Elf on the Shelf doll on table making snow angel in powdered sugar
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25 Lazy & Easy Elf On The Shelf Ideas For Parents Who Just Can’t Anymore

It’s that time of year again.

by Romper Staff
Originally Published: 

At first, coming up with creative Elf on the Shelf ideas is a fun challenge, but as the month of December goes on (and your holiday to-do list looms overhead), it starts to feel a little more like a chore. Thankfully, there are a lot of great lazy and easy Elf on the Shelf ideas that parents can quickly put together before they go to bed at night that will still leave the kids amazed in the morning. After all, who says every elf has to be Pinterest-perfect anyway?

When you first got your Elf on the Shelf doll, you were probably so excited to change its location every night so that when the kids woke up the next morning it would be clear that Santa’s helper was up to no good. A few days after the scout arrives with a convincing Elf on the Shelf welcome letter, it doesn’t take long for that excitement to wane, and it’s hard enough to stay creative during a single holiday season, let alone multiple (and with multiple kids). For some parents, that pesky doll is a lot to take on, and having some lazy and easy Elf on the Shelf ideas in your back pocket just makes life a little bit easier.

So, if you’ve exhausted all of your creativity and just need a quick and easy placement for your scout elf tonight, here are some easy Elf on the Shelf ideas for home setups to help you out.


A ready-made hiding spot

Hiding your elf anywhere in the house is a super quick and easy fall-back if you don’t have the energy for an elaborate Elf on the Shelf set-up. Your kid surely already has a somewhat neatly arranged pile of toys somewhere in their room or house. Whether it’s a family of stuffies, a display of built LEGO sets or a truck collection, you can nestle your elf somewhere amongst the collection and call it a game of Hide-and-Seek.


A sledding elf

You have a couch (or armchair) and at least one of the following: toilet paper or paper towels. Simply let the roll of paper towels unravel down the side of the couch and plop your elf somewhere on it. This example shown above goes above and beyond with actual elf skis as a prop, but you can seat your elf on any flat-ish surface that can pass as a sled (like a jar lid) and call it a toboggan.


A reading corner

Have lots of books laying around? Then this easy Elf on the Shelf idea will be incredibly simple to pull off. All you’ll need is a small stack of books — and if they’re holiday themed ones, even better. From there, simply open the books into stable positions where they can stand on their own, place them in a half circle, and sit the elf in the middle with their own book to enjoy.


A snow angel

Making snow angels is an iconic seasonal activity, but you know your elf will have their own sweet take on it. Simply pour some mini marshmallows onto a flat surface, such as a countertop, table, or even within a baking sheet, and place the elf in the middle with the shape of a snow angel around them. For a more colorful approach, have your Elf make a snow angel in a pile of confetti.


A game of tic-tac-bow

Naturally, a game of tic-tac-toe during the holidays should be festive, which is why elves play tic-tac-bow. To set this easy scene up, all you’ll need is some washi tape to create the tic-tac-toe board on the wall and a few sticky gift wrapping bows in two different colors in place of the X’s and O’s. Once your little on finds the game board, they are of course welcome to join in and play.


Digging for gold

If you’re looking for a creative but lazy Elf on the Shelf idea, this one should be in your rotation. All you need to do is place your figurine in a potted plant with a spoon as a shovel and adorn the “digging spot” with some chocolate gold coins or real coins. For an even easier route, skip the coins altogether and simply have your Elf gardening in the potted plant, with either a spoon as a shovel or a fork as a rake.


Tucked into bread

Who doesn’t love a good pun? Since you might already have a loaf of bread in your kitchen, this is another fast and easy Elf on the Shelf idea that is still super cute and silly. For the elf’s cozy set-up you’ll need a few slices of bread to use as a blanket and pillow and a plate to use as the bed frame. From there, simply tuck your elf into “bread,” and maybe even fashion them a small sleep mask out of paper or fabric if you have the time.


A little rock climbing

If you have some holiday gift wrapping to do, chances are high you have some stick-on bows lying around somewhere that you can use to recreate this lazy Elf on the Shelf idea. Just stick a few on the wall, use some tape to pose your elf to look like it’s climbing a rock wall, and you’re all set. If you happen to have some extra energy, you can scale this idea up a bit by tying some ribbon around the elf’s waist and running it up to the ceiling to make it look like your doll can safely repel back to the ground once it has reached the peak of the wall.


A yogi elf

Look, it doesn’t matter if you’re an expert yogi or not, we can all agree that one of the best poses is child’s pose, right? Let your elf get in on the relaxation by setting it up on a towel for some yoga at night. This person also hung a sign to advertise their elf yoga studio, which you can easily recreate using your computer or by simply drawing it out. You also have the option to scale this one up by putting the elf in front of the fire for some truly hot yoga, or scaling it down and letting the elf hang out in one of the other universally loved poses: Savasana.


A festive toilet paper swap

For an easy Elf on the Shelf idea that is sure to make your kids giggle, try this one where the character has sneakily replaced a roll of toilet paper with festive wrapping paper. This surprising bathroom switcheroo is not only adorable and silly, it’s also super easy to pull off, given that you’ll likely already have wrapping paper lying around during the holiday season. Simply tape a small section of gift wrap to an empty toilet paper roll and prop your elf nearby to show it was their doing.


Relaxing in a bath

This is by far one of the easiest Elf on the Shelf ideas out there. All you need is a sink and a bag of mini marshmallows to make it happen. Just plug up the drain, set your elf in the sink, and then pour the marshmallows over the top to make them look like bubbles in a bath. If you feel like adding a little extra touch to the scene, but still want it to be low-effort, just pop a couple of your kid’s bath toys in for some flair.


