100 Ideas For Elf On The Shelf

The Elf on the Shelf is our MOST beloved holiday tradition for our 4-year-old daughter (it is our second year). However, recently it has come to my attention that a lot of people don’t like it or think it’s “too much work.”

Yes—it is a lot of work, but we’ve gotten so much joy out of it, so today I thought it would be fun (and hopefully helpful!) to share 100 ideas for The Elf on the Shelf. I hope it brings your family as much joy as it has ours!

1. Elf is sitting in Christmas tree.

2. Elf brings little note or gift (ours arrived this year with a book that Nova had been devastated to return to the library earlier this year—haha).

3. Elf is listening to music.

4. Elf is sitting on the breakfast table, eating Cheerios.

5. Elf is “hanging around” from door knobs or curtain rods.

6. Elf is sitting in a shoe.

7. Elf is sitting on piano (or whatever is specific to your home).

8. Elf is hiding in pantry.

9. Elf is in your child’s room when they wake up in the morning (this is VERY popular in our home).

10. Elf is reading Christmas books.

11. Elf is making paper snowflakes!

12. Elf is sitting inside of holiday wreath.

13. Elf is in coffee cup filled with marshmallows with a note: “Let’s make hot chocolate tonight.”

14. Elf has sugar out with a note: “Let’s make cookies!!!”

15. Elf has small wrapped gifts for each child (can be anything—even just a candy. Don’t overthink this.)

16. Elf has Christmas records out.

17. Elf is in sink like he’s taking a bath …

18. Elf is hiding in a plant.

19. Elf is roasting a marshmallow on a candle.

19. Elf is sitting in a stocking.

20. Elf is sitting in a cereal bowl.

21. Elf is making a snow angel (use flour or fake glitter snow)

22. Elf is riding a reindeer, unicorn, toy horse (we get a lot of mileage out of this one).

23. Elf is coloring in your kid’s coloring book.

24. Elf brings crafts you can make together.

For this next section … here are some ways your elf can be “naughty.”

25. Getting into the toothbrushes and toothpaste.

26. Getting into candy.

27. Eating cookies you just baked the night before (Elves are very hungry and they really like sugar).

28. Elf is hanging from chandelier, like above …

29. Elf is getting into coffee beans.

30. Elf is on toilet (bonus points for a drop of green food coloring in the toilet, OBVIOUSLY)

31. Elf has gotten into yarn and made a BIG MESS.

32. Elf is peeking through blinds.

33. Elf is “sledding” down stair rail.

34. Elf is building snowman out of marshmallows.

35. Elf is taped to wall (use washi tape, one piece for each arm and leg)

36. Elf has drawn mustaches on family photo.

37. Elf is getting into your child’s snack drawer or favorite snack.

38. Elf is in a bowl of popcorn.

39. There is a trail of mini marshmallows leading to where your elf is (obviously this may not work for you if you have pets)

40. Elf is “trapped” in upside down jar or water glass.

41. Elf is playing with your child’s favorite toy.

42. Elf is playing with playdough (can spell a word if you want, like HELLO).

43. Elf is in the fridge—add some ornaments or garland to make it funny.

44. Elf is riding a toy car.

45. Elf is sitting in your child’s coat pocket.

46. Elf is using the computer.

47. Elf has written on mirror with mama’s lipstick.

48. Elf has “spilled” candy all over the counter or table.

49. Elf has gotten into all the toys and made a mess.

50. Elves are VERY festive. Getting into the spirit with music just makes sense! If you have a record player, you can make them spin around … so cute!

51. Elf leaves notes with Post-it notes!

52. Elf is writing a letter to Santa.

53. If you make a gingerbread house, the Elf should be “moving in” soon.

54. Elf is in a basket of laundry.

55. Elf is getting into mama’s purse or diaper bag.

56. Elf is holding the camera (if you have an Instax camera you can have a photo already out of your elf, like they just took a selfie).

