Here are 75+ BEST Elf on the Shelf Ideas…creative inspiration to help you make this the best Christmas yet! We’ve got plenty of easy ideas too!
Table of Contents
Fun Holiday Tradition
Elf on the Shelf is one tradition that is loved by everyone! It’s not only fun to find where the elf is hiding every day, but it motivates kids to act on their best behavior. Watching the kiddos eyes light up as they race around the home to find their elf friend is just so much fun. It’s almost even more fun for the parents to come up with hiding places!
There are a lot of pretty amazing and creative things people have done with their Elf on the Shelf. The best part of this tradition is you can literally just place the elf on the tree and it would still be a blast!
Below I have included 55+ ideas for helping you create a magical season of many wonderful Elf on the Shelf memories. And don’t worry, most of the ideas below only take a few minutes to set up. Have fun!
What is Elf on the Shelf?
In 2005, Carol Aebersold published a book titled, The Elf on the Shelf, and so the tradition began! An Elf usually arrives at the house on December 1st (some families choose to have theirs arrive the day after Thanksgiving).
Each night the elf returns to the North Pole to report how the children are doing. 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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Official Elf Name Poem
Wondering how to introduce (and name!) your elf? Let your kids help with this cute free printable poem.
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.
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.
Who doesn’t like snowflakes? Here’s a great idea that will lead to a fun family activity with your favorite elf!
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.
Drape some string over some toy animals to create this fun animal sleigh.
This is a great way to start off your elf on the shelf season! I love the snow.
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.
Play a Card Game
Your kiddo will love waking up to find their favorite elf playing Uno. They will want to play too!
Here’s a funny one! This can even be a great way to promote potty training.
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 Kisses Printable
Turn regular Hershey’s Kisses into something magical with this fun free printable.
A twine string, some clothespins and a bit of creativity is all you need to recreate this fun zip lining elves scene.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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 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.
Sneaking a Hershey kiss
Don’t forget to set aside a few treats so your new friend can be found eating some chocolate.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…super elf! Make a little super hero cape for this fun idea.
Pancake breakfasts just got even more fun thanks to these elf-sized mini pancakes!
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 in Bed
A box of tissues makes a perfect sized bed—don’t forget to give him something to cuddle too.
In a bath of marshmallows
Fair warning…your children might be jealous of this awesome marshmallow bath!
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!
Magic elf seeds
The magic of the season will show when you plant “magic elf seeds” and watch them grow into cookies.
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.
Roasting snowman marshmallows by the fireplace and enjoying a ride on a tire swing are both brilliant ideas to add to your list.
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.
Wrapped up in the fridge
Here’s a fun idea–hide the elf inside your fridge with a dish towel.
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.
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.
This Elf “kissing booth” is too cute, especially with this free printable.
Most of us could use all the help we can get with encouraging good dental hygiene. Let the elf help encourage brushing for you!
Do a Elf on the Shelf scavenger hunt…it’s practically guaranteed to entertain the kids!
Fruit loop chain
Fruit Loops are the perfect size for the elf to make a garland for the Christmas tree.
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.
This is such a cute idea – I love the little Elf Illustrated magazine he’s enjoying while sunbathing.
Put those LEGOS to good use with a fun middle-of-the-night snowball fight.
Spelling with cereal
Spell out your child’s name in alphabet cereal and let the elf blame the mess on your kids!
Searching through catalogs
Your children won’t be the only ones pouring over the catalogs and newspaper inserts this year with this cute idea.
Sending a letter to Santa
Grab a tablet and set it out so an email can be sent to Santa with updates.
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.
Stack up some marshmallows and create a snowball fight with a toy friend.
Sledding on the staircase
Need another use for all those tupperware lids? Why not let the elf take a sledding ride.
Elf wrapped in lights
If you need to rope your kids into helping string lights, let the elf show you how it’s done.
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.
Toilet papering the tree
Oops! Your Christmas tree just got TP-ed by that naughty elf!
Angry bird game
Everyone loves a good game of angry birds…even Christmas elves!
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.
Elves need to shave too—set this up for your kids to find in the morning!
A good rescue mission might be in order here. Set the scene with some army figurines and blue painting tape.
Drawing on this family photo with dry erase marker is certainly one of the elf’s more mischievous tricks.
Buddy was right…this IS a fantastic way to eat spaghetti. :)
Dipping cookies in milk
Milk and cookies can be a fun (and messy treat) for the elf to enjoy while everyone is asleep.
Everyone loves watching Christmas movies, especially the elf on a shelf!
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.
Here’s another fun way to dress up a family photo…with Rudolph-style noses!
Ooops! Your new friend just got caught 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.
I love this idea where the Elf brings 30 days of kindness for your family to do for one another.
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.
Good deed cards
Help your kids do good deeds around the house with these little cards.
Letter from Santa
I love the way she explains the relationship between Jesus, Santa, and the elf in this 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.
Most people start on December 1st (25 days is plenty), however some families have it start the day after Thanksgiving.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No, there can be one elf per family. That is what most families do.
More Christmas Ideas
- Elf on the shelf coloring pages
- 101 handmade Christmas ideas
- 20 BEST Christmas cookies
- All my favorite Christmas Recipes
So let’s hear it… does an Elf come to your home? What’s his/her name?
We have a boy and a girl elf named Dash and Holly! Thank you for all the cute ideas!
Love the names Dash and Holly!
Our Elf is Henry! He has been with us for 4 years. This year I ordered an elf kit off Amazon to make the surprises a little bit easier, and lazier LOL
Love it! Amazon for the win!
Our elf’s name is Snowball. He’s always up to mischief!
Elfie, my girls are super creative haha! He just sits on our tree and watches everyone.
Twinkle Star is the name we give our Elf on the Shelf. thanks for asking!
Love the name Twinkle star :)
Our elf’s name is Jingle Bells, and she brings so much Christmas cheer to my girls!
Ah love that name!
Our Elf is Noelle and she has a cute dress. My girls are old enough that they get to help with creating the fun for the next day, after the boys have gone to bed. Noelle can get into mischief but also be just fun.
Ah, love that! So much fun!
Our elf, Chris has been with us 12 years. He comes on Dec 1 and even though my oldest is turning 20 this month she still loves looking for him each morning with her younger siblings.
My oldest does too! So sweet!
Elfie came to our family 9 years ago when we only had a daughter. We have a son as well now and they both enjoy Elfie showing up every Dec 1!
Ours comes on December 1st as well! The kids were so excited this morning!
We have two elves that visit our home each year, their names are Elle Sparkles and Chuck. They have arrived today and making themselves at home in Barbies house. They are great friends with Barbie and Ken and their friends.
All of them together can really get into a lot of mischief.
I don’t know who has more fun me are my little girl.
Ah I bet the kids were so excited!