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Elf On The Shelf Ideas (Ultimate Guide – Rules, Printables & Accessories)

All you need to know about the Elf On The Shelf – let’s get creative!.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

If you have an Elf On The Shelf, then you’ll be looking for some funny, easy, and last-minute ideas on where to hide your elf.

The Elf On The Shelf usually arrives on the 1st of December and leaves on Christmas Eve. They’re Scout Elves sent to report back to Santa on who’s naughty or nice. Elves are known to be a little bit mischievous and enjoy playing games like hide-and-seek. Every morning you will find them in a different place or position and parents can be very creative in coming up with how to position their elf.

I’ve rounded up the funniest and easiest last-minute elf on the shelf ideas, as well as rules, printables, clothes, accessories, kits, and even elf pets for your kids to play with.

Table of Contents

What Is Elf On The Shelf?

The Elf on the shelf tradition comes from the book Elf On The Shelf written by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell in 2004.

Elf On The Shelf Book
Elf on the Shelf : A Christmas Tradition Blue-Eyed Boy Light Tone Scout Elf! Elf and book included.

The picture book comes with an elf doll who reports back to Santa on whether children are naughty or nice.

Elf’s are known to be a little bit mischievous themselves and enjoy playing games like hide-and-seek.

Every morning you will find them in a different place or position and parents can be very creative in coming up with how to position their elf.

When Does The Elf On The Shelf Come?

The elf on the shelf can come anytime after Thanksgiving but usually starts from 1 December, just like an advent calendar.

However, if you missed a few days, don’t worry, you can just as easily start when you put up your Christmas tree, as it doesn’t really matter.

When Does Elf On The Shelf Leave?

The elf on the shelf leaves on Christmas Eve to report back to Santa on whether the kids have been naughty or nice.

Elf On The Shelf Rules

1. The elf arrives from the North Pole after Thanksgiving but usually on 1 December.  The sooner he comes out the more interesting hiding places and ideas you will have to come up with.

2. The elf leaves and returns to the North Pole on Christmas Eve.

3. The elf must be named and adopted by the family so that he can get his magic powers. Some popular name ideas include Buddy, Jingles, and Snowflake.  Here’s a list of several funny elf names if you get stuck.

elf on the shelf names

Want to find your own elf name? Have a look at our Christmas Party Games post to find yours.

4. The elf must be hidden in a new place every evening once the kids are in bed, to be found the next morning. Older teens enjoy getting a turn to hide the elf as well.

5. The purpose of an elf is to keep watch and report back to Santa on whether the kids have been naughty or nice.

6. Children are not allowed to touch the elf, as they will lose their magic if touched.

7. Children who touch them must write an apology letter to the North Pole, or sing a Christmas carol or sprinkle cinnamon or magic dust next to their elf to heal them.

We’ve never enforced this rule as our kids love playing with the elf and especially older teens actually enjoy hiding the elf themselves. We make it more about a fun family tradition and creativity, rather than rules and being spied on.

Elf On The Shelf Arrival Ideas For First Day

On the first day when your elf arrives, it’s a great idea to include a letter explaining who s/he is and why they’re hiding on the shelf.

You will need to name your elf to officially adopt them, and make sure that your child understands the elf on the shelf rules.

If your elf is returning, the letter can be about how excited the elf is to be back again.

Here are some Elf On The Shelf arrival letter ideas and free printables. I’ve left a space for you to fill in your kids’ names.

Elf on the shelf arrival letter

Returning Elf On The Shelf letter template. I’ve left a space for you to fill in your elf’s name:

returning elf on the shelf letter

Funny Elf On The Shelf Ideas

Some elves are a bit naughty and might choose to hide in some strange places or be caught doing some funny pranks. Here are some creative elf on the shelf ideas.

Toothpaste Oreos

You’ll soon find out if your elf has a bit of a naughty streak himself if he’s pulling tricks like filling the Oreos with toothpaste!

oreo toothpaste

Image source: Pinterest

Stow Away Snowman Elf

Grab a few rolls of toilet paper, add a few dots and hide your elf in the middle of the rolls.

toilet paper snowman

Image source: Hubpages

Fruit Choir

You’ll need a few artistic skills to get the faces right, but it’s easier than they might think.

Elf On The Shelf Ideas (Ultimate Guide - Rules, Printables & Accessories)

Image source: elfontheshelf

Jacuzzi Elf

Fill a pot with either cotton balls or marshmallows. Add a rubber duck and let your elf steam away in the jacuzzi.

