There are so many great Elf on the Shelf ideas for home. There are endless exciting and easy ideas that you can do with your scout elf. I will be sharing 94 of my favorite ideas with you.
When your elf returns from the North Pole this holiday season, I know just how stressful it can be. You’re always searching for new ideas that will get your kids excited. But sometimes, thinking of those new ideas can be so difficult.
As a elf mom herself, I totally get how overwhelming it can be. I know that you’re always looking for those quick and easy ideas and last minute ideas, too. If you are looking specifically for last-minute elf ideas, then check out my post Elf Ideas – Last Minute Ideas for your Elf.
Don’t get frustrated this year trying to think of what to do next. Instead, use this list of elf ideas below to make an easy plan that way when December 1st (or the day after Thanksgiving, or whatever day your elf returns, you are ready for them.
This is seriously the ultimate Elf on the Shelf planning post. There are more than enough ideas to get you through the entire elf season.
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Plus, I have included the ultimate free Elf on the Shelf planning set. It comes with free printable notes, a blank ideas list, blank undated calendar, a printable list of ideas, and a template to create your own very simple printable notes.
So if you are here because you need some funny ideas, a cute idea, or an easy idea, check out this ultimate list of Elf on the Shelf ideas for the home below.
What is Supplies do you Need to Create these Elf Scenes?
It will depend on which of the elf antics you are choosing. Most of these ideas require little supplies and most of them are items that you probably already have laying around your house.
My Favorite Elf on the Shelf Supplies to Have on Hand
There are so many items that you can use with your elf. These are a few of my favorites that I make sure to always have on hand each year.
- White cardstock
- Candy canes
- Marshmallows (both mini marshmallows and jumbo marshmallows)
- Cotton balls
- Toilet paper
- Empty toilet paper roll
- Chocolate chips
- Dry erase marker
- Children’s toys
- Christmas decorations (Christmas stockings, Christmas trucks, trees, etc.)
- Crayons and/or markers
- Minis from Mini Brands
The Ultimate Free Printable Elf on the Shelf Planning Set
At the end of this post, I have created the the ultimate free Elf on the Shelf planning set for you. The entire printable set is free. It comes with:
- Ready to print notes seen in this post
- Fillable PDF template to create your own printable notes
- Blank elf planning calendar for November and December (Monday and Sunday Start)
- Blank elf on the shelf planning list
- Elf on the Shelf list of ideas
94 Elf on the Shelf Ideas Cheat Sheet
As part of the free printable Elf on the Shelf planning set, you’ll get 94 elf on the shelf ideas for home.
MORE Elf on the Shelf Ideas and Free Printables
Looking for even MORE Christmas elf printables and ideas? Check out these posts for more.
- Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas with Free Printable Notes
- Free Elf on the Shelf Printable Notes
- Free Christmas Story Elf on the Shelf printable set
- Free Baking Elf on the Shelf set
- Free Printable Elf on the Shelf Donation Letter
- Free Customizable Elf on the Shelf Return Letter
- Free Customizable Elf on the Shelf Goodbye Letter
Can I use these Ideas in the Classroom?
Of course! If you are a teacher, many of these ideas would work in a classroom as well. But, the focus of this post is for Elf ideas that you can do at home.
Things to Remember
When setting up your elf scenes, there are a few things to remember. Make sure…
- your pets can’t reach your elves
- your littlest children can’t reach your elves (this will REALLY upset your older children, as we found out with our child one time)
- your elf can’t catch on fire in their set up
- your lights are turned off if your elf is near a lightbulb – I’ve seen a LOT of melted elves
- your elves are placed in an area that won’t inconvenience you all day. Only have one toilet? Don’t set your elf up on that one and only toilet. Need to cook a big dinner – don’t place your elf on the stove or in the oven
- your elf isn’t getting ruined by your set up (think about the destruction water can cause, paint, markers, etc.)
Elf on the Shelf Ideas for the Home
Elf Bath Time
Use cotton balls or mini marshmallows to create a fake bathtub scene with faux bubble bath bubbles. You can place your elf in the sink, in a bowl, or even in a Tupperware container. Make sure if you put him in the sink that it’s not one you need to use all day. This free note is included in the free printable set at the end of this blog post.
Chilly Elf in the Fridge
My kids thought this was such a funny idea. Place your elf in the fridge but make sure to place a little blanket wrapped around him. Place him in a spot that you won’t have to move him all day (when we did this, I made sure I didn’t serve cereal for breakfast).
Elves Playing Board Games, Video Games, and Cards
Setting up your elf to play a family board game is one of my favorite go-to easy ideas. All it takes is a board game that you already have in the home. It’s a great idea if you are running late and need a quick last minute elf set up.
