This Reader Does “Elf on The Shelf for Teens” & We Love It!

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More Christmas

elf on the shelf laying on box of candy and tic-tacs covered by toilet paper

The Christmas season is here and it could not be coming at a better time as we could all use a little extra joy and cheer in our lives after the craziness that is 2020.

We all know how obsessed the kiddos get with their Elf on the Shelf every year and even though it can be a little overwhelming to keep up with the Elf’s daily antics, it sure is worth it to see the surprise and smile on our little one’s faces.

But what about the older kids? They deserve a little holiday happiness too, don’t they? Hip2Save reader Mary had an idea on how to reinvent the holiday elf and put a teen spin on it!

three elves in front of Starbucks gift cards sitting by Elf twister game

I wanted to share a fun idea that our teenagers are enjoying. This pandemic is very hard and even harder on some more than others. I wanted to create some fun in our household. I came up with Elf on the Shelf for teens!

My husband and I came up with some fun small gift ideas and creative ways to gift them from the elves! They each have their own, which I used my Cricut to name them. We create fun ways to present the fun gifts. It may be a box of Tic-Tacs for the pillow and a box of candy for the bed (like in the top picture) or Gift cards to Starbucks! They have enjoyed this and so have we! They look forward to the next goofy idea we come up with! I hope you all at Hip2Save are staying safe and well!

Thank you, Mary, for sharing this super fun and festive idea with us! Your ideas are so awesome and I am sure your teens are super thankful to have such thoughtful and fun parents to ease the stress of the pandemic and make the holiday season extra special. This is going to be something they always remember and it may even become a new tradition!

Looking for more creative elf on the shelf ideas? Head on over here!


Do you have a funny, “Hip”, or unique tip to share?! Fill out our Happy Friday form. Every Friday, we post one submission by a Hip2Save reader (view past submissions) that gives us a glimpse into their frugal lifestyle or simply makes us smile. If yours is published on Hip2Save, we’ll email you a $10 Amazon eGift card!

About the writer:

Jessica holds a Business Degree and 10 years of writing experience from various deal sites including Hip2Save. Connect with Jessica on LinkedIn

Join The Discussion

Comments 56

  1. Melissa

    My teen used to love his elf. I got him the tiny elf on the shelf from Hobby Lobby this year and leaving little presents as well, and he is loving it😀

  2. Roxaroo

    Thank you so much for this idea!!! My two teens I know will get a kick out of this they loved Fred our elf when he visited every year personally maybe I had a little to much fun! Haha

  3. Beach Is My Happpy Place

    I bought the tiny Elf on Shelf too! Thank you the ideas for teens. Going to use these starting tomorrow morning. Other ideas are welcome too!

  4. Melissa

    I hate when people have the elves bring gifts. We’re in a tough financial spot and it’s irritating when some people have their elves bring gifts every day and then the kids start comparing. Save the gifts for Christmas, that’s not the point of these.

    • Brklynnnn

      What a ridiculous statement especially since you’re also doing what you dislike, comparing. This is no different than an advent calendar. There will always be kids with more gifts and less gifts and no matter what they will always compare. It’s a fun thing to do with kids, young and old and that’s all that matters.

      • Tara

        Well said!

    • Rey

      Some parent somewhere might be reading your comment wishing they at least had an elf like you do. We can only do what we feel is best for our own families and if kids have questions answer them the best we can about how the holidays are different for everyone.

    • Lissa

      Some elves only get caught doing mischief. 😬🤣

    • Jessica

      I know a young mom who couldn’t even afford the Elf so I gifted her mine since my kids have outgrown him. Count your blessings instead of wishing to have what others have.

    • steph05

      I have never once heard my kids complain about someone else’s elf! They laugh when others are caught making a huge mess and are excited for their friends/cousins when the elf brings the others a small gift. Kids don’t see it as anything but fun and magical…it’s the adults, like yourself, who make it a comparison and bring out the jealously.

    • stefanieweyandt

      I do have the elves bring little gifts because it’s been a rough year on the kids and it brings them so much joy. And me joy. It did make me feel bad when they were telling their friends so I had the Elf leave a note saying that all elves are different and do different things for their kids (and not to “brag” bc it may make other friends feel bad if their elves didn’t bring them a surprise that day….and that they can share their excitement with their family. It’s worked for us. They do still talk about what their elves did that day/where they found them with their friends!