Elf On The Shelf Ideas (Ultimate Guide - Rules, Printables & Accessories)

Image source: Instagram: Julie Jones

Homemade ‘Lemonade’ Elf

Some elves can be a bit mischievous, and it looks like this elf is trying to trick you into drinking his homemade ‘lemonade’.

peeing lemonade elf

Image source: Instagram: christmaself2019

Christmas Undies

These naughty elf has replaced the Christmas stockings with undies.

christmas undies

Image source: elfontheshelfideas

Snowball Fight Elf

Grabe some marshmallows and set up a snowball fight.

snowball fight elf on the shelf

Image source: Pinterest

Ski Elf

Looks like this elf has just come back from the North Pole in time and has even brought some snow in with him.

skiing elf on the shelf

Image source: Pinterest

Paper Bag Race Elf

Grab a few paper bags and pop your elf on the shelf doll and some of your kids’ favorite toys in them to create a fun paper bag race.

Elf On The Shelf Ideas (Ultimate Guide - Rules, Printables & Accessories)

Image source: mykidstime

Elf In A Slinky

Pop your elf doll in a slinky and place it somewhere funny like down the stairs on hanging off a chair.

elf in a slinky

Image source: frugalcouponliving

Elf Roller Coaster

Grab a few friends and let’s go ride the roller coaster.

Elf On The Shelf Ideas (Ultimate Guide - Rules, Printables & Accessories)

Image source: Instagram: danamanrose

Rice Krispies Elf

Snap, Crackle & Pop! Elves love cereal for breakfast too! This elf has taken Crackle’s place on the cereal box. I wonder if Snap and Pop have noticed?

Elf On The Shelf Ideas (Ultimate Guide - Rules, Printables & Accessories)

Image source: lovebugsandpostcards

The Floor Is Lava Elf

You can do it the easy way by just writing the sign “The Floor Is Lava” and sticking your elf up on a chair, or you can go all out and use paper streamers and make the actual floor look like lava.

Elf On The Shelf Ideas (Ultimate Guide - Rules, Printables & Accessories)

Image source: Pinterest

Gone Fishing

There are several ways that you can stage your elf to have ‘gone fishing’, but this one is definitely the funniest. Be sure that this isn’t the toilet your kids use at night or else they might get a nasty surprise.

gone fishing elf

Image source: Pinterest

Elf Snow Globe

Grab a glass or bowl and turn it upside down. Add a few tiny lights and some tinsel or other decorations and you’ve made an Elf Snow Globe.

elf snowglobe

Image source: Instagram

I Pead Myself Elf

Oh dear, looks like this elf has been ‘frozen’ in place for too long, and had a bit of an accident.

I pead myself

Image source: Instagram

Last Minute, Quick and Easy Elf On The Shelf Ideas

If you’re tired then these lazy, easy elf on the shelf ideas are simple to pull off and perfect if you’re looking for some last-minute elf on the shelf ideas.

Giant Elf

If you have 2 rolls of wrapping paper and a couple of slippers, you can create this super quick and easy elf on the shelf.

giant elf on the shelf

Image source: Pinterest

Wrapping Paper Christmas Bundle
Red + Silver Reversible Wrapping Paper Set: 4 Rolls (8 Designs) of Premium Gift Wrap (80 sq. ft.) with 30 Coordinated Bows, 2 Spools of Ribbons, and 24 Gift Tags

Dinosaur Elf

Elf is hitching a ride on a dinosaur – or any other animal your kids have is a great last-minute elf on the shelf idea.

christmas elf ideas

Image source: Pinterest

Elf Locked Out

Oh dear! It looks like your elf didn’t make it back from the North Pole in time and is locked out.

elf on the shelf ideas

Image source: overthebigmoon

Jenga Elf

Simply hide your elf in between a stack of Jenga blocks.

Roasting Marshmallows

Here’s another super easy elf on the shelf idea. Grab some mini marshmallows and a flameless candle and you’re ready to roast some marshmallows.

roasting marshmallows

Image source: apartmentguide

LED Flamless Candles
Antizer Flameless Candles Led Candles Pack of 9 (H 4" 5" 6" 7" 8" 9" x D 2.2") Ivory Real Wax Battery Candles with Remote Timer

Orange Juice For Breakfast

This healthy elf knows how to get some freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast.

