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75+ Elf on the Shelf Ideas of 2023

75 fun easy Elf on the Shelf ideas for a memorable Christmas, including last-minute clever ideas the kids will love.

Elf on the shelf ideas.
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What is Elf on the Shelf?

In 2005, Carol Aebersold published a book titled, The Elf on the Shelf, and so the tradition began! Scout Elf usually arrives at the house on December 1st (some families choose to have theirs arrive the day after Thanksgiving).

This mischievous little elf serves as Santa’s eyes and ears, reporting back to the North Pole each night about who’s been naughty or nice. When the elf comes back in the morning he will move to a new spot, waiting for the children to find him.

If you’ve never done Elf on the Shelf, you can order your own kit on Amazon (affiliate link).

Once you get your elf, the first thing you’ll want to do is name him or her. Here’s a printable with 50 Elf Names and a certificate you can download.

Elf on the shelf names.

Planning Calendar and Checklist

Download this free planning checklist and calendar HERE to help keep you organized with all your ideas for the month. I like to plan it all at once and then keep the supplies hidden in a box, so it’s all ready to go each night.

Elf on the Shelf Ideas for Arrival

Special Delivery

A fun way to introduce elf on the shelf this year is to put your elf in a package for your kids to open. You can include a special note with it. They will love it!

Elf Pancakes

These Elf on The Shelf pancakes are a fun way to welcome the Elf on the first day he arrives. The perfect way to add a little sparkle to their mornings during the holiday season. These reindeer pancakes would also be a fun surprise.

Elf on the shelf green pancakes with whipped cream on top.
Source: I Heart Naptime

Healthy Breakfast Idea

If you’re looking for a healthier option, I love this idea to decorate hard boiled eggs. You could serve it with some fresh fruit.

Elf in the fridge with eggs and milk.
Source: Elf on the Shelf

Arrival Party

If you are feeling extra creative you here’s another idea for the arrival breakfast. This will definitely start the holidays off with a bang!

Elf on the shelf breakfast table.
Source: The Sugar Press

Hot cocoa party

He’s traveled quite a long way to spend the holiday season with you, so have the kids help you plan a welcome hot cocoa party. You could make crockpot hot chocolate or white hot chocolate and a hot chocolate charcuterie board if you want to get fancy.

Elf notes

These free printable elf notes are so fun and easy! Your kids will love waking up to find a special note just for them from their Elf. 

Elf on the shelf ideas showing an Elf with candy cane.
Via The Inspiration Board

Official Elf Name Poem

Wondering how to introduce (and name!) your elf? Let your kids help with this cute free printable poem.

Marshmallow Snowman

Have your Elf build a snowman out of marshmallows or have him set up a snowball fight using the mini marshmallows. This always make a fun welcome!

More Elf Ideas

Once you’ve welcomed your Elf to the family and given him a name, it’s time to create some magic during the Christmas season. Here are some of our favorite elf ideas.

Elf sitting on a baking sheet that says Santa says hi made with m&ms.
Source: Midget Momma

Train Ride

Hiding the elf on a train is a great place and so much fun for the kids! Your little elf will fit so nicely inside of your toy train.

Making Snowflakes

Who doesn’t like snowflakes? Here’s a great idea that will lead to a fun family activity with your favorite elf!

Broken Leg

If you want your Elf to stay put for a few days so he can get a better, this kit from Amazon is a great way to take a pause and let him heal.

Elf sitting with a broken leg.
Via Amazon

Animal Sleigh

Drape some string over some toy animals to create this fun animal sleigh.

Elf sitting in a sleigh with toy animals.
Via Biscuits ‘n Crazy

Snowy Package

This is a great way to start off your elf on the shelf season! I love the snow.

Elf sitting in a package with flour dust on floor.
Via Bee-ing Mommy

Baking Cookies

Craving some sweets? Place your elf next to some cookie ingredients to create a fun and yummy activity with your little ones! Your family would love these Christmas m&m cookies, Christmas sugar cookies and molasses cookies.

Elf sitting in the kitchen sugar jar.
Via Snapshots of my Life

Play a Card Game

Your kiddo will love waking up to find their favorite elf playing Uno. They will want to play too!

Elf playing uno with a gnome.
Via Snapshots of my Life

Peppermint Dropping

Here’s a funny one! This can even be a great way to promote potty training.

Elf sitting on a small toilet.
Via Biscuits ‘n Crazy

Crockpot Hot Tub

How fun is this?! Just fill a crockpot with marshmallows and you’ve created an elf hot tub!

Christmas count down

We all get a little impatient waiting for Christmas to arrive, so give your little ones a visual of when the big day is with this mini countdown paper chain.

Elf on the shelf ideas.
Via Family Life is Great

Elf Kisses Printable

Turn regular Hershey’s Kisses into something magical with this fun free printable.

Elf holding a bag of kisses in the tree.
Source: The Inspiration Board

Zip lining

A twine string, some clothespins and a bit of creativity is all you need to recreate this fun zip lining elves scene.