Here is an example of our elves playing a game of Guess Who?
Next is my nieces’ elves playing a game of poker with some of their favorite stuffed animals.
In this next game, the elves have gone fishing. Let’s Go Fishing is seriously one of the best board games to use with the Elf on the Shelf dolls.
This elf is playing a travel tic tac toe game. You could even simply draw a tic tac toe board on a piece of paper, too!
These elves are ready to play a Mario Kart race on the Nintendo Switch. As seen here, this set of free elf printables includes a note that says, “Want to Play?” This note can be used with any of these game set ups.
Bungee Cords, String, and Ropes
Bungee cords, string, and ropes are a great item to have on hand. Especially since they are items you probably already have laying around the house. You can use them in so many ways like hanging your elves from lights or use them to climb up a wall.
Or, you could have your elf being extra daring by attaching a strong from one end of the room to another and have them go across the room on a candy cane zipline.
What about having them sit on a ball? Then you can walk around all day singing “I came in like a wrecking ball.”
Using Light Fixtures, Ceiling Fans, and Christmas Lights
As you saw above, using light fixtures to propel from is a great option. You can use rope, string, or just have the elves hang upside down! Just make sure to keep the lights on on the light they are attached to so that you don’t burn your elf.
Aside from just hanging there, you can also items to the lights that they can hang from like a toilet paper roll to create a swing like this.
Or, you can hang a container from the light fixture for the elf or elves to go inside. I’ve seen this done to create a fake hot air balloon or in this case, just as a super quick simple way to set up your elf last minute.
Here is the elf taking a ride on the ceiling fan. This is a fun idea when you’re running late and need a SUPER quick elf set up. Just make sure not to turn on the fan.
Christmas lights are also a great option to hang elves from, wrap elves in, etc. The newer LED Christmas lights don’t get too hot so they are safe to put around an elf for shorts amount of time. If you are leaving the house, make sure to unplug the lights before leaving the elves wrapped in lights.
Use Marshmallows or Small Candy (like M & Ms)
You can use mini marshmallows and regular size marshmallows to do all sorts of things. Here are some of my favorite options.
If you have more than one elf or some stuffed animal friends, you can make them an extra naughty elf by getting them into a snowball fight.
Use a fake candle or a real candle (not lit of course) to make your elves pretend like they are roasting marshmallows. You can add chocolate and graham crackers to make it seem like your scout elves are making s’mores.
Need to send a message to your kids? You can use mini marshmallows or candy (like m & ms) to spell out a message to them. They could spell out a child’s name or send out a message when your child hasn’t been on their best behavior lately.
Have your elves get in a workout with these little dumbbells made out of mini marshmallows and toothpicks. The elves are sitting on yoga mats created by a cut up paper towel.
Dry Erase Markers
Dry erase markers are one of my favorite items to have on hand when it’s elf on the shelf season. It’s one of the easiest ways to get creative with your elf without having to spend much money. Here are some of the many ideas you could use.
First, you could use the dry erase marker to write on the bathroom mirror. I like to write a message and draw a picture that they can become a part of.
All they have to do is stand in the right spot in front of the mirror and it looks like they are becoming whatever you’ve drawn. Here is an example of an elf body drawn on the mirror.
This is a second idea of using the bathroom mirror. In this one, when the child is close enough to the mirror, their face will appear at the center of the sun.
This is one of the funniest uses of a dry erase marker. Take a framed family photo and draw mustaches and beards on all of the people in the picture. This is sure to get your children laughing.
Since you’re already busy wrapping presents this time of year, might as well use the wrapping paper rolls and wrapping paper to create some hilarious elf antics.
Look at at this funny elf with its legs inside of the wrapping paper tubes. It makes it look like he has extra long legs.
Let your elf get into the Christmas season by having them wrap a tiny present. In our example, our elf wasn’t so great and he got himself all stuck in the tape.
Use your Kids’ Toys
Using your own kid’s toys is such a great way to save money with your elf on the shelf. You don’t need fancy elf on the shelf accessories when you’ve got a bunch of kids’ toys to use.
Plus, they’re one of the easiest ways to quickly set up an elf. I love to use toys last minute when I realize I forgot to move the elf before going up to bed.
This set up took less than a minute. All I had to do was find the toy, clean off a space on the counter, and set up the elf with the football and football goal.
Use a container and a little sign to “trap” a toy. This little dinosaur has trapped by the elf,
Don’t forget about bath toys! Just make sure that you don’t need to use the bathtub or shower that you’ve set your elves up in or you’ll be in some trouble (and stinky because you won’t be able to take a bath).
