25 Elf on the Shelf Ideas

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elf on the shelfIt’s 9 p.m. and you just crawled into bed after another exhausting day of parenting. You start to drift off when suddenly you’re jolted awake by one reoccurring thought… I forgot to move the Elf (perhaps with a few more expletives).

I would love to say I finally have it figured out after several years of “Boy the Elf” being in our family, but despite my mediocre efforts and dedicated alarms, I inevitably forget to move that little bundle of felt from one spot to the next.

25 Elf on the Shelf Ideas

I can’t set an alarm for you or guarantee success, but I can give your brain a break by providing you with 25 Elf on the Shelf Ideas to get you through Elf season.

1. Welcome Letter + Arrival

From a simple “I’m Back” to a thoughtful letter, welcome your Elf back to your home. If you want to add a little something extra, throw in a sweet treat from the North Pole such as candy canes, hot chocolate mix, or the ingredients for s’mores.

Items Needed:
Paper (Whiteboard / Chalkboard / Magna Doodle)
Writing utensil

2. Countdown Chain

You can make this ahead of time or you can leave out the materials with instructions from your Elf and it’s something you can create together. Depending on the age of your kids (and your patience level) this can be a family activity or something you have ready for them when they wake up.

Items Needed:
Construction paper (Paper)
Stapler (Tape / Glue)
Scissors

3. Elf Poop

Grab a clear glass and some chocolate chips for this super simple idea. This one always gets a laugh out of my kids.

Items Needed:
Clear glass
Chocolate chips

4. Trapped in Window

I love this one for nights I don’t have time or simply just forget. Pop open the window and stick the Elf between the glass and the screen.

Items Needed:
Window

5. Cards

Use a deck of playing cards and set them and your Elf up like they had a fun game-filled evening. I like to add a Barbie and action figure to the mix so it looks like they were all playing together. Just be careful which toy you use because if it’s something your kids frequently play with, they’ll be upset if they can’t touch it for the rest of the day.

Items Needed:
Playing Cards (Uno / Crazy 8s / Old Maid)
Optional: Barbie / Action Figure / Stuffed Animal (to use as an opponent)

6. Refrigerator

Wrapping the Elf up in a washcloth and sticking them in the door is another super quick and easy idea that the kids always find funny.

Items Needed:
Refrigerator
Washcloth (Dish Towel / Towel)

7. Toilet Paper Snowman

This one requires a little more work to cut out the parts for the snowman. But after you quickly cut out whatever you’d like on your toilet paper snowman, stack up those rolls and tape the pieces on.

Items Needed:
Toilet paper
Construction paper
Tape

8. Elf on a Shelf

Going back to its roots, literally just sit your Elf on a shelf.

Items Needed:
Shelf

9. Snow Angel

This isn’t for everyone, but if you don’t mind cleaning up a slight mess, it’s a hit with the kids. Using flour or sugar have your Elf make a snow angel.

Items Needed:
Sugar (flour)

10. Fruit Faces

I prefer using bananas and drawing Minion faces, but you can simply draw eyes and a smile on any fruit you have in the house. If you happen to have googly eyes, you could use those instead.

Items Needed:
Fruit
Sharpie

11. Car Wash

Grab a sponge from your kitchen and a healthy amount of toy cars and put your Elf to work. You could also use a Barbie car or any other toy vehicle you have around the house.

Items Needed:
Toy cars
Sponge

12. Bubble Bath

Elves need baths too. You could take this one up a notch by having them leave bath bombs, bubble bath, or a new bath toy for the kids.

Items Needed:
Cotton balls
Bowl

13. Dinosaur

Our family has a wide variety of dinosaurs (I’m currently using one as a doorstop for my home office) so I think it’s fun to use them with the Elf. But you could use a toy lion, tiger, unicorn, horse, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Items Needed:
Toy dinosaur

14. Roasting Marshmallows

Stick a marshmallow on the end of the stick and attach it to the Elf so it looks like it’s roasting marshmallows. I like to place the marshmallow over an unlit candle or an LED tealight. You could have the Elf leave out the ingredients for s’mores and make them together as a family.

Items Needed:
Marshmallows
Toothpick (Small Stick)
Candle / Tealight

15. Block Tower

Build a creation out of blocks, Legos, etc. A suggestion for parents with toddlers, put it up high enough they can’t reach it, because if your toddler is anything like mine, they can’t resist knocking over a delightfully constructed block tower.

Items Needed:
Blocks (anything stackable)

16. Wrapped Up

Wrap your Elf up in wrapping paper, making it look like they were wrapping presents and got all wrapped up. Gift bags, tissue paper, even tinsel works for this.

Items Needed:
Wrapping paper
Tape
Scissors
Optional: Bow

17. Stuck in Snack

Even elves like midnight snacks. Using a box of theatre candy, have your elf dive in headfirst. If you don’t have boxed candy you can get creative with whatever you have in your pantry. Chips, Goldfish, Teddy Grahams, etc.

Items Needed:
Theatre box candy

18. Book Tent

You’ll want a larger book for this one so your Elf can fit in its makeshift tent. You could create a sleeping bag out of tissues or give your book tent some décor with whatever you have on hand.

Items Needed:
Book

19. Hidden Elf

This is perfect for nights you’re strongly considering sending the Elf back to the North Pole early. Pick any spot in your house the Elf can peek out from and voila, you’ve made it through another evening of Elf duty.

Items Needed:
Any object you can hide the Elf in

20. Joy Ride

The Elf was up to some late-night shenanigans. From a joy ride with a Barbie to a race around the house on a remote control car, this is a fun, yet simple suggestion.

Items Needed:
Barbie Car (remote control car /any toy vehicle you can fit your Elf in or on)

21. Shoes

Using any pair of shoes (the smaller the better typically) have your Elf pretend to be wearing them. Just make sure it’s not a pair that your child will want to wear that day.

Items Needed:
Pair of shoes

22. Mask Parachute

This idea is very 2020. Have the Elf use a facemask as a parachute. If you don’t have a mask to spare, you could replace this idea with an Elf zipline (a classic favorite).

Items Needed:
Mask

23. Coloring

Place coloring books or paper out and something to color with. I prefer coloring books and leaving a few additional ones so that the kids can color too. You could also have your Elf write a story starter and ask that you finish it together as a family.

Items Needed:
Coloring Books (Plain paper)
Markers (Colored pencils / Crayons)

24. Listening to Music

When you want to listen to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” at top volume, but don’t want to wake up the kids, headphones are a great option.

Items Needed:
Headphones

25. Departure Note

Finally the day we’ve all been waiting for… the departure back to the North Pole. The Elf can leave a simple goodbye or perhaps your elf likes to leave pajamas, a new book, or a movie to watch together as a family. Regardless of how you say goodbye, give yourself a giant pat on the back, and maybe some candy or wine, because you’ve earned it.

Items Needed:
Paper (Whiteboard / Chalkboard / Magna Doodle)
Writing utensil

Best of luck this Elf season. May your phone alarms be successful, and these 25 Elf Ideas be useful.

elf on the shelf

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Kinzy is a self-proclaimed “cool mom” to 3 spirited kids: Kellan (2012), Harper (2014), and Charlotte (2019). Her husband James is a Des Moines Firefighter whose only real downfall is his wholehearted participation in “Movember.” When she’s not working diligently to answer the ten thousand questions her kids ask in a day, she can be found slamming coffee, adding things to her shopping carts online knowing full well she’ll never actually checkout, and laughing at her own jokes. She spends most of her days reminiscing about when naps were still a thing, avoiding household chores, and striving to perfect the work/life balance.

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