It can be difficult coming up with creative Elf on the Shelf ideas day after day, year after year! I have created this list of all of the antics our family elf gets up to. I'll be updating it each year so be sure to check back again next year.
Before we get started, if you're fresh to Elf on the Shelf, you might also want to check out my article What is Elf on the Shelf? This is a guide to get you started on your magical Christmas Elf journey!
As you go through these ideas, you'll see that I have used printables for some things. Some of these printables I sell in my shop. However, most of the props are actually available in the free printable Elf accessory kit. So be sure to grab that. If you downloaded last year's kit then you'll need to download it again as I add more cool printables to it each year.
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Table of Contents
Creative Elf on the Shelf Arrival Ideas
I'm Back! Jumping Out Of Gift Box
A fun arrival idea is to cut a hole in a box and then gift wrap it. Poke a hole in the wrapping and place your Elf in the box. For this idea, I also included a printable ‘I'm Back' customized letter with the kid's names, signed by our Elf (Steve). You can also use a ‘Hello' customized letter if it is your Elf's very first arrival. Alternatively, easily make your own letter or add a special message to a letter board.
Mission Impossible Elf on the Shelf Idea
Have some string and a vent in the ceiling? Mission Impossible style is a particularly great idea for Elf arrivals and departures. You could also attach your own I'm Back or Hello sign. You can find a printable sign or download the free one in my Christmas Elf kit from the Printables Library.
Elf Pulling Down Star From Christmas Tree
This arrival idea would also work as a goodbye Elf on the Shelf idea. I love the Elf pulling down the star as it truly is a super simple last-minute idea yet still a little mischievous!
I'm Back Swinging From Tinsel Vine
Steve got dressed up in a sparkly costume and then decided to go careening down some tinsel. I tied the tinsel between a couple of columns but there are plenty of ways you could attach tinsel elsewhere (this article on hanging party decorations may give you some ideas on how to attach items temporarily). You'll find the ‘I'm Back' sign in the free printable Christmas Elf accessories kit. I attached the sign to a popstick.
Elf on the Shelf Mischievous Ideas
Elf on the Shelf Sneaks in Some Popcorn
Our Elf got into the pantry overnight and made a mess making some microwave popcorn – it went everywhere.
Steve the Elf found my dry-erase marker and made some Santa hats from paper. He decorated the family photos with the hats and drew all over everybody's faces! You can find the template I used for these hats in the free printable Elf accessory kit.
Elf Pee Lemonade Stand
This is such classic cheeky Elf mischief! The lemonade sign is available in the free printable Elf accessory kit. I used little plastic shot glasses and then filled them with water and a drop of yellow food colouring. Speaking of water… judging by the colour of that pee, our Elf is dehydrated and in need of some H2O!
Elf Butt Photocopies
If you have a photocopier at home, this is an easy one that the kids will love. Take a photocopy of your Elf's backside first, then place it on top as though they've been caught in the act.
Elf Suffers from the Perils of Swallowing Bubblegum
One of the kids must have left some bubblegum out and Steve ate way too much. I'm always telling the kids not to swallow their bubblegum! The bubblebum bubble is just a balloon.
Toilet Paper Snowman Chop
Who remembers when toilet paper was scarce? It wasn't that long ago and our Elf decided to have some fun with the rolls we had! Using black and orange markers, I drew a snowman face on one roll and buttons on the other two rolls. To ‘chop' the snowman's head I put a paper axe in our Elf's hand. You'll find it in the free printable Elf accessory kit.
Elf on the Shelf Makes Breakfast
I'm pretty sure I had a whole stack of clean bowls yet our Christmas Elf insisted on making cereal for the kids in their shoes. You can download the breakfast sign in the free printable Elf accessory kit.
Elf on the Shelf Leaves a Jar of Poop
I think this was one of the first antics our Elf got up to – he knew my boys would find it hilarious. Even as a grown woman, toilet humour still gets me every time haha. I used chocolate Malteasers for the ‘poop'. You can then write a sign or download the one I used here in the free printable Elf accessory kit. I attached the sign to a pop stick and then sat Steve and his ‘poop' on the toilet for the kids to find him. I've also seen this done with reindeer poop.
‘Lock' the Kids in Their Bedrooms
Grab some crepe paper and blue-tac it to the door frame… Steve the Elf is quietly sniggering to himself down there!
