elf on a shelf

It’s time for Scout Elf to arrive for the holiday season. Kids love the fun surprises they wake up to every day, and his presence will remind kids to behave.

If you are looking for some fun ideas, here is a list of Elf On The Shelf ideas for every day, from the arrival of Scout Elf to the little guy’s departure. We’ve included plenty of mischief ideas because we know elves like mischief. We also included quick ideas to help parents who forgot to change the Elf and interactive Elf On The Shelf ideas for kids to participate.

Elf On A Shelf Questions

Where Did Elf On A Shelf Come From?

Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell self-published the book Elf On The Shelf in 2001. The versed-based story was about their family tradition where a scouting elf reported to Santa who was naughty or nice. It’s been called the first “elf idea”.

In 2007, actress Jennifer Garner was photographed carrying the book set (elf doll and book), and the Elf On A Shelf phenomenon became a tradition in many homes.  Along with the popularity came more unique shelf ideas.

What Date Should I Begin Elf On The Shelf?

Scout Elves generally arrive the day after Thanksgiving and leave Christmas Eve. Scout Elf Return Week is a weeklong celebration from November 24 to December 1. Santa’s Scout Elves fly from the North Pole to family homes where they watch how children behave. Each night they fly back to the North Pole and report to Santa. Families can adopt new Scout Elves during this week or welcome a returning Elf.  Some Scout Elves arrive on the day the family decorates the Christmas tree. 

How Old Should My Kids Be To Enjoy Elf on the Shelf?

Although Elf On The Shelf is recommended for kids 3-15 years, people of any age will enjoy this fun holiday season tradition.  Having your own elf and finding where the elf “hid” are great memories for years to come.

Basic Tips To Begin With Your Own Elf

Name Elf. After parents buy the Elf (without kids’ knowing), the Elf comes to life when the family names it. Have a hot cocoa party with a sweet treat to welcome the Elf; he arrives in the most peculiar ways.

Read The Story. Read the book to the kids so that they know what to expect. Elf silently observes the kids during the day to report to Santa at night, who is naughty or nice.

New Clothes (Optional). If you, or Elf, become bored with its clothes, you could offer it some wardrobe options.

Elf Mischief. When kids are asleep, who knows what kind of mischief the Elf is up to and what surprises await them the next morning.

Elf Report. That first night, Scout Elf starts its ritual of flying back to the North Pole to report to Santa and returning to a new spot in the house at daybreak. (Parents move the Elf to a new position when kids are asleep.) 

Two main rules for Elf On the Shelf

Much like Fight Club, there are two rules to live by for the Elf on a Shelf season.

  •  NEVER touch Elf On The Shelf; the Elf gets sick and loses its magic when touched. In an emergency, an adult can use tongs or potholders to help Elf. 
  • Elf lands in a new place each morning when it returns to your home. (It is vital that parents move the Elf. It has been known that some adults “accidentally” touch Elf when they need a break one night, but do you want a sick Elf? Who knows what it will tell Santa. Instead, do some Elf-escapades over a couple of days than touching it.)

Remedies For Touching Elf On The Shelf

Ut-oh! Someone decided to break the rules and putt their mitts on The Elf! That could be the end of this year’s Elf on A Shelf fun.

utoh elf
Oh No!

The one who accidentally touched Elf can try one of these remedies to have Elf’s magic return. 

  • Write a letter to Santa or the little Elf apologizing for handling it and asking for the magic to return. 
  • Sing Christmas carols to the Elf to recharge its Christmas spirit. Don’t worry if your voice is a bit funky – it’s the thought that counts.
  • Sprinkle cinnamon around the Elf so that it can fly to the North Pole to see a doctor. Sometimes it comes back with a doctor’s note and is inactive for a day.

45 Unique and Funny Elf on The Shelf Ideas To Choose From This Christmas Season

Here’s some great ideas from around the web for ways to make your holiday season more fun. There are only 30 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2021, so you can pick and choose and still have ideas left over.

We’ve linked to the orignal source (where applicable) in the heading if you want to check out more great ideas!

Day 1: Elf On The Shelf’s Arrival By Car

elf on the shelf arrives by car
Source: justalittlecreativity.com

Hanging from the car rearview mirror will surprise the kids, especially if they thought the Elf didn’t arrive because he was nowhere to be seen in the house. It’s one of the best Elf On The Shelf ideas announcing Elf’s arrival. Sometimes the elf shows up by parachuting in, but most of the time, kids find him somewhere in the house the following day.