Or use a toy animal for your elf to ride on. In this case, Rebecca from Rouse in the House, used a unicorn to travel through a magical Christmas forest. She’s a lucky elf to get to travel in such style.
Use Stuffed Animals and Dolls
Stuffed animals and dolls make great friends for the elves. In this example, you can see our elf is hidden among stuffed animals (ET style).
There have been so many amazing miniatures in the last few years. Even though they can cost a little bit of money, they can produce some detailed, exciting elf on the shelf scenes.
In this first scene, the elf is playing a game of skeeball. Doesn’t it look so much like the real thing? In this case, this is also a toy that our boys love to play so we saved money because we already had this.
I found this set of miniature Uno cards in a party store as a party favor. They are seriously the most perfectly sized elf on the shelf cards.
Use Toy Cars, Tractors, Trains, and other Vehicles
In our home, we are inundated with toy cars, trucks, tractors, trains, construction vehicles. If it has wheels, we have it.
One of my favorite ways to use the elf is to pair it with the train that goes around the tree. It always bring a bit of extra Christmas magic to see the elves circling around the Christmas tree on our train.
Using a vehicle is such a simple idea for an elf set up. It makes it great when you have an early morning the next morning and need to quickly get done your elf set up.
As you can see in each of the set ups below, there was minimal work done. All we had to do was put the elf or elves inside or on top of the vehicle.
You can also use the toy cars in a more intricate way. Here is me using the toy cars to create a car wash.
By the way, you can get this note in the free elf on the shelf printable pack at the end of this blog post.
For this elf antic set up, I just took a lot of vehicles to create a monster truck scene. You could do this with multiple cars, trains, construction vehicles, etc.
Don’t forget about planes – this includes paper airplanes. Crafting with Two Kids made a paper airplane for their elves departure. Look how cute they look! You could use the plane for an arrival, departure, or any random day the elves are here.
Have your Elf Participate in Sports, Hobbies, or Activities
You can use items that your child already has in the house or miniature versions of their favorite items to get your elf active. Here are some examples.
You can have your elf go bowling with miniature bowling.
Or, you can use cups that have faces drawn on them to look like snowmen bowling pins.
Your elf can even try to figure out how to play your child’s musical instrument.
Toilet Paper Can be Used in SO Many Ways
Toilet paper, when not scarce, can be a great, inexpensive addition to any elf on the shelf kit. You can use it in way more ways than you probably realize.
Here are we are using it to roll an elf down the stairs.
In this set up, we are using the toilet paper to create toilet paper snow angels. When I did this, I just had a second roll of toilet paper nearby for the kids to use so they wouldn’t disturb the elf.
Using toilet paper to decorate trees is SUCH a fun idea.
You can even use toilet paper to create a toilet paper hammock. You can drape the toilet paper from one high spot to another to place your elf in.
Toilet paper rolls also make really great snowmen. You can get this free printable “Do you want to build a snowman” note included in the free set at the end of this post.
Use the Elves to Share Exciting News
I know people have used their elves to announce all sorts of fun and exciting news. People have their elves share they’re going on a trip (like to Disney World), a new pet, sibling, and more.
You can also use your elf to announce other fun activities that aren’t events. It could be something holiday related or a Christmas tradition like making Christmas cookies.
Here is our elves telling our kids they have a gingerbread house kit to use. This is one of the free notes you can get in this printable set.
You could have your elves tell your children that you’re going to be having a Christmas cookie baking weekend or the day after you baked, they can leave a note about how they were trying to make their own Christmas cookies. Just use the free custom note template to write a note from your elves.
Make your Elf Get Creative – Coloring, Painting, Baking, Dancing, Crafting, etc.
You can have your elf do all sorts of creative activities with materials you already have on hand. It will save you money and they can be really fast to set up.
In this example, the elf colored a coloring book page (rather poorly I might add).
This elf got her hands on some stickers and went to town covering herself, her friend Anna, and the bananas in stickers.
Speaking of bananas, these elves used sharpie markers to turn their bananas into adorable Minions.
In this example from my nieces’ elf, they asked them to get creative themselves and add some details to the picture of the Christmas tree.
Use Christmas Decorations you Already Own!
It doesn’t take much to use Christmas decor you already have to set up some elf on the shelf scenes. Here are three different ways I used my Christmas decor to set up a scene with my elf/elves.
This elf went for a tractor ride in a winter forest.
These elves went for a wild sleigh ride down our banister. Be careful if you do this set up – I accidentally knocked our elves off the banister when I tossed something to my son on the stairs. Needless to say, I had some upset boys. You can see in a picture later on when they both have a cast on themselves.
This was such a last minute, easy set up. This elf is just going for a ride on a truck decoration.
