100+ Ideas for your Elf on the Shelf

Elf on the Shelf. Maybe you’ve had one for years or are just now starting the tradition. Either way, we’ve got you covered!

Written by , Melanie Quinlan, Angie Teed

For those new to the tradition, the Elf arrives for some families the day after Thanksgiving and for others it starts on December 1. The anticipation of finding the Elf each day builds excitement and provides a fun way to countdown to the big day, Christmas!

The two main things to remember are to not let anyone or anything touch the Elf and parents need to move him to a new spot every night. The magic of the Elf on the Shelf relies on children not touching him, otherwise he won’t have enough magic to return to the North Pole to report to Santa. Set an alarm for yourself to remember to move him each night before you go to bed, and be sure to leave him near his nightly escapades! The fun of the Elf is catching him doing funny things or getting into mischief each morning.

Whether you are a beginner or Elf master, or you’re just tired of planning, here are some ideas to get you started. Merry Christmas everyone 🎄!

I’m Back | For the Beginner  | Getting Crafty | Bathroom Fun | Raiding the Pantry |
Playing House | Magic Treats | Dress for Mess | Toy Story | Two’s a Crowd |
Make Ahead Ideas | Farewell Elf | Avoiding Elvin Disaster



Ideas for when Elf returns.

What’s in the Box?

Build up the moment when your Elf arrives. Grab an empty box and a working remote-controlled toy like a car and put Elfie in. Decorate the box as if it has come from the North Pole. A few days before your Elf formally arrives, have the parcel be ‘delivered’ to your house addressed to the kids (this will be your Elf arriving at your house). Don’t let them open the parcel straightaway. Place it somewhere that the kids are regularly. When they’re nearby, give the toy a little nudge to shake the box a little…the kids will be so excited to see the box moving as if there’s something in there trying to get out!

Mail Delivery

Pop your Elf in the mailbox on arrival day and ask your child to go get the mail. Be sure to stick him far back in there so no one touches him!

Arrival Breakfast

Pick a theme (Frozen, Reindeer, Nutcracker, …) Have your Elf wear a costume or shirt matching the theme breakfast.


When your Elf arrives, have him deliver some Christmas gear–Christmas pj’s, books, movies, anything to help celebrate the holiday season!


Spell out I’M BACK in candy like skittles or M&Ms

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For the Beginner

Quarantine to the Rescue

It is 2022, so maybe your Elf is not feeling well enough to move every night?? Quarantine for 14 days when you need a break. Take advantage of it! Give him a mask and a little sign to explain, and you’ve got two weeks under your belt!

Hanging Stockings

Let your Elfie fit right in at home. Have him hang his own stocking right by the rest of the family.

Floor is Lava

Spread pillows all across the floor of a room and give your Elf a sign that says “Floor is Lava.” Don’t touch the floor!

Spent the Night Away

Strap your Elf in your child’s car seat for them to find the next morning. This may be best to save for a day when you know you’re going to use the car and you kiddo is adverse to their seat.

Santa’s Secret Message

Print out the secret message page with the decoder and have your Elf deliver it. Your kids will love solving the puzzle and you’ll get a few minutes of peace!

Acts of Kindness

Have your Elf list a few age appropriate acts of kindness for your child to do. Remember the Elf reports to Santa each night, so this will definitely help everyone get on the nice list.

Stuck in the TV

Search ‘elf stuck in the TV’ on You Tube and up will come Elf stuck in the TV because he’s been playing with the remote control.

Give to Get

Leave out a basket, bag, or box with a note from the Elf suggesting your to your child that they need to donate in order to get new ones.
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Getting Crafty

Ideas that use craft and art supplies.

Frame Your Elf

Set your Elf on the mantle with all your framed pictures. Make a little paper frame he can hold around his face. Elf wants to be in the pictures, too!

Ribbon Roll

Wrap that naughty Elf in Christmas ribbon as if he has been playing with it and gotten himself in a tangle.

