Why the Elf Didn’t Move: 20 Believable Elf on the Shelf Excuses


One of the reasons families who don’t do Elf on the Shelf cite for not doing Elf on the Shelf is that they don’t want to hassle with moving the Elf each and every night. Enter my 20 believable Elf on the Shelf excuses.

While we strive for moving the elf every night, sometimes it doesn’t happen. Here are some “reasons” your elf might have opted to stay put.

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Why the Elf Didn’t Move: 20 Believable Elf on the Shelf Excuses

If your elf on is uncreatively resting on the mantle yet again, here are some believable elf on the shelf excuses that might explain why.

Related: Why we love the Elf on the Shelf at our house

1. The elf didn’t move because you were making too much noise and wouldn’t go to sleep.

If you stay up too long having whispered arguments about “who farted,” well… your elf might just fall asleep and miss his transport to the North Pole.

2. He caught a cold* – One of the elf of the shelf excuses to be used sparingly right now, maybe.

Santa is sending some emergency “elf-o-tussin.” In the meantime, he’s just gonna rest here. A quiet house will speed his recovery so everyone use your library voices.

*In the pandemic age, this one is probably best used sparingly, especially with younger kids. Our kids are probably more fearful than we realize and we don’t want our elf on the shelf excuses to cause them real distress.

3. He’s teleworking.

This is most effective when you score a Barbie-sized iPad and throw it in the general direction of the elf. This is extremely plausible. With all the technology at our fingertips, why does the elf have to fly back to the North Pole every night in person?

Santa has Face Time and Skype, right?

 4. Of course he moved.

Maybe just a little bit but he’s definitely in a different spot.  

Channel your inner authoritative parent and bust out the “because I said so.” You might even convince yourself the elf moved. That said, this is one is probably best for really young children.


5. He was really tired and fell asleep before you did.

Yes, mommy knows his eyes are open. He’s really sleeping. It’s an elf thing.

6. Your dad accidentally touched the elf so he’s lost his magic for 24 hours.

You can also blame anyone else that lives in your household. The dads don’t have to bear the brunt of this one if there’s someone else you can point the finger at. 

7. Storms made it unsafe to fly so the FAA grounded all elves.

This is one of the elf on the shelf excuses that’s especially plausible if your location is experiencing rain or snow. If not, you can (hopefully!) show your child on a map where it is storming in the world.

8. He liked this spot so much he wanted to come back to it.

He’ll probably keep coming back to this spot again and again. 

If this isn’t a blanket excuse for future slip ups, I don’t know what is. 

9. The elf must have picked this spot because it’s got such a great view of the TV.

The elf really likes to watch Disney+, you know.

 10. The elf stayed up had too much eggnog and decided not to make the journey

Because flying to the North Pole when you’re tipsy is irresponsible.

Related post: Four ways social media is ruining Christmas

11. It was too warm in our house last night.

The optimal temperature for elf travel is 67.5 degrees. I’ll make sure we adjust that thermostat. 

12. He forgot his keys to the North Pole and is waiting on Santa to FedEx them.

13. The elf has a bellyache because he ate too much candy

And let that be a lesson to you, young man.

14. You’re right, he didn’t move. The elf is messing with us to see if we’re paying attention.

We are! Yay us!

15. Freeze tag?

16. Maybe he forgot he’s been to that spot three nights in a row.

Elves have a lot on their minds, you know.

17. Is that really our elf?

Look closely. Maybe this is a pretend decoy elf and the real elf is hiding? We better be on our extra good behavior!

18. Santa’s really busy this week so the elves are only flying to the North Pole every other night.

19. Maybe he’s resting and saving his magic to give you a really cool surprise tomorrow…

If you bust this one out, for the love of all that is merry and bright, follow through.

20. Do you think he could be stuck?

Yes, I realize some of these elf on the shelf excuses defy logic a little. Or, perhaps a lot. But if your kids are old enough to smell the lies then they’re most likely clued in to the fact that you’re the one pulling the strings. 

For more elf on the shelf excuses and ideas:

Check out one of my favorite blogs, Mama in the Now. Tove has lots of fun ideas and she is just fun in all the way around.


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