Is Elf on the Shelf more fun for children or parents? Have families run out of Elf on the Shelf ideas?
I am not sure that I can answer that, but families tell us two things all the time. First, when their elf/elves return the kids are suddenly on their best behavior and they happily giggle every morning as they find out what their elves have gotten into overnight.
Two, grownups are thankful for new Elf on the Shelf ideas. When we set out to create this list we wanted ideas that could be as easy or elaborate as you want. We’ve been doing this Elf on the Shelf things for several years. We know how it can feel overwhelming. We don’t want it to be that way for you.
We want your elf to bring out the kid in you and add an extra little bit of magic to your Christmas. Whether you’re new to the Elf on the Shelf or you’ve been doing it for years we know there are ideas that will work for you.
Keep reading if you feel strapped for ideas for the 2022 Elf season. And if your elf only sits on the shelf, no shame in that either!
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Mega List of Elf on the Shelf Ideas
Jersey Family Fun has shared elf ideas for years and this year we are adding new ideas to our mega list of Elf on the Shelf Ideas! To help keep the list from being overwhelming we’ve broken it down into mini categories. Pick and choose ideas from each category or follow along with our Elf on the Shelf Challenge on Facebook.
Elf on the Shelf Ideas for the Kitchen
I find that our elves can have so much fun in the kitchen. Here are Elf on the Shelf ideas you can do in the kitchen.
- Brrrr it’s cold in here, hide the elf in the freezer and draw faces with sharpie on different foods, leave the sharpie next to your elf.
- Have your elf look through a cookbook to pick out the next meal.
- Your elf has decided on a meal. Now it’s time to make a shopping list. Give your elf paper and something to write with. Your child can find their elf with their grocery list.
- Elves can cook! Set your elf up to start cooking or baking.
- Additional shenanigans can ensue while your help tries to prepare the meal. Did your elf get stuck in the fridge? Did your elf make a mess?
- Continue with the theme and have your child find the elf with the cooked/baked treat.
- Elves need to eat also. Start with breakfast. Find your elf snacking in the cereal box. Or use the lid to a bottle as a bowl for your elf. Cheerios make great mini donuts. Play food makes for good elf food.
- Building a snowman in the freezer. Place a plate in the freezer and set your elf up on a box of frozen veggies. You can use cotton or pick up some instant snow from your local dollar store and build a small snowman on the plate. Don’t forget to put mittens and scarf on your elf.
- Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar? Put the elf in a cookie jar or near a cookie package, make sure to take a bite out of a cookie or two and have some crumbs around the jar.
- Iron Chef Elf Challenge, the secret ingredient is candy canes, you have to create a meal inspired by candy canes.
- Stage your elf cleaning up any messes that were made from baking, cooking, or shenanigans.
- Time to raid the cabinets, hang your elf from a cabinet or place inside the cabinet.
- Reindeer get hungry too. Have your elf make magic reindeer food and leave the bowl on the counter you can also make a “snow” angel in the sugar next to the bowl.
- Winter cleaning – Empty a kitchen cabinet onto the counter and have your elf sitting on one of the shelves, make sure to leave the door wide open.
Do elves play with food?
Absolutely, these elf on the shelf ideas use food or candy for an easy set up for the grown-ups and lots of fun for the kids.
- Deliver donuts from the North Pole, be sure to make elf sized doughnuts out of Cheerios. You can spread some icing on top and add a few sprinkles for a fun mini doughnut.
- Build a snowman out of marshmallows. Glue mini marshmallows to a piece of paper. You can even leave a note on the paper.
- Make a small bowl of blue jello, place goldfish crackers or gummy fish in the bowl. Make a fishing pole for your elf out of a pencil, string and a paperclip and send your elf and some of his best pals on a late night fishing excursion.
- Candy Cane Trail, follow the candy cane arrows to find a treat from your elf. It could be a new book, board game, or even a nice baked treat.
