15 Easy Ideas for The Elf On The Shelf

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You would have to live under a rock to not know about The Elf on The Shelf these days, but when Chippy first entered our home in 2011, they were just starting to gain their momentum.  Since then, The Elf has taken off in a way that, I’m sure, the makers never could have imagined. The premise is simple, Santa sends on of his Scout Elves into the homes of little boys and girls to report back to him each night on their behavior choices. Every day, the Elf is supposed to be in a different spot to show the child that it has in fact gone to the North Pole overnight and come back, and the children are not supposed to touch them or risk taking their Christmas Magic. 

Elf on the Shelf

When Chippy arrived, Landry was three and half, and we were having some behavior issues. I was pregnant with little brother, working a lot, and our little threenager had developed an incredibly strong will of his own. The first two years, Chippy really did just move from shelf to shelf in our home, and kept things very simple.

2013 brought two major changes to the life of Chippy: little brother on the move and the rise of Pinterest with Elf pictures showing up on Facebook.  Gone were the days of simple hiding places. We had to up our game to keep up with the other moms! And the first time Luke took off with Chippy in his chubby little toddler hands, prompting the melt-down of all melt-downs from Landry (“HE’S KILLING ALL THE CHRISTMAS MAAAAAAAGGGGIIIICCCCC!!!!!”), I knew I had to get more creative with my approach.

Little brother hiding behind the tree with Chippy!

The problem? I’m not creative!  I would look at all these elaborate set ups from other moms, and just couldn’t get into it.  I never bought into the trend of the elves being naughty either! They’re supposed to be watching your kid for good behavior, why would they come and trash the place and make mommy clean it up? No thanks! So I had to take the ideas I found, and simplify them to keep my own sanity in check. 

If you’re like me, and you just don’t have time to put in massive efforts into your Elf on the Shelf, but still want to have fun with it, here is my list of some of our favorite Elf on the Shelf moments:

1. Arrival Day

Our elves arrive each year the day after Thanksgiving to kick off the Christmas season for us! Each year they come with new Christmas ornaments and a Christmas book or two.  If Santa has his act together, they also come with a note for the boys. 

Elf on the Shelf.
2013 Chippy arrives with Elfie

In 2013, Chippy showed up with a new friend, Luke’s own Scout Elf, Elfie. That year, Elfie just showed up. Landry had been talking for several weeks about how he just knew Chippy would be coming with a little brother elf for Luke, and at 18 months, little brother didn’t really need much explainiation anyway.

Elf on the Shelf
2014 Elf Arrival with Chippy, Elfie & Reindeer friends

Over the years, the elf arrive has brought new friends and a bit of a cuter set up as well!

2. Letters from the Elves or Santa

Our elf/Santa letters used to be hand written, until Landry turned 6 or so and I knew he would recognize mom’s handwriting. Since then, when Chippie & Elfie need to bring a note, it’s typed up! On note days, they’re usually just positioned by the fireplace with the letter next to them. 

Elf Arrival Letter
Santa for the save!!!
Elf Warning Note

We all have rough days, and occasionally we need to reminded to get it back in line by someone other than mom! 

3. Elves Coloring a Picture

One of my favorite quick and easy elf activities is to have them coloring a picture. I’ll normally do this one after the boys leave out colors from the night before. It’s not the best art (little elf hands have a hard time with big crayons, and mama is in a hurry), but the kids always get a kick out of it!

Elves coloring

This particular coloring book is no longer in print but Amazon has a bunch of really great Elf on the Shelf Activity Packs or just Christmas coloring books to use! On this particular occasion, someone needed a reminder on how to properly use toilet paper as well, lol!

4. Let It Snow!

We don’t get much snow in Texas, so we have to make it! I always pick up an Insta-Snow tub for some elf fun. 


I put a little bit of the pretend snow on a cookie sheet and make a snow angel with one of the elves. The other makes a snowman with some marshmallows! 

4. Put the elves in the freezer!

Feeling lazy and want a really good hiding spot that will take the kids a while to find? Stick your elf in the freezer!

Our Texas Decembers aren’t always cold, so this is a great one if we’ve had a particularly warm, sunny day! If the kids are really stumped finding them, around dinner time I’ll ask them to go get me something I need to cook with like the frozen broccoli.

5. Easy Costume

I’m not going to lie, I have purchased some cute elf costumes on Etsy, but sometimes you can make them fairly easily with basic preschool craft supplies! If I can do it, so can you!

