This post is written by my friend Heather Flanigan-Garrett. She’s my go-to authority on everything Elf On The Shelf. And you’ll see why!

It’s that time of year again…the temperatures are falling, holiday lights are going up and there’s magic in the air! For many families, the holiday season is a time of traditions…from picking out the perfect tree to making Christmas cookies for friends and neighbors. There can be lots of stress with all of the activities, parties and events going on in December so it’s no wonder many folks don’t want to add more to their plate. But if you have little ones in your home, your saving grace just might be a little guy in a red outfit.

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The Elf on the Shelf book and toy hit the scene in 2004 and has been an increasing part of pop culture ever since. The idea is so simple, you’ll wanna kick yourself for not thinking of it first. The Elf is a Scout Elf sent by Santa to report the child’s behavior. He flies away to the North Pole every night and returns in a different location. Only rule is that he can’t be touched or he loses his magic. Children can tell him their wish list and in our household, attitudes certainly straighten up when the Elf is around. Oh, and they can name him anything they want. Genius, right?

Purple Ice Cream (named by my toddler son Colt in 2012) has been entertaining us for a couple of years! And he’s been the best at getting a certain little boy to behave. Purple Ice Cream or PIC for short had some fun adventures last year…

He caught goldfish in the sink…fullsizeoutput_13b4

Wrote on the bananas…fullsizeoutput_13b6

Hosted game night…fullsizeoutput_13b9

And even made it “snow” in the dining room.fullsizeoutput_13b5

This year PIC has already been rappelling…fullsizeoutput_13bd

Zip lining…fullsizeoutput_13ba

And brought hot cocoa!fullsizeoutput_13bb

Now before you start thinking “I don’t have the time or patience to mess with all that” – just hold on a second. It’s not as hard -or time intensive- as you would think. First of all, there’s an app for that. Seriously. The Elf on the Shelf app will not only send you a nightly reminder to move the Elf, there’s plenty of ideas (some very easy and some more elaborate) that can walk you through where to move it. And really, all you gotta do is move it. If your kids believe there’s an Elf living in their house during the day flying back to the North Pole at night, then they’re not on Pinterest and have no idea what other parents are doing with their Elves. Your Elf game is YOUR Elf game-no one else’s. It breaks my heart when I hear parents say “I just don’t have time to do the Elf.” Because it takes less than five minutes and watching/helping Colt find the Elf every morning is absolutely the highlight of my day.

As with anything else in life/parenting, a little planning can go a long way. Every year after Christmas I hit the sales just like everyone else. I snatch up ANYTHING I can find that is Elf on the Shelf related and keep it in a designated tote box. That box becomes my go-to in December, I pull out little treats that PIC can leave for Colt if he’s had a good day at school.

He might get some holiday window clings or a Christmas book that I found in a clearance bin for $1.

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I used a free coffee mug coupon from Shutterfly to create a mug with PIC’s picture on it and he delivered it along with some Elf on the Shelf hot chocolate mix I found on clearance at Christmas Tree Shops. I thought my son’s head was going to fall off when he discovered it!

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Over the summer I collected all the photos I had taken of PIC’s adventures and made a simple Shutterfly book from them (again free coupon). My son was so surprised that Purple Ice Cream was thinking of him in the middle of July! It was a cute way to keep the memories for me and he’s taking it for show & tell later this week (win/win!)

Unfortunately, Elf on the Shelf stuff is rarely on sale or can be bought with a coupon in stores. I was lucky enough to get a $10 off Black Friday coupon at JC Penney’s this year and used it towards the $25 Scout Elves at Play kit. But the good news is that other than the Elf, you don’t need anything other than your imagination. Plus there are tons of great ideas out there if you get stuck!

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The Elf on the Shelf is a wonderful holiday tradition. I know my son won’t always believe in Santa or Elves or that reindeer can fly. But he does for now, and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it that I can. Even if I have to use an app to remind me!

Written by Heather Flanigan-Garrett – Wife, Mom and Elf Authority. ♥  You can follow her on Twitter @hflan.

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