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Twelve Ways to Save Your Butt When Your Elf on the Shelf Forgets to Move

December 12, 2011

‘Tis the season for the Elf on the Shelf to come back and serve as one additional reminder for our kids to behave.  I love the ready threat he gives me to hang over my kids, but I hate when I forget to move him and face disappointed faces the next morning.

I know there are some great lists out there of fun ideas to do with your elf to add to your kids’ fun.  This is not one of them.  This is more a compilation of the lies we pull out of our asses in an effort to save ourselves from the Elf on the Shelf.  Here is my list of how to dig yourself out of a hole when Elf on the Shelf “forgets” to move.

  1. Guilt Trip Elf Excuse:  He didn’t want to have to tell Santa that you _______ (threw a fit/ hit your brother/were mean to your sister/talked back to Mommy) yesterday.  You’re lucky he’s giving you a second chance before reporting your Naughty List behavior.
  2. Overtired Elf Excuse:   He must have overslept from working so hard.  “Elfie Joe, wake up!  It’s morning!”
  3. Bed Check Elf Excuse:   He wanted to see how well you sleep through the night.
  4. Under the Weather Elf Excuse:  He must be getting the cold you had last week
  5. Sports Fan Elf Excuse:   He stayed up with us to watch the football/hockey/basketball game last night.
  6. Deja Vous Elf Excuse:    I saw him fly out last night. He must just really like the view from that spot.
  7. Union Elf Excuse:   It’s the ____ Day of Christmas.  It’s an Elf holiday so they can rest.
  8. Paparazzi Elf Excuse:  Oh, he must have wanted us to take his picture there.  Click!
  9. Secret Spy Elf Excuse:  “He’s on a secret mission from Santa to…”  Insert “count all the toys you’ve outgrown,” or “check how many toys you put away,” or “check Santa’s list to make sure you don’t have any duplicates,” etc.
  10. Last Minute Save Elf Excuse:  When you realize as they tromp downstairs that you forgot last night.  “Kids, go open your window to let the light in and warm up the house.  Please do it right now ’cause it’s so cold out today!” (Yes, I really used this one this morning.  You can make up your own random reason for them to immediately return to their rooms.) When the kids run upstairs, quickly grab and move the elf.
  11. Day After Creative Elf Save:  Elfie must be in an extra creative place the day after he stayed put.  “See?  It just took him two nights to put this all together!”  (See this list of 101 Elf on the Shelf ideas.)
  12. Next Day Generous Elf Save:  Elfie presents a small gift the next day.  “See?  He was just too tired from shopping for you/making you this gift!”
I also love this idea on How to Hack Your Elf on the Shelf and make him more bendable and grippy that my sister-in-law sent me.  I am not very creative or domestic, but I think even I can handle this.  I plan to head to the craft store tomorrow to create our new Bionic Elf.  We’ll see if his make-over can improve my own memory, too.Good luck, and please let me know your best saves and excuses in the comments below so I can add to my arsenal.  Thanks, fellow Elf Slackers!


Want more Christmas posts?  If you liked this post, you’ll love

Twelve MORE Ways to Save Your Butt When Your Elf on the Shelf Forgets to Move

6 Ways to Keep the Kids Believing in Christmas

Nightmare on Elf Street

The Christmas Tree Tutorial – Perfection in 10 OCD Steps

Christmas Rejects

13 Signs Your Kids Are Rubbing Off On You

Christmas Lessons Learned From My Three Year Old

Three Great Kid Jobs to Actually Help with Christmas Baking

My House of Faceless Angels

Realistic Fitness for the Holidays

“Merry Christmas, My Friend” By Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt, 1986

64 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2011 12:14 PM

    These are great! I love #7–it’s going to be my go to one the first time I forget. Hopefully I don’t though. So far so good. I made ours bendy too–it’s awesome.

  2. December 13, 2011 4:46 PM

    Hi! Since you were nice enough to comment on my Elf on the Shelf “oops” post I came over to check out yours. Very funny! I like #1 – he’s giving you a second chance. I’m always telling my kids to forgive so it only makes sense that the Elf is forgiving, too.

