33 Elf on the Shelf Ideas to Steal This Christmas (+ Bonus Goodbye Idea!)

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These easy Elf on the Shelf ideas will give you the motivation you need to move your elf!

hand holding elf on the shelf with need ideas sign

Are you looking for some creative Elf on the Shelf ideas?

Time to add some humor to the holidays with these Elf on the Shelf ideas! Whether you’re new to the popular Elf on the Shelf Christmas tradition or have been participating for years, we could all use a little creative inspiration to keep things fresh and funny!

holding an elf on the shelf by the tree

The Elf on the Shelf can be fun for all ages!

Even though my kids are now older than they were when we first started this tradition, they actually still get a laugh and think it’s funny if I set up scenes with their elf. Sometimes they even take turns creating the fun for us.

I won’t pretend this is a daily occurrence for my family because half the time I forget about it LOL! However, it’s a fun tradition, and, if an elf somehow brings some joy, why not?

Here are 33 creative yet EASY Elf on the Shelf ideas anyone can pull off!

My favorite Elf on the Shelf ideas take less than 10 minutes, and not a lot of materials are needed!

Some of these ideas were photographed by a few other talented Hip2Save team members and readers over the years, so I wanted to give them a shout out and special thank you for sharing! 

hand holding plush elf dolls at dollar tree

Hip Tip: Dollar Tree carries cute stuffed plush elves if you’d like a more frugal option than the official Elf on a Shelf brand.

1. Play tic, tac, bow.

tic tac bow elf on the shelf

Photo credit: Elf on the Shelf

Take on a new spin of Tic Tac Toe by having your elves play with bows. If you don’t have any holiday tape laying around, use another easy-to-peel tape such as painter’s tape!

2. Elf makes one big happy family.

love you to the moon and back sign with elf family

Grab some red and white paper, a family photo, and get to cutting for this cute Elf on the Shelf idea! We even love that this one could include the dog too. 🥰

3. Elf is scanning some selfies to Santa with the fax machine.

two elf on the shelf with scanned selfie pictures hanging on fall

The options are endless for this creative and funny Elf on the Shelf idea and the kids are sure to get a kick out of seeing all of the photos they’ll take too.

4. Elf makes their favorite dinner.

two elves on stove with huge platter of candy pasta

If you’ve seen the Will Ferrell movie, Elf, it’s no secret what elves love eating for every meal. This idea would be perfect on a night you made too much pasta and even to get rid of some leftover Halloween candy you may still have laying around. Just don’t be surprised if the kids ask to have the same thing. 😆

Hip Tip: Speaking of movies, check out our top 25 Christmas Movies list and use our free printable to watch them all!

5. Elf “Spare a Square” TP Idea ensures a good laugh.

elf on the shelf with toilet paper covid idea

During COVID, toilet paper was scarce so it only feels appropriate now to laugh about the inventory issues that are now past us. This is a fun and easy setup using a roll of toilet paper and a paper sign.

6. Wrapping Paper Mischief to prank the rest of your household.

elf on the shelf wrapping paper toilet

Elf wraps the toilet with Christmas wrapping paper for a silly prank! You could also do nearly any item in your home like the kitchen cabinets, your front door, and do much more if you’re looking for a more sanity display.

7. Do you Wanna Build a Snowman?

elf on the shelf doll in freezer with elsa and olaf frozen

Elf gets FROZEN with characters from the Disney movie. This will be a cinch if you have a Frozen movie lover at home who already has some characters floating around the house.

8. Even your Elf needs a nap.

elf on the shelf sleeping on tissues

A box of facial tissues makes a perfect bed for nap time! He’s even folded one for a soft pillow to snooze on.

9. Dress up your Elf on the Shelf in affordable costumes.

hand holding Elf on the Shelf Costume Target with some in cart

On your next Target visit, check out the dollar section as we’ve spotted countless hilarious costumes at $1 for your elves to play dress up! Pizza, milk, and cookies are some of the costumes we’ve seen, so scoop them up quick before they sell out!