57. Elf is drinking maple syrup from a straw.

58. Elf has left a note on a marker board or chalkboard.

59. Elf is in a box of holiday donuts.

60. Elf is wrapped up in Christmas lights.

61. Elf is riding in paper airplane.

62. Elf is hiding in silverware drawer.

63. Elf has made snowman on bathroom mirror with shaving cream.

64. Elf is “walking” in pair of adult boots.

65. Elf is in little blanket—”brrrr, I’m cold!”

67. Elf is hanging upside down on fridge (use magnet clips on his feet).

68. Elf is tied in ribbon … wrapping gifts.

69. Elf is making snow angels with sprinkles.

70. Elf is making a big mess with bows and holiday wrapping.

71. Elf has been drawing pictures with your kiddo’s markers or crayons.

72. Elf is reading your child’s favorite book.

73. Elf has decorated a part of your home that isn’t usually decorated (like a dollhouse maybe, or your toaster …).

74. Elf has left a note with instructions for where a treat is hidden!

OK … I have reserved this last section for more elaborate ideas. If you want to be EXTRA … this part is for you! (for the record, we do almost nothing elaborate with our Elf and it’s still fun!)

75. Make a “swing” for your elf with a string and toilet paper roll.

76. Elf is floating with large bundle of balloons (I can’t WAIT to do this one!).

77. Elf has put clown noses (tiny red pom poms) on a family photo.

78. Elf is riding train set.

79. Take your elf to a photobooth and take photos of it to use one day (lol—this is very extra, but I want to do it!!).

80. Write messages on a plate in ketchup or mustard or sprinkles, etc. …

81. Craft roller skates for your elf made out of Cheerios 🙂

82. Make a hammock for your elf.

83. Elf is swinging upside down from a candy cane.

84. Elf has unrolled a roll of toilet paper all over your hall (or down the stairs); put elf inside the roll.

85. Elf is hanging in a paper chain.

86. Make a gum drop necklace for your elf and leave a bowl of gumdrops out.

87. If you have a dollhouse, use the furniture for your elf … rocking chair, toilet, bed, etc. …

89. Have the elf’s head sticking out of your kids pjs … this is a fun idea for gifting them holiday pjs too.

90. Print tiny photos of your child, so it looks like your elf is making a tiny scrapbook of them.

91. Stick your elf in a jar of jelly beans or M&Ms. Remember, even after the elf leaves the jar, the candy will be magic!

92. Put googly eyes on every item in your fridge and leave your elf in there!

93. If you finish ice cream or cookies (whatever) after your child goes to bed, leave the elf out by the pretending like they ate it all.

94. The elf is “sleeping” in the guest bed.

95. The elf is getting into the dog treats with a note: “Ew! Don’t leave these cookies for Santa!”

96. The elf has covered all the family photos with photos of himself.

97. The elf is making a holiday garland with Fruit Loops or popcorn.

98. Leave the elf in an empty box of candy canes with a note: “Can you find all 12 candy canes? I hid them all around your house!”

99. Leave the elf out with an empty cardboard box and a note to fill it with toys to donate.

100. Here are a bunch of printable ideas you can print and use as well! HAVE FUN.

Whew! There we are. 100 ideas. PLEASE pin this post so you can reference back to it for years to come!!

BONUS ROUND! Reasons why the Elf did not move: They were waiting for your child to do something extra nice (haha), they were being lazy, they “aren’t doing their job” … maybe they need a little talk. Remember, if the elf forgets to move, blame the elf! If your elf is extremely forgetful or lazy (lol), they can always apologize with a little candy or gift … and maybe a letter that says, “Don’t tell Santa!” 😉

Woooo! I hope you are feeling motived! Happy holidays. xx- Elsie

Credits: Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • Okay so these are good!! We have an Elf and honestly…I just set him on the shelf and he just blends in because I just didn’t want to put extra pressure on myself with having to do something with him everyday. BUT I have to say you convinced me with this list and now I want to go all in with the Elf. I’m just trying to think a way now to build the excitement and give him a personality since he’s just been chilling in our family room for a few weeks now haha.

