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What happens if your elf stops moving?

The Elf on the Shelf has become a beloved Christmas tradition in many households. For the uninitiated, the Elf on the Shelf is a magical elf sent from the North Pole to watch over children in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Each night, after the children have gone to bed, the elf flies back to the North Pole to report to Santa on who has been naughty or nice. In the morning, the elf has returned and is found in a new spot in the house! This adds to the fun and mystery of having an elf in the home. Parents move the elf to a new location when the children aren’t looking so they think it moves around on its own by magic.

But sometimes, disaster strikes – the elf stops moving! This can happen for a few different reasons. Maybe you forgot to move it one night. Maybe it fell and got stuck somewhere out of sight. Or maybe your dog or cat knocked it down and played with it. Whatever the reason, you suddenly have an immobile elf on your hands and some potentially disappointed kids. So what’s a parent to do? Don’t worry, there are some good options for reviving your motionless elf!

Why Did the Elf Stop Moving?

There are a few main reasons why your Elf on the Shelf may have suddenly stopped moving around each night:

You Forgot to Move It

Let’s face it, sometimes things get busy and hectic around the holidays. It can be hard to remember every little task when you’re juggling work, shopping, parties, family visits, travel, cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the kids. Moving the elf every night can easily slip your mind. You crawl into bed exhausted only to wake up filled with dread as you realize the elf is still sitting where it was yesterday morning.

The Elf Got Stuck or Fell

These elves are small and lightweight. It’s not uncommon for one to topple over or get wedged somewhere you can’t see it. Kids also have been known to pick up or move the elf without telling their parents. If it falls behind furniture or gets stuck up high on a shelf, you might think it didn’t move overnight.

Pets Messed with the Elf

Dogs, cats, and other furry family members can sometimes interfere with the elf’s ability to fly around at night. Pets who are curious or playful may bat at, pounce on, or even damage the elf. So if you have pets, always keep the elf safely out of their reach!

Kids Touched the Elf

Your kids know they aren’t supposed to touch the magical elf, but sometimes temptation is too much! If a child handled the elf during the day, you’ll need to explain that this zapped away its magic ability to move at night.

It’s Just Old or Worn Out

Elves can lose their Christmas magic after a few years of service. Much like toys, they wear out over time. If your elf is looking a little worse for wear, with loose limbs or a droopy face, it could be that it has simply come to the end of its magical life. Time to retire it and get a new elf!

What to Tell Your Kids if the Elf Stopped Moving

Once you realize the elf has gone motionless, you’ll need to come up with a good cover story to explain it to your kids. Here are some ideas on what to tell them:

Explanation Details
The elf caught a cold Explain that even magical elves can get sick sometimes. He has a bad cold and was too under the weather to fly back to the North Pole last night. He’ll need some time resting at home to recover before his magic returns.
The elf is recharging his magic Let the kids know that the elf used up too much magic yesterday preparing Christmas surprises for them. He needs to recharge for a night before he can fly and move around again.
Santa needed extra help Santa called the elf back to the North Pole last night because he desperately needed help in the workshop. The elf had to stay all night making toys, so he couldn’t come back home.
The elf is conducting a special stakeout Whisper to the kids that the elf isn’t moving because he is on an important stakeout, spying to find out who is being naughty! Shhh…don’t blow his cover!

Additional Explanation Ideas:

  • The elf lost his magic crystal that allows him to fly.
  • Jack Frost froze the elf’s legs in place with magic icicles!
  • The elf is playing hide-and-seek and staying very still in his hiding spot.
  • A Christmas mouse carried the elf away during the night to show him the secret mouse hole routes.

Get creative and come up with an explanation that will satisfy your kids, reassure them nothing is wrong with the elf, and allow you time to get the elf moving again!

How to Fix a Non-Moving Elf

Don’t panic if your Elf on the Shelf has stopped moving around. Here are some tips to revive your motionless elf:

Make Sure It’s Not Stuck

Carefully check around the last spot the elf was seen. Look on the floor, under furniture, on shelves, and even in drawer and cabinet nooks. It may have fallen or gotten wedged out of sight. Retrieve it and you can attempt to carry on like nothing happened.

Sneak It to a New Spot

If the kids are out of the house or distracted, discreetly move the still elf to a new location. When they notice it has changed positions, the magic will be restored!

Say the Elf Went to the Hospital

Tell your kids you had to rush the elf to the North Pole hospital last night because he was so ill. Now he’s back home and on the mend.

Claim Santa Did a Magic Repair

Explain that Santa came last night and worked some powerful Christmas magic to fix the elf and renew his powers. That’s why he’s now able to move around again!

Get a Replacement Elf

As a last resort, you can introduce a brand new elf. Say this elf came to fill in while your regular elf takes a long rest to fully restore his magic.

Other Ideas:

  • Use “reindeer dust” (glitter) on the elf to reactivate its flying ability.
  • Have the kids write a letter to Santa asking him to revive the elf.
  • Take the elf for a “checkup” with Mrs. Claus then report back that it got a clean bill of health.
  • Suggest the kids sing Christmas carols to boost the elf’s energy.

Preventing Motionless Elf Problems

To avoid issues with a stationary elf in the future, here are some handy tips:

Buy an Elf on the Shelf Calendar

They make advent calendars that have helpful notes reminding you to move the elf each night. Cross off each day as you go.

Set Phone Alerts

Schedule a daily recurring phone alert to go off at bedtime that says “Move Elf!” so you never forget.

Keep the Elf Visible

Don’t hide it too well. Keep it in obvious spots so it doesn’t get lost or stuck accidentally.

Take Nightly Family Elf Photos

Make moving the elf an exciting family event by taking fun photos each night before bed.

Have Kids Make an Elf Rules Sign

Get the kids involved by having them make a sign with “Elf Rules” like “Don’t touch the elf!” Post it as a reminder.

Talk to Grandparents

If grandparents or babysitters will be watching the kids, remind them to move the elf each night.

Set a Phone Location Reminder

Use your phone’s location technology to set an alert when you arrive home at night to nudge you to move the elf.

Keep Pets Away

Make sure the elf is positioned safely out of reach of household pets who could bother it. Close doors to keep it pet-free.

What if the Elf Gets Lost or Broken?

Despite your best efforts, it’s still possible for a mishap to happen. If the worst occurs and an elf gets lost, damaged, or destroyed beyond repair, here are some options:

Say Goodbye

Have a farewell ceremony for the elf, thanking it for months of Christmas magic. Assure the kids a new elf will be assigned next year.

Hold a Funeral

For a touch of extra drama, hold an elf funeral to honor its service. You can even bury it in a little decorated box!

Claim the Elf Had to Retire

Explain that the elf got too old and was called back to the North Pole permanently to relax and enjoy retirement.

Let Kids Help Pick a Replacement

If it’s early in the season, help ease their sadness by taking them to pick out a replacement elf together.

Designate an “Elf Helper”

Appoint a stuffed animal or doll that will fill in as an Elf on the Shelf backup for the remainder of the season.

Pull in a Substitute Elf

See if a relative or friend has an extra elf you can borrow as a temporary substitute until after the holidays.


While dealing with a motionless Elf on the Shelf can be stressful and require creative problem-solving, just remember – it’s supposed to be a fun Christmas tradition, not another chore on your to-do list! Don’t be discouraged if you occasionally forget to move the elf or it gets itself into a predicament. Take a flexible approach, come up with fanciful stories for your kids, and focus on the magical spirit of the holidays! With some care and planning, you can troubleshoot most still elf woes. And if all else fails, Santa and his elves will surely understand if you need to take a year off now and then! The most important thing is creating special memories with your family.