- Leave out elf kisses for the kids, wrap up chocolate chips in foil with a tiny piece of paper coming out to resemble a Hershey kiss.
- Make a family Christmas tree farm – Your elf will leave a box of sugar ice cream cones, icing, green food coloring and sprinkles.
- Cookie Decorator – Leave sugar cookies and frosting out for the elf to decorate cookies.
- Smarty Pants – Fill a bowl with smarties and have the elf hold a sign that says “It’s Smart to be Good All Year”.
- Cookies aren’t just for Santa, elves like a cold glass of milk and cookies just as much.
- Plant magic seeds in a pot, leave a note to water for three days. On the third day secretly place lollipops in the pot.
Games Elves Play
It doesn’t take a house full of games to set up some game situations with your elf. These elf on the shelf ideas make it look like your elf is challenging your child(ren) to a game.
- Elves are gamers, set the elf up in front of your computer or gaming console and have a game ready to go.
- Set up a tic tac toe game with your elf and another stuffed friend. Write x’s and o’s on marshmallows and make the board out of candy canes. Even if you don’t have a marshmallows we have seen our readers create tic tac toe boards from string, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, candy and then use candy, coins, and other small items as the pieces. But even if all you have is a pen and paper that works too.
- Elf Olympics – The elves on the north pole loved watching the Olympics. Recreate them at your house by having paper sack races, candy cane long jump, and peppermint parallel bars.
- Tug o’ War – Looks like Barbie and the gang want to challenge the elf to a tug o war match.
- Scavenger hunt for snowflakes, make some paper snowflakes and hide them around the house, when you get to the final flake it will be taped to a new snowglobe.
- Nerf Gun Battle, get out kids Nerf guns place some darts around elf and across the room have another toy with darts around him shooting back toward your elf.
- Got Uno or a deck of cards? Set the elf up playing a card game with other toy figures leaving a spot for your child.
- Dust off that board game your child hasn’t played in a while. Take the same idea as the card game but this time use it for that board game.
- Elves have moves! Using the real Twister game or a mini Twister board you make show how flexible your elf can be by placing it in a silly position.
- Break out the pen and paper. With just a little effort your elf can challenge your child to a game of Hangman or the box game.
- Hide and seek can be a great game and is somewhat easy when you’re elf-ed out. Just rotate rooms or spaces where your child is likely to be and hide your elf. Cups, bins, between books, peeking out of drawers, all make great hiding spaces.
Crafty Elf on the Shelf Ideas
With a little bit of effort and items you likely have around the house, you can make your elf look crafty during their Christmas visits.
- Could your elf be the next Picasso? Lay a few crayons next to the elf and draw a picture of your family. You can even personalize the page and have your elf sign their name to it.
- Surprise your family with a new gingerbread house kit from your elf. Have your elf open the kit and set up a few bowls with extra candy, sprinkles, and icing.
- Knit a new hat or gloves, give your elf a ball of yarn and some knitting needles and watch the magic happen as a new pair of gloves appears next to your elf for each of your kids.
- Turn the car into a reindeer, put a red pom pom on the front and some cardboard antlers. The kids will giggle in delight.
- Create a winter scene using items from around the house or the local dollar store.
- Elves like to Make People Smile – Leave crayons and paper out with a note telling the kids to make cards to send to the troops or local senior center.
- Rainbow Loom – Have the elf make a tiny bracelet and then throw the looms all over the table.
- Paper Chain Fun, place the scissors, glue, and a small paper chain next to your elf.
Potty Humor from an Elf
There’s just something about elf shenanigans happening in the bathroom that make them extra funny. Enjoy these Elf on the Shelf ideas that can be applied to the bathroom.
- Silly messages on the mirror. With a package of window markers you can leave silly messages on the bathroom mirror.
- Elves have good hygiene, place your elf in the bathroom holding a toothbrush getting ready to give brighten up those pearly whites.