Elf On The Shelf Ideas (Ultimate Guide - Rules, Printables & Accessories)

Image source: laughtard

Climbing Elf

Quick and easy and super cute elf on the shelf idea.

climbing elf

Image source: Pinterest

Self Adhesive Gift Bows
JOYIN 48 Self Adhesive Bows with 8 Rolls of Curling Ribbons for Christmas, Bows, Baskets, Wine Bottles Decoration, Gift Wrapping and Decoration Present

Free Reindeer Poop Elf

You can use chocolate cereal or chocolate-covered peanuts or raisins for this silly elf on the shelf idea.

free reindeer poop elf on the shelf

Image source: Pinterest

Chocolate Covered Raisins
Kirkland Signature Milk Chocolate, Raisins, 54 Ounce x 2 (Pack of 2)

Joining The Family Photo

This elf really enjoys being part of your family and wants to be in the family photo.

part of the family elf

Image source: theelfontheshelf

Elf Yoga Class

Whether your elf is doing downward-facing dog or the child’s pose, you’ll find several yoga poses that your elf can do.

elf yoga class

Image source: Pinterest

Snow Angel Elf

Very quick and easy snow angel elf. You can make it with flour or sprinkles for a special snow angel.

snow angel elf

Image source: prettyprovidence

Christmas Sprinkles
3.4Ounce Christmas Cake Topper Sprinkles Decoration Candy Santa Claus Cupcake Dessert Cookie Sprinkle

Can Reach Elf

Another naughty elf is trying to get into the sweets container.

elf can reach

Image source: Pinterest: smartschoolhouse

Finding Treasure

Elf has been looking through the couch cushions and seems like he’s found some treasure.

couch treasure

Image source: Pinterest

Sliding Down The Banister

Elves love having fun, and what’s more fun than sliding down the banister?

sliding down the banister elf

Image source: Pinterest

Let’s Make A Rainbow

Place some Skittles on a plate and get the kids to add hot water to make a rainbow.

rainbow skittles

Image source: Pinterest

Quarantine Elf

With all that traveling back and forth to the North Pole, your elf might have to quarantine for a few days. You can use this idea when things are really busy, or you’re going away for a few days and won’t have time to move your elf.

elf quarantine

Image source: findingmyselfyoung

Christmas Eve Elf On The Shelf Ideas

Farewell Letter (Printable)

It’s a tradition that on Christmas Eve your elf hitches a ride on Santa’s sleigh back to the North pole.

To prepare young kids for their departure you can print out a letter like the one below to say farewell on their last night together.

I’ve left a space so that you can sign your elf’s name.

elf on the shelf good bye

Apart from printing out the farewell letter, you might be wondering what do you do with Elf on the Shelf on Christmas Eve? Does the elf on the shelf move on Christmas Eve?

Here are some ideas on what your Elf on the shelf can do on the last night:

Goodbye In Snow

If you have a magical elf door, then you can write a farewell message with footprints leading to the door.

christmas eve elf on the shelf

Image source: Instagram

Elf On The Shelf  Magical Entry Door

Tonttuovi Special Entry for Fairies and Elves Elf Magical Door for an Elf on The Shelf

Farewell Gift

On the last night before Christmas Eve, your elf on the shelf could gift your children a small present to say goodbye.

last night elf on the shelf

Image Soure: Pinterest

A Sad Farwell

Cut up some tissues into tiny pieces and write a note explaining that your elf on the shelf is sad to leave, but will be back next year.

sad farewell christmas eve elf

Image Source: aworthyread

All Packed & Ready To Go

Another way for your elf on the shelf to say goodbye on Christmas Eve is to pack a small suitcase and write a letter explaining that Elf and his reindeer need to go back to the North Pole to help Santa and the other elves.

christmas eve elf

Image source: Instagram

Elf On The Shelf Suitcase & Clothing Set
The Elf on the Shelf Clothing Set - 3 Tshirt Value Pack and Carrying Case - Three Stylish Tees For Boy Elf or Girl Elf

Elf On The Shelf Games

Apart from finding your elf every morning, there are also some fun elf on the shelf games that you can play.

The Elf on the Shelf Present Pile Up Game

In this game Santa needs your help loading the sleigh with presents. Throw the dice to see if you land on a space where you can try to launch your presents into the sleigh. It’s a fun fast-paced game for kids of all ages to play this festive season.

Elf On The Shelf Presents Pile Up Game
The Elf on the Shelf Present Pile Up

The Elf on the Shelf Game and Craft Collection

This game and craft collection includes the find the Scout Elf game, the dash away all card game, as well as a fun craft kit and four minis.

Elf On The Shelf Game And Craft Collection
The Elf on the Shelf Game and Craft Collection: Find The Scout Elves Game, Dash Away All Card Game, Festive Fun Craft Kit and 4 Merry Minis

Word Games

Dictionary.com has put together several word games that you can play with your younger tweens with your elf on the shelf.
Games include elf scrabble, word of the day, and movie bingo.

