an Elf on the Shelf doll with a basket of packages
35 Elf On The Shelf Ideas You Can Actually Pull Off In Under 5 Minutes

For real.

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Christmas is right around the corner, which for parents means one thing: the Elf on the Shelf is officially back in town. I'm consistently blown away by the photos my mom friends share on social media. Seriously, it seems like each year, everyone gets more creative with their North Pole visitor. If you're looking for fresh ideas for your family's Elf, here are 30 easy Elf On The Shelf ideas you can pull off in five minutes or less (so you can be one of those creative moms, too).

If this is your first year participating in the glorious tradition that is Elf on the Shelf, here's a little background. "The magical Scout Elves help Santa manage his naughty and nice lists by taking note of a family’s Christmas adventures, and reporting back to Santa at the North Pole nightly," according to the official Elf on the Shelf website. "Each morning, the Scout Elf returns to its family and perches in a new spot, waiting for someone to spot them." The full tale of the Elf on the Shelf is explained in the book that comes with it, The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition. Each morning, your child awakens to find the family's personal elf in a new place, often doing something funny or mischievous.

Of course, it's up to the parents to come up with a brand new, brilliant spot for the elf each morning. That's where this list of easy Elf on the Shelf ideas comes in.


Sipping On Syrup

As Will Ferrell's character Buddy the Elf explained in the movie Elf, "We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup." Stick a straw in a bottle of maple syrup, and prop up your Elf to make it look like it's drinking straight from the bottle.


Napping In A Tissue Box

Traveling to and from the North Pole each night can get exhausting. Luckily, a standard tissue box doubles as the perfect bed for your Elf. Tuck them into an open tissue box (don't forget to fold up a fluffy tissue pillow) and let your kids discover their Elf resting peacefully after their long trip.


Raiding The Candy Jar


When everyone in the house is asleep, it's the perfect opportunity for your Elf to raid the candy jar. Lay them on your kitchen table or counter in a pile of candy – don't forget to take a few nibbles so it looks real. When your kids wake up, they'll find their Elf with a massive belly ache or in a sugar-induced coma... so it can also serve as a cautionary tale.


Chillin' In The Fridge

If your Elf is feeling a bit homesick for the North Pole, the refrigerator will help them feel right at home. Wrap them up in a dish towel "blanket," and prop them on a shelf in your fridge. They thrive in colder temperatures!


Making "Snow" Angels

Scatter sugar or sprinkles on your kitchen table or counter. Then, lay your Elf in the pile and carefully create the shape of a snow angel within it to create a sugar angel or a sprinkle angel.


Bungee Jumping From A Ceiling Fan

As it turns out, Elves are also major adrenaline junkies. Tie their feet together with a piece of string, and dangle them from a ceiling fan or light fixture. When your kids wake up, they'll find their Elf mid-bungee jump.


Roasting Marshmallows By A Candle

Set up an Elf-sized campfire. Poke a mini marshmallow onto a toothpick, and attach it to your Elf's hands. Then, prop them in front of a candle so they can roast their marshmallow to golden perfection.


Vandalizing Family Photos

This is one of my personal favorite ideas. Grab a dry erase marker, and "vandalize" a few of your framed family photographs (think mustaches, devil horns, and so on). Prop up your Elf nearby with the marker in their hands, so your children can catch the vandal red-handed.


Writing Cereal Messages

Write a message from your Elf to your child in their favorite cereal. Put the Elf in a cereal bowl with a spoon, and write something simple in front of the bowl. A short reminder, like "Be good," works perfectly.


Competing In A Sack Race

Who doesn't love some friendly competition? Take a few brown paper lunch sacks, and roll them down to make them look like potato sacks. Put your Elf in one of them, and place stuffed animals or other toys into the the rest of the bags to stage a sack race.


Relaxing In A Hammock

Set up a sweet napping spot for your Elf. Hang up something like a handkerchief, a piece of toilet paper, or a paper towel to create a miniature Elf hammock. The Christmas tree is a perfect place to put it.


Fishing In The Sink Or Toilet

Your Elf has gone fishin'! Create a miniature fishing rod with a piece of string attached to a pencil, popsicle stick, or something comparable. Then, set them carefully on the edge of your bathroom sink or toilet, and throw a few Goldfish crackers into the water.


Reading With Their Toy Friends

Make your Elf a bookworm. Set them up in front of an open book (bonus points if it's Christmas-themed), and set up some stuffed animals or other toys around them. Your child will discover them reading to all their friends when they awaken.


Ziplining From The Christmas Tree


Your Elf just can't stop thrill-seeking. Hang a piece of string or yarn from a branch of the Christmas tree to the nearest wall. Then, attach your Elf's hands to a candy cane, and hook the candy cane to the extended string. It'll look like your Elf is ziplining, and your kids will get a major kick out of it.


Riding In A Hot Air Balloon

Blow up a balloon, and attach a paper cup or mini-basket to the balloon with string. Place your Elf within the basket, and you have an elf-sized hot air balloon. Then, suspend it from a ceiling fan or light fixture.


Toilet Papering The Christmas Tree

Your Elf was up to no good last night. Carefully toilet paper your Christmas tree, and place your elf nearby, sitting on top of the roll of toilet paper. Just because your Elf works for Santa doesn't mean they aren't naughty sometimes!