Candy Cane Zipline

Stretch string from a light or staircase and tie. Add some candy canes and attach your Elf to one. He’s an adventurer!

Wrapping Fun

Wrap bedroom doors up with wrapping paper and set your Elf next to one with the leftover paper and tape. Elf needed some wrapping practice before the big day.

Elf Letters to Santa

List toys for Santa and then shrink it with a copier. You could also use the Elf on the Shelf shrinking letter kit.

Indoor Sledding

Place Elf on a sled down the staircase rail. Make the sled out of several candy canes attached to each other to be extra festive.


Give your Elf a box of crayons and set a paper with colored scribbles or drawings in front of him. Your Elf can bring a coloring sheet from the Elf on the Shelf website for your child to join in on the fun.

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Bathroom Fun

Ideas for the Bathroom

Elf Flossing

Tangle your Elf up with dental floss. He didn’t quite understand how to do the flossing dance.

Holiday Bath

Elf can bring a bubble bath and red and green glow sticks. Mix it all together for a festive bathtime.

TP Snowflakes

Cut patterns in a toilet roll that you know your child will use the next morning. Leave your Elf nearby with scissors.

Clean Shave

Give your Elf a razor and put a little shaving cream on his face. He’s getting all cleaned up for his next visit to Santa.


Run a bath and put your Elf in a boat, pool lounger, or anything that’ll float in the water. If your skills are up to it, maybe add a paper captain’s hat.
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Raiding the Pantry

Ideas that use items from the pantry and refrigerator.

Hidden Treat

Set out a load of plastic cups, or even mugs or teacups, and hide your child’s favorite treat under a few of them. Have your Elf displayed with a sign telling your child to find the hidden treats.

Build, Build, Build

Stack some food cans that can be found in your pantry. Start on the countertop and build your way up to where your children’s favorite sandwich spread lives. Have your Elf perch on the top can holding a spoon, helping himself. Be sure to smear a bit of spread on his mouth for extra effect.

Candy box

Submerge Elf in the candy box as if he’s helping himself.

Elf Shower

Position your Elf in the fridge door ice maker. Make him extra squeaky clean by adding a little shower cap and scrub brush, or wrap him in a small washcloth to look like a towel.


This just involves eggs and a sharpie. Have your naughty Elf draw silly faces on a batch of eggs. Make sure the egg carton is open, so your children see the Elf’s handy work in the morning! For eggs-tra fun, crack one slightly and add crosses for eyes.

Stuck in a Bottle

Take a clean soda bottle (500 ml) and carefully unpeel one side of the label. Cut a slit, squeeze your Elf in, and re-tape the label.

Roasting Marshmallows

Sit your Elf next to a candle that’s been lit and blown out, or a battery powered candle. Put a stick in his hand with a charred marshmallow at the end. It’s a little too well done!

Keeping warm

Make 3 slices of toast and fashion into a building, place Elf underneath it with a note saying ‘I’m toasty warm.’

Gone Fishing

Sit Elfie by the sink or a bowl with a fishing rod (twig and string). Fill it up with water and plop in either a few goldfish (crackers), Swedish fish, or both!

Pumping Iron

Make a barbell for your Elf using a toothpick with marshmallows on the ends. It’s a little too heavy so it’s laying across his chest.

Taco Tuesday

Cut a hole in a tortilla where your Elf’s face will show through. Wrap him up to look like a little burrito.

Chef Elf

Elf’s been busy baking! Position him near a toy mixer or even the real mixer and spread a little powdered sugar around. Leave out some cupcakes or cookies for your kids to find.

Swap the Cereals

Still have leftover Halloween candy? Or have you already stocked up on Christmas candy? Get an old cereal bag and box, fill it with candy, and don’t forget to pose your naughty Elf! Perhaps you could even put him peeking through a hole in the box.

