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24 easy Elf on the Shelf ideas to get you through December


New to Elf on the Shelf? You’ve come to the right place! We’re going to break down what the f*ck Elf on the Shelf is and give you 24 easy – yet cute! – Elf on the Shelf ideas to keep your little ones guessing this December. Let’s go.

An Elf on the Shelf explainer

Elf on the Shelf is a Christmas tradition where a ‘Scout Elf’ (basically a toy elf) camps out in your home throughout December and reports back to Santa about your family’s antics in the lead up to the 25th. The idea is that your kids are on their best behavior because “Santa’s watching”. 

In saying that, you can use your Elf any way you like. They might just be a family friend that comes to visit in December for a fun pre-Christmas vay-cay. Or they might bring special daily treats for the family in the lead up to Christmas day for some extra holiday hype. You’re in charge, mama.

How does it work?

You order your Scout Elf online or buy it in a store (try here for the US, and here for Australia). Once your Scout Elf arrives at your home, you might help your kids give it a name and announce its arrival (some parents go all out with extravagant personalized balloon displays and handmade cookies – it’s wild). There’s also a book you can read with your kids that explains the Elf on the Shelf tradition and its rules (more on these in a ‘mo). Then, you hide your Scout Elf around your home each evening for your little ones to discover the next day – the concept being that your Scout Elf has returned to a new spot after its daily visit back to Santa in the North Pole.

Still with us? Good!

Are there any rules?

There are three: 

  • Kids musn’t touch their Scout Elf; otherwise, it’ll lose its magic. (This helps make life easier for mom and dad, who need to hide the damn thing around the house each night.
  • Scout Elves can’t talk, but they can listen to secrets and wishes. Or anything your kids like. Again, this helps mom and dad if kids ask why their Elf doesn’t talk.
  • Scout Elves must return to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. To help Santa prepare for Christmas! Make it to the 24th, mama, and you’ve crushed it.

What else should you know?

Two things:

  • Elf on the Shelf is best suited to kids who’ll understand the concept – those aged about two or three years and older. But once the ‘Santa’ myth is out in the open, Elf on the Shelf is done. 
  • Many parents love to get crafty, creating gorgeous scenes and setups for their kids to discover their Scout Elf each morning. Like, it can get pretty nuts – mini photo booth vistas, themed-foodie getups, educational activities involving the elf, you name it. If you’re a craft type of mom, and this is your passion, go for it! But if not, we’ve got you covered…

Easy Elf on the Shelf ideas

Here’s one for each day you need: right from December 1st, when your Scout Elf arrives, to the 24th, when your Scout Elf shimmies back to the North Pole.

1 December: Elf arrives

Forget the balloon display and the handmade welcome cookie. Download and print this customizable envelope and welcome letter from Etsy instead. Then, slot your Elf inside ad hide it in your mailbox or on your front porch (weather permitting, of course) for your kids to discover. 

Buy it here. (Or here, if you’re in the US.)

Source: Etsy

2 December: Elf does breakfast

Rip a hole in a breakfast cereal box and slot your Elf inside with their face poking out. Let your kids make a hilarious discovery over breakfast! (Bonus points if you can find a cereal box with faces on it that you can pop your Elf’s into.) 

Source: Kimspired DIY

3 December: Elf makes a snow angel

Grab a handful of sprinkles and scatter them on the kitchen counter (or another flat surface). Lay your Elf on top of the sprinkles, and move its little arms and legs to create a sprinkle snow angel. If it’s snowing where you are, take the kids outside to make their own snow angels once they’ve discovered your Elf. 

Source: Popculture.com

4 December: Elf takes a bath

Fill the bathroom sink with mini marshmallows, and submerge your Elf within. Let your kids make the ultimate “bath time” discovery! And perhaps make their bath with bubbles that night, too, to match your Elf. Cute. (PS. Keep the marshmallows, and we’ll reuse them again on 7 December.)

Source: Monika Dixon

5 December: Elf tries climbing

Grab a handful of rosette bows (you know, the tightly wound foil ones). Stick them at various heights up a wall, a door, or flat vertical surface. Tuck your Elf’s tiny hands and feet into four of them. Boom – your Elf is ‘rock’ climbing! If you’re brave (and your kids are old enough), perhaps take your kids to try rock climbing that day. 

Source: Brie Brie Blooms

6 December: Elf teepees the tree

Grab a roll or two of toilet paper. Wrap around your Christmas tree. Tuck your Elf in amongst it all. Mischievous! 

Source: Melanie Stofka

7 December: Elf makes hot chocolate

Find a mug, fill it with mini marshmallows (the ones leftover from day 4), and a sachet of hot chocolate mix. Pop your Elf inside. Upon discovery, help your kids to make hot chocolate using the ingredients left by your Elf. 

Source: The SITS Girls

8 December: Elf graffitis your family photos

Grab a whiteboard marker. Draw little mustaches, antlers, crowns, or noses – whatever you like – on your framed family photos. Then position your Elf nearby, with the pen in hand. We can bet there’ll be giggles all around! 

