Top 50+ Elf on the Shelf ideas

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    Top 50 of the BEST Elf on the Shelf ideas – so many fun ideas to do with your Elf leading up to Christmas!

    The elf on the shelf is a family tradition that is loved by everyone. As a parent I love that my kids act on their best behavior when their Elf shows up and my kids love to see where he is hiding each day. Each year we have a welcome letter and it’s a fun way to start off the season. We started the this tradition a few years ago and my kids have absolutely LOVED it!

    elf on the shelf ideas

    The best part of this tradition is seeing seeing my kids eyes light up in the morning when they find where their elf is hiding. And let’s get real here… he isn’t always creative. Sometimes we’ll actually find him sitting on a shelf or hanging from the Christmas tree. Most of these ideas take only a few minutes to do. It doesn’t have to be hard. My husband and I actually have a good time hiding the elf each night. It’s almost more fun for us. ;)

    What is Elf on the Shelf?

    The Elf on the Shelf was started by Carol Aebersold, who published the book in 2005. It has become a Christmas tradition for many families all over the world. The Elf usually arrives on December 1st (some families choose to have theirs arrive the day after Thanksgiving) and each night the he returns to the North Pole to report how the children are doing. When he returns 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 or Target (affiliate link).

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

    Elf on the shelf names

    Calendar and checklist to help you plan the month

    Download this free planning check list 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.

    Welcoming your Elf on the shelf

    We’ve found some of the very best ideas online to share with you. You’ll have inspiration for new ideas all month long. Click on the links below each image to be taken to the original post.

    North Pole Breakfast

    Have the elf show up on the first day North Pole breakfast & note from Santa.

    Elf eating breakfast

    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.

    Elf having a hot cocoa party

    Riding in on a parachute

    Elf on the Shelf parachute: Great way to have your him arrive for the season!

    Elf swinging from a parachute

    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 making a countdown chain

    Official Elf name poem

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

    Elf poem

    Elf kisses printable

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

    Elf kisses

    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

    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

    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

    Elf on the shelf 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

    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

    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.

    Super elf

    It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…super elf!

    Super elf flying

    Elf taking a shower

    If you need a way to convince your kids to bathe, let them see their new friend enjoying the shower.

    elf taking 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

    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 banana minions

    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

    Elf pancakes

    Surprise your kids with these delicious elf pancakes! The perfect way to add a little sparkle to their mornings during the holiday season.

    elf on the shelf pancakes

    Pizza party

    This is a great idea to try if you order pizza as a family one night. Your kids will love this Elf pizza party scene!

    Elf eating popcorn in a pizza box

    In a bath of marshmallows

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

    Elf taking a bath in marshmallows

    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

    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

    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 drinking syrupRoasting 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 scavenger hunt with hidden candy canes…it’s practically guaranteed to entertain the kids!

    Elf hiding candy canes

    Pancake breakfast

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

    Elf making mini pancakes

    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

    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

    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

    Elf getting into trouble

    Sometimes my husband likes to have him do pranks throughout the house. The kids get a real kick out of it!

    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 up in lights

    Frozen by Queen Elsa

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

    Elf frozen in ice

    Snowball fight with Barbie

    You don’t need snow to have a fun snowball fight at home

    .Elf having a snowball fight indoors

    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

    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

    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

    Movie time

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

    Elf eating popcorn

    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

    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 truck

    More Christmas ideas

    So who will do being Elf on the Shelf this year? Have fun with it!

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