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42 Elf On The Shelf Ideas: A Busy Mom’s Guide

Are you a busy mom in need of Elf on the Shelf ideas this holiday season?

You and every other mom on the planet, right?

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The Christmas season is undoubtedly the busiest time of the year, and now with the unavoidable popularity of the Elf on the Shelf, the entire month of December is busier than ever.

Ask any busy mom about their wretched beloved elf, and you’re likely to get an eye roll, a look of commiseration or a look of pure disgust.

Why do we keep torturing ourselves year after year with that friendly scout elf?

Because our kids adore him. We adore our kids. Therefore we are stuck with the Elf.

It’s magical. It’s exciting. It’s fun (for them!).

This year, I want you to actually enjoy your elf.

I want you to feel ready to tackle 25 days of elf shenanigans with these awesome Elf on the Shelf ideas.

I want you to KILL IT, Elf on the Shelf style.

This guide is going to give you everything you need in one spot.

Seriously, it would be a great idea for you to pin this for later.

Elf On The Shelf Ideas

Here is what you will find throughout this post.

It’s everything you need from start to finish!

  1. How to come up with a plan (which will help you to avoid stressful situations later)
  2. Elf on the Shelf Arrival Ideas
  3. My Elf on the Shelf Arrival Letter
  4. Elf on the Shelf name ideas
  5. Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas
  6. Funny Elf on the Shelf Ideas
  7. Toddler Elf on the Shelf Ideas
  8. Elf on the Shelf Ideas For 2 Elves
  9. Elf on the Shelf Printable Scavenger Hunt
  10. What to do when you forget to move the elf
  11. Elf on the Shelf Goodbye Letter
The best Elf on the Shelf ideas from start to finish, including arrival and goodbye letters, elf names, easy and funny elf on the shelf ideas, and ideas for toddlers, too!

Come Up With A Plan

I highly, HIGHLY suggest getting prepared now.

Even if you’re reading this on December 15 and your elf has been performing hijinks for weeks now, it’s never to late to sit down and create a plan.

Believe me.

You don’t want to be up at midnight searching for and implementing your next Elf on the Shelf idea.

And you most DEFINITELY don’t want to realize at 4am in the middle of your peaceful winter’s nap that you forgot to move the elf! (Check out my elf arrival letter which makes it okay if this happens!)

So create a Pinterest board, and fill it with all of the ideas that you love.

Or just pin this post, because it’s ALL you’re gonna need.

Then, if you’re printing anything, print it all at once.

Set an alarm on your phone.

That’s your reminder!

Seriously, last year, I browsed Pinterest, saw about 274 elf ideas and STILL went to bed without moving her.

Then, surprise!

I woke up in a darn panic in the middle of the night.

Worst. Nightmare.

And check out my Elf On The Shelf Calendar and Planner for the ultimate organization and Elf on the Shelf fun!

Elf on the Shelf Arrival Ideas

The first day that your elf arrives is probably the most exciting which is why you need some fantastic Elf on the Shelf ideas for arrival.

You definitely don’t want your elf just, you know, sitting on a shelf.

Oh the horror!

You need to think of how you can welcome your elf back (or to your home for the first time) in an exciting way.

And honestly, this is day one. The day when you’re going to have the most energy to pull off crazy elf shenanigans.

Here are some ideas:

  • bringing a gift
  • ziplining into the house
  • arriving by a toy parade
  • stuck in the window blinds
  • with a balloon arch
  • with luggage
  • arriving in a package on the porch marked special delivery

Want more?

Check out all of my elf arrival ideas. Most are super simple to implement, but have a big wow factor.

Whatever Elf on the Shelf idea for arrival you choose, make sure to pair it with my Elf on the Shelf welcome back letter.

The perfect way to welcome your Elf on the Shelf- arrival letter.

Boy And Girl Elf On The Shelf Name Ideas

Your elf has officially arrived!

You’re probably hoping to find the perfect name. (Or hoping that your child doesn’t name it something like “Elf”.)

You don’t want this name-giving process to be stressful (like naming a CHILD), you want it to be fun!

If you need a little help, here are some fun ideas:

  • Jack Frost
  • Jingle
  • Happy
  • Sparkles
  • Sweets
  • Ken D. Cane
  • Kandy Kay
  • Kringle
  • Buddy
  • Bella
  • Buster
  • Cocoa
  • Elfis
  • Blizzard
  • Trixie
  • Merry
  • Snowflake
  • Ralphie
  • Sugarplum
  • Chippy

Want to see more?

Check out the 200 best Elf on the Shelf names.