Day 2: Elf On The Shelf Having A Sleepover

elf on the shelf sleeping bags
Source:frugalcouponliving.com

Elf On The Shelf and your kid’s favorite action figures are having a sleepover – in your socks! He must’ve missed all the friends. It’s a fun idea that doesn’t take much time, and your kids will love adorable Elf and friends in their sleeping bags. You can even put them in an open drawer.

Day 3: Elf On The Shelf Having A Mini Marshmallow Bath

elf on the shelf marsmallow bath
Source: newmiddleclassdad.com

Wonder if the kids will be able to leave Elf’s bath alone, or will marshmallows disappear throughout the day? Empty a bag of mini marshmallows in a kitchen sink for this fun idea. It is a fun way to teach kids patience; they can’t touch Elf. So, will they wait or try to take some mini marshmallows without disturbing Elf?

Day 4: Elf On The Shelf Making Snow Angels

elf on the shelf and snow angels
Source: frugalcouponliving.com

The Elf must’ve been watching the kids outside because he was making snow angels from flour the following day on the kitchen countertop. This Elf On The Shelf Idea is effective and doesn’t take long to prepare. Make sure Elf is not in the way when cooking.

Day 5: Elf On The Shelf Rolling Down The Stairs

elf on the shelf rolling down stairs
Source: californiaunpublished.com/

So that’s what happened to the toilet paper roll. I wonder how many times Elf On The Shelf rolled down the stairs while everyone was sleeping.  If you don’t have stairs, add Elf to the roll of toilet paper and leave a trail in the house.

Day 6: Elf On The Shelf Made Donuts

elf on the shelf donuts
Source: asmallsnippet.com

Elf On The Shelf made donuts from O-Shaped Cereal dipped in chocolate with sprinkles, powder sugar, and cinnamon sugar. Six of each in a mini mint container. A cute idea for a peace offering for yesterday’s mischief.

Day 7: Elf On The Shelf Stuck In The Christmas Tree

Elf on the shelf stuck in the christmas tree
Source: newmiddleclassdad.com

What is Elf doing up in the Christmas tree? Is he stuck? Stick the Elf anywhere in the Christmas tree and let the kids figure out how he got there and what the little guy was doing there. 

Day 8: Elf On The Shelf Ate The Worst Cookies Ever!

elf on the shelf and the worst cookies ever
Source: https://pinterest.com/pin/464433780308204491/pinterest.com/

Funny Elf is disgusted with these “cookies” and recommends you should never leave them for Santa. They are so bad your Christmas elf might need a sick day!

On the plus side, the dog will be happy that he doesn’t have to share his treats – with Santa or anyone around the house.

Day 9: Elf On The Shelf Poops Peppermints

elves poop peppermints
Source: asmallsnippet.com

So, now you know – elves poop peppermint candy! A funny Elf On The Shelf idea that kids, especially boys, will love.

Day 10: Elf On The Shelf Cereal Trick

elf on the self cereal trick
Source: frugalcouponliving.com

One of my favorite ideas is this trick where Elf On The Shelf is pouring his favorite breakfast cereal. Use pipe cleaners to create the effect. Your kids will love this great Elf On The Shelf idea, and guess what they want for breakfast! 

Day 11: Elf On The Shelf And Christmas Tree Farm

elf on the shelf christams tree
Source: mamacheaps.com

Was Elf listening at story-time when you read the Christmas Tree Farm story to your kids? It looks like he enjoyed the story because he brought a truckload of edible Christmas Trees! For alternatives, use any Christmas-themed snacks like brownies, lollipops, candy canes, or gingerbread cookies. 

Day 12:  Elf On The Shelf LEGO Zipline

elf on the shelf lego zipline
Source: www.mamacheaps.com

LEGO fans may be surprised at Elf On The Shelf’s creative zipline. Without touching the Elf, kids can join the fun by pulling the “sail” to help Elf zip around the room. 

Day 13: Elf On The Shelf Microwave Popcorn Michief

elf on the shelf popcorn michief
Source: princesspinkygirl.com

Inside the microwave! Elf On The Shelf is having fun with popcorn. Your kids will love waking up with Elf surrounded by popcorn.

Day 14: Elf On The Shelf Hotdog

elf on the shelf hot dog
Source: justalittlecreativity.com

An Elf hotdog for breakfast only happens in the holiday season. You can also use a taco for this fun Elf On The Shelf idea.

Day 15: Elf On The Shelf And Darth Vader

elf on the shelf and darth vader
Source: the_lemonista Instagram

Oh dear, Darth Vader got hold of Elf On The Shelf. Not to worry, there are more than enough days left for Elf On The Shelf to react. The scenario is a great idea to create a story that takes three or more days to play out. Alternatively, use the Elf on The Shelf ideas separately.