10. Elf gets artsy. 

two elves sitting on table with mini art easels

You can find some cheap mini art easels on Amazon to recreate this adorable scene. While this idea will take slightly more effort, it’s sure to be a memorable one and ultimately, quick once you have your artsy props.

11. Dogs rule, Elves drool!

dogs rule elves drool elf on the shelf idea

Don’t forget to get the dog involved in your Elf on the Shelf ideas! This playful scenario will work great if you have a chalkboard, whiteboard, or mirror, and of course, a dog willing to participate too. 😉

12. Elf Refueling Station for all the coffee addicts.

elf on the shelf refueling station

Elves need plenty of energy to fly back and forth to the North Pole! This elf clearly doesn’t mess around and gets her caffeine fix straight from the K-cup!

Hip Tip: Did you know they make adorable outfits for Elf on the Shelf? Last year I couldn’t resist and bought the snowflake skirt and scarf. So cute!

13. Elf steals your snacks!

elf on the shelf eating treats meandbmaketea

Photo credit: Me & B Make Tea

Not even your holiday goodies are safe around your elves!

14. Elf marathon runners.

elves wearing ornaments and ribbon on head

Use ornaments you already have and tie some ribbon as necklaces and sweatbands and you have yourself some champions! By simply using some paper and a black marker, you’ll have a simple Elf on the Shelf idea.

15. Elf takes some selfies with their BFF.

two elves sitting in a christmas tree with phone taking selfie

Even elves love to snap a selfie and post it for the entire North Pole to see. Just remember to change your phone settings so the screen will remain on for the entire duration.

16. Elf is involved in some shower shenanigans.

shower shenanigans elf on the shelf

Our elf is hanging from an umbrella that’s balancing on the shower curtain. What a conundrum!

17. Do you wanna build a snowman… out of toilet paper?

elf in a toilet paper snowman

This elf stacked three rolls of toilet paper and used marker and ribbon for snowman details! Such a cute and easy idea if you’re rolling in toilet paper these days.

18. Elf takes a bath.

elf on the shelf taking a bath

Miniature marshmallows make a perfect “bubble” bath, paired with a tissue paper hair towel! You can find similar clear containers with the new The Home Edit line at Walmart.

19. Elf has a hot cocoa party.

hot cocoa elf on the shelf idea

I love when our elf brings fun activities to do from our Christmas bucket list! These CUTE candy cane spoons and hot cocoa mix can be found at the Dollar Tree!

Hip Tip: Print off our Christmas bucket list if you’re out of ideas to celebrate the season. There’s even a blank one to create your own!

20. Elf roasts mini marshmallows.

elf on the shelf roasting marshmallows

This is a fun and easy scene to set up using a candle, BBQ skewer, and mini marshmallows!

21. This glow-in-the-dark Elf will light up your home.

glow in the dark elf

Glow in the dark bracelets fit perfectly around Elf for a vibrant neon effect at nighttime.

22. Good Deed Elf is here to encourage you to do better!

good deed elf on the shelf

Elf can help kids complete random acts of kindness with these FREE printable cards at Over the Big Moon. See, not all elves are naughty. 😏

Hip Tip: Check out more random acts of kindness ideas and grab a free printable list to create on your own with your family to complete throughout the year!

23. Your Elves are flying high on this hot air balloon ride.

hot air balloon ride elf

Helium balloons and containers from the Dollar Tree can make a fun and frugal hot air balloon ride for elves. Up, up, and away!

24. Elf hides in mom’s jewelry.

elf on the shelf hiding in jewelry

A closet jewelry collection can be a great disguise for Elf!

Hip Tip: I actually hung a couple of thread racks to organize my jewelry. It’s still there years later, and works perfectly!

