13 Creative Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Small christmas Elf doll perched on a countertop

MarLyn Hill / Stocksy

The days after Thanksgiving are much anticipated for parents with young children. While many prepare their lists for Black Friday shopping, some prep for the arrival of the mischievous Elf on the Shelf friend (or at times, foe). Coming up with a month's worth of Elf on the Shelf ideas year after year is harder than you might imagine, so having a stockpile of inspiration comes in handy on those days when you're feeling less than creative. 

Plan in advance and mix some simple ideas with more complex ones throughout the month, so you don't experience elf burn out. Also, don't be afraid to repeat ideas from previous years—the kids will still get excited when Elf repeats old antics. 

  • 01 of 13

    The Much-Anticipated Arrival

    Arrival ideas for elf on the shelf
    Eighteen 25

    Make the elf's yearly arrival something special with a print out that welcome him back into the home. Push Elf through a punched-out hole in an otherwise gift-wrapped box, or spell out a message with mini candy on a table where Elf arrives. Some ideas include "Did you miss me?" or "I'm back!" You could also have Elf ride in on a toy airplane or car with an accompanying arrival sign. 

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  • 02 of 13

    The Cookie Debacle

    Elf on the shelf ideas
    Just a Little Creativity

    Uh oh! Elf is suffering from a milk and cookie hangover. If you haven't made Christmas cookies yet, the elf may get caught eating Hershey kisses with chocolate on his face or drinking an open container of maple syrup out of a straw. 

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  • 03 of 13

    So Fresh and Clean

    Ten Cow Chick

    Even elves need to shower every once in a while, so set him up on the shower caddy. Alternatively, you could position Elf in a bowl filled with mini marshmallows, so it looks like a bubble bath, or spell something out with toothpaste on the bathroom sink and leave Elf behind. Make this a sink in your house that your children don't use on a regular basis. 

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  • 04 of 13

    Who's Ready for Some S'mores?

    Frugal Coupon Living

    It's never too cold out for an elf-sized campfire and s'mores. To go even further, create a small tent using tan construction paper and a sleeping bag using felt, then position elf sleeping under the stars. If your child enjoys fishing, put a toy fish in the sink and have Elf fish out with a fishing pole made of a candy cane and string. Goldfish crackers will work if there are no toy fish available. 

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  • 05 of 13

    A Swinging Good Morning

    Creative and Easy Elf on the shelf ideas
    A Small Snippet

    What's cooler than an Elf that also moonlights as a trapeze artist? Craft gymnast rings using twine and key rings, then position Elf in a typical gymnastics pose. Make a tire swing using twine and a mason jar lid, so Elf can swing in style, or create a zip line using any type of string or ribbon, then have Elf slide down on a mini candy cane. 

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  • 06 of 13

    Elf Learns a Valuable Lesson

    Elf on the shelf inspiration - simple ideas
    Frugal Coupon Living​

    When Elf has been misbehaving, he's sent to timeout just like any other magical character. Set up a bunch of mini figurines and toys that are tying up Elf with yarn or masking tape.  

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  • 07 of 13

    A Little TLC Is All Elf Needs

    Elf on the shelf ideas
    Nelly Cole Photography

    A common cold is no match for Elf, so long as he has some travel sized kid-proof cough syrup. Since a cold makes the elf sleep, make him fall asleep in a half-empty box of tissues and crumple up some tissues to put in his hand. If the Elf has had an "accident," cut some ace bandage into tiny strips and wrap up his arm or leg. 

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  • 08 of 13

    Even Bananas Aren't Safe

    Elf on the shelf inspiration
    Fancy Shanty

    Are you good at doodling? Apparently, Elf is too—on bananas! Add some googly eyes and a felt mustache to your bananas instead or cut a hole around the center elf on a box of Rice Krispies and have Elf push through his head.

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  • 09 of 13

    A Sticky (And Happy) Situation

    Elf on the Shelf Ideas
    The Organised Housewife​

    Your child likely agrees that stickers look best when they're scattered all over, everywhere, even all over Elf. However, the Elf might want to decorate something else with stickers instead, such as a jug of milk in the fridge. Another crafty idea: Place two knitting needles between Elf and have him attempt to knit, while also wrapping yarn around him. 

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  • 10 of 13

    Marshmallows, Anyone?

    Elf on the shelf ideas using marshmallows
    Bombshell Bling

    When it comes to Elf antics, marshmallows will become your best friend. Set up a snowball fight between Elf and another figure using mini marshmallow snowballs, medium-sized marshmallows for a snow wall, and flour for ground cover. You could also make a weight using a mini straw and two marshmallows, then set up the Elf to benchpress it. 

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  • 11 of 13

    Add a Little Color

    Simple Elf on the Shelf Ideas
    Simple as That

    Adult coloring becomes Elf coloring, a stress-relieving Elf antic to try. Create a painting on a mini or full-size easel, then adhere a mini or full-size paint brush in Elf's hands. If your child loves books more than art, open a storybook and place Elf on his belly with his hands on his chin as he reads. 

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  • 12 of 13

    TP Hide and Seek

    Elf on the Shelf Ideas
    Crystal and Comp

    How long will it take your kids to find this hiding spot in a roll of toilet paper? Other TP fun could include rolling the Elf down the stairs in a tube of toilet paper, leaving a trail behind. or canvasing the Christmas tree with toilet paper with the Elf positioned next to the roll

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  • 13 of 13

    Bored Elf Watches TV

    Simple Elf on the Shelf Ideas for 2017
    The Taylor House

    Too much screen time isn't an issue for Elf, but he may get caught inside an opened M&M's bag with candy scattered over the kitchen counters as a movie treat. You could also place Elf inside a cookie jar with a cookie positioned in his hand or keep the microwave door open with a full bag of popcorn spilling out while Elf enjoys his own mini bowl next to the microwave.