Elf on the Shelf arrival idea: place them under a little faux door with wreathh
Kinsey Gidick
20 Fun Elf On The Shelf Arrival Ideas

Guess who’s back?

by Kinsey Gidick and Meguire Hennes
Originally Published: 

Ready to have Elf on the Shelf make an appearance in your house? You could just have them show up one morning leaning on a cup of orange juice. Or you could go all out and make their arrival a bit more of a show. That’s what many parents have done, taking the extra creative step to ring in the holiday season with Elfie’s return. From props to posters, tech assistance and even music, there are some great concepts online for Elf on the Shelf arrival ideas.

Whether you choose to steal an idea from one of these clever parents, or want to build on one of their concepts to make it your own, you can blow out your Elf on the Shelf’s entrance to really set the scene for the holiday season. Break out the marshmallows. Pull out the sequins. Blow up way too many balloons. If you want your children to really buy into the idea that a Scout Elf is watching their every move in advance of Christmas, they have to believe it’s a big deal. And that means day one needs to be as convincing as possible. Now granted, keeping this level of energy throughout the entire lead up to Santa’s arrival might be exhausting. So consider the day you want to unleash the beast, er Elf, before you go wild with the big unveiling.


Mirror surprise

This Elf On The Shelf arrival idea really couldn’t be easier. Find a dry erase marker, write a cute message, and watch as your kids light up when they walk to brush their teeth that morning. It’s a simple, yet exciting way to kick off the holiday season.


Early Christmas present

If your family is one to put up the Christmas tree right after the Thanksgiving festivities conclude, this Elf On The Shelf arrival idea is perfect for you. Grab an old cardboard box, wrap it in some festive wrapping paper, cut a whole in the top, and place your elf inside for a North Pole special delivery.


Text with Santa

For a Christmas twist on the classic “text me when you get there,” change your name in your partner’s phone to Santa, and have your partner label you “Elf.” Show your kids the messages, saying Elfie used your phone to update Santa. Send a couple “ho ho hos” and an occasional “Merry Christmas” and your kids will love it.


Peppermint pop-up

Have an old glass jar lying around? You can turn it into your elf’s favorite hiding spot. Throw a bunch of peppermint candy in and your family will have a festive treat all day long.


A Christmas sous-chef

Use Elfie to your advantage to encourage your kids to try new foods. Say you’re preparing a new recipe for that night and you want your kids to actually enjoy it — place your Elf on the Shelf in the kitchen and say he’s been helping you prepare the food all night and he’ll be really sad if you don’t at least try it.


Elfie’s hanging around

If your kids love going on scavenger hunts to find their elf each day, use this idea to your advantage. All you need is a mask, your elf of course, and two connecting points to hang the mask from. Whether you hang it from beneath your Christmas tree, or from a light fixture in the dining room, your kids are sure to love this idea. They might even ask for a hammock for Christmas.


A hot cup of Christmas cocoa

Who doesn’t love a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day? Even though Elfie has already gotten a head start on his cup, make some hot chocolate for an after-school treat for you and the kiddos. You’ll really amp up the Christmas spirit.


Welcome back breakfast

Craving a fresh, hot breakfast and don’t know what to do with your Elf? Tell your kids that their Elf on the Shelf arrived and made breakfast for you all.


Elf’s making gains

Take your elf with you on your morning trip to the gym. Create a makeshift dumbbell and place Elfie on one of the empty machines. I’m sure your fellow gym rats will get a kick out of the scene.


Elf celebration

For a more extravagant Elf On The Shelf arrival, blow up a dozen red and green balloons, add some tinsel or crepe paper, create a contraption on your child’s door, and they’ll wake up to the most festive surprise of their life.


Red carpet arrival

If celebrities get to walk the red carpet, then Elf surely deserves to do the same. Find a little red felt or some other bright red fabric lying around and set the scene for your own celebrity Santa scout. You could even go all out and line it with twinkle lights or add a “step-and-repeat” Elf can pose in front of. Or, better yet, give some other figurines a faux camera to act as Elf’s paparazzi.


Scavenger hunt

This Elf on the Shelf arrival idea comes courtesy of the official Elf on the Shelf Twitter account: It’s an Elf on the Shelf treasure map. But while this one is designed just to keep little ones busy, but you could take this same concept and make it a treasure hunt to find Elf. Create your own map or set up clues around the house for kids to follow.


Make Elf a present

Here’s a parent who takes the Christmas present theme and extends it to Elf’s arrival. The little Elf is staged around a table decorated in holiday colors, sitting in a high chair. Kids get to open a gift as a tease of what’s to come under the tree, while Elfie stands sentry ready to remind little ones that he sees them when they’re sleeping or when they are awake.


Send a note

Kids love imagining that their Elf can talk to them, so why not write a note from Santa’s little helper. This one is especially silly: “Roses are red, violets are blue, I got stuck in the blinds, coming back to you.” Imagine the giggles your kids will let out when they read this.


Wrap your child’s door

Elves are experts in wrapping. It’s like Elf 101. And to show their exceptional package prowess, you might as well greet your kids with their entire door wrapped in wrapping paper the morning Elf arrives. They’ll know in an instant that the season for fun has begun.


Arrive by mail

Want to give your children a thrill? Have Elfie ride a package into town to announce their arrival. If you have a slot mailbox, you can station the Elf on top of a package. Or, if you have an independent mailbox at the end of your drive, Elf can be inside clutching a letter. You could even write a note about how it was faster to get to town by USPS.


Luggage in tow

Elf on the Shelf is about to settle into your household for a few weeks, so naturally the little character will need to pack a few things. Have him show up carrying a tiny suitcase. You can easily fashion one out of sparkly silver pipe cleaners and a little box, say a matchbox covered in construction paper or an Altoid case covered in paint.


I’m back sign

Have a big letter board sign in your house? This is now Elfie’s means of communication and the Elf can make its appearance by writing a message of hello on the board. You can make it short and simple for early readers to handle or more elaborate depending on how much space you have, but station Elf atop it to really surprise kiddos.


Candy cane rope climb

How would Elf really break and enter a home? He’d probably use a candy cane colored rope, that’s how. Link a bunch of candy canes together, then have Elf descend the links. You can put a little wreath on his arm if you want to make the scene even more festive, as if he’s coming in for a landing, ready to decorate.


Crash landing

Think paramilitary maneuvers to master this Elf arrival. You can fashion your own parachute and create a little hot air balloon bucket for Elf to sit in. Then string him up from a light, mirror, or even a potted plan to make a surprise arrival for your kids.

Cue the lights. It’s time for Elf on the Shelf to make its appearance. Elf On The Shelf ideas shouldn’t require hours of preparation time. You just want to make your kids smile. You’ll be creating Elf On The Shelf scenes for the next 24 days, so you don’t need to use all your resources on the first day. Remember, your kids think a tiny, one-foot-tall elf is completing these extravagant tasks, so do yourself a favor and build up the anticipation gradually. Whether you go all out for your Elf On The Shelf’s arrival, or you use your creative skills to make more of a subtle impact, your kids will love it.

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