Movie Night

Pop a bag of popcorn and set your Elf with the bag next to the television. He can even bring the kids a new Christmas movie to watch.

Candy Cane Hunt

Hide a few candy canes in a room and place your Elf in the room with a copy of the rules of the candy cane hunt. Be sure to leave a bag or basket for the kids to put the candy canes as they find them.

Marshmallow Igloo

Make an igloo out of marshmallows and pop Elf into his new hideout.
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Playing House

These ideas require items from around the house.

Baby It’s Cold in Here

Wrap your Elf in a small towel like a face cloth or cozy piece of fabric. Nestle him in the refrigerator where your child can easily spot him the next morning.


What child (or adult) doesn’t love a good fort?! You could use all those empty boxes sitting in the garage, draping material over the dining room table, sofa cushions, nugget, sofas pushed together, the options are endless. Just be sure to position the Elf nearby so it seems as if he has built the fort for his child. Why not make a mini one for the Elf too? Pop on some Christmas lights and voila! Christmas fort for movies and hot cocoa.

Dazzling Lights

Put an extra strand of lights on your tree and leave your Elf holding it. He was just adding a little extra Christmas cheer.

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

Roll a roll of toilet paper down the steps and put Elf in the middle of the tube. He went on a wild ride!

Dress the Tree

You have heard of the Elves putting undies on the Christmas tree, but how about dressing it up like a parent? For example, in a clothing you wear to work or a jacket you wear every day.


Hang toilet paper from the ceiling fitting and attach to something of equal height, like the top of the Christmas tree or another ceiling fitting. You should end up with a hammock formation where your Elf can await the return of his child.


Grab some masking tape or electrician’s tape and set out a hopscotch on the floor. Have your Elf and his gang lined up waiting for their turns to go.

You’ve Got Mail

Elf was busy checking email overnight. Set him up next to your computer, taking notes of cool new gifts.

Toilet Roll Tree

2020 has absolutely been the year of the toilet roll! What better way to commemorate it than have your Elf build a Christmas tree out of toilet rolls decorated with carefully placed baubles?

Christmas Goggles

Using a washable marker, draw on a family member’s glasses! Leave your Elf posed with the pens and hand over his mouth hiding his naughty giggle.

Catching Bad Guys

Find a villain in your toy chest and tape it to the wall with painter’s tape. Set your Elf next to it with the roll of tape in his hands.

Looking for a Spoon

Nestle Elf in with the silverware drawer so when the kids get their silverware for breakfast he’ll be there!

Text Message

Take a selfie of your Elf and edit a friend’s contact by changing the name and contact picture. Send your friend the selfie and message you want to include, and have them send it back to you. Make sure you delete the messages you sent to your friend!

Do you Want to Build a Snowman

Build a snowman out of 3 toilet rolls and draw on the features-don’t forget a scarf! Put Elf into the middle of it.

Elfie kisses

Sit Elf with his knees drawn to his chest and wrap him in tinfoil in the shape of a Hershey’s kiss, place regular Hershey’s kisses around him. Make sure your child knows they can eat the regular ones but not the Elf!

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Magic treats

Ideas that involve magic.

Grow a Hatchimal

Start with two normal eggs, rainbow sprinkles, and a note explaining that your child needs to sprinkle the sprinkles over the egg. When they wake up the next day, their eggs will have magically changed into a surprise.

Grow Crystals

Get a crystal growing set and have Elf deliver it. Science, Elf-style!

Grow Candy Canes

Grab a small bowl of powdered sugar and a crushed up candy cane. Your child will ‘plant’ a candy cane seed (some of the crushed up candy cane) into the soil (powdered sugar). Magically, overnight candy canes will grow.

Boring Egg to Eggciting Egg

Make Elf a sign instructing your kids to get a normal egg and sprinkle it with some special sparkles the Elf has brought with him. By the next day, or after e-learning has finished, it will have magically turned into a kinder egg.
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Dress for a Mess

Ideas that may be a little messy.