Reindeer costumes

These reindeer costumes were super easy! All you need are a little bit of brown pipe cleaners that you twist and form into antlers, and small red fuzzy balls that you hot glue to some red string. 

6. Posable Elfs

A few years ago I discovered the pure genius that is the Elf Posing Kit. Now, I’m not going to lie, this required a little more crafting than I cared to do, but it has allowed for so many more elf options that I was cool with it! 

This kit is really easy to figure out. You use the seam ripper to cut just a small hole in the hands & feet then insert the rods & magnets and stitch back up.  It comes with everything you need, including the needles & thread!

7. Desktop Games are Elf Sized

Amazon is full of really cute “desktop” games that are meant to go on your desk at work. The cool thing is they are cheap and are perfectly elf sized! 

Skeeball was a real hit with the boys this year! They love to play it when we go to Dave & Busters, so they were super excited to see their Elves getting after it as well. 

I have picked up a few others to use in the coming weeks too!

Table Football

This table football game is one I found in a store close to our home called Rally House. They have all kinds of strange little sports things. The kids loved playing table football for a long time after that!

8. Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?

A Lego Snowman that is! Clearly, if I had girls I would take this into a whole Frozen adventure but I don’t. In fact, if they catch me making a princess reference, they normally go crazy! LOL!

Lego Snowman
Lego Snowman

My boys LOVE Legos and I found this cute one on sale last year. Lego has several snow scenes, or just Christmas sets in general to choose from, but I kept it simple with the Lego Snowman and the boys loved it. 

9. Elves at Play Set

The Elf on the Shelf Elves at Play Set is the ultimate lazy mom set! It really has so many great things that take the creativity right out of dealing with the Elf. 

Elf on the Shelf

From ziplines to suction cup shoes and little notes, this is a great set and really is a good value for everything you get out of it.  I actually find myself using the chair more than anything! 

10.  Elf on the Shelf Letters to Santa

The Elf on the Shelf Letters to Santa is easily my favorite product the Elf on the Self people have actually come out with. This set is really sweet!

Elf on the Shelf

The set works like shrink-a-dinks from back in the day! The sheets of paper start out normal paper sized, then when the elf takes it to Santa to read, you put it in the oven and shrink it up! The elf brings it back the next morning and it’s a new ornament for your tree!

Elf on the Shelf Letter to Santa

I LOVE the Elf on the Shelf Letters to Santa for several reasons! First, it’s adorable and it really brings in a ton of Christmas Magic! Second, it’s two days in one! On one day, have the elf bring the paper with a note asking your child to write their letter. The second day is the elf back with the ornament. Third, it can be used for several years! With six sheets of paper, this will last my boys 3 years (unless we mess one up).

11. Make use of your kids’ toys!

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that most homes have some kind of a toy boat, or car! Your Elves can have all kinds of easy fun with stuff your kids already have, and your kids will be thrilled to see that their elf has been playing with their toys!

Turtle Power

When we were at the height of our Ninja Turtle phase we had all kinds of turtles and accessories! The turtle costumes are simply cut out felt I picked up at Hobby Lobby for maybe $2! 

A Pirate’s Life For Me!

If you can see it, Elfie is wearing a pirate costume. This is one I ordered on Esty. I can make felt turtle shells, I cannot sew tiny pants and hats! But it was too cute to resist and Luke was loving pirates that year! Poor Chippy is in the jail hold!

Off to the Races

Racetracks are another staple in just about every boy home! Set up a couple and have your elves race cars. Just beware of menacing cats! This pesky guy is the reason why a lot of my elf set-ups now go up onto higher surfaces because he destroyed the other track with the 2nd elf that night. At least the kids thought it was funny and called him Godzilla Cat for the rest of the day.

12. Let’s Play A Game

Just like playing with toys can be fun and easy, you can make use of your board games too!

Shark Bite

The boys love playing games, and so they love it when they wake up to find their elves have been playing one of them too! I’ve done this set up many times with other games like Battle Ship or Monopoly but for this particular night was feeling extra lazy and went with the quick and easy set up!

13. Elf Pets

Introducing the Elf Pets is another super fun and easy one, albeit a little pricey!

Elf Pets

If your elf isn’t allowed to be touched, the pet is a great workaround because Santa sent the puppies specifically to be cuddled and played with! We have both the Elf Pet and  Elf Reindeer Pet and we love and cuddle them all!