    • MommySpendsLess

      Could your elf bring surprises that are no/very low cost/homemade or a fun take on a practical item (food, toiletries) that you would have to buy anyway? What about your elf bringing notes for fun activities or a special privilege? (30 extra minutes of screen time, an extra bedtime story, movie-night in the living room, etc.)

      For example, my daughter usually isn’t allowed to have sugary/artificially colored cereals, Pop Tarts, the granola bars that are nutritionally more like candy bars, etc. so those sometimes show up from our elf or in stockings or Easter baskets. One year it convinced her that Santa must be real because Mom would never let her have those things LOL

      One year she got a toothbrush and toothpaste in her stocking but both had one of her favorite cartoon characters on them.

      Do your kids need socks? Maybe you could find fun/colorful ones for about the same price as plain white ones.

      If those aren’t options, what about really funny set-ups? There are hundreds of ideas online. Then your kids will be excited to talk about all the crazy things their elf does.

      • MommySpendsLess

        Also, I factor any advent calendar/elf-related costs into my Christmas gift budget. Personally, I’d rather spread the fun out over the entire month and have my daughter have one less gift Christmas morning. When she was younger she’d get overwhelmed with too many gifts to open at once and I’d like to start shifting some of the focus on Christmas morning away from a mountain of presents and more towards family time. This year either our elf or Santa is going to leave us a game to to unwrap Christmas morning and play together.

      • Gigi

        I like your ideas and your positivity!

    • Lo

      I’ve always thought that about Santa. Santa brought me an Xbox and air pods. Really Santa brought me 1 toy and socks.
      Perhaps I’m adult and overthinking it. But I understand why it’s frustrating.

    • IB

      Trust me, if you do this for teens, they will love the treats, but won’t be discussing it with their friends…lol. And I stopped by the Dollar Store today and spent $10 on Elf gifts.

    • Diane

      Melissa this has been an incredibly difficult stressful year for many families. I am sorry that you are having financial hardships.
      For others who are in a financial position to give please remember that their are many children who will only receive a Christmas gift through the generosity of another. All of your local social service agencies are being overwhelmed by request.

    • SavingsMama

      Yes, I had posted about some family members who get pretty free with just the latest accessories for these things. Their parent laughed that they spent $200+ on just props and “stuff” last year and that was without the little gifts. Which, as the kids get bigger, like you said they seem to compare gifts. Well, sorry but Santa stops here and as far as I know, the elves still work for him. For us,that’s the only extra person who will be bringing gifts to our home. I have to say, I’m delighted to make that choice. I’d rather have my family chip in with charity than gifts for themselves leading up to Christmas.

      • SavingsMama

        *they get greedy. Not free, lol. Definitely not that.

    • Csandst1

      I used to do an advent calendar using socks and each day the sock would have a treat. My kids started complaining over the years about the “quality” of the treats and the repeating of treats. After a few years of no appreciation I stopped doing the socks and no one noticed. So much for creating a special childhood memory.

    • Casey

      These are teenagers who I’ve no doubt are fully aware that it is their parents moving the elf. It is a creative way for the parents to give some extra gifts to their kiddos. This isn’t a “Christmas magic” situation for little kids.

    • Sam

      Aww, Melissa I’m so sorry to hear you’re in a tough financial spot. You obviously want to do everything you can for your family. Try not to let it upset you. You guys will get through! Praying for you and your family.

  5. Jackie

    Honestly Melissa, I don’t think a box of tic-tacs will break the bank. Or even some home made cookies if you are on a budget. You can also leave coupons for free quality time with mom or dad when ever they want…guess what it’s free! You can even go to the dollar tree and get 5 packs of gum for $1. It’s all fun and it goes with the Christmas spirit. I don’t think this post is telling you to spend crazy amounts of money or even spend money (see my examples above) this post is just giving you fun “ideas” of this to do for teens. The key word is IDEAS, you do what most fits your household. Why is it that there is always someone who has to be contradicting and complain about something?

    • Radar

      Melissa: I’m with you. The elves are getting out of control. Not sure why people are so defensive about it.

  6. GAmommyof4

    Seriously, where did she get those adorable elves??? They are precious!

    • Lo

      That’s just the plush version of elf on the shelf. Think $8.95 -bbb, bn, Target, Kohl’s? probably more places.

      • GAmommyof4

        Wow! I have been missing out! Those are super cute and more affordable than the traditional Elf if the shelf dolls.

