This post and its photos may contain affiliate links, view our disclosure policy.
Inside: We’ve pulled together a gigantic list of the best Elf on the Shelf ideas so that you don’t have to think about it each and every night!
It’s that time of the year again.
December is almost upon us, and Elf on the Self is making his debut!
Parents everywhere are racking their brains, trying to figure out what mischief their child’s Elf will get into each night.
Let me be honest. The ideas don’t flow easily for me, and every year I kind of dread this whole elf thing.
I simply do not have the time or creativity after bedtime to make little glitter elf prints or fish for goldfish in the sink during the busy holidays!
So this year, I thought I’d prepare myself and make a list of easy Elf on the Shelf ideas for two reasons:
- 1: So I don’t have to think about it each night and
- 2: So that I can share them with all of you.
Favorite this page (or pin below) so you’ll have a quick reference when you need a fast idea each evening. This list has something for everyone – quick, clever, and sweet!
Oh, and we have a few epic freebies to accompany your Elf on the Shelf scenes this year! (Keep scrolling to find out!)
What is Elf on a Shelf?
If you are new to the parenting world, you might wonder, what the heck is an Elf on the Shelf?
The Elf on the Shelf is a Christmas tradition where an adorable (and sometimes mischievous) scout Elf is sent from the North Pole to your house. Your new friend watches quietly and reports back to Santa at the North Pole each and every night. In the morning, the Elf returns and is perched in a new spot, waiting for eager children to find him.
Essentially the Scout Elves help Santa manage his “nice list.”
The Elf will arrive at your home wearing his official red jumpsuit in a box set with their very own storybook!
And the best part? You get to name him, and he becomes part of the family for the next decade.
Are you ready to adopt your own Elf on the Shelf?
Traditionally the “Scout Elf” returns between November 24th-December 1st, but you do you and let your elf come back or leave whenever you’re ready!
The Elf comes with everything it needs to get settled into your home, but there are a lot of easy accessories available in the Elf on the Shelf online shop. Many of the accessories available, especially the outfits and props, may even make some elf ideas easier for you!
The elves can be bought in most stores, including Target, Walmart, Hallmark, and many others.
Freebie #1: Snag an instant download of this Christmas Elf Note Set. This adorable bundle includes everything you need to get started, little notes your Elf can leave, a kindness list so the Elf can report back to Santa, and so much more!
What are the rules of Elf on the Shelf?
Before adopting your Scout Elf, you need to know the rules.
Rule #1: Children are not allowed to touch the elf because it will lose its magic if they do.
If you touch your Elf by mistake, don’t fret, Santa advises kids to write a letter to Santa to apologize and sprinkle some cinnamon on their Elf before bed.
Rule #2: Scout Elves cannot talk but are great listeners.
Children can share their secrets and wishes whenever they like.
Rule #3: The Scout Elves always head back to the North Pole on Christmas Eve just in time for Santa to make an appearance.
Elf on the Shelf Pro Tips
Every parent is looking for quick elf ideas once their family friend makes his appearance.
These are a couple of quick tips to make the Elf more enjoyable for all, including you!
Pro Tip #1: Move The Elf
If you just do not have it in you to come up with an elaborate scene or activity, JUST MOVE THE ELF!
Movement from one room to another or just one counter to another is at least something!
The Elf flies back to the North Pole each night to report to the big guy, so he needs to move!
Freebie #2 – Leave one of these adorable Elf jokes with your Elf scene daily. This can surely add some fun to the days when Elf is just moving from one spot to another without any elaborate creatives!
Pro Tip #2: Use Your Phone
Set a phone reminder each night to move your Elf (trust me, this will save you from a disappointed kid full of questions when they discover that Elf hasn’t moved). And if you are forgetful like me, this is a must!
Setting an alarm will save you from jumping out of bed at 5 a.m. when you remember you still need to move Elf before your early risers are up!
Pro Tip #3: Not a Punishment
Don’t use the elf as a punishment.
The Elf on the Shelf is watching for good behavior. Let’s not make Elf a negative thing.
Because undoubtedly, your children will be misbehaving at some point because they are kids!
Elf should add to the magic of Christmas and encourage good behavior, but he should never be a negative thing!
These three tips will get you started on an easier Elf on the Shelf experience.
100+ Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas
Seeing the excitement and smiles when my child finds his Elf (Freddy) every morning is why I haven’t given up on this love-hate tradition.
Elves are often found doing funny or mischievous things – which is why this has become such a fun family tradition. As you can imagine, kids love to go looking for the Elf each morning to see what their Elf has gotten into!
Quick Elf on the Shelf Ideas
If you already forgot pro tip #2 and are moments away from your children excitedly waking up looking for what craziness their elf got into the night before. It may be time to bring in pro tip #1 and just move the elf.
Here are some easy hiding spots for the elf.
- On the Christmas tree
- In shoes
- In a Christmas stocking
- In a doll stroller
- On the mantle
- In the sink
- On the vacuum
- In a plant
- In a closet
- In a dollhouse
- Inside a paper towel roll
- On top of a favorite toy
- Inside the fridge
- Behind a curtain
- On a shelf
- On a windowsill
- Hanging on a doorknob
- On the coat rack
- In the laundry basket
- In the medicine cabinet
- Under the Christmas tree
- Inside the pantry
- Under the bed
- In the utensil drawer
- Within your Christmas decor
These simple Elf on the Shelf ideas usually take under one minute! So they are great when you are in a hurry!
Creative Elf on the Shelf Ideas
These creative Elf on the Shelf Ideas also always end up being funny Elf on the Shelf Ideas! Your child will find them cute, funny, gross, or all of the above!