Chilling in the Christmas tree

It seriously doesn’t get much easier than this. Take your elf, find a bare spot on the Christmas tree, and perch the doll right there. You’ll want to make sure it’s at or around eye level for your kid and that it’s not tucked too far into the branches, otherwise it may be too hard for them to find it. Of course, if your kids are a little older, you can make it a little more challenging by snuggling it next to some red ornaments to camouflage it a little bit. Either way, though, this setup requires minimal effort.


Munching on a bowl of sweets

Once again, elves can’t get enough sugary sweet treats, so if you have a bag of individually wrapped candies or even chocolate chips laying around the house, recreate this setup with the elf snacking on the sweets. Anything from cereal to chips would work for this pose, but the use of empty candy wrappers makes the scene look all the more convincing.


Doing some fishing

If there is one thing most parents have stocked in their pantry, it’s Goldfish crackers. Another option, of course, is Swedish Fish candies. Pour a few fish-shaped treats into a little bowl and set the elf up next to it with some kind of string to make it look like it’s fishing. A craft pipe cleaner would work really well for this since it’s posable, but you can also wrap a paperclip or some other bendable wire in yarn or thread to create the same effect.


Napping in a manger

Do you have a nativity scene set up in your house? If so, you have a great place for a funny Elf on the Shelf setup. In this photo, the elf treated himself to baby Jesus’ crib (and none of the shepherds or kings seem to be upset over it), but if you don’t want him taking a bed from a newborn, you can tuck the elf further back to stand among the visitors or even sit it on top of the manger to take the place of an angel. Basically, any way you can insert your elf into your nativity scene will do.


An Elf with good dental hygiene

It’s quick, easy, and you already have the props you need to set your elf up to look like it’s been busy brushing its teeth all night long. To level it up a little, you can also have a tube of toothpaste sitting next to it or you can even use the toothpaste to write out a little message to your kid for when they wake up. (If you have kids, your bathroom counter is probably covered in toothpaste anyway, so what’s a little more at that point?).


A sticker mess

There is just something about stickers that kids can’t get enough of, and if you have more sticker pages in your home than you know what to do with, then let your elf take some off of your hands. Just like in this picture, take a bunch of stickers off the sheet and cover your elf in them, then sit the doll next to the sheet so that when the kids wake up they’ll see how he got into their craft supplies overnight.


Stuck in the blinds

If you have blinds in your house or classroom, this is one of the best lazy Elf on the Shelf ideas out there, because, really, it can’t get any simpler. All you need to do is place the elf so that they are tied up in the blinds. From there, you can leave the scene as is or consider adding a note from Elfie indicating the stick situation they are in. Definitely save this one in your back pocket for when you need a super easy elf idea.


On a “tree farm”

These little Christmas tree snack cakes are a staple in a lot of homes during the holiday season, and if that’s the case for your family then you can use them to your advantage by having your elf visit a “tree farm.” If you don’t stock up on these treats around the holidays, no worries, you can also use tree-shaped cookies or even some little trees from your personal décor.


Popping out of a cookie jar

Even if you don’t have a dedicated cookie jar that you keep out year-round, we all have some kind of container where we keep the cookies, candies, and other sweets that we collect around the holidays. Whatever that is for you, have your elf popping out of it to make it look like he was up late enjoying lots of sugar while everyone else slept. For something extra, sprinkle some crumbs around the jar, too.


A Hershey Kiss

For this lazy Elf on the Shelf idea, you’ll need some foil and a little ribbon of paper. Simply stand your elf up and wrap it in tin foil in the shape of a Hershey kiss. Then, write “KISSES” across the paper and stick it to the top of the foil to make your elf look like a piece of candy. You can stop here if you want, but if you happen to have some of the actual candies laying around, toss a few of them into a pile next to the elf for some extra fun.


A TPing Elf

If you think you can spare some extra toilet paper rolls a little bit, set up a scene that makes it look like your elf was busy TPing somewhere in the house overnight. Depending on how you set this up, you may even be able to keep the roll of toilet paper intact enough to roll it back up later. Either way, it’s a fun and easy way to set up your elf and the kids will get a good laugh out of it.


Rolling down the stairs

On the subject of toilet paper, here’s another super easy Elf on the Shelf idea. For this, all you need is your elf, a set of stairs, and a toiler paper roll. Simply stick your elf through the middle of the roll and then pose it as if it’s been rolling all the way down the stairs. It’s such a cute idea that will only take about a minute to set up.


Snuggled in the sock drawer

One of the best things about the holiday season is the warm, fuzzy socks that come along with them. Since your kid probably has way more pairs than they can wear at a time, snuggle the elf into one of them and have it hideout in your child’s sock drawer overnight. It may take your kid a little while longer to find Santa’s helper in the morning, but they’ll get a kick out of the (super easy) hiding spot when they finally track the doll down.


Hiding out in the fridge

Honestly, some of the best elf hiding spots are in plain sight. Kids get so preoccupied with finding the elf that they forget to look in the most obvious places, like the fridge for instance. This parent lost steam by the time Christmas rolled around and just tucked the elf in with the groceries in the fridge, and honestly, it’s a pretty solid hiding spot.

When it comes to lazy and easy Elf on the Shelf ideas for those days when you really don’t want to put in much effort, there are actually possibilities upon possibilities to choose from if you’re a little creative. And if you’re also burnt out in the creativity department, then simply recreate one of these stellar easy elf ideas.

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