Have you found yourself here, looking for last minute Elf on the Shelf ideas? For many of the parents that I talk to, having to constantly come up with new creative Elf on the Shelf scenarios often adds to the Christmas stress. Even just remembering to do it every night can be a struggle.
Why don't we just go back to where it all started for a sec? You think this will be great. Let's start a fun little tradition with the kids. Only now you have to follow through with that tradition every year until… until the children have THAT realization.
I really can't even type what THAT is. I can't put IT out into the world and on the internet. THAT famous Christmas children's realization might jinx me if I do. I'm sure you know what I mean. And hey, kids are smart, I'm sure they'll drag this Elf reporting to Santa thing out as long as they can. At least a few more years than necessary.
Does that sound familiar? I actually love having that cheeky little character come back. Crazy huh? But yeah… I'm with you, it can get long in the tooth.
A Visual Merriment is reader-supported and this post may contain some product affiliate links. From these, I may receive a small commission if you choose to purchase. Read more about how affiliate links are handled in my Terms & Conditions.
Table of Contents
Help With Last Minute Elf on the Shelf ideas
I'm a last-minute kinda gal. I have every intention of planning and doing things ahead of time but it just never works out that way. Perhaps for you too? Sometimes it's a late night, a distracting one, or maybe a few too many drinks from the work Christmas party. Then at some point (very late), I realize I need to do an Elf thing again.
This is a selection of the simplest Elf shenanigans that our family Elf gets up to. They require minimal effort and are great at the last minute. Some may require a few toys and items that most people would typically have around the house. Each year I will update this post with more of the easier last minute Elf on the Shelf ideas that happen at our home.
If you are looking for more than what is here, I have written more on the Elfing topic, with additional antics ideas that you'll find here:
- What is Elf on the Shelf? A How-To Guide
- 32 Creative Reasons Your Elf Didn't Move Last Night
- 39 Easy + Creative Elf on the Shelf Ideas
- Free Printable Elf on the Shelf Prop Kit
In the name of Elf simplicity, I haven't included any last minute Elf on the Shelf ideas using my free printable props kit. The beauty of printables however, is that you can instantly download, print and cut them. This is an extra step however if you have time you should check those out (link above) as another option for your last minute Elf on the Shelf ideas!
Lastly, once you have some Elf antics ideas, you might want to go one step further in your planning and preparation. I sell a range of printable Christmas Elf planners and calendars to help you plan out and keep on top of your Elf shenanigans.
The Who on the What? But why?
Are you fresh into this whole “elf” thing? Are you where I was last year? To be honest, I was bewildered for a couple of years. I'd heard this phrase branded around mother's groups, school, and from all of the kids. But what was it and why oh why is everyone so obsessed with a Christmas doll?
Before we get into some last minute Elf on the Shelf ideas, here is a brief run down of exactly what you're in for. Each year Santa sends an elf to your home to watch over the children and ensure they are behaving. Every night the elf will return to the North Pole to report back to Santa on whether the kids were good or bad. Will the children make the nice or naughty list? Your elf will be back in time for your children to wake in the morning.
What do kids love so much about Elf on the Shelf? What will they be doing tomorrow when they wake up? Where will they be? Elves can be funny, adventurous, or just downright cute.
Your elf will return each year, typically within the last week of November to the 1st of December. But as stated in the official Elf Guidelines, not every elf is the same and they may not always return at the same time every year. Phew. They really saved my skin on that one!
Elf on the Shelf Rules
Let's not forget the rules;
- DO NOT TOUCH YOUR ELF. If a child touches their elf then they will lose their magic. Ah! We can't have that.
- Your elf will return to the North pole after Christmas. They must in order to help Santa to prepare for next year. Also to save parents' sanity.
Of course, you can make your own adaptations and rules to suit your family (I sure do!). Also, I think my kids have seen their Elf in a box in the garage. I just tell them that his magic doesn't work until Christmas. They seem good with that!
If you want to dive deeper into what Elf on the Shelf is, you can read my how-to guidelines on what Elfing actually is.
Okay, I've been rambling a bit, so let's get into it. Here are my easy last minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas. I hope you love them.
Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Using Toys
Fun Outdoor Last Minute Elf on the Shelf idea
I have play equipment with a slide in the backyard so I put our elf at the top of the slide. You could put your elf on any play equipment, trampoline, cubby house, etc.