- Elf pool party with barbies/bath toys in the sink (use blue tissue paper for water)
- Fishing for goldfish
- Sitting on a brown sugar beach with a sugar snowman
- Baking homemade cookies
- Working out with superheroes like Thor, Superman, and Ironman (use straws and marshmallows for weights)
- Candy cane hide and seek
- Secret message to decode from the elf
- Toilet paper snowman
- Playing a Christmas BINGO game
- Or think of any printable game with Elf; I love these ideas from Artsy Fartsy MAMA
- Playing Car Bingo (and you can get a free Elf Car Bingo printable right here:
- Building a tree house with tools and popsicle sticks
- Movie night with stuffed animals
- Create a balloon avalanche at your child’s door
- Hijack the family photos
- Feeding some rubber ducks bread
- Ziplining across a string of Christmas lights
- Roasting a marshmallow over a battery-operated candle
- Robbing your child’s piggy bank for candy money
- Toy ambush
- Sharing a soda with Barbie or Ken
- Bow rock climbing wall
- Rock band with toys (cans/tops for drums etc.)
- Polar Express ticket to see Christmas lights
- Put Elf to bed in a tissue box (via Eighteen 25.com)
- Another awesome idea from Eighteen.25.com – have a toy and Elf tea party!
- Sledding down the banister on candy and candy cane sled
- Bubble bath in a bowl with mini marshmallows as bubbles
- Make it an ElfInstagram moment with this free printable from Elf on the Shelf
- Paper lunch bag sack races with stuffed animals
- Skittles and water experiment
- Elf’s Zen Garden (sugar and candy cane pieces)
- Battle of the Ages (elf and friends vs. other toys)
- Decorating a gingerbread house
- Elf and Barbie sharing a drink (via Shannon Hilton)
- Elf tied to railroad tracks (use Christmas tree decorative train or play train set)
- Tic tac bow with a friend (use Christmas bows instead of X and O)
- Have Elf eat the same breakfast as Buddy the Elf in the movie Elf
- Create a Candy cane garden
- Use sprinkles and have your Elf turn a regular egg into a chocolate egg (2 nights in 1)
- Elf decorates a toilet paper roll
- A crazy ride in the dryer with some friends
- Freeze elf in water and have Elsa from Frozen “freezing” him
- Elf tree farm with snack cake trees for sale
- Elf can swing on a toilet paper roll swing
- Reindeer poop with Cocoa Puffs
- Elf on the toilet with raisins in the bowl
- Elf and his friend’s playing cards (image via Shannon Hilton)
- Elf flying in a plane from the ceiling fan (turn it on for some real magic)
- Elf eating mini pancakes with mini chocolate chips
- Lightsaber battle with Darth Vader
- Army men taking the elf hostage
These creative Elf on the Shelf ideas may take a little more time, but with proper planning, they can make the holiday season fun and exciting for kids of all ages.
With this in mind, the next time you go grocery shopping, list all the little items you might need and buy it all in one fell swoop.
You could even buy an “Elf on the Shelf” tote to keep all your materials in from year to year! Let’s get organized and stop buying materials over and over!
Last-Minute Ideas for Elf on the Shelf
If you forgot to set the phone reminder and are standing at the coffee pot trying to figure out exactly what you can do with your elf before the kids come running down the stairs in less than 5 minutes.
- Drop the elf in a bowl of candy
- Make a bed in a tissue box
- Make snow angels with flour or rice
Download Your Elf Jokes
Click here to instantly download these adorable Elf Jokes to set alongside your Elf on the Shelf.
- Roll the elf down the stairs in toilet paper
- Drinking a cup of hot cocoa
- Make a mess with some toothpaste
- Sunbathing by the fireplace
- Learning the ABCs and 123s
- Elf on the Shelf Matchbox car parade
- Color the elf’s face with washable markers and camouflage within the Christmas tree.
- Draw smiles on some fruit and leave the pen near the elf
- Pull up a shopping website on the computer and place the elf in front of it
- Make a line of stuffed animals with the elf in the lead
- Make a tower with dog cookies or cat treats
- Place the elf on the couch with the remote and turn on a Christmas movie.
- Stick the elf in a bottle.
- Use scissors and cut snowflakes out of toilet paper
- Grab a lid and let the elf sled down the banister
- Write a fun Christmas message on a mirror.
- Completing a Color by number sheet
- Use a dry-erase marker to draw faces on pictures
- Have the elf play Candyland or another board game
- Snowballs with cotton balls
- Reading a book
- K-cup drink of hot chocolate
- Shoe train with stuffed animals and toys
- Message in cereal
- Making or riding paper airplanes
- Brings new Christmas stories
- Toilet paper the tree
- Next to the cookie jar with a cookie
- Snowflakes out of Q-tips
- Brings Christmas pajamas
- Hanging in the ice container
- Using a straw to drink from an orange
- Playing video games
- Eating a bowl of cereal
- Circling toys in a toy magazine
- Hanging a Christmas ornament on the tree
- Doing your child’s homework
- Making popcorn
Still a little unsure of what to do with the elf? Try thinking of an activity, or sport your child enjoys.
Then have their elf imitate them; this technique will probably give you at least ten easy elf ideas.
Don’t forget to unlock this epic Elf on the Shelf Note bundle (FREE and INSTANT)
Elf on the Shelf Easy Ideas
Woah, this list is truly epic!
With over 100 easy Elf on the Shelf ideas, you should have no trouble finding one, two, or ten activities for your Elf.
Elf on the Shelf may seem a little daunting and time-consuming, but it really can be such a magical holiday family tradition.
Remember, you do not need to be creative every night. Sprinkle in sweet, clever, easy, creative ideas this year!