Snow Angels

Lay out some sprinkles or powdered sugar and leave snow angel imprints as your Elf lies in the middle.

Write it in Toothpaste

Leave a message on the mirror or vanity top with toothpaste. Or just hand your Elf a toothbrush and put toothpaste on his or her mouth to leave a good example.

Extra-large Cup of Hot Cocoa

This is a very naughty Elf and this idea takes some parent bravery! Fill the bath with water, cocoa powder, candy canes, and mini and big marshmallows. Pose your Elf with a cup. Leave some spoons, bowls and other utensils for some fun water play.

A Day At the Beach

Get out your kinetic sand and set your Elf in the middle of it. Let him play with some toy trucks, shovels, anything you have, or just lay him on a small piece of fabric like he’s getting a tan.

Midnight Feast

Elfie got hungry last night and raided the pantry!! Lay packets of food out on the floor and bits of food he may have dropped whilst scoffing his midnight feast. Can be as messy as you like.

Doggy treats

Elf decided to try those lovely looking cookies in the bowl on the floor (dog or cat food) nope!!! Yuck! Worse cookies ever!!
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Toy Story

Ideas that use toys.

Joy Ride

Put your Elf in a Barbie car or a toy truck. Maybe even add a Barbie friend to keep him company.

All Aboard

Set up the toy train tracks and let your Elf ride the train. If you want to make it like an action movie, tie him up to the tracks with tape and have an evil villain ride the train.

Nerf Battle

Lay out your nerf guns and put one in your Elf’s hands. Spread nerf bullets all around. He’s ready to play with the kids! You could also set out stuffed animals holding nerf guns like they’ve battled all night long.

Going for a Swim

Set up the Barbie swimming pool or even just a bowl of water. Put some trunks on your Elf, sunglasses, and add some “sunscreen” (lotion) to his face. He’s ready for a warm summer day.

Say Cheese

Take pictures of your Elf doing crazy things around the house. Set the camera next to your Elf so your child can see what he’s been up to overnight.

Bungee Jump

Attach one end of a slinky to the top of something tall, like a shower head. Tangle your Elf in the middle like he’s been going for a jump.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Have a wooden bat souvenir or one from one of your dolls or toys? Put it in Elf’s hands and put some stuffed animals “in the field.” Make paper bases if you want to go the extra mile.

Lego Fun

If you have Lego displays your children have made in the past, this is the perfect time to put them to use. Set your Elf atop the Lego house or airplane, or next to the Star Wars Lego. He enjoys seeing your toys put to good use.

Reading to Friends

Give your Elf an open book and sit other toys in a semi circle across from him. Storytime for all!

Help a Barbie

Barbie’s car tire has blown and Ken is nowhere to be seen! Elf to the rescue! Jack up Barbie’s car on some Lego bricks or the like and pop him under. Sprinkle around small (or tiny if you have them) nuts/bolts/tools and an oil rag.

Visiting Friends

Set up your Little People, doll house, or Barbie house. Elf wants to visit! Place him in the living room or at the table lounging with his friends.

Horse Racing

Gather all of those my little ponies or other horses and their riders so they can have their very own Kentucky Derby with the Elf.

Dress up

Who doesn’t love to feel pretty? Dress Elf in doll clothing (Barbie clothing works well) and set her in front of the mirror surrounded by other clothing.


Gather your children’s toy dogs and grab some string or pipe cleaners to use as a leash and give them all to Elf. He’s taking them on walkies.

Ditch the Fairy

Throw the tree fairy on the floor and put the Elf on top of the tree.

Mr. Fix It

Hand your Elf some toy construction tools (or even real if you choose) and set him next to a toy that needed new batteries or fixing in some way. It’s magically been fixed!

Dinner for Two

Set up a romantic dinner between Elf and Barbie–don’t forget the mistletoe.