        • AmandaJ

          We have used the plush elf for years – got it on clearance for a few dollars when money was very tight! My kids’ friends have occasionally pointed out that our elf doesn’t look like theirs, or that our elf is just a toy – but it is still magic in our house and has none of them care.

  7. Amy

    I actually love this idea for Teens. I have not done the Elf for the last few years but with the year we are having and as much as our Teens have missed out on; bringing alittle happiness this time of year is awesome.
    My daughter just returned to Remote school again; I hope this will bring some hope and a beautiful daily smile.
    Thank you for bringing such good ideas to us so that we can bring a smile to someone else.

    • Danielle

      We still do the elf with my teens, but now every takes a turn each week setting up the elf’s scenes and it’s definitely more of our crazy humor than typical elf scenarios. Our elf doesn’t bring gifts, but we do have an advent calendar. It’s not large enough to actually put anything in, but I put a clue in each day and the kids find their gift, which is a Christmas themed snack like candy, rice krispy treats, any of your snacks that come out with Christmas themes….so it keeps it affordable and it gives them snacks to eat while they’re home. They love it.

  8. Beach Is My Happpy Place

    Some use things around the house. For example, a little cereal spread around the elf with a book open as if elf is eating cereal while reading a book.

  9. CJ

    All this got me to thinking…I think I’m goi to give my teens the elf and make THEM do the crazy set ups for me now! I think they’d love the challenge!!! Let’s see their creativity (and last minute scramble!) Who’s with me?

    • Ap927

      That sounds fun! Might keep this in mind for when my kids get older.

    • AmandaJ

      Haha I love it!! Plans for when my youngest ones are teens!! Right now my oldest teens take turns doing it for their little sisters and it works out swimmingly!! The elf never forgets to move anymore!

  10. Ap927

    I’ve literally never heard of people having the elf bring gifts until this post. It’s hard enough coming up with daily elf ideas, I can’t imaging adding 24 days of gifts, per kid, into the mix!! I’m not saying this to argue or challenge. “Don’t @ me”. Lol. Just sharing my thoughts. I know everyone does what works best for them!

    • Kay

      I agree. I thought the purpose of the elf is to watch the kids n to b found doing things around the house. That’s a lot of work already for set up. Now elves r bringing daily gifts too? But I guess it’s no different from an advent calendar. I was just thinking today how kids r super saturated with gifts, between Christmas morning, advent calendars, stockings, n now elves??

    • browniesmomma

      Exactly! I thought the idea of the elf was just fun stuff too, not more gifts. Even if they are small tiny items, when you have 3,4,5, kids, etc. it is getting out of hand…. I just like to see the creative ideas people have to hide him or make his messes lol😅. I wish everyone a happy holidays. This year its really needed!

  11. beth-3

    Our elf left a note at the end of 2018 that he was needed to bring Christmas cheer to kids who didn’t have any and wouldn’t be able to come in 2019. Well, this year the Elf came back because Santa said that he should check in on all his old friends too with the pandemic & everything (but he said he might not move every day because he was going to be so busy!!). So the elf is back. I have a tween & a teen. The teen boy really doesn’t care much but my tween daughter is loving it. Our elf doesn’t typically leave gifts beyond a little candy maybe. He mostly gets into mischief.

  12. hip2jen

    I do not even know what the elf is for. (Raised in a different country). Can anyone kindly explain it to me 😁. Thank you!

    • Darla

      It became popular after a 2005 children’s book went viral. The idea is that the elf comes from the North Pole to watch the kids all day and then reports back to Santa each night about their behavior. He then returns again the next day and hides in a new spot. My kids were too old when it became popular so I never did it. As a teacher I see my students question daily why the elf gets to be “bad” but goes and tattles to Santa if they are “bad”. Something to think about parents …

      • xoxos

        Well I’ve never played up the part where you’re suppose to be ‘good’ in order to receive gifts. Everyone talking about what an elf does or does not do or give, and the part I really can never understand is why Christmas is used as a behavior tactic to begin with smh.

  13. Melanie

    Because there is no way I am organized enough to do something every day, I took a similar tack and created little tags that have Christmas bible verses on them with a note from “Your Secret Elf” and leave them on random days with something the kids need or can use. My kids are grown living at home and still love their “Elf”. It might be pencils for drawing, shelves for the closet (we just moved), body wash, or even a used book I know they’ve wanted (thank heavens for We’ve moved every couple of years and it has been hard on them; this gives them just a little more laughter and reminder of the season. I have fun with it and there is NO pressure to meet a schedule. There have been some weird happenstances like my middle one getting the same t-shirt three years in a row or the Elf and Santa duplicating something in a stocking but it’s all in fun. I hope to keep it going for a long time; maybe even through the mail.