- At my house, our elf always seems to find something to do in the bathroom. This year he sent me a note asking that I get a roll of wrapping paper because he wants to wrap up the entire toilet bowl, silly elf.
- Ho Ho Ho, Who’s Gotta Go – Leave a silly note on the toilet lid.
- Bathtime – Fill the bath tub with pink balloons.
- Caution Tape Elf, put a crepe paper barricade up on the bathroom door that the kids have to break through.
- Elves forget to flush sometimes, place elf on the toilet and put a few drops of green food coloring in the water.
- Take a snowball bath in the bathroom sink with cotton balls or marshmallows and your child’s favorite tub toy.
Allow your Elf a Joy Ride
Create a swing. Take off on a flight. Get behind the wheel of a toy car. An elf on a joy ride makes everyone happy. These ideas don’t have to be too difficult either.
- Off roading elf- Place your elf in a monster truck and have him drive over some potato ramps, or line up a group of matchbox cars for the Monster Elf Truck to “Smash”.
- Hot air balloon ride. Make a basket out of a plastic cup, attach a few balloons to the basket and send your elf up, up and away to the top of your ceiling.
- Elf Airways, make paper airplanes and fly all over the house.
- Swing on in – Make a swing out of a toilet paper roll or candy cane, hang from child’s door or ceiling fan.
- Nasa Elf – Send your elf where no elf has gone before in a paper rocket ship.
- Test Drive, place elf on a remote control car and take him out for a spin.
- Stinky Sleigh Ride, have elf sit inside a shoe holding laces as if he were going on a sleigh ride down sock mountain.
- Sledding Elf – Fill a box with packing peanuts, make a hill with the peanuts. Have your elf go down the hill on a candy cane sled.
Christmas Decor with an Elf’s Touch
The Christmas tree, lights, and decor all create more ways to have fun with your elf on the shelf.
- Your elf wanted to do a little holiday decorating of his/her own. Spread crepe paper all over the floor of your living room, have the elf sitting in the middle of it with tape and some paper snowflakes ready to hang up.
- Glow Bracelet Garland. Your local dollar store or Five Below should sell tubes of glow sticks. You could buy a tube or two and make a chain of glow sticks to hang on your Christmas tree.
- Remember we told you earlier Elves love to decorate, hang a strand of Christmas lights across the kid’s bedroom.
- Place your kiddos socks and underwear as ornaments on the tree.
- Tangle up your elf in the lights.
- A Christmas tree makeover, one roll of toilet paper can go quite a long way.
- Have your elf redecorate your tree shifting all the ornaments to one side or undecorate one area of the tree.
Our kids love helping us decorate the Christmas tree each year. As a last-minute idea for their Elf last year, we had him rearrange the decorations (enough so the kids would be able to tell) and then hid the Elf inside the tree. It was probably the most time-consuming reveal we’ve ever done. It took them most of the day to finally notice the tree was different and to find him in it. Kudos to my daughter for finally noticing. If you want to try this one, make the redecoration obvious.James Green, Owner, Cardboard Cutouts
- Popcorn, beads, cereal, marshmallows, elves can create garland for around the tree.
- Angel Elves – Put the elf on the top of the tree.
More Christmas help from the Elf on the Shelf
There are a few more ways an elf can ‘help’ with the Christmas chores.
- Have your elf address some of this year’s Christmas cards.
- An elf can help display the Christmas cards your family gets in the mail.
- While the kids are at school wrap up their bed, their dresser or even the Christmas tree.
- Hang bows and snowflakes all over the kitchen, your child’s bedroom door, or someplace different.
- Hugs & Kisses, hang a mistletoe in the doorway and scatter Hershey Hugs & Kisses on the ground.
- Elves ‘wrap’. Have your elf get tangled up in tags, bows, tape, ribbon, or wrapping paper as they try and help wrap the gifts.
- Stinky Stockings- Hang socks and underwear from the mantle or windowsill.