Mixed up puzzles

Oh no! Elf has mixed up the boxes of puzzle pieces!


Caught kissing the fairy on top of the Christmas tree–Oh la, la!

Doll house

Place Elf in the dolls house helping himself to the dolls bits and pieces.

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Two’s A ‘Crowd

Ideas for multiple elves.

Sack Race

Elf Potato Sack Race – using socks

Snowball Fight

Elf snowball fight with cotton balls or marshmallows.

Two’s Company

one year we dressed our baby as an Elf and they both made fruit loop angels in a box of cereal they knocked over

Out for a Stroll

Using a baby doll stroller, strap one Elf in whilst the other one pushes.

Krispy Snowmen

Snowman building competition between the two elves using rice Krispy treats. Mold the rice Krispy treats into balls for the bodies. Using some cookie decorating icing secure on eyes (chocolate chips), buttons (icing), and a tiny real carrot for the nose.

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Make Ahead Ideas

Ideas that may take a little more work and planning.

Hanging Out in the Car

Thread a piece of string through a toilet roll and attach it from one side of the car to the other. Maybe attach through the windows or on the handles on the ceiling. Attach the Elf onto the toilet roll so as you drive, he slides from side to side.

Gingerbread House

Get a small gingerbread house and assemble it with the Elf inside but sticking out so he can be seen. Have him come along with a gingerbread house the family can decorate together.

It Snowed

This one takes a lot of prep. Cut out lots and lots and lots of snowflakes and paper-chains to dangle from your child’s bedroom ceiling. Then pose your Elf with the scissors, extra paper, and of course bits of rubbish.

Reindeer Food Bar

Elf sets up a bar to make your Reindeer food. Sprinkles

Hot Chocolate Bar

Elf delivers a Hot Chocolate Bar for breakfast. Set out different shaped marshmallows, sprinkles, different flavors of hot chocolate, and whipped cream.

Treasure Hunt

Have your Elf hold a treasure map for your kids to follow and hunt for prizes.

Hot Air Balloon Ride

Use a balloon or a lantern to set this up

Donut Breakfast

Elf bring donuts that look like reindeers for breakfast


Set up the Elf where your child does their virtual learning. They could have a little pad of paper made out of small cut up bits stapled together and a little laptop made from card. Find a picture of a laptop in a magazine, cut and stick appropriately.


Elf wants his own food! Candy canes, marshmallows, syrup, cookies, hot cocoa and whipped cream. He’s written a shopping list and left a dollar.
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Farewell Elf

Ideas for when the Elf goes home.


Take a photo of Elf giving your kids a cuddle before flying home.

Cookies and Milk

Leave him with the cookies and milk for Santa.

Goodbye Dinner

Make tiny food for dinner.

Christmas Eve Box

Bring out the Christmas Eve Box before your Elf departs. In it is Christmas PJs, hot cocoa or cocoa bombs, a Christmas snack, and and Christmas Movie to help Christmas Eve pass quickly!

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Avoid Elvin Disaster

What to do if Elf is touched or is not moved!

Elf Hospital

Print out a tiny hospital release form saying Elf is safe to come home, but needs to recuperate and not fly back to the North Pole for a certain number of days. Wrap a bandage around his leg, body, whatever, and you now can take a break for a bit!

Kitchen Tools to the Rescue

Kitchen tongs can be used to pick up the Elf without actually touching him. Just place him right back where he was and he’s good to go.

Stuck like Glue

Elf didn’t move last night because he was stuck. Maybe he ate too much sticky candy or played with the glue sticks last night. You can use tongs to move him to a new spot and he’ll be ready to go to the North Pole tonight.


Elf fell asleep while waiting for your children to go to sleep, so he didn’t go to the North Pole last night. Better be extra good today!

Second Chance

Your Elf noticed you had a tough day yesterday and weren’t being as good as usual. He must’ve decided to stay in place and give you an extra day to do better.

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