Skip to Content

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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?