- Walking down candy cane lane, have your elf hold a bunch of candy canes and decorate around your house with a few boxes of candy canes as well.
An Elf and Friends
Your child likely has other toys besides the elf. Action figures, dolls, mini Lego figures, stuffed animals can all get in on the fun with these Elf on the Shelf ideas.
- Do you have a girl elf? She needs a sleepover party. Set up your elf and a couple of her closest Barbie and princess friends on the couch. Make sure to have their favorite princess movie on the TV, some makeup and nail polish nearby, and a yummy treat like a few mini Hershey bars.
- Crowd Surfer – The little pet shops and green army men have decided they had enough of that elf and are hoisting the elf over their head and out the door.
- Elves like new friends – Have your elf bring a friend to visit one night, ours brought a Grinch that now lives in our refrigerator.
- Elves get lonely too, have your elf go on a playdate with your daughter’s Barbie or your son’s Transformer collection. I bet they will have a great night.
Encourage Reading with your Elf
One of the reasons families love the elf is the elf’s ability to encourage good behaviors in our children. Why not have your elf help grow a child’s love for reading?
- Position your elf to be searching the library or bookstore’s website for books to read.
- Have your elf holding your child’s library card and a bag ready to go to the library to check out books.
- If you do the idea above the next night the elf can be back with books to read.
- Reading Rainbow, set up a stack of your child’s favorite books and have your elf reading them.
- Elf storytime – Have your elf reading to other toy friends.
- Wishlist – An elf can create a list of books on their Christmas wish list.
- Book delivery – Wrap books that your elf can deliver.
Who couldn’t use a little elf fun during homework time?
- Hide and seek, have your elf hide in the space your child does homework.
- Position your elf with a pencil sharpener and pencils helping your child get ready to do schoolwork. If your child’s schoolwork is mostly online your elf can make sure your child is remembering to recharge their Chromebook or other devices.
- Practice makes perfect. Set your elf up with flashcards your child uses or a worksheet to practice certain skills.
- Give your elf a mini quiz to complete. It could be filled with questions about the North Pole, elf history, silly word problems, etc.
- Prepare your elf for a school day. Position the elf near your child’s lunchbox or bookbag as if your elf wanted to go to school too.
Inspire giving and helping with these Elf on the Shelf ideas.
- Elves can write thank you letters to members of our military.
- Have your elf gather some nonperishable food for a local food drive.
- Make sure your elf is cleaning up messes that it’s created.
- Can your elf help your child get ready for the school day or bedtime? Work your elf into that routine.
- From Derek Capo of Starquix, “The elf can perform good deeds, like leaving water for a thirsty reindeer or dusting off a shelf.”
- From Christen Costa, CEO of Gadget Review, “One great way to make Elf on a Shelf fun AND useful is to hide the elf in places that encourage children to do their daily chores. For example, hide the elf in a toy cabinet or toybox so your child will find it when they clean their room. This adds a little fun to tasks and makes it easier to keep kids motivated during the holidays.”
Elf and the Family Pet
As we mentioned earlier having extra characters in the house help with the Elf on the Shelf ideas. Earlier those characters were toys, but your family pet is also a character your elf can interact with.
- Position your elf feeding your pet.
- Do you have a cat or dog that needs its fur brushed? Elves can help ‘sort of’. Pose your elf holding the brush.
- Treat time – Have your elf bring back a special treat, from the North Pole, for the family pet.
- Have a family dog? Have your elf holding on to the leash as if it wants to take the elf for a walk.
- Poop Patrol – While your elf can’t actually pick up after the dog, it can be positioned holding the bag or shovel.
- Don’t have a pet? Use this idea from Troy Portillo, Director of Operations of Studypool, “My partner is extremely crafty, and had the idea two years ago to give our family’s Elf on the Shelf a pet cat and a pet dog. They are just made out of felt, but they are the cutest little things. I look forward to coming up with new places and activities for the pets to do more so than I do the actual elf. We leave treats out for the cat and pup, and really get a kick out of placing them in very non-pet friendly circumstances – like in the fridge or bathtub!”