Day 16: Super Elf On The Shelf Takes Revenge

elf and super hero barbie friends
Source: simplemadepretty.com

Elf has had enough! Turn him into Super Elf with orange construction paper and plan his revenge with his Barbie partners (Or Frozen dolls for Frozen fans).

Day 17: Elf On The Shelf Ugly Sweater Party

elf on the shelf ugly sweater party
Source: thesimpleparent.com

Elf On The Shelf, all the dolls, action figures, and maybe a stuffed animal too, dressed up for the ugly sweater party. Who is wearing the ugliest sweater – could it be Dart Vader? A cute idea using kids’ toys and dolls and clothes as props to celebrate Elf’s superhero revenge.

Day 18: Elf On The Shelf LEGO Ambush

elf on the shelf lego ambush
Source: livinglocurto.com

The LEGO Minifigures ambushed Elf because they weren’t invited to the party. Elf On The Shelf is in trouble, again; who is going to help him this time?

Day 19: Elf On The Shelf Went Camping 

elf on the shelf camping with barbies rv
Source: lilblueboo.com

Elf and Barbie must’ve made friends at the Ugly Sweater party for Elf On The Shelf went camping with Barbie’s RV. I wonder where Barbie is? A quick Elf On The Shelf idea to help out moms with limited time and create a story for kids’ imagination.

Day 20: Elf On The Shelf Bubble Bath

buble bath elf on the shelf
Source: @ella_the_scoutelf Instagram

It’s bath time fun, have a good laugh as Elf takes a bubble bath. Is Elf using your kid’s toothbrush to wash his back? The details are adorable – the bathrobe, he took off his hat, and the ducks with him in the cooking pot, aka bathtub. 

Day 21: Elf On The Shelf Stuffed Animal Parade

elf on the shelf stuffed animal parade
Source: wikihow.mom/

Where is the parade marching to? Place Elf on the leading stuffed animal in the parade. Use Velcro on the hands and let Elf lean forward if Elf falls off. You can also add other toys as bystanders who silently watch the parade not to wake the children.

Day 22: Elf On The Shelf Traps Kids

elf on the shelf traps kid
Source: livinglocurto.com

The Elf was really up to mischief last night trying to trap kids in their bedroom. And caught red-handed with the evidence!

Day 23: Elf On The Shelf Taking An Elfie

elf on the shelf taking an elfie
Source: themommygang.com

Adorable! It will be a great hit with your kids too. All you need is a camera and a sign, and Elf is ready for a self-portrait. 

Day 24: Elf On The Shelf Picnic

Elf On The Shelf Picnic
Source: the_adventures_of_elf_trix Instagram

The Elves are hungry and eager to have a picnic. A fun idea for an unforgettable breakfast picnic with the Elves. 

Day 25: Elf On The Shelf Hiding With Friends

elf on the shelf hiding with friends
Source: californiaunpublished.com

Can you find Elf among all his friends? Is he hiding, or was he playing all night with his favorite friends? 

Day 26:Hiking Up The Christmas Tree

elf on the shelf hiking
californiaunpublished.com

It seems like Elf On The Shelf learned his lesson the last time when he got stuck in the Christmas tree. This time he is hiking up the tree…to where and why? 

Day 27: Elf On The Shelf Family Photos Mischief

elf on a shelf family photos micheif
sweetcheekstastytreats.blogspot.com

Caught red-handed with the Dry Erase Marker in Elf’s hands. Don’t use a Sharpie when drawing on family photos. 

Day 28: Elf On The Shelf Letters To Santa Claus

elf on the shelf letters to santa
Source; www.dictionary.com

Elf On The Shelf returns one morning from the Noth Pole with unique stationery for the children to write letters to Santa. Perhaps they will even receive a reply in this busy season. You can follow it up with the next day’s Naughty-Nice Notice as a reply or use this Elf On The Shelf idea within the first few days after Elf’s arrival.

Day 29: Elf On The Shelf With Naughty-Nice Official Notice

elf on the shelf with official notice
Source: https://spaceshipsandlaserbeams.com

It’s official; it’s written on a piece of paper; the child was caught being nice! This best behavior Elf On The Shelf Idea is a fun way to prepare little kids that Elf will be leaving the next day.