Hiding In A House Plant

Take your Elf on a safari adventure. Hide them within a houseplant or in the branches of the Christmas tree, ideally with a camera or pair of binoculars nearby.


Wrapping Presents (Or Trying To)

It's hard to wrap presents with such little hands, but that doesn't stop your Elf from trying. Set them up near wrapped presents, with little scraps of wrapping paper and tape stuck all over their bodies, or with their arms tangled up in ribbon.


Making A "Shoe-Shoe" Train

Make your Elf the conductor of a shoe-shoe train by lining up shoes into a line, just like a train. Seat the Elf in the first shoe, and feel free to put other little stuffed animals and action figures in the other shoes. Complete your masterpiece with a little note that says, "All aboard!"


Hiding Christmas Ornaments


Give your kids a challenge. Pose your Elf with a note that explains they've hidden five Christmas ornaments around the room and it's up to them to recover them. Let your child hunt for them, or turn it into a competition by having siblings compete to see who can find the most.


Swapping The Stockings

Your kids will crack up when they see what the Elf did overnight. Hide your family's stockings, and replace each one with a pair of your kids' undies. Not only will your kids find this hilarious, but they'll have fun trying to find the hidden stockings.


Playing A Board Game

Elves are social creatures, so obviously they've made friends with other creatures in your house. Set up a board game, and pose your Elf with stuffed animal or action figure competitors. Your kids will love to see your Elf bonding with their favorite toys.


Making Paper Snowflakes

Your Elf clearly wants to help decorate your home for Christmas. Cut up a few paper snowflakes, and leave one only halfway finished. Pose your Elf amidst a pile of paper scraps with a pair of scissors, and let your child finish the snowflake where they left off.


Cooking Up Mini Waffles


Your Elf can be helpful, too! Grab a package of mini waffles from the grocery store, or whip up a batch of mini pancakes if you've got extra time. Pat a bit of flour on your Elf's cheeks, and give them credit for the morning's elf-sized breakfast.


Taking A Marshmallow Bubble Bath

Who doesn't love to pamper themselves after a night of traveling? Place your Elf in a bowl and cover them with mini marshmallows to create a "bubble" bath. They deserve to put their feet up after their long trek to the North Pole.


Having A Race

Use tape to make a road on the floor, then gather up a few toy vehicles (cars, fire trucks, tractors, whatever) and worthy doll/action figure competitors. If you have time, you can even add a little finish line (with Elf crossing first, of course).


Playing Architect

Perhaps overnight your Elf decided to build himself a cabin (or some other easy-to-build structure you can make with the blocks you have lying around). He'll be proudly posed in his new creation by morning.


Hanging With Mary & Joseph

If you have a nativity scene set up, slip your Elf into the set while your kids are asleep: If he's too big for the manger, maybe he can join the shepherds or the three kings.


Loading The Dishwasher

Leave the dishwasher slightly open and prop your Elf up inside... just make sure nobody turns it on before he's found. Maybe your kid will be inspired to finish the job for his magical buddy? (Hahaha.)


Having A Sick Day

Tuck your Elf into a doll bed (or your kid's actual bed) with a thermometer and a pack of tissues. It's cold and flu season, and even Elves aren't immune.


Getting Toasty

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Research shows that it can help with higher cognitive function and even contribute to better food choices. Of course, your Elf knows this, and that’s why they want to model good breakfast behavior by preparing something tasty — and toasty. Simply toast two slices of bread and place your Elf in between them. Place their arms outside of the toast so that it looks like they’re all snuggled up in a toasty sandwich. It just might convince your reluctant toddler to take a few bites.



There isn’t a kid out there who doesn’t find fart and poop jokes funny. So if you’re looking for an easy Elf on the Shelf idea, have your child catch their Elf in the act. Unwrap a Hershey’s Kiss (or if your Elf is constipated from too much candy, a few M&Ms). Then place your Elf’s butt on top of the candy, add a few toilet paper squares, and you’ve pretty much got a giggle-worthy bathroom joke that your kid will love.


Gone Fishing

This idea works if you’ve got a fish tank. Take 2-3 paper clips and open them up, twist-tie them together, and then create a hook at either end. Hook one end of the paper clip “fishing pole” onto your Elf’s hands (you can tape it to ensure that it doesn’t slip off), and then dangle the other end into your fish tank. (It’s okay if it doesn’t reach down into the water, because really, you don’t want your beta to try and take a bite from the hook, anyway.) Position your Elf so that it looks like they’re trying reel in one from the tank for some fishy good fun.


On A Date

Your Elf is a super social creature. When your child wakes up, you can have your Elf having a playdate with Barbie. Maybe they are hanging out in her Dream House, or they might be sipping some juice from one glass — two straws.


Making Mischief With Some Minions

All you need for this easy Elf on the Shelf idea is a bunch of bananas and a Sharpie. You can draw Bob, Kevin, Stuart, or any one of the many Minions easily on a banana by making eyes, a couple of lines for hair, a mouth, and a body composed of a horizontal rectangle and a square underneath, all colored in. Make sure you add feet, too! Then, prop your bunch of bananas upright, sit your Elf next to it, and tuck a Sharpie marker in their arms.

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