elf in the shelf ideas
Family Life

14 Easy Ideas for Your Elf on the Shelf

The Elf on the Shelf is a modern holiday tradition that’s quickly become a family favorite. Finding new, creative things for Santa’s wandering elves to do is half the fun for parents, and kids look forward to the surprises every morning leading up to Christmas.

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If you’re looking for some holiday inspiration to make your little elf seem more magical, we’ve got a few ideas.


The Collector of Orphaned Toys

Announce the Elf on the Shelf’s daily return by having him appear directly on your tree or some other prominent place alongside a basket with a sign that asks your kids to gather up the toys they no longer use. Those orphan toys can then “go back to the North Pole” to be used and loved again by other kids.


The Cookie Thief

If you’ve got a cookie tin around, stack a bunch of canned or boxed goods up like a ladder and perch the little elf with his arms caught right in the cookie jar. Leave a note saying that he’s just taking a few for “quality control” and testing before Santa comes.

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The Snowflake Maker

What do elves do when they aren’t making toys and there are no kids around to watch? They make snowflakes, of course! Cut a few snowflakes out of paper and leave the elf holding the scissors. After the kids find him, you can show them how to make snowflakes of their own.


The Peek Sneaker

EVERYBODY gets curious about what’s inside all those pretty presents — and elves are no exception. Your elf might get caught peering into a gift bag and trying to see what’s there. This can be especially cute if you have a “family” gift, like a game, that you want to open a night or two early.


The Egg-cellent Artist

Grab a carton of eggs and a few colored markers. Decorate the eggs with holly leaves, Christmas trees, green wreaths with bows and other symbols of the season — or maybe just silly faces. Your kids will be doubly surprised — first when they find the elf in the ‘fridge and again when they get out the eggs.


The Chocolate Lover

Even elves aren’t immune to the sweet lure of chocolate kisses. Sit the elf next to a pile of holiday Hersey’s Kisses and some empty wrappers and leave a few telltale smudges of chocolate around the elf’s mouth. You’ll give the illusion that he froze just as someone walked in.


The Storyteller

Your elf might be a precocious little lad or lass. If so, prop your elf up with a favorite book (we suggest “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”) and read to an attentive group of stuffed animals or action figures. Everybody settles down and listens when the wise elf tells a story.


The Gourmet

Does your elf fancy himself a gourmet? That might be fine if every elf’s idea of “haute cuisine” wasn’t limited to “things made with sugar.” Leave a pile of hard candy in a frying pan on top of the unlit stove and perch the elf alongside with a spatula as if he had been trying to cook.


The Action Hero

There’s a little hero inside everyone, and elves are no exception. Gather up the action hero figures from your child’s room and have the elf join them on an adventure. Add a little cape on your elf’s back to make him fit right in and look as if he’s pretending.


The Movie Fan

What’s cuter than waking up and catching the elf in the middle of watching his favorite movie (which is “Elf,” of course!), a bowl of popcorn at his side and a remote in his hand. Your kids will be convinced they almost caught him in action before he froze on the couch.


The Interloper

Some of your kids’ toys may be convinced that the elf is trying to replace them or resent his intrusion into the home. Leave the elf tied (or taped) to the wall with the toys surrounding him in a half-circle and a note that says, “This is our home! Go away!” Your kids can rescue the elf and remind the other toys that that’s no way to treat a guest!


The Goldbricker

Everybody has a lazy day, now and then, and the elf is no exception. Prop your elf up at the computer in front of a letter he was composing to Santa explaining that he ate too many cookies and had to take a sick day.


The Snowball Expert

You’ll need another action figure, some legos and a bag of mini marshmallows for this one. In their spare time, elves frequently stage epic snowball battles and this little elf is no exception. Set the legos up like two little barrier walls, the elf behind one and the action figure behind the other. Use the marshmallows to make it appear that they were having a snowball fight before everybody came in.


The Very Tired Elf

All that watching and reporting back to the North Pole can make an elf pretty tired! It’s no wonder that he made a bed out of folded up tissues (or in the clothes basket full of laundry, if you don’t have tissues). He needed a nap. Leave him with a note that says, “Wake Before Christmas!”


elf on the shelf ideas


Have fun with your Elf on the Shelf and get as creative as you want. Always remember that elves have a sense of humor — and they’re also experts at getting themselves in all kinds of hilarious trouble. Your elf’s adventures will become a favorite topic of discussion for the kids and part of family lore.