These Elf on the Shelf ideas will bring your family a fun Christmas. Whether your elf is visiting for the first time or is already a regular visitor at your house, these creative ideas are sure to wow your kids and make a memorable holiday.

I also have printable Elf jokes cards that will keep kids laughing. The Elf can also teach kindness with these Elf on the Shelf printable kindness cards.

Elf on the Shelf box with Elf and Card sitting on top
The Original Elf on the Shelf

If you don’t have an elf on a shelf you can buy one here. (affiliate link)

The elf comes from a children’s book written by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell. The Elf on the Shelf, published in 2005, tells the story of how Santa sent an elf to every home to spy on children and report back whether they had been ‘naughty’ or ‘nice’.

What does the Elf on the Shelf do?

Santa’s Scout Elves serve as his eyes and ears in homes around the world. Each night the elf goes to report to Santa and is found the next morning in a new spot. Each day the elf performs various antics. What will your Scout Elf be up to?

The Elf on the Shelf gets their magic by being named and loved by a child. Once the elf is named, it receives special Christmas magic, allowing it to fly back and forth to the North Pole.

What date does the Elf on the Shelf come back?

Your elf can arrive anytime during the holidays, but typically he or she will arrive at the beginning of your family’s holiday celebrations, and return to the North Pole with Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

Santa sends most of his Elves out during Elf Return Week, which runs from November 25 to December 2. Use this elf on the elf calendar to introduce your eld or these Free Printable Hello and Goodbye Elf Letters are a great way to get the holiday party started.

What are some Elf on the Shelf Ideas?

Is your elf on the naughty or nice list?  You can pick these clever and fun ideas. They are great for first-time visitors or elf-on-the-shelf return ideas.

Pictures of 5 Elf on the Shelf ideas 
Elf in rocket, with paper chain, in box of crunch berries, in a kissing booth, and on the north pole express

Want the easiest way ever to do this Christmas tradition? Printable Elf on the Shelf notes makes it easy to celebrate with little hassle. Print one time, gather items and you are ready to go for the entire month! There is even a reminder to send a letter to Santa (free printable stationery included).

Printable elf on the shelf notes in red and green.

Got a few bookworms in your family? Give them the gift of the written word with a little help from your trusty elf, of course.

Elf on the shelf with writing materials.

It’s cold this time of year, after all! warm your elf up with a trip to the toaster.

2 elves beside toaster with arms and legs through a slice of toast with the note It was cold outside, now I am warm and toasty.

Who doesn’t love a snowball fight? This snowball fight would also be cleverly done with mini marshmallows.

Eelf with miniature bucket filled with cotton balls to mimic a snowball fight

This elf is up against a firing squad. This may be one of my favorite ideas ever! This cracks me up every time I see it!

Elf stuck to wall in front of a miniature firing squad

Welcome Elf hot cocoa party

elf hot chocolate party Elf wrapped around a jar with marshmallows and a red and white stripped straw with a second jar of chocolate chips

Is your Elf full of mischief? Use a dry erase marker to add some silly features to family pictures. Photo flair! What an ornery and funny elf!

Naughty elf drawing on family  with dry erase maker. Elf is sitting on edge of photo frame.

Elf eating chocolate

Elf with chocolate around his mouth with empty chocolate kisses wrappers.

I think this elf may have had a chocolate craving!

Elf caught upside down in a bag of chocolate chips

This Frozen Elf from Staci Mcneil is literally super cool!

Elf frozen with Elsa beside him.

Let your Elf on the Shelf help your children to be kind this holiday season! Print off these Elf on the Shelf Kindness Cards.

Scattered grouping of Elf on the Shelf Acts of Kindness Cards

More Elf Jokes for Your Elf on the Shelf

This Elf on the shelf snowball fight is so easy to throw (pun intended) together!

elf on shelf snowball fight with a ginger bread house and snow man blocking Cinderella's snowballs

Let your Elf walk the dogs! Love the pipe cleaner leashes for these cute elf pets. Clever and EASY.

Elf walking dogs with pipe cleaners used as leashes

Minion Bananas are cute and so easy!

elf decorating bananas like minions with black sharpie

This Elf on the Shelf is feeding the dog with his backhoe loader.

elf riding on tractor with a load full of dog food - a dog is eating out of the scoop

Elf makes himself a bed with the tissue box

elf laying in a box of tissues with some folded to make a pillow

These little Elf sized cookies are so clever. Just use a pastry tip to cut them out. To save time, use premade pie crust or sugar cookie dough instead.

elf sized cookies on a tiny white plate with the elf relaxing in a red chair with a glass of milk

A candy cane and a piece of string make the perfect zip-line for an elf. Too fun!

elf holding onto a candy cane on a string zipline to Christmas tree

Elf coming out of the box. This is easy to create. Simply grab a cereal box and some scissors.

elf popping out of a box of crunch berries cereal where Captain Crunches face should be

Elf roasting marshmallows over a fake candle.  You can pull this one off really easily.

elf making roasted marshmallows over a fake candle

Elf in a rocket ship. This year have your elf make a blast of an entrance. He can arrive on a rocket ship!

elf in a red and whie rocket ship

Free Printable Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Elf on a Shelf in a kissing booth. This free printable makes the cutest elf-kissing booth! You can have a lot of fun with this cute idea!

elf in a kissing booth surrounded by chocolate kisses

Cute Random Acts of Kindness Elf Arrival Letter and gift ideas for your Elf on the Shelf. Encourages kids to give back and be Secret Santa.

