11/19/2015 10:48 EST | Updated 12/03/2018 14:06 EST

How Does Elf On The Shelf Work?

Here's what you need to know about this holiday tradition.

If you're new to the parenting game, you've probably wondered, "What the heck is Elf on the Shelf?"

Elf on the Shelf is a Christmas tradition where a special scout is sent to your home from the North Pole to encourage kids to behave themselves. The idea is that Santa's little helper watches the children by day, and each night, he or she returns to the North Pole to report on whether the children were naughty or nice.

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The Christmas tradition has just two rules. First, children are not allowed to touch the elf or he or she will lose their magic. However, if an elf is touched by mistake, the official Elf on the Shelf website advises children write a letter to Santa to apologize and sprinkle a little cinnamon beside the elf before bed.

"Cinnamon is like vitamins for scout elves, and it helps them get back to the North Pole," the website reads. "Once they arrive, the North Pole doctors will check them out."

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The second rule of Elf on the Shelf is that the elf will not speak or move while the kids are awake. The elf only moves at night when he makes his trip back to the North Pole. Once he returns home, he then assumes a new position in the house.

In the past, we've seen the elf get up to all sorts of crazy antics, from playing poker to taking selfies to sunbathing on the kitchen counter.

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The world was first introduced to the Elf on the Shelf in 2005. That year, Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell published a children's book called "The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition." They then teamed up with Aebersold's other daughter, Christa Pitts, to market the book to kids.

The story was based on the family's own holiday tradition that was started in the 1970s. In their household, an elf would appear every year after Thanksgiving to keep an eye on the children and prevent them from misbehaving.

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Since the book was first released, it's become a huge success. In 2008, it won a number of awards, including the Best Toy Award by Learning Express and Book of the Year Award from Creative Child Awards.

Today, the book has become a bestseller and inspired an animated TV movie called "An Elf's Story: The Elf on the Shelf." The phenomenon has become so strong that the Elf on the Shelf is also now a regular at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

Kids can now adopt an elf and register him or her online. They will receive a personalized Adoption Certificate and letter from Santa.

Usually, the Elf on the Shelf arrives at the end of November or beginning of December. To get you started, here are some super easy Elf on the Shelf ideas you can try at home:

Photo gallery 30 Easy Elf On The Shelf Ideas See Gallery