  14. Denise

    Soo creative great ideas

  15. Diane

    Melissa this has been an incredibly difficult stressful year for many families. I am sorry that you are having financial hardships.
    For others who are in a financial position to give please remember that their are many children who will only receive a Christmas gift through the generosity of another. All of your local social service agencies are being overwhelmed by request.

  16. Lmsunshine

    My almost 17-yr old son still loves his elf. We combine it with the advent calendar and “Dave” leaves a little treat every day and tries to hide in a different spot to be found. My son even opens the door for the next day for Dave to leave the treat. I think he still loves the thought of what it meant to him and the fun he had when he was younger.

    • Melissa

      That is so sweet. My son’s elf still wears the scarf that he made for him when he was 7. He is now 15😊

  17. Becky08

    We are Catholic so we try to focus this time on advent and preparing our hearts for Jesus. My husband found a cute idea online about a “Mary on the Mantle” doing things around the house to prepare for Jesus. I just used a little doll we already have instead of buying one and she’s been caught cleaning the windows and dishes so far. She leaves a little note for something the kids to do like clean up a mess that they didn’t make. They love it so far!

  18. Donna

    i don’t have children but wanted to tell you a story about teens – specifically teen boys. My mother had my youngest brother later in life. I was 14 when he was born. We older siblings grew up, got married, college, etc. and he was still at home. He came over one day when he was 17, all 6’2″ 215 pounds of teenager. He was crying and upset. He said Mom didn’t love him anymore as she never asked him where he was going, who with etc. She wasn’t a bad mother just tired lol. I look at it this way, if a pack of gum or tic tacs gives a hormonal and insecure teen some warm and fuzzies just do it. Or maybe like others said, a private walk through the park to talk believe me they will enjoy it. He was embarrassed because “he” was a boy and shouldn’t cry. (btw – he passed away at 23 from a car accident). Hang in there everyone, it’s been a rough year! Hugs to everyone.

    • Ginger

      I’m so very sorry to hear this. My brother also passed away in March. There is no greater sadness than losing a sibling young. And, I have two teens. I completely agree with you. They are going through SUCH a hard time that ANY way we can show them that someone notices them is a good thing.

    • K

      Sorry to hear about your brother. Teens get bad reputations, but they all need more love and attention regardless of age/size. 🥰

  19. Pattyd

    I love this idea and with all the money saving tips on this site, it should be easy to do on a budget Thanks for sharing. It made me happy

  20. Carrie

    One year I tried “Barbie in her car” instead of the Elf, because that’s what we had on hand. The kids thought it was funny, but didn’t notice when Barbie and Ken stopped driving around the house. I’m so glad because that is one less thing I have to do every year. Haha!

  21. Gigi

    Let’s not judge each other for how we celebrate. Our elf is pretty boring compared to other families’ elves, but my kids don’t care. They look forward to seeing where he is each morning….no mischief or antics…just a different location. I don’t begrudge others who are more inventive or who have added gifts. As others have pointed out the gift can be small or home made or the gift of time or words. And it doesn’t have to be every day. Bottom line: Don’t stress, do what works for you and enjoy your time with your family.

  22. LG

    I love this share! Great idea! I’m grown and I would be delighted if the elf brought me tic tacs! 🤣 In fact, this would be fun to do for older people too. I’m going to try to convince my Mom to do this for my Grandma who lives with her. We all need a little bit of happy in our lives this year!

  23. Janelle

    We don’t elf because its too much for this mama but I did that 14 days of reasons I love you on my kids doors (well I tried)… they still have them hanging up so if you need a frugal idea, you could do something you love about them as an advent thing maybe cut Christmas trees, snowflakes or just use sharpie on a wrapping paper scraps… free and meaningful.

  24. Hannah C

    This is so cute, and especially considering how hard so many teens have had it this year. All of the ones in our area are still out of school and sports, what a fun way to cheer them up. To all the negative nellys on here, if you don’t like what someone else Is doing then don’t do it and move along! If a parent wants to bring some fun into this incredibly sad year to be a kid more power to them, let’s spend our time lifting each other up not tearing each other down. We have 5 million other issues to argue about let’s not make Christmas one of them.

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