Elf in a red lunch box with tinsel and tube of mini m&ms with a elf arrival letter  of Random acts of kindness. Tubes of mini m&ms on the side with pipe cleaners to make antlers.

Living Locurto has this simple to make free Christmas printable Gift Holder easily holds a gift card, sticks of gum, notes, Lego Minifigures, stickers and other small flat items.

elf holding a gift card holder (the gift card holder is a free printable)

Santa-Approved Guide to Elf Masks. When your elf visitor comes for a visit to wear a mask or not is something to be considered. This free printable from the Elf on the Shelf blog provides a cute selection of masks to choose from.

Two Scout Elves wearing face masks

Elf in a plane. It’s a bird, it’s a plane… no, it’s your elf.

elf sitting in a paper airplane hanging from the ceiling

Make a paper chain countdown… too cute.

elf on a shelf countdown chain

Let your elf do some acrobatic tricks.

Elf hanging upside down on a candy cane hangin from the ceiling - acobatic style

Taylor Swift Reputation Cover printable

Elf holding Taylor swift style elf printable record cover

Your kids are going to love this elf idea – just print these jokes and place in your elf’s arms for an easy laugh.

Printable Elf Jokes

elf on the shelf holding printable joke card

It’s Cold in the Fridge 

elf in fridge wrapped in a blanket to stay warm

This is the perfect time of year to catch someone doing something good and let them know with an official letter from the North Pole. {Free Printable}.

elf on the shelf letter from the North Pole held by elf

Snowball fight 

elf snow ball fight with a barbie

Sick Elf…no moving for 3 Days?

Sick elf with box of reindeer flue pills (candy mints) and a note from the doctor

25 More EASY Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Need simple last-minute ideas? These are easy to do quickly, especially when you might have forgotten to move the elf.

  1. Put your elf’s legs inside rolls of wrapping paper to make an elf on stilts. Stick the rolls inside a pair of boots.
  2. Make a bubble bath with mini marshmallows in the bathroom sink.
  3. Use a dry-erase marker to make funny faces on family portraits.
  4. Set your elf up to play with toys.
  5. Make a snow angel in flour or powder sugar.
  6. Hang dirty socks on the Christmas tree.
  7. Toilet paper the Christmas tree.
  8. Trap the elf inside a glass cup with a note that says HELP.
  9. Sit the elf’s backside over the toilet and drop starlight peppermint mints in the toilet.
  10. Make an elf zip line with string and candy cane.
  11. Put two mini marshmallows on a toothpick so your elf lifts weights.
  12. Use washi tape to tape the elf to a door.
  13. Put your Elf to sleep inside a long kleenex box (like a bed).
  14. Put your elf and a few other dolls inside brown lunch sacks and make a paper bag race.
  15. Set the elf up with a straw inside syrup for a sticky treat.
  16. Have your elf use crepe paper to block off a bedroom door.
  17. Have your elf deliver a puzzle and finish half of it.
  18. Watch the weather and have your elf deliver a snowman kit.
  19. Deliver cookie decorating supplies from your elf.
  20. Set up a toy army to capture your elf.
  21. Tuck your elf in the cookie jar.
  22. Set the elf on a date with Barbie in a Barbie car.
  23. Print off these Elf-sized coloring sheets!
  24. So many fun ways to use marshmallows with your elf!
  25. Pour out some sprinkles and make a snow angel.

Elf on the shelf rules

There are two main rules when it comes to the official Elf on the Shelf.

  1. First, the elf is to be secretly moved to a different location in your house every night, so the children believe he’s reporting back to Santa on their behavior.
  2. Second, you need to make sure children never touch the elf, or else he’ll lose his “magic.” If the elf is accidentally touched, they can write an apology letter to Santa. They can leave the letter, along with a sprinkle of cinnamon, next to the elf before they go to bed, so the elf can take Santa the note.

Is there a girl Elf on the Shelf?

YES! After much urging by the elves and Mrs. Claus, there is now The Elf on the Shelf’s new Girl Elf Edition. It features not only a girl elf but a new version of the classic book with the same elf story, only drawn with more girl characters. She can do all the cute elf on the shelf ideas shared here and the mischievous ones.

two girl elf on a shelf dolls

Finally, here is the BEST Elf on the Shelf tip!

This is BIG. It’s so easy to forget about the elf with our busy hectic holiday schedules, so just set a timer on your phone to remind you to move the elf each day! You will be glad you did.

To go along with the timer keep this list of ideas handy when you need a last-minute elf on the shelf idea. You will breathe easy knowing you are prepared.

Are these elf antics a Christmas tradition at your home? I hope liked these easy easy elf on the shelf doll ideas.

Shopping for Christmas? These stocking stuffer ideas will really help out.


I would love to keep you fully stocked with creative ideas, yummy recipes, fun crafts, and loads of free printables. Subscribe to Skip to my Lou to get new ideas delivered to your inbox. Follow me on FacebookPinterestTwitterand Instagram for all my latest updates.

About Cindy Hopper

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  1. The hardest part for me is finding an elf. I wish someone would come up with a pattern for making one. Anyone know where I can find one?

  2. The hardest part about Elf on the Shelf is coming up with great ideas every day. Thank you for doing that for me!!

  3. All of these ideas are so good! Thank you so giving her inspiration to get organized before the season starts.

  4. Super fun and creative ideas. This will make my job so much easier this year! Thank you.

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