Elves zip lining on a string.
Via Gina Rae Photography

Rolling down the stairs

This little guy is known to get himself into some hilarious hijinks, like rolling down the stairs in a toilet paper roll.

Elf rolling down the stairs in toilet paper.
Via A Thrifty Mommy

Toilet paper snow man

Here’s another brilliant toilet paper idea! If your children are Frozen fans, they’ll love the elf asking “do you wanna build a snowman?”

Elf building a toilet paper snowman.
Via Frugal Coupon Living

Getting a drink of water

This is one of the easiest ideas! Imagine the delight your child will feel when they find the Elf getting a glass of water to drink.

Elf in the water dispenser.
Via A Small Snippet

Swinging from a toilet paper roll

Your child is practically guaranteed to have a great start to their day once they see this swing made from a toilet paper roll.

Elf swinging on toilet paper.
Via A Small Snippet

More Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas

It doesn’t have to be complicated. One of my kids favorite placed they found elf was hiding in a blender. Love some of these more creative plans to create a little bit of magic.

Hiding in a Cup

One of the easiest ideas is to put the elf in a glass cup up on the kitchen shelf. Requires zero effort.

Elf sitting under a glass cup.
Source: Savvy Mom

Elf taking a shower

If you need a way to convince your kids to bathe, let them see their new friend enjoying the shower. Simply wrap a small piece of fabric on the elf for the towel.

Elf pretending to take a shower.

Sneaking a Hershey kiss

Don’t forget to set aside a few treats so your new friend can be found eating some chocolate.

Elf eating chocolate kisses on the shelf.
Source: The Inspiration Board

Super elf

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…super elf! Make a little super hero cape for this fun idea.

Super elf flying.
Source: Busy Kids Happy Mom

Mini Pancakes

Pancake breakfasts just got even more fun thanks to these elf-sized mini pancakes!

Elf sitting by a plate of mini pancakes.
Source: Home Stories A to Z

Banana minions

Here’s another Elf on the Shelf idea. Simply have him color minions onto bananas with a black sharpie. Idea from California Unpublished.

Elf on the shelf sitting by banana minions.
Source: Stacey Molter

Elf on the Shelf in Bed

 A box of tissues makes a perfect sized bed—don’t forget to give him something to cuddle too.

Elf taking a nap in the tissue box.
Source: Sweet Hoppe Designs

In a bath of marshmallows

Fair warning…your children might be jealous of this awesome marshmallow bath!

Elf taking a bath in marshmallows.
Source: Living Locurto

Fishing for gold fish

Most parents have an abundance of goldfish crackers lying around. Put them to good use with this Elf on the Shelf fishing idea!

Elf fishing with gold fish in the sink.
Source: Melanie Stofka

Magic elf seeds

The magic of the season will show when you plant “magic elf seeds” and watch them grow into cookies.

Elf sitting on window seal with seeds.

Taking a drink of syrup

Your kids will love watching him enjoy drinking his favorite drink – syrup! Don’t forget, it’s one of the four major elf food groups after all.

Elf and barbie sipping syrup with a straw,
Source: Tumblr

Roasting marshmallows

Roasting snowman marshmallows by the fireplace and enjoying a ride on a tire swing are both brilliant ideas to add to your list.

Elf on the shelf having fun.

Playing connect four

I love this cute idea of playing a game like Connect Four, especially when you involve another beloved doll or stuffed animal.

Elf playing connect four.

Wrapped up in the fridge

Here’s a fun idea–hide the elf inside your fridge with a dish towel.

Elf in a dish towel in the fridge.

Playing with walkie talkies

Operation Elf on the Shelf is a GO this year. If you don’t already have a walkie talkie, grab an inexpensive one to serve as a bonus Christmas gift.

Elf holding a walkie talkie.

Swinging from candy canes

It’s likely that you’ll have an abundance of candy canes around – use one of them to put on a fun circus elf performance.

Elf swinging from a candy cane.

Kissing booth

This Elf “kissing booth” is too cute, especially with this free printable.

Elf in a kissing booth.

Brushing teeth

Most of us could use all the help we can get with encouraging good dental hygiene. Let the elf help encourage brushing for you!

Elf holding tooth paste.

Scavenger hunt

Do a Elf on the Shelf scavenger hunt…it’s practically guaranteed to entertain the kids!

Elf laying on fleece blanket with a note.

Fruit loop chain

Fruit Loops are the perfect size for the elf to make a garland for the Christmas tree.

Elf making fruit loop chains.

Elf on the shelf doing laundry

We could all use a bit of encouragement when it comes to doing laundry—the elf makes it look almost effortless.

Elf hanging laundry.


This is such a cute idea – I love the little Elf Illustrated magazine he’s enjoying while sunbathing.

Elf sun bathing on a mini towel.

Snowball fight

Put those LEGOS to good use with a fun middle-of-the-night snowball fight.

Elf doing a snowball fight with marshmallows.