Elf on the Shelf Snow Angel
That cheeky Elf has gotten into the cooking flour and had a great time making a mess!
Elf on the Shelf Gift Wraps the Kitchen
Oh no! The Elf has found a stash of Christmas gift wrap! This idea was fun that my boys loved – it makes such an impact as there is just so much of it. You could even go further in decorating cupboards, hanging wrapping from the ceiling etc.
Fun Christmas Elf Ideas the Kids Will Love
Elf Plays The Floor is Lava
I've seen this one done a few times. The Floor is Lava is a children's game and a game show if you weren't aware. To keep in with the Christmassy feel, I put red tinsel under the tree for lava. Then I used wire Christmas bauble hooks to hang Steve from the tree. The key to this idea is a sign otherwise the kids might not know what it is! This ‘floor is lava' sign is available in the free printable Elf accessories kit.
Elf on the Shelf Has Been Captured by Lego Mini Figures
I'm forever stepping on Lego which is when this idea came to me. The hardest part was rounding up all of the minifigs since my kids can never keep them all organised (pretty sure that's most kids though!).
Magic Invisible Ink Letter
Even whilst I'm writing this, my youngest is looking over my shoulder (I'm being careful that he's not reading everything!). He still finds it amusing that I cannot read the letter that Steve wrote last year. Even though I can't read it, I still took a photo of it. You could use this concept to create any type of treat or reward. I think my kids really liked this one, it gave them a special power over me! I simply used a gold pen (since they're more magical) on black card.
Elf on the Shelf Goes Digging
If you have boys then you'll likely have a large range of construction and machinery toys. Our Elf decided to start digging up my pot plant. You could also put your Elf in a garden bed outside.
Batman + Elf Playing Naughts and Crosses
For this idea, I stuck some washi tape to my kitchen splashback then reused gift wrapping bows for the naughts and crosses. Make it more fun by using your child's favourite toy. In this example I used Batman and he had stolen our Elf's hat for some added cheekiness.
Elf Gets Squished by a Bike
Okay, I think I was struggling with this one then it just came to me. So simple and easy. I think my other son was disappointed the Elf wasn't squished by his bike though, so watch out for that if you have multiples!
Toys vs. Elf Battle
I collected all of the police and army vehicles I could find (superheroes work well for this too). Then they chased down our Elf who had stolen Batman's Bat Mobile.
Elf on the Shelf Looks for a Soul Mate
We found our Elf had Googled the phrase ‘girl elf on the shelf', looking for love on my computer. This is such an easy one, and a great idea if you're thinking of introducing another Elf to the family. Your Elf doesn't need to be looking for love, perhaps they're just looking for a friend or a pet?
Cute Creative Elf on the Shelf Ideas
Elf Brings Back Melted Snowman from the North Pole
If you've been around searching for Elf on the Shelf ideas, you've likely seen this one! It's just so sweet that I had to do it for my boys. I simply filled up a bowl of water and then stuck a carrot, small twigs, buttons and googly eyes in there. You can write your own sign or download the one I used from the free printable Elf accessory kit.
Elf Mechanic to the Rescue
In a house full of boys, there is no shortage of cars, trucks and tools. We woke to find our Elf under a jeep fixing it with some plastic tools. I cut out a piece of paper as the mat for him to lay on and used Nerf gun darts to prop the jeep up.
Warm + Toasty Elf
Okay, I couldn't decide whether this was just too darn cute to be mischievous or not. Who doesn't love a good pun or dad joke? You can use the same ‘It was cold outside, now I'm warm and toasty' sign from the free printable Elf accessories kit.
Elf on the Shelf Roasts Marshmallows Whilst Camping
If you're an outdoorsy camping family, this one is a must! I cut Steve's tent from some wrapping paper and popped him into a sleeping bag (you can find a similar sleeping bag here). You could also use a piece of fabric or make a paper envelope to put your Elf into. I used a twist tie to attach a stick to Steve's hand with a mini marshmallow on the end. Then sprinkle some more mini marshmallows and a candle or tea light and you've got a campfire!
Elf Twister Game
Okay, this one isn't as difficult as it looks, if only you'd grab my free printable elf twister. You can of course make you're own with some markers. If you have more than one elf this would be a great idea for them to play the game together.
Elf Searches the Couch
Perhaps he's cleaning?! Or showing the children how much of their junk is left in the couch! This is a great last-minute Elf on the Shelf idea. You'll likely just be able to stick your hand into the couch and pull out all that you need.