Elf vs Toys Battle
This is a great one that the boys especially will love. Grab all of their police or hero toys to put on a police chase. My kids had a Batmobile that was perfect for the toy battle. Our elf stole the car and the local authorities (including Buzz Lightyear) were on his case! If you have girls, you could also use dolls and Barbies for this simple Elf on the Shelf idea.
Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Idea with Games
My youngest boy loves his Pop Up Pirate game. So it was easy. I just positioned our elf playing the game and he loved it. You could use any game that you have at home for this idea.
Elf Gets Stuck Under a Bike
What kid doesn't have a bike (scooter, or similar)?! Simply place your elf under the wheel and he's sorted. The kids will get a laugh from this for sure with this easy Elf on the Shelf idea.
Elf digging in the dirt
This is such a cute idea for the boys. If you have boys then you'll undoubtedly have a digger, dump truck or something similar at hand. I sat our elf in this loader within an indoor pot plant. Just another cheeky example of that Elf on the Shelf pushing the boundaries!
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. If you have an extra minute to spare, cut a mat from a piece of paper for your Elf to lay on.
Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas With Everyday Items
Elf Pulling Down Christmas Tree Star (Arrival Idea)
Okay, so a Christmas tree star is only an everyday item during Christmas, so please don't get me on a technicality with that one. If you use an angel this idea would work for that too. Even any type of Christmas decoration.
Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Snow Angel
This idea is easy as you're likely to have everything you need at hand. To avoid the mess I sprinkled some baking flour onto a baking tray and then our elf made a snow angel. What a cheeky elf, getting into Mum's baking ingredients!
Super Easy Elf on the Shelf Idea: Movie Time!
I loved this Elf display for something quick and easy, I always have popcorn on hand for snack time. I just popped some in a container, placed it next to the Elf along with the remote, and it was sorted.
It's an Elf Party!
It doesn't get easier than this. Clearly, you have children if you're reading this article. Grab their plushies and soft teddies, place them all together with your elf and you have a party! This has to be one of the easiest last minute Elf on the Shelf ideas ever. To really get the party started, if you have any party props like streamers, party poppers, balloons, curling ribbon, glitter, etc. place them with the party guests.
Mission Impossible Easy Elf on the Shelf Idea
Okay, if you don't have string, rope, twine, gift ribbon etc then this won't work for you. This is such an easy idea for your Elf. Tie him (or her) with some rope from the ceiling. Then, Mission Impossible style your elf into your home.
Elf looking for love
So so simple. This truly is an easy last minute Elf on the Shelf idea! I simply sat my elf in front of the laptop, after he had googled “girl elf on the shelf” in Google images. You can do the same for an ipad/tablet or phone too.
The classic Elf on the Shelf… Driving
In this picture, I have our Elf driving the car. I feel like I could really go a lot further with this one. With a kiddo on the spectrum who (obsessively) loves, love loves cars, I'll be setting myself the challenge of making more car-related Elf on the Shelf ideas next time!
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. Many parents have popcorn in the house so this could be an easy one for you too!
Magic Invisible Ink Letter
Our Elf used a gold pen (since they're more magical than others) and some black card to write this letter. You wouldn't need to go to that extent, just use what you have on hand. The idea is to write a letter that only the kids can read. Within the letter, the Elf tells them their parents will be doing something special for them. Since I was under Elf magic I had no idea and made my children pancakes and ice cream for dinner that night. My boys really loved this concept!
Ribbon Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Idea
Okay, so I called this ‘locking my children in' but you don't have to! I used crepe paper and blue-tac it to the door frame but you could use any type of ribbon or string.
I hope you got some great last minute Elf on the Shelf ideas. Be sure to bookmark this page so that you can check back again next year for new ideas. I'd love to see your Elf shenanigans, tag me @avisualmerriment on Instagram or Facebook and I'll check them out!
Other resources you may like:
FREEBIE: Christmas Elf Printable Prop Kit
FREEBIE: Santa Beard Craft + Free Template
ARTICLE: What is Elf on the Shelf? A How-To Guide
ARTICLE: 32 Reasons Elf on the Shelf Didn't Move Last Night
SHOP: Printable Christmas Elf planners and calendars