Day 30: Elf On The Shelf Goodbye Letter

elf on the shelf saying goodbye
Source: https://troubleshootingmotherhood.com

Scout Elf returns to the North Pole on Christmas Eve, hitching a ride on Santa’s sleigh. Let the Elf leave a sweet goodbye letter for the entire family to find on Christmas morning. You can also add a merry Christmas gift and a promise to return next Christmas.

Bonus Elf On The Shelf Ideas

Cute Ideas for Elf On The Shelf Hiding Places

elf on the shelf hiding places in the kitchen
Source: https://www.frugalcouponliving.com

When you don’t have the time, these creative ideas could help. Quickly hide the Elf somewhere in the kitchen. 

Elf On A Shelf And A REAL Snowman

elf on the shelf and a real snowman
Source: https://holidappy.com

Did Elf on the Shelf bring a REAL snowman into the house? One of the most adorable ideas. It requires some preparation and leaving a snowman at the door to quickly bring inside in the morning.

Elf Decorates With Paper Snowflakes

elf on the shelf and paper snowflakes
Source: http://asmallsnippet.com

Elf decorates the home with paper snowflakes; he was still busy when the family woke up. You could also have the Elf decorate the house with snowflake decorations the kids made.

Elf On The Shelf Eating Chips

elf on the shelf eating chips
Source: https://kimspireddiy.com

The Elf loves chips. He climbed into the Pringles container to get some chips; he spilled some and broke a few. 

Reindeer Poop Elf On The Shelf Idea

elf on the shelf reinder poop
Source: https://www.mamacheaps.com

One of the funniest Elf on the Shelf ideas is reindeer poop, and the notice says it’s free! Even Elves must clean up after their pets. That reindeer poop looks suspiciously like chocolate-coated candy.

Elf On The Shelf Fireman Saving Doggie

elf on the shelf saving the doggie
Source: http://dirtydiaperlaundry.com

Reporting good deeds to Santa must’ve rubbed off on Elf, for he is sometimes seen doing good deeds too. Here Elf is saving the dog in the tree. What is the dog doing up there? It’s usually a cat that gets stuck in a tree.

Elf On The Shelf Zoom Meeting

elf on the shelf zoom meeting
Source: https://www.mamacheaps.com

Is Elf On The Shelf having a Zoom meeting with Santa, or is he chatting to his Elf friends? The printable is downloadable.  

Elf On The Shelf In The Shower

elf on the shelf in the shower
Source: https://www.justalittlecreativity.com

Is the funny Elf taking a shower or just hanging there…or both? Or is he just really bad at playing hide and go seek?  At least he is leaving the toilet paper alone for a change.

Elf On The Shelf Candy Cane Garden

The Elf on The Shelf grows candy cane in crushed chocolate cookies soil; it takes a few days for the hidden candy canes to mature. Will Elf share his candy canes?

Elf On The Shelf Train Track Mischief

elf on the shelf train track michief
Source: https://www.thepioneerwoman.com

This is a nice and easy elf on a shelf idea for when you don’t have a lot of time to prepare. Elf On The Shelf is in trouble. Will the kids be able to untie and save him in time without touching him? 

Elf On The Shelf Hanging Around

elf on the shelf hanging around
Source: the_elves_at_no.62 Instagram

How did Elf On The Shelf get up there? How are we going to help him down if you aren’t allowed to touch Elf?

Note: Make sure your children don’t get too fired up and throw something hard to knock the elf down.

Elf On The Shelf And The Melted Snowman

elf on the shelf and melted snowman
Source: https://familyapp.com

Elf On The Shelf got hold of the hairdryer and melted the snowman! With a glass of milk and household items, you have a melted snowman friend. Luckily Frosty has taught us – the snowman will be back next year.

Elf On The Shelf Magic Egg Trick

elf on the shelf magic trick
Source: https://www.mamacheaps.com

Amazing what eggs and magic dust can do if Elf On The Shelf is involved. The little card challenges kids to throw some magic dust on the eggs and to come back the next day to see what hatches (yes, it’s a two-nighter). Kids will be amazed to see how the real eggs transformed overnight into Hathchimals or other candy eggs. 

Elf On The Shelf Scavenger Hunt 

elf on the shelf scavenger hunt
Source: https://www.mamacheaps.com

Like kids, elves love scavenger hunts. Use the printable cards or create your own. How many ornaments, candy canes, or bells did Elf hide, and where? Can the kids find all of them?  

Elf On The Shelf Snowball Fight

elf on the shelf snowball figth
Source: https://thesimpleparent.com

The Elf and friends had a snowball fight that continued into the morning. Let the kids join the fun with these indoor snowballs.  

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