A Member of the family
Whether your elf has been a part of your family for years or is a new addition make it feel like a part of the family with these Elf on the Shelf ideas.
- Give your elf a home. A shoebox, Lego structure, gingerbread house, or some other structure can be a temporary home during your elf’s yearly visits.
Cat in the Box sent us this Cardboard Gingerbread Cat Playhouse Kit. It provides a large home for your elf/elves. Plus it can be an activity for your elf. Included with the playhouse are stickers to decorate the house: candy canes, peppermints, gum drops, and more. Your child can also help to decorate it using the same stickers, crayons, or markers.
- I’ve been framed, print out a picture of your elf and hang it up with other family photos.
- Set a place at the table for your elf to eat a meal with the family.
- Family Movie Night – Got a stack of DVDs? Let your elf choose the movie of the night? No DVD’s, your elf can get the snacks ready or give your elf their own bowl of popcorn.
- Road Trip – Give your elf a map or brochures for travel destinations. Where does your elf want to go?
Outdoor fun brought indoors
Your backyard can provide another wonderful elf setting for fun ideas and shenanigans. But if your child isn’t likely to notice the elf outside or you’d prefer to not expose your elf to the outdoors try these outdoor-inspired Elf on the Shelf ideas.
- Elves tend to miss the North Pole, why not recreate it for them in your house. Make a nice salt mound sledding hill, put up a candy cane fence and build a cotton snowman. Your elf will have so much fun sledding down the hill all night.
- Touchdown! – Make a football jersey and goal post for your elf to practice field goals.
- Camping out, place some mini marshmallows around the elf and have him roasting one over a non-lit candle. You could even make him a felt sleeping bag or tent.\
- You’re a mean one Mr. Grinch, have your elf have an indoor snowball fight with the Grinch.
- If you’ve got some time, you can create a mini playground or nature trail to pretend your elf is playing outside or taking a nature hike.
- Lego or dollhouse accessories can be used to create backyard and outdoor settings like a pool party, backyard barbecue, or a game of soccer or something similar.
Your elf is Santa’s eyes, keeping a watch on your child, while also bringing joy. Sometimes we need a break from elf antics or sometimes we need Santa to get a message to our child. Or maybe your child wants to communicate with Santa. Set your elf up to help pass along messages from your home to the North pole.
- Create a report card from Santa. How would Santa grade your child on certain behaviors?
- We always hear about our children’s Christmas lists but what does the elf want for Christmas? Have your elf write a letter to Santa.
- Have your elf deliver a special message about an upcoming adventure or trip your family is taking.
- You’ve Got Mail- Create an email account for Santa and have your elf check in.
- Keep the magic alive, write a letter from your elf telling your kids about their behavior whether good or bad.
- If your child is acting up have your elf bring back a letter from Santa warning that if their behavior doesn’t change they will be put on the naughty list.
- Caught you being good. Did your child do something extra nice or special? Have Santa or your elf send a letter describing what happened and why that makes you proud.
- Chalkboards, magnet letters, light up boards, dry erase boards, use them to your advantage when leaving messages from your elf or Santa.
Daring Elf on the Shelf Ideas
How brave are you? Here are some Elf on the Shelf ideas that take courage, skill, and sometimes some sneakiness.
- If you have a tween or teen in the house then you are probably familiar with the latest teen heartthrobs. Get a copy of one of their posters, and have your elf posing with it and a microphone. If you really want to have some fun have your iTunes open playing their new single. This will be sure to bring a smile to your teenagers face when they see the elf loves to have fun with the whole family.
- Rudolph the red-nosed children. If your child isn’t a light sleeper you could paint a red dot on their noses while sleeping. Leave a note and arrows pointing to the bathroom mirror. Sit your elf on the sink with the paint and the brush.
