When it comes to Elf on the Shelf, there are plenty of ideas to take advantage of for any age group. But when it comes to toddlers, things can get a bit tricky. While you may want to get intricate and go overboard, this is the age where your little one will appreciate the simple stuff just as much as the big stuff. You can actually take advantage of this stage when they're not as hard to impress with these easy Elf on the Shelf ideas for toddlers. It's also pretty tempting for a toddler to move or touch the elf (even though they're not supposed to or he'll lose his magic), so these ideas will also help keep your elf safe from tiny hands.
Whether you put out your Elf on the Shelf right before you head to bed or are prone to rush around in the morning to move them to their new spot, they key is to keep it easy and fun. Your toddler will be just as awestruck by a quick, stress-free idea that didn't take an hour to put together. As a matter of fact, just the idea that their elf moved in the night is probably half of the fun for them. So as you contemplate how to get through the Christmas season with your elf and a handsy toddler, check out some of these simple ideas.
1 Have Your Elf Make A Snow Angel Photo courtesy of Ashley Jones
When the little ones are fast asleep, find a baking tray or flat, hard surface to sprinkle some flour onto. Your family's elf can lay back and make a snow angel with their arms and legs. (With your help, of course.) Sugar also works really well for this idea and doesn’t stick to the elf’s clothes as much. If you're feeling brave, leave your elf in the snow so that they can get caught. But, if you know your toddler will not be able to restrain themselves from immediately grabbing the cute elf, prop them on a nearby shelf, where they can view their work of art from a safe distance.
2 Let Your Elf TP The Tree
If your toddler's at the stage where toilet paper often ends up all over the bathroom, clogging the toilet, you might be too scarred to pursue this idea. But if not, grab a spare roll of toilet paper and TP the Christmas tree. To keep the elf away from your kid, you can nestle it high in the tree where it’s totally out of their reach. When they wake up the next morning, you should get a pretty epic reaction from your toddler.
Warning: You should probably remind them
not to use the toilet paper to decorate the tree like Elf on the Shelf did. 3 Hang Your Elf From A Ceiling Fan
If you have a ceiling fan in your home, it's the perfect, too-high-to-reach place to put your elf when you have a toddler who isn’t great at keeping their hands off of the magical little creature. Whether the elf rests on one of the blades or hangs up there by some string, your toddler is sure to get a kick out of finding his elf up so high. A pair of undies can also be used to make a little hammock for your elf. If you're feeling extra, you can even turn the fan on a low setting for the ride of your elf's life (assuming he's secured on well enough).
4 Create Dry-Erase Chaos With Your Elf
For those who want to incorporate a bit of a naughty streak into their elf, simply find a photo, window, or glass surface and go to town with a dry erase marker. You can draw silly faces over people in a photo frame, write fun messages on window panes, or leave a note for your toddler on their bathroom mirror, all with a dry erase marker. Leave the evidence with your elf holding the marker up high somewhere nearby so that your toddler can see but can't reach them. When your little one finds it the next morning, they’ll have a good giggle.
5 Stick Your Elf In A Cereal Box Photo courtesy of Ashley Jones
If you happen to store your cereal boxes somewhere high like the top shelf of your pantry or on top of your refrigerator, they make a great hiding spot for your elf when you have toddlers. Put your elf in head first and they’ll look like they were rummaging around for a midnight snack. You’ll want to make sure to either use an empty box or pick a cereal that your toddler probably won’t want to eat, and also let the adults and older kids at home know that the box with the elf legs sticking out of it is off limits for the day.
6 Hang Your Elf By The Stockings With Care
As Christmas day inches closer and closer, decorations generally begin to fill your home a little more each day. (Or, your tree was up before Thanksgiving and you're just adding more and more by the day.) If your family decorates with stockings before Christmas day, your elf can easily use them to their advantage. Pick a stocking and simply ease your elf into it with their arms and head peeking out. This is a fun idea for families with multiple kids to take advantage of because your elf can move from stocking to stocking for several days in a row so that each kid gets a turn to see the elf in their own stocking.
7 Let Your Elf Have Fun With Other Toys
Your elf is likely the perfect size to interact with many of the toys that your toddler enjoys playing with on the regular. Whether it's Barbie, G.I. Joe, dinosaurs, cars, or whatever else you've stepped on in the last few days, you can gather them up and use them to set a up a fun scene that includes your Elf on the Shelf. They can sip on tea, sit in a dollhouse, play a board game, hang out in a circle, or be in the midst of an epic snowball fight in the kitchen like Woody and a scout elf here. The possibilities are endless.
8 Make A Candy Cane Swing
Another fun and adventurous, yet still simple, idea is to take a couple pieces of string and make a candy cane swing for your elf to sit on. All you have to do is loop a piece of string around each end of the candy cane and knot it. Then, tie the loose ends to cabinet hooks, a Christmas decoration, or a piece of furniture to make it look like your elf is enjoying their homemade swing. The best part is, there are endless places to put it out of reach of your toddler's curious hands. The next day, you could even leave the candy canes out for your kids to enjoy.
9 Trap Your Elf In A Glass Photo courtesy of Ashley Jones
This is an extremely simple idea for toddler parents to execute and it takes less than a minute. Turn a glass upside down and squish your elf inside. That’s literally it. Your glasses are probably already out of reach of your toddler, but even if they’re not, your toddler won’t be able to touch the elf through the glass anyway. The funniest part of this idea is that if you leave the glass in a cabinet, it will take a while for your kid to actually find the elf in the morning. It turns into a pretty fun scavenger hunt that will keep them entertained for a while.
10 Have A Generous Elf
During the holiday season, it seems there's always one gift I'd enjoy giving to my kids ahead of time. Often, it's a Christmas book or pajamas I know would be perfect to utilize in the days leading up to the holiday, or that my kids would enjoy using on Christmas Eve. There's no better way to deliver a pre-Christmas gift than to pretend that the elf brought it down from Santa himself while they were at the North Pole. This is the kind of special delivery that will make your toddler squeal with excitement. Plus, who doesn't love opening gifts early?
11 Quarantine Your Elf Photo courtesy of Ashley Jones
Take a page out of the 2020 playbook and let your
elf hang out in quarantine for a while. You don’t have to say that they have Covid, per se, but you can let your toddler know that the elf is sick and needs to rest a few days away from everyone so that they don’t spread any icky germs. (AKA a break for you!) A large mason jar works really well for this because then the elf can still be seen, but you could also use a box or rope off an area on a high shelf to make a “quarantine zone” for your elf. 12 Put Your Elf On A Literal Shelf
Is there actually an easier idea to execute than just putting your elf up on a high shelf? After all, that’s what the name of the whole concept is all about, so it makes perfect sense to do. Simply pick a shelf high enough where your toddler won’t be able to reach up and touch the elf, and set your elf up looking out over the room. Unless your tot decides to climb up on a stack of shoeboxes or drag a chair across the room (it happens!), the elf should be safe up there.
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This article was originally published on
Dec. 19, 2017