    Hope you don’t need to use any of these excuses and your kids have a blast with the Elf. Did you see my other post – 8 Ways to Have More Fun with your Elf on the Shelf?

    I sometimes think I have more fun with this than the kids. Happy Holiday!

    Sue Kirchner
    Chief Fun Officer

  3. Leigh permalink
    December 14, 2011 10:14 AM

    Last year we always went with “he looked like he was falling so I helped him back up…I forgot we’re not supposed to touch him! He’ll get his magic back tonight.”

    I was thinking this year of setting the alarm to go off on my phone every night so we wouldn’t forget, but my 10-year-old didn’t buy the whole Elf on the Shelf thing this year, so of course the 7-year-old also knows that it’s just a “game”. I thought I was going to cry… But they now get to help hide it for the 3-year-old, so THEY help me remember :).

  4. Carla Corcoran permalink
    April 5, 2012 10:00 AM

    I used the fact that Elfie didn’t like being touched by the older brother (a teenager tormenting his little sister). She turned to him with complete anger in her eyes and yelled, “I TOLD YOU! YOU BROKE HIM!”

    The next day, Elfie brought a letter saying that the brother’s touch caused his ‘direction finder’ to get turned around & he had to stick around & fix it.

    And, his goodbye letters to both kids reminded them of the day & made some suggestions on how the teen can get his magic back.

    All was well.

  5. Breanna permalink
    November 27, 2012 5:08 PM

    i told them “she won’t have the energy to fly if she doesn’t get something to eat and drink!” they bought that one every time! every night before bedtime, they set out a glass of water, and a few crumbs of cereal… and then they headed straight to bed… which is when i moved her 🙂

  6. November 29, 2012 11:30 PM

    I love all of these great ideas and am totally adding them to my arsenal this year. -Mommy Save = Lost Magic, -Tormenting Teenager Blame, and -Hungry Elf excuses are all hereby added to the rotation. You all kick some serious slacker elf butt. I love it. Thanks!

  7. Jessica permalink
    November 30, 2012 5:49 PM

    I have said “he was so comfortable there yesterday he must have wanted to go back”.

  8. Stacey R. permalink
    December 1, 2012 9:21 AM

    The Elf should come with one of those plastic bracelets and just have “MTF” on it. “Move The Elf”. A reminder for parents to wear.

    • December 3, 2012 5:05 PM

      Love the idea, Stacey! Although, I picture myself standing in front of the elf one night wondering, “Now, what does ‘MTF’ stand for again?” 😉

  9. December 1, 2012 11:18 AM

    ~ I just say… ” I don’t know…BUT he must be up to something.” 😉 It keeps them wondering without any disappointment.

  10. Amber C. permalink
    December 1, 2012 4:41 PM

    We grew up with Chris Mouse and my children have Chris Moose. Whenever any of our children touch him (which is a huge No, No), he loses a bit of his Christmas magic and has to rest a full day to gain it back.

    • December 3, 2012 5:03 PM

      Chris Mouse and Chris Moose sound adorable. All of those Christmas helpers need their rest! (as do Mom & Dad!!)

  11. amanda permalink
    December 4, 2012 12:31 PM


  12. December 6, 2012 10:08 AM

    I am DYING laughing right now because Andrew, our Elf has really slacked a few times this season already! I am SOOOO using some of these excuses – if it happens — WHEN it happens again!

  13. December 7, 2012 10:18 AM

    We stuck a note in the Advent calendar saying the kids were so good he didn’t need to make a report last night while they were getting dressed for school

    • December 7, 2012 10:27 AM

      Awesome idea!!

      • Leigh permalink
        December 7, 2012 9:04 PM

        I just uncovered our Elf today…any excuses for a late arrival? Other than he takes after me? 🙂

      • December 7, 2012 9:16 PM

        Hmm… How about, he had to help Santa with your kids’ last-minute wish list items? Or he was lost in the toy clutter while taking initial inventory! Or maybe he was in plumbing school to help Daddy fix the pipes!! 😉

      • Leigh permalink
        December 7, 2012 9:26 PM

        Good ones!!! I’m leaning toward the toy clutter. May inspire another clean out at the same time!!