  • You elf of the shelf videos you share of some of my favorites all year. Nova is so adorable with him. “Look Daddy, he’s right there on our plate!”

  • These are such cute ideas! My little one is only 16 months, so I still have at least a year to decide whether or not I want to make elf on the shelf a tradition for her. I’ll definitely bookmark this post for future reference, though! It does seem like extra work during an already busy time of year, but you make it sound like so much fun.

  • These are cute ideas for little kids. I will speak for the adults who think it is too much work. We are on our 4th year with the elf. My youngest is now 7 and we are only really doing it for him now, as the older two don’t believe in it any longer. I am TIRED of moving this elf! The problem is that my kids remember EVERY single thing he’s ever done, so I can’t repeat from year to year. Also, when your kids get a little older it won’t be fun to just move the elf into a shoe or from one place to the next. The kids will start to expect more, and more funny things, or more naughty things…it’s exhausting! 🙂 I have a feeling this year or next year will be our last one, so I’m trying to keep up the fun and still enjoy it. But I won’t be sad when he goes back to the North Pole for good.

    • I recently heard a friend say she has the older kids do the elf and keep the magic alive for her youngest. The older kids have a blast with it and she doesn’t have to think about it! Maybe this could work for your family too! 🙂

  • This is genius. I am looking for an elf alternative because I find the original one too creepy (for me, mind you) but these ideas are great!

  • I have no little kids or grandkids, but I read every idea!! It sounds like loads of fun, but I can also see how it would be easy to forget in the busyness of the season.

  • I didn’t know about this tradition but in our home (in France), we hace two kind of elves (they’re more like dwarfs?),, I created them, and they do the exact things as your elf on the shelf. We started 2 years ago when my child was 4 and I’m so excited about it. Loving your list! (I’m kind of running out of ideas after 2 years)… Have fun, these will be wonderful memories… (my characters are made out of papers, I think I should upgrade them to fabric)

  • i have to admit, i kinda miss the elf days. my daughter was SO wrapped up in the magic! my two favorites, though, were both the final big christmas eve ones. one year, i took a big risk and snuggled the elf with my daughter while she was sleeping, then took a picture of her with her phone. in the morning, there was a little scroll in her stocking from her elf, and written inside was a note that told her to check her phone. we’d changed the lock screen to be the picture of her sleeping with her elf. she was so excited that her elf touched her, and then she said, “but who took the picture?” we told her the only person it could have been was santa, and she flipped. a couple of years later, i took her elf to the mall one day, and asked the santa if i could get a picture of him and the elf together. he said yes, and i handed him the elf and a little sign that read, “merry christmas, harper! love santa and snowflake (the elf’s name)” … that way it was proof that it was really her elf. on christmas morning, there was a present under the tree to her from snowflake, and in it was a picture frame with that picture in it. by that point, she was on the edge of no longer believing, and when she saw that picture, she actually got tears in her eyes. the magic was alive for one more year <3

    • AWWW, this was such a sweet story! I love that you took time to share it. It reminds me of The Polar Express. 🙂

  • I will definitely use some of these. I have a LOT of years of elfing under my belt and I’m tired. I’m most excited this year about a teeny tiny jar of Nutella I found at Target! Chippy loves Nutella.

    Also, my go-to for if he doesn’t move? Everyone has to be asleep before he can go and, darn it, Mommy just could. not. sleep. last night. 😁

  • I don’t do it at my house but thought it was fun to come up with one or two nights for my nephews. My creativity got thwarted since their elf wasn’t supposed to be touched – so I wasn’t able to tie up the bathroom sink or have it on a bag or anything they’d need to use in the next 24-hours! Is that typical?

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