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Top 50+ Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Top 50 BEST Elf on the Shelf ideas…creative inspiration to help you make this the best Christmas yet!

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 50 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.

Elf on the shelf names

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.

Now that we got that out of the way, here are 50 great ideas!

Train Ride

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.

Biscuits ‘n Crazy

2012 Elf on the Shelf via Biscuits ‘n Crazy

Making Snowflakes

Who doesn’t like snowflakes? Here’s a great idea that will lead to a fun family activity with your favorite elf!

Life with my Littles

32 Best Elf on the Shelf Ideas for Toddlers via Life with my Littles

Special Delivery

A fun way to introduce elf on the shelf this year is to put your elf in a package for your kids to open. They will love it!

Just Simply Mom

19 Fun and Unique Elf on the Shelf Arrival Ideas via Just Simply Mom


I love that the coloring page is the baby Jesus. This is a fabulous way to remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Life with my Littles

32 Best Elf on the Shelf Ideas for Toddlers via Life with my Littles

Animal Sleigh

Drape some string over some toy animals to create this fun animal sleigh.

Biscuits ‘n Crazy

2012 Elf on the Shelf via Biscuits ‘n Crazy

Arrival Breakfast

If you are feeling extra creative you can plan an elf on the shelf arrival breakfast. This will definitely start the holidays off with a bang!

The Sugar Pres

Elf on the Shelf Arrival Breakfast via the Sugar Press

Snowy Package

This is a great way to start off your elf on the shelf season! I love the snow.

Bee-ing Mommy

Elf on the Shelf: The Adventures of Luna 2018 via Bee-ing Mommy

Baking Cookies

Craving some sweets? Place your elf next to some cookie ingredients to create a fun and yummy activity with your little ones!

Snapshots of my Life

A Harry Update via Snapshots of my Life


Your kiddo will love waking up to find their favorite elf playing Uno. They will want to play too!

Snapshots of my Life

Harry The Elf| Days 2-5 via Snapshots of my Life

Paper Bag Races

Choose a couple of your kiddo’s favorite toys and have them compete together in a paper bag race! So fun!

Snapshots of my Life

Harry The Elf| Days 2-5 via Snapshots of my Life

Peppermint Dropping

Here’s a funny one! This can even be a great way to promote potty training.

Biscuits ‘n Crazy

2012 Elf on the Shelf via Biscuits ‘n Crazy

Crockpot Hot Tub

How fun is this?! Just fill a crockpot with marshmallows and you’ve created an elf hot tub!

A Few Shortcuts

Marshmallow Hot Tub: Elf on the Shelf Idea via A Few Shortcuts

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

Elf notes

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. 

elf on the tree

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

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 syrup

Roasting 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 Elf on the Shelf scavenger hunt…it’s practically guaranteed to entertain the kids!

elf laying on fleece blanket

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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  1. Hello Jamielyn,

    Very creative collection of Elf on the Shelf ideas! “Celebrating the reason for the season” is lovely, and “Elf hanging out in the fridge” is funny, but I love them all, too.

  2. Wow! Thank you for including a few of our elf’s antics! I’ll be adding some of the others to our list for this year 🙂

  3. Such Clever Ideas! I will have to test out my Christmas Magic and try some of these with my family this year!

  4. This year before I left the North Pole Mrs Claus gave me some Printable Elf Costumes to take with me. Mrs Claus is very clever; she made Sunglasses, Reading Glasses, a Snowman Mask, Reindeer Antlers & Nose, a Moustache, a Fairy Wand & Wings, a Pirate Outfit and some lips for Elf Kisses!! She also showed me how to make a Santa costume and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume.

  5. Hello!! My mother is sending me our vintage Elf, cause she know how i love it when i was a little girl. I have my Pinterest account and my craft blog. Coul I participate this year?? Do you give me a permission for link you on my blog? I’ll love to organizate something fun with my boys. I don’t have the Elf on a Shelf kit, i woul do it with our own Elf. I hope your answer and let me congratulate with you for your creativity and fantasy. Best regards, Varla Lee. ^_^

    1. What a neat tradition to start using the same elf you used as a little girl! With this elf on the shelf round up, I just found ideas through pinterest and blogs. I’m not sure if I will do another round up this year, but if I do I will definitely keep your blog in mind! Yes, you can definitely link me on your blog. Thanks Varla! 🙂

  6. I love this elf idea.  I can’t wait till my grandchildren are old enough to join in this activity.

    Thank you

  7. We had our two get into some crazy stuff last year. This year they already made a Charlie Brown therapist booth, and hand fun sleigh riding down the stairs. Can’t wait to use some of the fun ideas from this

  8. This website has helped me so much! I’ve been having to move our elf on the shelf “Jingle” into new places for my little sister. Today I used the elf in the refrigerator idea. 

    Thanks so much!

  9. Hi great ideas so now I have ideas of where my elf can be thank you so much.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


  10. Some really good ideas, this is the first year we have done Elf on a Shelf, my husband bought them with the girls not realising what you had to do with them, but should be fun!!!!

  11. Elf on a shelf is much much older than 2005 and your mentioned author. I believe Elf originated in Japan more than 50 years ago. My brother has collected them for years. He’s an antique dealer/ collector. They are antique dolls and harder to find than these newfangled replicas. I enjoyed your compilation! Great ideas.

  12. This is totally elf on a shelf 101! I love this!! I need to start this new tradition with the kids 🙂

  13. These are ALL amazing ideas for Elf on the Shelf. haha I love the elf rolling down the stairs in toilet paper. Thanks for sharing all of these super fun and creative ideas. 🙂

  14. Super cute! I love the one where the army men take the elf captive! If I get an elf for my house I’ll have to try some of these out!

  15. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d certainly donate to this fantastic blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to fresh updates and will talk about this blog with my Facebook group. Talk soon!

  16. Thank you so much for sharing this! You have helped me get more creative & create a surprise each morning to make my kids smile. Thank you also for the printable cards. In an era where everyone is charging for things like this on Etsy it is so refreshing that you shared yours. Merry Christmas!

  17. The elf on a shelf has brought pure joy to my two granddaughters that my husband and I are now raising and has been a gift to the entire family and want to give thanks to the family that has created this