      • mstangledwebs permalink
        December 10, 2012 9:54 PM

        Late elf arrival excuse – I told my kids her magic only arrives when the house is decorated. We’ve also talked about making custom elves (one to look like each kid) before next year and asking Santa to send his magic down so they could be our elves from then on.

      • December 10, 2012 10:11 PM

        Nice excuse on the late arrival!

  14. Sarah permalink
    December 10, 2012 3:16 PM

    I was totally exhausted last night asked my husband to do Elf duty and he agreed. And then forgot. My daughter told me this morning that she thought Peppermint had died because she hadn’t moved. She nearly was in tears. So we told her that it was Daddy’s fault bc he stayed up way too late in the familyroom and Peppermint couldn’t come out and play and show her magic. (something like you can’t stay up and wait for Santa or he won’t come) She seemed to buy it ok, but was not totally convinced. Needless to say, tonight Peppermint has to do it up BIG.

  15. Kelli permalink
    December 10, 2012 10:06 PM

    I had our elf write a letter saying Santa was making him apologize for scaring them by not moving, but he really liked the bobble head toys he was sitting by because their heads are really funny. The boys thought it was hilarious!

    • December 10, 2012 10:09 PM

      Kelli, that is pure genius!! I love the “Santa made me write it” letter!!

  16. Jenn permalink
    December 11, 2012 11:12 PM

    I tell my boys that there must have been a long line for Santa that night and that the elf probably is waiting for a better time to report later on that day 🙂

  17. December 12, 2012 11:17 AM

    Our elf, Mark, forgot to move from looking through the toy catalog. My oldest daughter was convinced yesterday that he was working on her list so I told her today, he must be working on your sister’s now. Her reply “he did turn the page.” (If he did, it really was elf magic!)

  18. Kim Thomas permalink
    February 22, 2013 2:23 PM

    Great ideas! The FIRST night we had our elf he didn’t move. My son was devastated! Oh @$!%#! So the next night the elf left a letter stating that he had been taught in elf school that when he came back to the house he should start in the same place he was the day before and THEN look for a new place to hang out. So that first morning he had just gotten back and was considering a new place when I got up early and he couldn’t move. Whew, disaster averted!

  19. Robin permalink
    November 13, 2013 10:25 PM

    Our elf is occasionally “tricky” and hides in the same spot he was at yesterday to try and trick my daughter into looking for him in a new spot….
    It was the best I could do under pressure. Your ideas are great, I’m sure I’ll be using a couple! ; )

  20. Cindy permalink
    December 4, 2013 2:24 PM

    I forgot to take the tags off the back of my elf and my daughter noticed and got upset and said it was just a toy any suggestions on how I can fix this one.

    • December 4, 2013 2:27 PM

      Oh no! I hate moments like that! How old is your daughter? Do you have the Elf on the Shelf book? That might help show her that, yes, they START as a toy, but when we name them, they get their magic and come to life. Before that, they don’t have an assigned kid (kind of like the toys in Toy Story), so they’re just waiting and hoping. Now that she named her very own elf, she gave him the magical power to fly to Santa and watch over her.

      That’s the best I can come up with! Let us know what you end up telling her and how it goes. Good luck!

    • Susan Seaton permalink
      December 10, 2013 7:47 PM

      We are using this in our classroom this year, our Elf still has the tags and I told the kids that he was made in the workshop and this helps anyone that finds him a way to get him back to the North Pole in case he gets lost while participating in his naughty night-time flights. The kids bought it hook, line, and sinker. My first graders are having so much fun with this. They even wrote a letter to Santa to tell on our naughty elf, great writing activity!

