From Our Blog: When Your Child Asks If You Move the Elf on the Shelf

The Elf on the Shelf in front of a Christmas Tree|Elf on the Shelf caught moving|||

“I knew the elves weren’t real!!!”

We’ve been into the Elf on the Shelf for a while, in fact, we have two: a childhood friend bought my kids a life-size elf that hangs on the wall and holds a giant envelope (his name is Eddie just like one of our elves.). The kids often leave letters for the elves in the envelope. They always tell us when they leave notes, well, almost always.

On this particular morning, after my kids found the elves, my daughter came barreling into my bedroom. She set a trap. She left the elves a note but never told my husband or I and today, the note still sat. “It’s been 2 days!” she exclaimed. I tried to tell her that the elves don’t always take the note, in fact, just last week she had left a note asking the elves to read her report card and they didn’t take it. But that didn’t matter. What mattered is they didn’t take this note.

This is a moment most parents dread. Sure as, new parents, the Elf on the Shelf sounds fun and cute and the Facebook posts will surely get you excited to bring home an elf to your child, but read the posts from the parents who halfway through December are dreading moving the elf one more time. Or take note of the pictures that shows a parent waking up at 5am in sheer panic because they forgot to move the elf.This will be you one day!

Sure, Santa is a little difficult to believe because of the whole flying in the sky on a sled filled with toys for millions of kids, but he’s a living, breathing human – at least at the mall or on the tree farms. And there have been plenty movies that explain why there are many Santas in this world, but a stuffed doll coming to life every night – after being lifeless without an eye blink all day? That’s a bit of a stretch.

A few days after leaving her note, I was tucking my daughter in and she told me she had a very important question to ask. Her face was all serious. This wasn’t a joking matter to her and she needed the truth. She needed the pinky promise truth. She was insistent her brother not be anywhere near us when she asked the question and so I tucked him in one last time and went into a quick panic about how to answer the question I knew she was about to ask. I assumed it had to do with Santa Claus. With her father 30,000 feet in the air away on a business trip, I had to make a quick decision on how to respond.

“Do you move the elves at night?” she asked.

I didn’t answer her question but rather said, “The elves are a part of the magic of Christmas.”

“But do you move the elves?”

“At night?” (I was stalling.)

“Yes, Mom, and I need to know the truth.”

“Well, you know the elves move at night, they move every night.”

“But do YOU move the elves?  Listen mom, one day I’m going to buy my kids the Elf on the Shelf and I HAVE to know if it will be my job to move them. If you don’t tell me, I won’t know to move them and then I will ruin it for my kids.”

She was getting a bit anxious by this point. I could tell it took a lot of courage to ask me the question. I didn’t want to lie. I really do have a problem with blatantly lying to my children.

“I have moved them a few times,” I said.


I could tell she was nervous to hear my answer. The story says the elves “lose their magic” if you touch them so my kids have seen me use the tongs to pick up the occasional shoe that falls off the elf’s foot.

“I use the tongs. But there are many nights I don’t move them too. Many times I go to bed and they are in one place and the next morning you tell me they moved and I have no idea where they moved to.”

My daughter was visibly crushed. Her spirit was crushed. But since I didn’t claim to move them every night (I don’t, my husband moves them too), she went on to ask if I think they really sing karaoke while we sleep. Recently the “elves” did a scavenger hunt where they claimed to play games and sing karaoke while the kids sleep. I said “I don’t really know if they sing karaoke. “Honestly,” I continued, “You know I’m a really deep sleeper so I’m not sure I’d hear them even if they do.” She then said that even if they did do karaoke, they probably keep the volume down very low.

I gave her a kiss goodnight and tried to get out as fast as I could.

How to Answer When Your Child Asks if You Moved the Elf on the Shelf

I couldn’t bear her asking about Santa. I wasn’t prepared for this conversation about the Elf,  but did later receive some tips for friends that may help other parents who find themselves in the same predicament.

Act just as confused as your child. Say something like "I don't know... I didn't know if the elf could really move spots so I sometimes move it. Maybe I shouldn't have, after all, it's part of the magic of Christmas!" Then ask your child if he/she thinks it’s a good idea for parents to move it or does he/she think you should leave it alone.

Be honest with your child. Tell him/her that the Elf on the Shelf is something parents do to make the Christmas season a little more fun for kids, and you are sorry he/she is so smart to have figured it out too soon but Santa (or you) will be proud of him/her for letting siblings/friends continue believing in the elf.

Whatever you say, make sure you tell your child not to discuss it with siblings, friends or classmates. You don’t want your child to ruin the magic for others.

It’s clearly time I start thinking of how to handle the Santa conversation. (Luckily, I’ve already found some helpful tips here.) Oh, and I better go check the envelope for more “trap” mail!

Have you been in this situation with your kids? How did you handle it?

RELATED RESOURCES: Holidays and Elf on The Shelf

  • Join the conversation and share your best ideas: Where to Hide the Elf on the Shelf?
  • Family Room Blog: Holiday Scavenger Hunts
  • Family Room Blog: Dear Santa: A Working Mom's Letter to Santa
  • Bright Horizons Online Community: Holiday Traditions
  • E-family news: Making Holiday Gifts & Memories

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The Elf on the Shelf in front of a Christmas Tree|Elf on the Shelf caught moving|||