Each night your little elf flys back to Santa to report on how your kiddos are doing on the whole "naughty/nice" scale and then get up to mischief around the house! Just look at some of the wonderfully delightful and imaginative things these elves have been up to from Pinterest:
(in this one the elf on the shelf painted each of the kids' noses red)
Aha! I love it! I am sure I would have loved waking up each morning and trying to find what the little elf was up to the previous night! And boy do those elves ever have some shenanigans! Look at all the amazing elf on the shelf ideas from Flickr! Yup, I'm pretty sure if I ever have children of my own we are definitely adopting an elf!
The only thing I don't really like about the whole thing is that he arrives from just after Thanksgiving until Christmas eve. Sure that is fine for American's and their late November festivities, but here in Canada I doubt I'd want to start getting ready for the holidays before Halloween even happens. I guess you could try to modify the tradition to just take place during December (which is much more doable in my mind), but that doesn't really follow the book which kind of takes away from the magic of the whole thing. Alas, I have many years to figure out the details before jumping into that boat. What do you think? Anyone out there take part in the hide and seek elf fun? Are you thrilled to get started now (i.e. Leslie?)? I'd love to hear from you!