If you want a traditional name for your elf? You got it! Christmas-y? Elf-y? Funny? Ridiculous? This list has all of that and more.

Here’s to finding the perfect name!

Easy Elf On The Shelf Ideas

The Christmas season was busy enough, and then the creators of the Elf on the Shelf (a brilliant, ridiculously rich mother/daughter duo) decided to make it even busier for us moms.

Don’t fret.

I’ve got super fun, but super SIMPLE Elf on the Shelf ideas for you.

Because while there are some really elaborate ideas that are totally awesome, do you really want to spend your off-duty, mom-free time doing it?

Didn’t think so.

With all of these ideas, you should spend 2 minutes tops posing your elf each night.

Last minute ideas are the best way to keep your sanity during the Elf on the Shelf season.

Here is my list of quick Elf on the Shelf ideas (that are still high impact).

PS- Know how to make this whole elf thing even EASIER? By making your elf bendable! Seriously, those little elves are not very flexible. I know I’ve spent way too much time in the past trying to position my elf just the right way. Only to have her fall in the middle of the night. Not anymore!

  1. Laying in the silverware tray

2. Taking a bubble bath in mini marshmallows

3. Head first in cereal box or candy box

Such a quick idea that will leave a big impact!

4. Writing kids or Santa a message

5. Hiding among stuffed animals

6. Covered in bows or band-aids

7. Wearing your child’s boots and heading for the door

8. Playing a card game

Like the best kid’s game ever invented Sleeping Queens

9. Reading a book

(Mother Bruce is one of our favorites!)

10. Peeking out of a drawer

11. Breaking A Piñata

Get the rest of the easy Elf on the Shelf ideas <——– here.

Funny Elf on the Shelf Ideas

And who doesn’t want some hilarious Elf on the Shelf ideas once and a while? This list is for those nights when you’re feeling a little silly. I’m sure your kids will appreciate the humor!

12. Stuck in the fireplace

It would be really cute if you just cut out a little thought bubble to go with it with the Elf saying “help!”

(I don’t have a picture of this yet because I embarrassingly don’t know how to open up our gas fireplace and my husband wasn’t home)

13. Selling balloons

I used wooden skewers, water balloons and a cute little wooden chalkboard easel.

14. Decorating your child’s room with balloons and/or streamers

So fun to wake up to!

15. Making your child’s school lunch with weird foods

Just open up the pantry and see what you can find (remember that elves love sweets!)

16. Blowing a bubble with gum

It stuck forever, believe me, I tested it. (I KNOW my gum obsessed kids will love this one)

17. Drinking syrup from a straw

This one scares me a little bit because I could totally see my kids doing this.

18. Pooping chocolate chips into the potty

If you’re potty training a young child you might want to steer clear of this one.

My mother-in-law did it at her house for my daughter and she was completely freaked out.

She wouldn’t use her training potty there for a whole week.

19. Eating your kid’s gingerbread house

Pssst- You can sneak a bite too.

20. Surrounded by money from your child’s piggy bank

Your kids will either love this one or will legitimately think that the elf is trying to steal from them.

Either way, it’s funny!

21. Playing ghost with a tissue

Just hole punch a couple holes in a tissue and you’re good to go.

22. Drawing on a family photo with dry-erase marker

Find these and all my funny ideas WITH PICTURES here: Funny Elf On The Shelf Ideas

23. The Floor Is Lava

24. Skiing

This one’s a little messy, but sometimes it’s worth it!

25. Making Mirror Art

26. Dreaming Of A Winter Wonderland

Elf on the Shelf dreaming of a white Christmas

27. With A Special Breakfast Letter

The letter says:

I put magic on Mom and Dad. Ask for ice cream for breakfast, and they will say yes!

Hurry before the magic goes away! Also, I put magic on this paper so they cannot read it!


Elf on the Shelf breakfast

Elf on the Shelf Ideas For Toddlers

Let’s say that you have a toddler. I’m going to tell you that Elf on the Shelf ideas for toddlers should NOT be elaborate.

Take advantage of the fact that your toddler is currently amused by the simple things in life.

Believe me, you will have many more Christmases in order to get all of your creative elf energy out.

This year is not the time to burn out from too much elf nonsense.

But get ready!

Your toddler is going to LOVE their new friend!

Here are some ideas.

28. Cardboard Box Fun

Have your elf scribble in a cardboard box and then sit in it (because what toddler doesn’t love to do that!)

29. Going Fishing

Have your elf fish for goldfish (every toddler’s favorite food!).