      • December 10, 2013 7:52 PM

        I love that you are doing a writing activity along with this!!
        A helpful hint from another friend of mine about the tags…
        Her son saw the “Made in China” sticker and was feeling disenchanted. She told him that the elf’s CLOTHES were made in China, just like many of ours are, but that all elves are from the North Pole. 😉

  21. December 6, 2013 1:53 PM

    These are great! I’ve personally used 1, 2, 6, 10 & 11, but glad to have some more excuses up my sleeve for next time. Because you know there’s going to be a next time…

  22. Elf on the shelf Robert permalink
    October 12, 2014 7:45 AM

    I think number 5 is right my parents were up all night watching sports

  23. November 18, 2014 12:00 PM

    As a bunch of parents we were always forgetting as well… we just started a free service called that allows you to set email or text reminders for any time of day so that you dont forget…. Reminders come from ‘ElfWink’ so that if a child sees the email/text they will now know what it means.

    Hope this helps someone out there!

    We also have a Facebook page:

  24. Carol permalink
    December 4, 2014 7:47 PM

    Love your list… I was guilty of #10 just this week. I made the kids go brush their teeth BEFORE breakfast so I could run to the kitchen and move him.

  25. Lisha permalink
    December 5, 2014 10:07 AM

    We live in MS and the North Pole is a long way from here so my girls and I have to be asleep by a certain time for him to be able to leave. If I forget I always tell them one of them must have been pretending and he knew better. Or that I was reading and didn’t realize what time it was!

  26. Clare permalink
    December 5, 2014 1:52 PM

    Our excuse yesterday morning that it was such nasty, cold, rainy weather out that our Elfie just didn’t feel like flying to the North Pole in it and decided to take the night off and stay here where it was warm. They totally bought it.

  27. Julie permalink
    December 5, 2014 11:38 PM

    The very first time the elf showed up, he came with a letter stating he was 1,258 years old and may not move every day as he is often tired being so old. Go ahead and judge, I set the bar low, I get it.

    • December 6, 2014 7:11 AM

      This is a stroke of genius, Julie! I wish I had thought of it years ago!!! The pre-meditated Old Elf Excuse! Love it!!

  28. Sarah permalink
    December 7, 2014 3:37 AM

    We’ve been visited for years now & have used several of these excuses. My older two now discuss with the younger two the list of possible reasons when he doesn’t move. I purposely won’t move him if they are rotten because it feeds that their behavior is being watched & they get very reflective. Also, Christmas Magic can be restored with a cup of hot chocolate AND if he falls you can use pot holders & it doesn’t count as touching him! 😉

  29. Danielle permalink
    December 7, 2014 7:13 AM

    We do an advent calendar & look for the elf every day. I told my daughter that the advent calendar always comes first so I bring it to her & as she looks for today’s door to open, (she’s 3 so this takes a few minutes) I move the elf. I don’t always forget, but this buys me time when I do.

  30. Christine Carpenter permalink
    December 9, 2014 8:18 PM

    I’ve forgotten to move Button twice already and my kids automatically assume the other touched him and made him loose his flying powers. I really like some of these ideas and will be incorporating them soon I’m sure, thanks for sharing !

  31. ashley permalink
    December 13, 2014 8:08 AM

    I have an elf in my kindergarten classroom and forgot to move it one day. Well there’s a small window on my door so I couldn’t run in and move it before they came in because my students had already noticed it. Of course they all wanted to know why he didn’t move. One student yelled out that there was a snow storm at the North Pole so he couldn’t get there! Well I definitely used that excuse!!


  1. NIghtmare on Elf Street « From Grind to Whine
  2. 13 Signs Your Children Are Rubbing Off On You « From Grind to Whine
  3. My House of Faceless Angels | From Grind to Whine
  4. Christmas Lessons Learned from My Three-Year-Old | From Grind to Whine
  5. The Christmas Tree Tutorial — Perfection in 10 OCD Steps | From Grind to Whine
  6. 3 Great Kid Jobs To Actually HELP With Christmas Baking | From Grind to Whine
  7. Christmas Rejects | From Grind to Whine
  8. Family Resolutions for 2012 | From Grind to Whine
  9. 6 Ways to Keep the Kids Believing in Christmas | From Grind to Whine
  10. Giving up the Elf on the Shelf tradition
  11. The Elf on the Shelf
  12. 12 MORE Ways to Save Your Butt When Your Elf on the Shelf Forgets to Move | From Grind to Whine

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