Spelling with cereal

Spell out your child’s name in alphabet cereal and let the elf blame the mess on your kids!

Elf spilled cereal on floor.

Searching through catalogs

Your children won’t be the only ones pouring over the catalogs and newspaper inserts this year with this cute idea.

Elf looking at the paper.

Sending a letter to Santa

Grab a tablet and set it out so an email can be sent to Santa with updates.

Elf writing a letter to Santa on the computer.

Funny Elf on the Shelf Ideas

If you’re looking for some funny elf ideas, we’ve got you covered. These are a little more mischievous. Sometimes my husband likes to have him do pranks throughout the house. The kids get a real kick out of it!

Wrapped Toilet in Bathroom

This night the elves wrapped the bathroom toilet in wrapping paper. You could also do this on the sink. It may not be the best for when your family is in a hurry, but surely a fun prank.

Elf on the Shelf wrapped toilet.

Snowball Fight

Stack up some marshmallows and create a snowball fight with a toy friend.

Elf and woody having a snowball fight with marshmallows.
Via Today

Sledding on the staircase

Need another use for all those tupperware lids? Why not let the elf take a sledding ride.

Elf sliding down the railing.

Elf wrapped in lights

If you need to rope your kids into helping string lights, let the elf show you how it’s done.

Elf tangled in Christmas lights.

Frozen by Queen Elsa

This cute idea from Staci Mcneil shows another fun way to get Elsa from Frozen involved. Stick him in a cup or jar with water and set him out early in the morning.

Elf frozen in ice.

Toilet papering the tree

Oops! Your Christmas tree just got TP-ed by that naughty elf!

Elf toilet papering the tree.

Angry bird game

Everyone loves a good game of angry birds…even Christmas elves!

Elf playing with angry birds.

Snow angels with flour

If you’re looking for an inexpensive activity for the elf to participate in, try making snow angels in flour on the countertop.

Elf making snow angels out of flour.

Morning shave

Elves need to shave too—set this up for your kids to find in the morning!

Elf using shaving cream.

Trapped elf

A good rescue mission might be in order here. Set the scene with some army figurines and blue painting tape.

Elf taped to the wall.

Mischievous tricks

 Drawing on this family photo with dry erase marker is certainly one of the elf’s more mischievous tricks.

Elf coloring on the family picture.

Eating spaghetti

Buddy was right…this IS a fantastic way to eat spaghetti. :)

Elf eating noodles with candy.

Dipping cookies in milk

Milk and cookies can be a fun (and messy treat) for the elf to enjoy while everyone is asleep.

Elf eating cookies and milk.

Movie time

Everyone loves watching Christmas movies, especially the elf on a shelf!

Elf eating popcorn on top of pillows.

Sick elf on the shelf

If your little one catches a cold, help him or her to take their medication easier by sharing with their sick elf friend.

Elf is sick in bed.

Rudolph noses

Here’s another fun way to dress up a family photo…with Rudolph-style noses!

Red noses on elf and family.

Eating m&m’s

Ooops! Your new friend just got caught eating a bag of m&m’s.

Elf eating a bag of m&m's.

Elf on the shelf ideas for service

Help Elf promote good deeds around your home and to help your kids remember the reason for the season.

Kindness elf

I love this idea where the Elf brings 30 days of kindness for your family to do for one another.

Kindess elf writing a note.

Baby in a manger

This is one of my favorite ideas—I love how the elf is joining in with the  adoration of baby Jesus in the manger.

Elf sitting in the nativity.

Good deed cards

Help your kids do good deeds around the house with these little cards.

Elf on the shelf good deed card.

Letter from Santa

I love the way she explains the relationship between Jesus, Santa, and the elf in this letter.

Elf sending a letter.

Heading back to the North Pole

Whenever it’s time for the elf to head back to the north pole make sure he has packed all his gear appropriately.

Elf in a toy truck.


When do you do the first day of Elf on the Shelf?

Most people start on December 1st (25 days is plenty), however some families have it start the day after Thanksgiving.

How to introduce your elf on the shelf ideas?

Read the book first. Then explain in a letter or print one off (here’s a free printable Elf on the Shelf letter). Some families have the elf bring a little present on the first day like Christmas pajamas, but it is not necessary.

What is the number one rule for Elf on The Shelf?

The most important rule is to not touch your Elf or he will lose his magic. Scout Elves can’t talk but they are great listeners.

What are parents supposed to do with Elf on the Shelf?

Each night they help their Elf find a new spot to sit. They can get creative or it can be as simple as moving the Elf to a new shelf.

What are some ideas for Elf on The Shelf?

Do a scavenger hunt with the elf, hide him in the tree, make a snow angel with flour, have him TP the Christmas tree, create service activities, create a Christmas movie marathon and many more ideas in this post.

Does each child need their own Elf on the Shelf?

No, there can be one elf per family. That is what most families do.

More Christmas Ideas

So let’s hear it… does an Elf come to your home? What’s his/her name?

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