If you have the Fishing Game, simply grab one of the fishing poles from the game and stick it into the goldfish bag.

30. The Elf on the Shelf and the Three Bears

Pose your elf reenacting your toddler’s favorite book.

31. Whipped Cream Toothpaste

Have your elf brush his teeth with whipped cream (this is also a great, sneaky way to get in a quick little lesson on oral hygiene!)

32. Sick Elf

Stick a tissue on your elf’s nose and surround him with crumpled up tissues (the tissue, AKA the toddler’s biggest nemesis).

33. Toilet Paper Fun

Making a mess with toilet paper in the bathroom is quite possibly your toddler’s favorite past time- toilet paper hammock, anyone?

34. Tea Time

Having a tea party with some toy friends will encourage your toddler to engage in some pretend play, too!

35. Baking Mishap

Getting your elf stuck in a whisk is the easiest thing ever, but it’s sure to elicit some belly laughs.

36. Piggy Bank Robber

Position your elf reaching into your toddler’s piggy bank- if you have a few minutes you could even make a small mask out of black felt for your elf.

37. Play Doh Face

Using Play Doh to “dress up” a doll. This one could get really wild- think fingernails and toe nails, too!

Get all of my toddler ideas (WITH PHOTOS) here: Elf On The Shelf Ideas For 2-3 Year Olds

Elf on the Shelf Ideas For 2 Elves

The beauty of setting up some elf antics with two elves is that you can pretty much do anything.

Adding a new elf into the mix is a fun idea that doesn’t take any more effort than one elf.

38. Encouraging Your Kids To Clean Their Rooms

Why not bring your Halloween skeleton back out one more time?

Okay, maybe this set-up won’t really encourage your kids to clean their rooms, but it’s funny none-the-less!

39. The Milk Has Gone Bad

As long as you have a clear gallon of milk, a little string and a sharpie, you’re good to go for this great idea!

Such a good one.

40. Having A Sack Race

Break out those extra brown paper bags and create a sack race with your child’s small stuffed animals.

This idea is a great way to get some giggles tomorrow morning in your living room.

Who will win the race?

41. Hanging Out In An Igloo

Simply cut a gallon milk jug into the shape you want and cover it in cotton balls.

42. Climbing To The Treats

43. Bringing A Candy Cane Hunt

Printable candy cane hunt with 12 candy cane tags

Don’t you love this candy cane hunt with candy cane tags?

Check out my Two Elf on the Shelf Ideas!

Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt

Wanna send your kids searching for clue after clue tomorrow morning while you sip your coffee in peace?

Setting up a pre-made scavenger hunt is so much fun.

Get this elf scavenger hunt (free printable). I promise your kids will love it!

Elf on the Shelf scavenger hunt riddles- free printable

Excuses for the Elf on the Shelf who Didn’t Move

If you didn’t use my Elf on the Shelf arrival letter which tells your kids that it’s okay if the elf doesn’t move overnight, then you might need some suggestions.

Keep these excuses in mind.

Excuse #1- Blame it on the younger sibling.

You can always tell your child that you think you saw the toddler touch the elf the day before.

Excuse #2- You forgot to tell him good night and he was waiting up all night for you to let him know that you were going to bed so that he could sneak out.

Excuse #3- He looks tired.

Don’t you think he looks tired? I bet he wanted a break. It’s a long fly to the North Pole!

Or better yet, read and pin 14 Reasons Your Elf Didn’t Move about what to say when your Elf forgets to move.

(Her ideas are way better than mine).

Elf on the Shelf Goodbye Letter

Did you ever hear of the Christmas hangover?

That feeling when you have been waiting and preparing for Christmas Day for an ENTIRE month and it’s over in the blink of an eye?

It can be a huge letdown.

It’s the same thing with your kids.

But not only is Christmas morning over and all of that excitement, but Jingles has flown back to the North Pole after weeks of daily excitement.

It can be sad for a kid.

Leaving your child with an Elf on the Shelf Goodbye Letter that they can actually hold will help them feel a little less let down.

Help your children say goodbye to the Elf on the Shelf with this printable goodbye letter.

Get your Elf on the Shelf Goodbye letter <——–HERE.

Elf on the Shelf Props, Printables, Pets and Accessories

There are so many awesome Elf on the Shelf accessories. Did you know that you can buy Elf on the Shelf clothes? Even elfpets!

Most importantly, have fun and remember, you’re the mom, you are the one in control.

Don’t let the Elf on the Shelf steal your Christmas spirit!

So tell me busy mom, do you love or loathe the Elf on the Shelf?

What are your best Elf on the Shelf ideas?


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