Elf Plays Popup Pirate
The Popup Pirate game was my youngest's favourite game at the time. He loved seeing Steve enjoy playing too. You could do this for any children's game or board game too.
Elf on the Shelf Watches a Movie
Sitting Elf on the sofa with the remote wasn't quite enough for this one. Add a bowl of popcorn (or your favourite movie treat) so they can stay up all night watching movies while everyone is asleep.
Elf Goes Driving
You could turn this one into something more sinister – perhaps Elf is trying to steal Mum/Dad's car?! I think the hardest part was making sure our Elf peeked over the steering wheel. Oh, and it took the kids forever to look in the garage too haha.
Elf Plays on a Slide
I mean, does it get any easier than this? Most children have some sort of play equipment either indoors or out. Elf playing on the slide was nice and simple.
Elf on the Shelf Goes Ribbon Rock Climbing
Use some gift-wrapping bows to help your Elf go climbing. I attached mine to the side of the cabinet so they wouldn't ruin the wall. You could also use a door. If you use larger bows, you might be able to sit your Elf's hands and feet inside the bow loops.
Serious Elf on the Shelf Matters
I've Been Touched Elf Recovery
The touch of an Elf is a serious matter which is why this is included in the SERIOUS IDEAS section (in my head I said that in a slow, deep and gloomy voice). If your elf is accidentally touched they will need to stay at the North Pole to recover. I made this editable sign so that you could put your own conditions in it if you like. You might want to specify a time frame. I also recently made these sweet magic Elf dust recovery tags that aid in Elf recovery.
Elf Report Card
You can tell this is a serious Elf idea since our Elf is wearing glasses (I made the glasses from a pipe cleaner). These report cards are a good idea to let kids know they're on track. Or if the children are getting unruly, you can use them as a gentle reminder that their Elf is watching and reporting to Santa. There's still time to get back on track!
Goodbye Creative Elf on the Shelf Ideas
Toy Cars Lined Up At the Door
My kids have a crazy amount of Matchbox cars so I had to use that to my advantage. Their Elf was on his way out of the door in a sleigh with a goodbye sign. You can make a ‘See ‘ya next year!' sign and attach it to a popstick. Or you can download this one in the free printable Christmas Elf accessory kit. I also decided to confirm with the kids they were on The Nice List with some printable certified Nice List certificates from Santa.
Christmas Elf + Plushie Farewell Party
Grab all your favourite toys and plushies for a party! Our Elf threw a party when the kids returned from a night away but this could be a farewell idea too. I used some streamers and party poppers. You could throw in any leftover party supplies that you have – balloons would be great or any type of banner, printable signs or personalised letters etc.
Elf on the Shelf Goodbye Note
Okay so by this stage, everybody is a little tired and the creative Elf ideas are running low! As part of the free printable Elf accessory kit, I created this editable Goodbye Letter. You can change the children's names and the Elf name.
What To Do When The Elf Doesn't Move
It's okay, it happens to many of us! Life is hectic, especially at Christmas time. The last thing you want to do is disappoint the kids and break their little hearts. Don't stress though, I've got you. Simply head over to 32 reasons Elf on the Shelf didn't move to pick whichever excuse sounds best for your family. There's bound to be one that you can use and the magic of Christmas will be saved!
I hope you get some great inspiration from our Elf, Steve. I know so many parents dread (but also love) this adorable Elf. I think the key to things going smoothly is being just a little prepared. It doesn't need to be something you spend a lot of time on. Maybe even at the start of the week, scroll Pinterest (or this article!) for some ideas.
If you want to go another step you definitely have to check out the range of printable Christmas Elf planners and calendars (below). I made these to help keep you… okay both of us, on track. I've not seen anything quite as extensive anywhere else as yet. This range includes printables such as editable calendars where you can upload image inspiration, shopping and supply lists, planning for DIY Elf projects, regular Elf project ideas and more.
Other resources you may like:
FREEBIE: Christmas Elf Printable Accessories Kit
FREEBIE: DIY Santa Beard Craft for Kids (free printable template)
ARTICLE: 21 Last-Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas
ARTICLE: 32 Reasons Your Elf Didn't Move Last Night
SHOP: Printable Christmas Elf Planners + Calendars
SHOP: Printable Christmas Elf Accessory Bundles