built their family on a foundation of adventure. Between geocaching, camping, hiking, cooking, fishing, crafting, reading, and snuggling their Irish Terrier, Bentley, they enjoy a long and happy career in Scouting. The boys come from a long line of Scouters, including Eagles on all sides. Mike has served as assistant den leader, treasurer, and Pack Committee member, and Rebekah has served as den leader and Cubmaster for Pack 521 out of Mechanicsville, Virginia. LookWiderStillBlog@gmail.com

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