Elf On The Shelf Kits

These magical standing gear for scout elves allows elves to stand up like a ballerina or a hipster elf.

The Elf On The Shelf Magical Standing Set

The Elf on the Shelf Magical Standing Power Set of Accessories for Scout Elf: Ballerina and Hipster, & Joy Bag

Elf on the Shelf Insta Moment Pop-Ups

These cute and easy-to-use pop-ups are great for creating interesting new scenes for your elf. These pop-ups include Christmas Car Ride, Scout Elf Salon, Christmas Camp Out, and Scout Elf Gamer.

The Elf on the Shelf Insta Moment Pop-Ups

The Elf on the Shelf Insta Moment Pop Ups (Elf not included)

Christmas Elf On The Shelf Plane Ride

The Elf on the Shelf Peppermint Plane Ride - Elf NOT Included

Elf On The Shelf Balloon Ride

The Elf on the Shelf Peppermint Balloon Ride, Red - Elf NOT Included

Elf On The Shelf Flex KitELF Flex Elf Upgrade Kit: Make Your Elf Amazing! This Kit Will Make Your Elf Flexible and Bendable! You Will Be Able to Bend Em Grip Em Stick Em Hang Em Elf Accessories

Scout Elves At Play Kit

The Elf on the Shelf: Scout Elves at Play - New Version

Elf On The Shelf Pets

Just like our kids, elves like to have pets too. Here are some adorable elf on the shelf pets to play with.

Elf Pets A Reindeer

Elf Pets A Reindeer Tradition

Elf Pets A St. Bernard

Elf Pets A St. Bernard Tradition

Elf Pets An Arctic Fox

Elf Pets: an Arctic Fox Tradition

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Can I Buy An Elf On The Shelf?

There are several different types of Elf On The Shelf. You can find options at Amazon and Target.

Where Can I Buy A Girl Elf On The Shelf?

Here are some girl elf options for you:

Blue-Eyed Girl Light Tone Scout Elf

This blue-eyed girl elf comes with the Elf on the Shelf Claus Couture collection ‘Yummy Cookie Nightgown’.

Blue-Eyed Girl Light Tone Scout Elf
Elf on The Shelf: A Christmas Tradition Blue-Eyed Girl Light Tone Scout Elf with The Elf on the Shelf Claus Couture Collection Yummy Cookie Nightgown

Brown Eyed Girl Dark Tone Scout Elf

This brown-eyed girl elf comes with the Elf on the Shelf Claus Couture collection ‘Yummy Cookie Nightgown’.

Brown Eyed Girl Dark Tone Scout Elf
Elf on The Shelf: A Christmas Tradition Brown-Eyed Girl Dark Tone Scout Elf with The Elf on the Shelf Claus Couture Collection Yummy Cookie Nightgown

Where Can I Buy Elf On The Shelf Clothes & Accessories?

There are so many super cute scout elf clothes and accessories available.

Elf On The Shelf Snowflake Skirt & Scarf

Exclusive 2017 The Elf on the Shelf Claus Couture Collection Snowflake Skirt & Scarf - Elf Sold Separately

The Elf on the Shelf Claus Couture Cookie PJs

The Elf on the Shelf Claus Couture Cookie PJs - Scout Elf NOT Included

The Elf on the Shelf  Donut Be Naughty PJs

The Elf on the Shelf Claus Couture Donut Be Naughty PJ's, Gree (Elf not included)

The Elf on the Shelf Itty Bitty Baker Outfit

The Elf on the Shelf Exclusive 2019 Claus Couture Itty Bitty Baker Outfit (Elf Not Included)

There are so many cute outfits and accessories for your elf on the shelf doll, like t-shirts, a snow hut, and even a Jelly Bells Rocks hoodie.

Why Is Elf On The Shelf Bad?

There is some criticism on teaching kids to accept being spied on, and behave well only to get present.

If this bothers you, then you could make up a different story, for example, the elf could be keeping an eye on the kids to see what toys and games they love playing, to report back to Santa so that he knows what to get them.

The fun really lies in coming up with creative new ideas on where to hide the elf.

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As a mom of two boys, I've been through the many ups and downs that parenting brings. However, I absolutely love reading and learning about better ways to communicate with my teens. I try to understand what they might be going through in their various stages of development. Communication, understanding, kindness, respect, and leading with love can help us maintain a positive bond with our children, from toddlers to teens and beyond.

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