25. Even elves can have a sick day.

sick day elf on the shelf

Even elves get sick sometimes! Luckily there are always plenty of cold and flu supplies around the house to help him! This lucky guy even has a magical reindeer friend and elf sidekick to help him get well! As a bonus, this may be an excuse to keep your elf put for a few days. 😆

26. Yoga Elf is showcasing his skills.

elf on the shelf doing a yoga pose

Elf stays zen and fit with yoga, complete with a mini felt mat and rolled towel. You could easily recreate this by drawing and cutting mini paper logos with a red pen and cutting some small pieces of scrap fabric from around the house.

27. A Christmas Story Elf to ensure some comedic relief.

fragile lamp elf on the shelf idea

If your family needs some laughs, consider building this cute leg lamp award scene from the A Christmas Story movie! You can use a leg lamp ornament to get in on this fun and it’s likely to become a favorite every year.

28. Give the Pooping Elf some privacy.

elf on the shelf chocolate kiss

Elves poop chocolate kisses! Don’t forget he may need some reading material, too! 😂

29. The elves are having extra fun zip lining.

ziplining elves on a christmas tree

These lively elves have tied a string from the Christmas tree to the fireplace and are zip-lining like they’re on a jungle vacation! You can grab a 36 pack of felt snowflakes for under $5 on Amazon or get creative by cutting some out of paper.

30. Elf gets injured.

elf on the shelf injured

Does your Elf need to stay still? Use this genius cast idea to have him on strict NO FLY orders for a few days! It’s even signed by all of Santa’s reindeer. 😊

31. Face mask Elf hammock to let your elf relax.

facemask as a hammock elf on the shelf

A face mask doubles as a perfect elf-sized hammock for your elf to relax in and chances are you have a few unused ones laying around these days. I used some faux branches to hang this hammock, but you could use candlesticks, hooks, or any other simple items to hang.

32. Have your Elf whip up some delicious baked goods.

elf on the shelf with easy bake oven and cupcakes

Does your little one have an easy bake oven at home? You don’t need to spend time crafting delicious baked goods to make this cute scene come to life. Grab some fancy cupcakes from a local bakery or your favorite donut shop and really impress the kids.

33. Encourage a gingerbread house building day.

elf on the shelf gingerbread house kit

Either build some mini gingerbread houses to surprise the kids or simply use some mini gingerbread house ornaments you may already have. This would be a fun way to gift the kids a new gingerbread house kit for a fun afternoon activity.

Hip Tip: We tested the best gingerbread houses and shared which ones you should and shouldn’t buy this year!

Bonus: Make your elf’s last day something to remember.

hand holding polaroid pictures with elf on the shelf goodbye note

Check out this easy goodbye send off my Hip sidekick Sara did last year if you want an adorable idea to send your elf back to the North Pole once Christmas is here.

“My daughter is really attached to our elf so Christmas is very bittersweet for her. Last year, she really wanted a photo with our elf Julia so I wrote a quick note on paper, put her next to it with our mini Polaroid and our kitchen gloves. The idea was to get a picture of both of them that she could cherish all year. We took one picture for her and one for Julia (aka Mommy 🥹). She still has the picture on her dresser from last year so to say it was a huge hit would be an understatement. Best of all, it required little effort on my end.”

elf on the shelf book and girl elf

Do you participate in Elf on the Shelf?

What are some of your favorite Elf on the Shelf ideas? Share with us in the comments so we can all collect more fun ideas! 

Would you buy one of these Elf on the Shelf Kits?

About the writer:

Lina has a Bachelor's Degree from Northern Arizona University with 11 years of blogging and photography experience having work featured in Today.com, Martha Stewart, Country Living, Fox News, Buzzfeed, and HGTV.

Join The Discussion

Comments 30

  1. Katie

    This is our first year doing Elf on a Shelf! Thanks for some great ideas!!

    • Ana

      Mine too, I have never done it before.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh have fun!

    • Gramma C

      Best of luck lol. J/k. It’s so fun!

  2. JES

    Not an idea, but just a tip that has helped me over the past few years…set an alarm on your phone to remind you to move your elf. Mine goes off at 9pm, because there have been times I have fallen asleep or forgotten to move our elf and have to think up something quickly as to why he didn’t move.

