Do It Yourself Elf on the Shelf

I love ‘Elf on the Shelf’. It’s such a magical and fun way to count down the December days to Christmas, both for children and adults alike. But I must admit that I’m not crazy about it’s price-tag. So a couple of years ago I experimented with doing it myself. Here’s how.

Preparation Time: 

Initially 20 minutes then 5 minutes a day until Christmas

What you need:

  1. A favourite toy and / or a magical character – an elf, a fairy, for example but doesn’t need to be Christmas related. No need to buy anything, a favourite teddy coming to life will add to the magic, just make sure it’s not one that your child needs to take to bed or to nursery – you need access to it at all times!
We use Fairies!

We use Fairies!

2.   Some paper – as fancy as you want it to be. You can just use printer paper, or use           some coloured paper, add some stickers, sparkle etc or download a template.                 Google ‘A4 border template’ for example. Here’s a free download I found:

ppb3b473c2_023.  Some chocolate golden coins or other treats. Again, this can be as extravagant as you      want it to be! You need 1 a day (or as many as you like!) until Christmas per child.

Nom Nom...

Nom Nom…

4.  A lot of imagination and a sprinkle of magic dust….


As little as the cost of the treats you choose (golden coins are about £1 a bag) and the paper you use. Obviously the more you jazz it up, the more expensive it becomes!

How to do it: 

You don’t have to start on the 1st December. You can leave it until the week, or even a few days, before Christmas if you want to.

1) Write a creative letter for your child / children from the toy. It needs to explain that Santa has asked the toy to find out how amazingly-brilliantly-well-behaved they are being before Christmas, and has sprinkled some magic around the house to make some wonderful and amazing things happen. This is a good place to slip in anything you’re battling at the moment:

Santa has asked especially that you remember to use your listening ears!

Please try extra hard with brushing your teeth!

Can you try really hard with your homework?

Until Christmas, your child is going to receive a message each morning with a special ‘Santa Challenge’ on it for them to do that day. If they’re successful there will be a treat waiting for them at the end of the day! In the meantime, your toy is going to make the most of Santa’s magic and have some adventures around the house…

2) Write up the ‘challenges’ for your child. There should be one challenge per day. You can have a different task each day:


Please remember to try really hard to use your manners today! Remember to say please and thank you : )

Can you try and play with somebody at school today who is feeling a bit sad?

How about doing something helpful for Daddy today?

Can you be really brave today?

Can you have LOADS OF FUN today? 

Can you find a toy that you no longer play with to take to the charity shop? 

Or you might want to focus on a similar area throughout:

You tried really hard with your mealtimes yesterday. Today can you try a new food?

Yesterday you did brilliantly at trying a new food! Well done! How about today you remember to wash your hands before you eat?

3) Now you’re all ready to go. Day 1 – Morning:

Place your chosen toy somewhere with the ‘introductory letter’ – maybe at the breakfast table or in the Christmas tree – somewhere that it will be easily spotted. Remember to include the task for that day too. The children will be soooo excited that Santa has made their favourite toy come ALIVE! And has LEFT THEM A MESSAGE!!!


Position the toy somewhere so that it is somewhere unusual or doing something funny – hanging upside down in the Christmas tree, tucked up in bed reading a book, playing with the other toys, eating food etc. Remember to leave the chocolate coin or other treat too! Maybe leave a ‘well done’ note as well?

4) Day 2 and all other days:


Remember to position your toy somewhere so that it looks like it’s been making itself at home overnight! I’m sure you’ve seen the Elf on the Shelf ideas and will know that you can be very creative. Remember to leave the challenge for the day too! You can also leave extras: a sprinkle of fairy dust, some ‘footprints’, some writing on a notepad and so on. Here are some of the things our fairies have been up to:

Catching up on some light reading...

Catching up on some light                                   reading…

Getting to know the other members of the household!

Getting to know the other members of the                                       household!

Playing with the 'elfie stick

Playing with the ‘elfie stick

My favourite! Created on

My favourite! A little visit from Santa to see how it’s all going. Created on


Reposition the toy, not forgetting the chocolate coin! We sometimes leave an extra note in the evening if something amazing has happened that day, or even if it hasn’t been such a good day to remind the girls to keep trying their best!

Repeat every day until Christmas! 

A few days before Christmas:

Prepare another letter, saying that the magic will soon wear off, but before it does your toy wishes to congratulate your child for trying so hard. He will be reporting back to Santa that you have been very good this year! But remember not to be sad – he’ll still be staying with you until the magic returns in time for Christmas again next year!

Christmas eve:

Remember to leave the final letter out!

And finally –  feel particularly smug that you’ve done it all yourself, your children have had masses of fun and excitement, you’ve encouraged positive behaviour and gratitude in the meantime AND you’ve saved yourself at least £30!

What do you think? Am I being an utter Scrooge by not buying a proper Elf on the Shelf? Is it too much hassle to do it yourself? Or do you think it adds to the fun and magic? Let me know your thoughts!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Polly xx


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