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23 Simple Elf On The Shelf Ideas That'll Impress Your Toddler Big-Time

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As Christmas traditions go, having an Elf on the Shelf is now just as beloved as baking sugar cookies or putting a star on the tree. But it can also be a Santa-sized headache to come up with clever ways to pose the little guy for three weeks straight; the posts and memes from moms despairing of making it to Christmas Eve start appearing within the first few days of December. Sound like you? Fear not: If your kids are still little ones, there are lots of easy Elf on the Shelf ideas for toddlers that will keep the magic going without sucking up all your time and creativity.

Save the makeout session with Barbie and the chocolate-chip poops for the elementary-school years, when your kids can truly appreciate witty humor. For the Pull-Ups and preschool set, simple is the way to go. Just finding the Elf in a new location every morning is enough to boggle a toddler's mind; add a prop or two to make it obvious what the doll is doing, and you've created stress-free holiday memories. Mom FTW.

Here are some suggestions to get you through at least a sizeable chunk of the elf-posing season. Then you can spend part of 2019 researching more ideas to delight your kids when they're a little older. Remember, Santa's watching.

Peeping Out From The Tree


Nothing wrong with doing the obvious. Your Elf can either sit on one of the branches or hang upside down by its knees. Some families have their Elves TP the tree, with the mischief-maker holding the empty roll.

Sleeping In A Tissue Box

Hey, sometimes an Elf needs a break after rushing back and forth to Santa's place every night. Lay your friend down on an open box of tissues and use one of the tissues as a blanket.

Eating Cookies

Put a couple of your newly baked cookies on a small plate and take a nibble out of the top one (we won't tell). Pose your Elf nearby in a caught-red-handed position. Some families have their elves sit near an arrangement of cookie-baking ingredients, or have their small scout holding a tray of cookie-shaped cereal.

Hiding In The Fridge

Maybe your Elf went looking for a midnight snack and got trapped inside. Better give it a blanket so it won't catch cold.

Making A "Snow" Angel


If you don't mind a little mess, you can sprinkle some flour or powdered sugar (or mini marshmallows) on a table or other flat surface and let your Elf have some wintry fun.

Playing A Board Game

Elves love games! Arrange your Elf and a couple of other toys around a Candy Land or Monopoly Jr. game set (really, any game will do), with the playing pieces arranged to look as though they're in the middle of an exciting match.

Riding In Barbie's Car

Ask your Barbie or American Girl if the Elf can borrow their wheels for one night. Put him in the driver's seat, place the car in a visible but unobtrusive spot, and you're done.

Hanging With The Toys


Everyone knows that Elves are sociable folk who need some company when you're asleep. Pile the stuffed animals together and slip the Elf in among them. See how long it takes for the kids to find him.

Taking A Marshmallow Bath

A classic that amuses both younger and older kids. Put the Elf in a bowl or a toy bathtub (if you have one), then cover it up to mid-chest with mini-marshmallows to look like bubbles.

Hiding In A Block Castle

Whether you have wooden blocks, LEGOs or MagnaTiles, the intent is the same: Assemble a house or tower, and place your Elf inside. If you can lure your kid into making the house before they go to bed the night before, that leaves even less work for you to do.

Assembling A Puzzle

Get out one of your child's jigsaw puzzles and put it together partway. Sit the Elf down next to it with a puzzle piece in its hands. Your child will probably want to help the Elf finish the job in the morning.

On The Cat Condo

Your kitty won't mind sharing space with the Elf on the Shelf (probably). Sit the Elf on the top perch, or have it peek out of the hidey-hole.

In Your Child's Shoe

Just like cats, an Elf on the Shelf's motto is "If it fits, I sits." And the toy fits very nicely in a child's boot or sneaker.

In The Car Seat

Elves need protection when they ride in a car, even if it's just to the supermarket. Buckle your Elf in the car seat and watch your child's eyes widen when you open the door. (Of course, the toy will have to give up its spot when your child gets in.)

Riding A Train

Got a Lionel set under the tree or an assortment of Thomas tracks in the den? Then it should be no trouble at all to have your Elf take a ride.

On The Computer

What better place for your Elf to write a letter to Santa? For maximum effect, have a document showing on the screen — with plenty of Christmas clip art to decorate it.

Spelling Out Your Child's Name

Arrange round peppermint candies in a conspicuous place to spell out your child's name, and pose your Elf next to it. If your child can't recognize letters yet, make the candies into a big happy face instead.

Brushing Teeth

Pose your festive friend with your toddler's toothbrush on the bathroom sink in the morning, and for your once your little one will actually be excited to brush her teeth. (Or at least willing.)

In The Sock Drawer

Imagine your toddler's giggles when you ask his to take some socks out of his drawer to get dressed... and there's an elf hiding inside his favorite pair.

At The Piano

Really, any musical instrument you have in the house will do: Simply pose your elf at the keyboard (drums, etc.) with some Christmas-themed sheet music if you have it. Let the sing-a-long begin.

Hiding Under Your Kid's Pillow

Your toddler is too little to deal with the tooth fairy yet, but they'll be just as excited to peek under their pillow and find their long-lost (well, for a day) Elf buddy hiding under there.

Nestled In A Stocking


Come Christmas morning, your kid's stocking will be filled up with all kinds of stuffers. For now, there's plenty of room for your tot's elf to hang out (literally) for a night.

Packing Up On The Last Night

On the morning of Christmas Eve, have your Elf pose by the front door or your child's bedroom window with a doll's suitcase or a small drawstring gift bag. Include a note explaining that it's time for Jingles (or Holly, or Buddy, or whatever you've named your Elf) to go back to the North Pole tonight, but that Santa will be getting a good report tonight. Then when the lights are out, your Elf on the Shelf can get packed away for next year. And you can breathe a sigh of relief and reach for the Pinot Noir.

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