I know how jaded people are about the Elf on the Shelf, but we never took it in a weird direction. See... we really liked the hide-and-seek quality that the EotS presented and then, of course, the added magic of Santa. Even at the age of 8, my daughter is still enamored with Santa. She has very sound logic:
I know that Santa is real, because there is no way you guys are going out at midnight and spending all your money to buy THAT much stuff just to fool me. I don't care what other people say.
Cue all the feels. Add to that her absolute excitement out the Elf on the Shelf returning. Someone asked us why we don't tell her, because it will be hard when the truth comes out... and really? We want her to keep that for however long she wants. And when she finds out, we'll talk about it. Keep the magic going.
So we don't make threats of being watched, but our daughter is always excited when Elfie (yes... the creative name my daughter gave her) goes back to the North Pole each night to check in on Santa and make sure he's alright and doesn't need additional help. She also thinks Elfie shares some of the great things she sees and shares the little gifts my daughter sometimes leaves for her.
This year I decided, instead of contributing to all the weird pictures out there, to take our hide and seek pictures and post them.
My daughter made something for Elfie when she arrived. It was a felt reindeer "stuffed animal." As a thank you, Elfie left some candy wrappers.