Source: Simple As That

9 December: Elf becomes a snowman

Grab yourself three rolls of toilet paper, an orange marker, and a black marker. Stack the rolls. Draw three dots for the snowman’s buttons down the center of the middle roll and some little ‘twig’ arms on either side. Draw eyes and a mouth and a little nose on the top roll, then position your Elf inside the rolls. Just wait for the hilarious discovery!  

Source: Mama Cheaps

10 December: Elf delivers a hidden message

Who doesn’t love a Christmas activity that will keep little minds and hands busy? Print out a ‘find the message’ worksheet (this one fits the brief), position it with some pens and your Elf where your kids will find it, and enjoy yourself some well-deserved peace and quiet. 

Source: Spot of Tea Designs

11 December: Elf wins a sack race

Find a handful of brown paper lunch bags. Roll the tops down about halfway. Stuff the bags with your Elf and a selection of your kids’ favorite toys, and position them along a hallway or a table – with your Elf in first place, of course! If the weather is favorable, you could try a family sack race later that day. 

Source: Pinterest/Pickle Head Soup

12 December: Elf practices their spelling

Pour a handful of your kids’ favorite cereal out on the dining table and arrange it to spell out your Elf’s name. When your kiddos discover your Elf, invite them to practice spelling their names too! 

Source: The Simple Parent

13 December: Elf accidentally melts a North Pole snowman

Grab a transparent glass Pyrex dish. Fill the dish with a dash of water, and position twigs, buttons, a mini carrot (or a carrot tip), and craft eyes inside. Accompany with a note explaining the snowman melted during your Elf’s trip back from the North Pole. Oops! 

Source: Instagram

14 December: Elf plays guitar

Grab your Elf, a guitar, and some Christmas carol sheet music. Tuck your Elf behind the guitar strings, and place it next to the sheet music. When your kids discover your Elf, try playing or singing the Christmas carol together. If you don’t have a guitar, you could use another musical instrument. And if you don’t have Christmas carol sheet music, here are some free printables. 

Source: She Knows

15 December: Elf plays Twister

Find a piece of paper and red, blue, yellow, and green crayons. Then, draw out a Twister board, and position your Elf and some of your kid’s favorite toys on the board. Bring it to life with a family game of Twister that night!

Source: Frugal Coupon Living

16 December: Elf switches the stockings

Elves are cheeky little things. Once your little ones go to sleep, take down your family’s stockings and replace them with underwear! Then, place your Elf next to the ‘crime scene’. Some parents choose to simply place the stockings nearby, but try turning it into a game and hide the stockings – then ask your children to hunt for them around the house. 

Source: She Knows

17 December: Elf draws a self-portrait

Grab some paper and pencils or crayons, and draw a little picture of your Elf. Then, arrange the picture and your Elf along with the pencils or crayons and extra paper on a table. Once your kids discover your Elf, try drawing your own self-portraits together. 

Source: The Adventures of Elf Trixibel Instagram

18 December: Elf wants an ‘elfie’

Make a sign saying “Let me take an ‘elfie” (or similar) and position your Elf next to the sign along with a camera (or a phone, if you don’t have a camera). Then, help your kiddos take selfies with their Elf when they discover it!

Source: Kirsten & Co

19 December: Elf relaxes amongst the plants

All Elves need a moment of relaxation. Sling a bandana between two pot plants, position your Elf on the bandana, arms crossed behind its head. You could even add a cocktail umbrella to complete the relaxing setup. Too sweet! 

Source: She Knows

20 December: Elf learns to walk on stilts

We’ve found a use for all those tubes in your life. You know, the Gladwrap ones? Stand two upright, insert your Elf’s legs for instant stilts. So fun!

Source: Frugal Coupon Living

21 December: Elf makes breakfast

Make mini Elf-sized pancakes. Lay them out on the table along with maple syrup (or a pancake topping of your choice), and position your Elf in the middle of it all. Invite your kids to breakfast! 

Source: Rachel Swartley

22 December: Elf takes a party nap

Your Elf is surely tired after all its trips back and forth to the North Pole! So make it a little tissue box bed, with a folded tissue as a pillow. Tell your kids that “Mommy’s going to take a nap like Elf.” and see how much downtime you can get. 

Source: Home Stories A to Z

23 December: Elf plays ornament hide and seek

Take a handful of Christmas ornaments off your tree and hide them around your home. Place your Elf in the tree next to a note telling your kids that their Elf has hidden the ornaments, and you need their help finding them. Once your kids have located the ornaments, hang them back on the tree together. 

Source: Simple As That

24 December: Elf’s farewell picnic

Surprise your kids with a farewell picnic for your Elf. Lay out a rug and snacks in your living room or backyard (weather depending!), with your Elf nestled in amongst it all. Enjoy the nibbles together while discussing your Elf’s favorite antics and what you’re most excited about for Christmas.  

Source: The Adventures of Elf Trixibel Instagram

Ok, you little Elf on the Shelf pro: you know how it works; you’ve got the ideas. So it’s time to make some Christmas magic! Have fun, mama. 


Read next: 15 best Christmas gift ideas for toddlers

Elf on the Shelf, The Elf on the Shelf 101

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