an elf on the shelf doll on a star-shaped light
You Can Pull These 23 Easy Elf On The Shelf Ideas Off In 2 Minutes Flat

If you have an Elf on the Shelf, you're going to need to do something with it... every day. While many of the insanely elaborate ideas you'll find online are pretty awesome, there aren’t a lot of parents who have the time to dedicate endless hours moving around and staging what is essentially a red doll with long gangly legs day after day. That's where these 23 easy two-minute Elf on the Shelf ideas come in. The fact is, you can't get away with not circulating your Elf throughout your house.

When it comes down to it, you can really do anything with your Elf on the Shelf. Some parents keep it strictly G-rated, while other parents tend to get a little more, um, creative. (Note to self: Bathroom jokes are big amongst elementary-school-aged kids, as demonstrated on The Resourceful Mama.)

So if you wake up in the morning and forgot for the fifth time to move your Elf (or frankly, you're kind of done with the whole idea already), look to these ideas that incorporate items that you most likely already have around your house. They’re fast, they’re easy, and they’re sure to make your kids smile, which is why you’re doing this whole dang Elf on the Shelf thing in the first place.


Having A Snack

Cookies, candy, cake. Your Elf on the Shelf has a voracious appetite for all things sweet and sugary. Scatter some candy canes and other tempting treats on the counter and lay out your Elf as if he were in a cookie coma.


Sleeping In

Depending on your level of dedication, you might already have a bed for your Elf. But if you don’t, a full-sized tissue box will work just as well. Create a quick pillow for him with a few rolled up tissues, and then tuck him into the box and pull a tissue over him as a blanket. Jot down a “Do Not Disturb” on a Post-it note and you’re golden.



Is your Elf 4 years old… or 40? Who really knows. But it’s funny to find your Elf’s face covered in shaving cream and a razor in his hand. Bonus if you put the shaving cream on, ahem, other parts of his body as well.


Decorating The Tree

Your Elf on the Shelf is pretty particular when it comes to how the Christmas tree should be decorated. So if it’s got a few bare spots, it’ll be your Elf to the rescue by attaching some ornaments to the tree. You can have him sitting on the star to show off his handiwork.


Reading A Book

Your Elf likes to keep up with world events. Let him read from an actual newspaper, magazine, or a tablet. Position him on his belly with his legs up, arms bent at the elbow, and hands under his chin to show how keenly interested he is in the subject matter.


Playing With Toys

Your Elf is a social butterfly, dontcha know? He likes hanging out with the other toys in your home. Let him build with some LEGOs, get his hair done with Barbie, go on rescue missions with the PAW Patrol, or cuddle up with your kid’s teddy bear.


Building A Snowman

Do you want to build a snowman? Well, your Elf sure does! Just stack three rolls of toilet paper on top of each other, and then add on block dots made from construction paper for the snowman’s eyes, mouth, and buttons. (Be sure to add a tiny orange triangle for the nose!) You can wrap a scarf around the snowman, and then stick your Elf inside the top of the tube.


Writing A Note To Santa

Your kid can catch his Elf in the act of reporting to Santa when he wakes up in the morning. Plunk him down on the keyboard and type a letter to Santa detailing how your kids have been behaving — or not.


Fishing For Goldfish

Use a lollipop stick or straw, tie a little string to the bottom, scatter some Goldfish at the bottom of a glass or even a sink, and let your Elf on the Shelf fish his way to Goldfish success. A cute idea — hook, line, and sinker.


TP The Toilet

For some innocent fun that is sure to get some giggles, have your Elf on the Shelf TP your toilet seat. Just take a roll of toilet paper and run it up, down, and all around your toilet. Have him hold the end of the roll as if he got caught in the act.


Baking Cookies

Baking is part and parcel of the holidays. But with 60 seconds to spare, just sprinkle your counter with flour, break out a mixing bowl and a rolling pin, and stick your Elf on the side of the bowl. Then, when everyone is home later, maybe you can bake some Christmas cookies together.


Stuck In A Stocking

Maybe he was curious what your child was going to get. For a 5-seconds-and-you’re-done idea, simply stick your Elf into one of your children’s stockings. Have his head peek out and bend his arm so that his hand covers his mouth as if he were saying, “Oops!”


Making That Naughty Or Nice List

To hammer home the idea that she needs to be good in order to get on Santa’s sweet side, have your Elf make an actual naughty or nice list. Take a piece of construction paper and let your Elf hold a crayon. Write your kids’ names and then next to it indicate if they've been good or bad.


Ziplining Through Your Living Room

Take some string and tape it to the walls on either end of your room. (Just make sure that it’s strong enough to hold your Elf.) Then, bend the arms around the string and make it look like your Elf is ziplining his way through your living room. And then, hope that your child doesn’t ask to do the same thing.


Roast Some Marshmallows

Take a pretzel stick and stick a marshmallow on the end of it. But don’t worry about an actual open flame (which is, you know, a big no no). Just use a tiny votive candle and your Elf’s marshmallow should be toasty in no time.


Opening The Advent Calendar

Sure, your kid is excited for Christmas, but so is your Elf, too. Have him open the advent calendar to the day it is, and with his other hand, motion towards the day. You can even write on a piece of paper how many days it is until Christmas.


Pretending To Poop

Hey, even Elves need to go. For this super easy idea, place your Elf in the bathroom and have him squat over the sink. Depending on how gross you want to get, you can either have him poop out a Hershey Kiss-sized poo, or you can use a few chocolate chips in either a pile or in a row.


Taking A Bath

Your Elf is all about being clean, so before your kids wake up, turn on the shower and let it get all steamy. Then, have your kiddo open the bathroom to find his Elf soaking in a hot tub of... marshmallows. Maybe, just maybe, it will convince your little stinker to get into the tub, too.


Sneaking A Sweet

Smear some chocolate on your Elf’s mouth, and crumble some cookie crumbs around him. No one will know that you and your partner were the ones who finished off the Christmas cookies.


Slugging On Syrup

Everyone knows that Scout Elves loves sugary treats. So let your kid wake up to find your Elf sipping some syrup. Extra bonus points if there are actual pancakes waiting for them.


Wrapped Up In Holiday Lights

It isn’t officially Christmas until you’ve wrestled with a massive ball of knotted lights. Find a string of holiday lights and wrap them around your Elf. It’s fun and funny. (Just ask the other Elf.)


Coloring A Picture

Your Elf is creative, and crayons are his artistic instrument of choice. Take out a piece of paper and have your Elf create a mini masterpiece (or just doodle something easy, like a Christmas tree).


Making “Snow” Angels

Too cold to go outdoors? Let your Elf make snow angels right in your kitchen. Toss a small amount of flour on your counter, and then stretch your Elf’s arms and legs out. Lay him down in the flour, and then carefully move his arms up and down, and legs open and closed. Voila — instant snow angel.

Creating new things for your Elf on the Shelf doesn't need to take a lot of time... or money. Just use a little creativity (or some of these ideas), and your kids will be happily surprised at their Elf's antics everyday.