14. Saying Good-Bye! 

Once Christmas concludes, it is time to say good-bye to your Elf on the Shelf! Ours doesn’t leave Christmas Eve with Santa, mostly because Mama Claus has enough on her mind when she is setting up all the gifts to be thinking of sending the Elf Crew on their way! 

Christmas Eve

Chippy & Elfie get one last pose on Christmas Eve, always in the same spot: with Santa’s Cookies and a note from the Big Guy himself saying how proud he was when the elves reported such good behavior. Once the kids go down that night, we then pull the elves and stash them away for next year.

***Pro Tip!  Do not put the elves with your Christmas decorations in the attic unless they come out AFTER you put up your tree, or someone will be digging in the attic in a panic before you’re ready to get everything else out.  Instead, stash them someplace safe that the kids never go. In our house, they go into the bottom cabinet shelf of the China Cabinet. 

15. Mid-Year Check In

Every now and then our elves will send a mid-year postcard to the kids. I started this when we were about to go on a two-day road trip to my brother’s wedding and I was really worried they would start to come unglued before we were even out of Texas! The elves snuck in one night and slipped a little card into their backpacks reminding them to be good in the car and to have fun!

Post Card from Hawaii

The first note went so well that Chipp & Elfie sent another one the next summer before we went to the beach! Not my best Photoshop work, but you know what? The kids didn’t notice! 

While the elves can be a major pain to remember to mess with night after night, they bring my kids a ton of joy and really help add to the magic of Christmas. As long as our home believes, our little elves will be making their appearance the day after Thanksgiving! The time we have for this stuff is short, so we plan to enjoy it for as long as we can. 

Does your home have an elf, or entire elf crew? Let me know in the comments! What have some of your favorite elf hiding places been? 

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  1. Chef Sous Chef | 13th Dec 18

    Elf on the Shelf pics always bring a smile to my face. You have some good ones in here! ?

  2. Patricia @ Grab a Plate | 13th Dec 18

    What cute ideas! I love that there are Elf Pets, and I especially love the Snow Angels!

  3. Shannah | 13th Dec 18

    I would have had such fun with these Elf ideas if he was around when my kids were little!

  4. Madi Rowan | 12th Dec 18

    I think Elf on the Shelf is so funny. I actually never had one growing up, but I get a kick out of all of the hiding places haha!

    -Madi xo

  5. Elizabeth | 12th Dec 18

    I needed some inspiration. I’m getting a little bit tired of our elves!

  6. Eimear | 12th Dec 18

    Such great ideas which I will definitely pass on. We’ve never done Elf on the Shelf and I must say I am in awe of all the families who take this on!! My friends will be grateful to hear all your fabulous ideas.

  7. Camille | 11th Dec 18

    What a great list! I am always looking for fun ideas for our elf. Thank you. 🙂

  8. Dawn | 11th Dec 18

    What a great list! I don’t have little ones at home anymore (my daughter is 23), but I just had to read it anyway because the ideas were so cute! I absolutely love the letters to Santa idea, what a sweet keepsake! If she ever has kids, I imagine an elf will make an appearance.

  9. @ItsSmoothieBowlLove by Brandis Allison | 11th Dec 18

    Junell, what a fun group of ideas! We have had Elfie for 5 years now. She visits the day after Thanksgiving and Stays until Christmas Eve. She’s super silly and is always getting into trouble or hiding in weird places. Some days errr most days, I’ll be lazy and just hide her because she’s here for SO long. Lol. But the giggles and smiles coming from my four babies makes it all worth it. Ps. Coming from the 10k challenge. Love your site!

  10. Emma | 11th Dec 18

    Our elf comes with a note letting the kids know that if he likes a spot he might stay a while. It takes a lot of pressure off me 🙂 I have a few creative days throughout the month, but it’s more a game of Hide-and-Seek for my kids.

  11. Becky Russell | 11th Dec 18

    Thanks for helping a Mom out! I have been doing Elf on the Shelf since 2012 and I’m starting to run out of ideas. Pinterest has become my best friend for finding new ideas. I will for sure use some of your fun and creative ideas.

  12. Sharilee Stafford | 11th Dec 18

    I Love your ideas and especially the elf warning. I don’t get too creative with our elf but my daughter still loves getting up each morning and finding the elf.

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