See How 1 Mom's Mastered the Art of Elf on the Shelf Creations
Think what you want about the Elf on the Shelf, but kids aren't the only ones having fun with it. Plenty of adults have a blast planning their elf's antics and showing off their creativity. San Francisco-based Michele Bell is one of them (yes, that's a picture of her in her Halloween costume) . The former first-grade teacher and POPSUGAR editor is putting her artistry and ingenuity to work crafting elaborate scenarios for her kids' elf every night. The elf, nicknamed Alfie, has generated so much buzz that he even has his own Instagram account — Alfie on the Shelf.
"My mom sent me the Elf on the Shelf five years ago when my eldest was 3 years old," Bell explains. "The first couple of years, I didn't do much with him — just threw him from shelf to ledge and occasionally onto the Christmas tree. Then three years ago, I got into the marshmallow baths, sugar snow angels, and being captured by dinosaurs, etc. The kids, then ages 6, 4, and 1, really got into it. Well, the older ones did anyway!"
But it wasn't until last year – just as the Elf on the Shelf was becoming a national phenomenon — that Bell really let her creative juices flow. "Last year, I went to another level and the kids went bananas," Bell says. "I was into it just as much as they — if not more. So this year I am all stocked up on felt and every night at 9 when I'm sure six eyelids are shut tight, I get geared up for the next morning when the magic of Alfie is revealed."
Magic that she thinks about throughout the year and jots down on her phone when inspiration strikes. Once Thanksgiving rolls around, though, it's game time. "I have so many ideas that I can't even pick which ones to execute!"
But Bell's creations aren't only about marshmallows and fun, she tries to use the Alfie to teach her kids about current events and some pop culture phenomenons. "Last year I did a tribute to Nelson Mandela when he died, and it was a great conversation starter for who he was and why he was so admired," she says. "I also did a NASA theme the other night when Orion was scheduled to launch the next morning."
Setting the scene does take time, though. Bell's Elf creations can often take an hour or two to put together, an effort she describes as a labor of love because seeing her kids' reactions every morning is a joy! "They wake up every morning, run out of their rooms, dart around the house, and come running into our room to give us the full report on where he is and what he's doing," she says. "My husband and I just laugh and follow them to the scene, where we act surprised and dumbfounded. My husband is a full supporter of my elf antics, I think mostly because he sees how much the kids enjoy it but he knows how much I like putting it together too. As for my friends and family, they are either feeding my ego, or they enjoy it too!"
Read on to see Bell's greatest creations thus far!