- Been caught texting. Place your cell phone in your elf’s hands. Be sure to add Santa to your contact list, so your elf can text him about how much fun they are having with your family.
- Take your elf shopping. While the kids are at school take your elf for a trip to the mall. Take a few photos of him on the quarter rides, having a drink in the food court, trying on sunglasses at the Children’s Place etc. Print the photos out and leave them for the kids to find showing what kinds of silly things the elf got into at the mall. Who knows maybe he even decided to bring them home a little something from the mall.
- Elf Pedicures – When your child is sleeping paint their nails red and green (if they are a sound sleeper).
- Get a selfie of your child with their elf. Have the picture positioned where your child can see the image in the morning.
- Sometimes all the shenanigans gets an elf into a sticky situation. Use bubble gum, glue, marshmallows, or something ‘sticky’ to show your elf in trouble.
For the really daring
Tabitha Bailar, author/owner of Travel Compositions is definitely braver than me. Here are some of her ‘burnt’ Elf on the Shelf ideas.
Get a second/used elf. Burn off tips to give a singed look. Use black eyeshadow to powder face to look burned.
- Elf’s hand is stuck in light socket and holding on to Christmas tree lights with the other hand, trying to plug/unplug Christmas tree.
- Set elf up by fireplace holding kindling or a fireplace tool…elf got too close to the fire.
- It was elf’s birthday, he blew the candle out on his cupcake and it exploded in his face.
- Elf tried replacing a lightbulb and got zapped.
- Someone tried to bake elf in the oven or microwave.
- Elf tried roasting marshmallows by the fire/gas stove/outdoor fireplace and toasted himself instead.
- Elf is learning chemistry and mixed the wrong chemicals together and it went poof!
More Elf on the Shelf Ideas
- Put your elf on an actual shelf.
- Ninja Elf. Wrap your elf up in some black ribbon. Only have their eyes peeking out. Elves love to play dress up.
- Rudolph Takeover – Place red paper noses and antlers on family photos.
- Workout Elf – Make a yoga mat out of felt, weights out of marshmallows or lifesaver and lollipop sticks, and put the elf in a yoga position.
- Polar Express Party – Leave a golden ticket and sleigh bells around the house inviting the kids to a special showing of the Polar Express in your living room.
- Super Stack – Make a plastic cup tower.
- Inspiring elf, place a new book or a notepad next to the Elf for child to read or write a list of what they are thankful for.
- Late night tv time, place elf on a chair with remote control, some popcorn and Disney Channel on.
- Crime Fighting Elf, Make a small cape and mask out of construction paper and dress up your elf as a superhero.
- One Elf Band, put the elf on the kitchen floor with pots and pans and wooden spoons add some instruments if you have them.
- Social Media Elf, Create a Facebook page for your elf don’t forget to invite other elves.
- Lights, Camera, Action have your elf make a video on ElfYourself.com the kids will get a kick out of it.
Need convincing to get an Elf on the Shelf?
Head over to read our 5 Ways to use the Elf on the Shelf to Improve Behavior.
Need an Elf on the Shelf?
Amazon has a great collection of Elf on Shelf elves to help you put to use some of these Elf on the Shelf ideas.
- The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition with Blue Eyed North Pole Pixie-Elf
- The Elf on the Shelf – Girl Elf Edition with North Pole Blue Eyed Girl Elf and Girl-character themed Storybook
- The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition with Brown Eyed North Pole Elf,brown skin, black hair
- The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition with Blue Eyed North Pole Pixie-elf with Bonus “An Elf Story” DVD
- Pop In Kins Elf Pop-In-Kins Christopher Bookset
- Baby Elf on the Shelf in Bag
What kind of elfcapades does your elf get into?
We want to hear from you and see what your elf is up to. Comment below or tag us in your social media pictures on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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