    • Ap927

      This is what I do too. Set it as a daily alarm so it goes off every night.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Yes, so smart!

    • Gramma C

      My Daughter always forgets and texts me to do something with the elf. I don’t wanna! Lol

  3. Melanie

    Thank you for the ideas! I struggle with new things to do when I am half asleep in bed and suddenly remember I have to come up with something! Gonna have to set an alarm like you JES 😁

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Sure! Yes, an alarm is a great idea!!

  4. briem

    I bought a kit off of Etsy that has ALL the days all ready to go! Now I can enjoy my Aldi wine advent calendar and not stress out about being creative with Vart(our elf)!

  5. Kat4312

    For stress free elf-ing this year, I download a free planning calendar. I planned what I wanted to do each night and hung it in the basement where my kids aren’t allowed to be. I took one day last week and shopped for any supplies I needed and printed/cut out any printables I wanted to use. Now al I have to do is check the calendar and grab my supplies. Much easier than scrambling at 10pm or 6am trying to do things quietly so my kids don’t hear!

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Wow so organized and impressive! Thanks for sharing your tips!

    • Kayladan04

      I started this a few years ago! Less stress!

    • Gramma C

      I wish we had a place my Grandkids weren’t allowed. I had to buy a locking cabinet to keep things in. My 8 yr old autistic GD is in EVERYTHING and I got so tired of hiding stuff and than forgetting where it was.

      • Eva

        My daughter got into the present drawer and opened FOUR of them! I now have it locked! lol

  6. Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

    Oh how fun 🤩 thanks for sharing!

  7. ksteele293327

    Love these ideas! We do a “kindness elf” in our classroom where the elf leaves a different kindness challenge each day. Sometimes when I’m out of the room with the kids, I have other teachers to move it and I’ll do the same. It’s so much fun watching their faces!

  8. Rishy

    I make elf kits so other parents don’t have to stress about it! Some awesome ideas here!

    • vivienne

      Tell me more about your Elf Kits!

  9. Marinova

    Never been able to bring myself to be an elf on the shelfer. I knew right away it was too much work for me. But I found something the other day that is right up my alley and in theory should be NEGATIVE work…if any other mamas are interested…it’s called The Giving Manger 😀

    • Christine Madrigal

      Tell me about it!

  10. kate-1

    I love doing Elf on the shelf. My kids talk about “Clark W. Griswaldo III” lol ALLL year long. He’s starting to look pretty shabby now (his hat is taped on, mittens are rather tan, & most of his clothes are pulled up from being stuck to various things) but we love our silly lil elf! Thanks for the new ideas! We are going to focus on kindness this year!

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Aw I love that! Thanks for sharing ❤️

  11. SLA

    I’ve done most of these 😭
    Mine may get covid this year and quarantine for 10 days.

    • Gramma C


  12. Marie

    This is our 10th year, and should be the last, with our elf, Leon, since my youngest is 14. Leon has some favorites that he does every year. He takes our stockings off the hangers and replaces them with a pair of underwear. He TP’s the tree. Packs two lunches on two different days: one with a bunch of pantry staples (for fun) and then a real lunch that’s wrapped. Uses dry erase markers on the bathroom mirror to leave messages or draws a Christmas Tree when we don’t have it up yet. Brings a “donut” for each kid with a funny note (take a dollar bill and place two metal nuts on the ends so it looks like a barbell) one night and then next, brings real Christmas donuts. Writes a note on the eggs in the fridge. The worst idea was Leon used his Elf Magic to make the milk green, and then the kids wouldn’t drink it or eat the green scrambled eggs. haha

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Ha oh my gosh the green eggs! Cute! Thanks for adding these fun ideas. 💕🙌 Leon sounds like a fun elf Marie!

  13. Eva

    These are amazing easy and cute ideas! Thanks!

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh glad you like them! Thanks Eva!

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