Stockings are always a classic decoration to use with the elves. They are a great last-minute elf on the shelf idea.
This set up took a lot more time and some more money. Ashley from Frugal Coupon Living had her elf put up her own, beautiful pink Christmas tree. Notice she put a tiara at the top!
Target’s Bullseye Playground (formerly known as the dollar spot), has some GREAT elf on the shelf holiday decorations. Look how cute this little inexpensive snow globe looks like with the elf shoved inside!
Poop, Farts, and other Bathroom Humor
If I want to really make my boys laugh with our elves, I just have them set up in some sort of scenario involving poop, farts, or the bathroom.
Use this free printable note to have the elf on a shelf pretend your child’s toothbrush is their butt brush. Thankfully, we have extra toothbrushes from when we had just traveled, so our kids didn’t get out of brushing their teeth just because the elf was using their toothbrush. This one seriously got so many laughs.
My husband didn’t love this idea as much as I did but the boys sure did. Use the free printable note to have your elf hide from their dad’s farts, too.
This super fast set up makes it look like the elf is pooping. Of course, in reality, it’s just chocolate chips.
Instead of elf poop, in this set up the chocolate chips are used as reindeer poop.
This free printable note and balloon make it appear as though the elf swallowed their gum and blew a bubble out of their butt.
Using Food for the Elf Set Ups
As you saw above, food can really enhance an elf on the shelf set up. These ideas are really perfect elf on the shelf ideas for home because they involve food which can sometimes be tricky in a classroom setting.
This elf made snow angels out of flour. He could have also used powdered sugar, regular sugar, or salt. Honestly, I think salt would have been the cleanest option. Again, you can get this note in the free set at the end of this post.
Have your elf eat a mini version of whatever you are serving your children. For our elf’s very first arrival, we had a fancy breakfast. Our elf ate french toast just like my oldest son.
Use gold fish or Swedish fish to make your elves go fishing!
Use your elf to hide a special treat for your children. There is a free note you can grab to go with this idea, too.
My nieces’ elf, Charlie, got herself a treat in this set up. Keeping the chocolate to just her face makes clean up a lot easier.
This Worthey Life created this super fun DIY hot chocolate elf mug for the elf to enjoy a faux hot chocolate. You can see their tutorial here.
Holiday themed sprinkles are a super easy thing to have your elf eat – especially since they are elf sized. These almost look like candy or cookies for our elf.
Don’t forget about drinks. Our elves have enjoyed water, coffee, hot chocolate, soda, and juice.
Running late? Shove your elf into a cereal box and leave his legs sticking out. This is a quick yet really fun idea.
Our injured elves got into the Little Debbie Christmas Tree Brownies. Our elves eat some sort of Little Debbie Christmas snack every year.
This little Christmas elf is going to town on some chips. I like to do this with one of my boys favorite chips so they get extra annoyed with the elf.
Antics with Household Items
Use household items to create funny and creative elf scenes. Just make sure you don’t use the item in your every day routine or you’ll have some trouble.
Here the elves are just hanging out with the vacuums. When our boys were little, they loved vacuums so our elves loved them, too.
Our creative elf used qtips to create a snowflake shape on the bathroom counter.
Our elves decided to take our mixer for a spin… as a ride. I have even seen people do this and turn on the mixer (you can unplug it to get it to stop). We just left ours turned off and left the little note (which again, you can grab for free at the end of this post).
Forgot to move your elf? Quickly throw them into the utensil drawer.
This elf antic REALLY got a great laugh. Our elf copied himself on my copier. The result is so much fun.
This poor elf got stuck in the fridge. We made sure to give him a towel to use as a blanket.
When we were out of town, the elves slept in our boys’ beds. You could have the elf sleep in your bed, the guest bed, an extra bunk bed, a blow up air mattress, or even their own tiny bed.
Huge Disclaimer for this Idea
This is one of those set ups that needs a huge disclaimer. We were out of town during our elves visit. We took pictures before leaving and then had my Mother in Law send them to us when she went to check on the house.
Our boys were never home when the elves were on the oven AND they were only one to take one picture. I suggest if you want to do something similar, to do it how we did when the children won’t actually be home and you can just snap a quick picture.
Our son’s birthday falls during our elves’ visit. This means that each year, we have to celebrate his birthday in some way. We have done tons of different ideas but here are two of my favorites that were easy to do at home.
This first birthday scene was back when our youngest was obsessed with touching the elves. This meant that we had to always have them in this glass container or up super high. It made it a really fun place for our elves to have their own birthday party in honor of our son.
This was probably my favorite birthday set up. I bought a piñata, mini sombreros, and the balloon at Walmart. I filled the piñata with candy and made it easy for my son to reach even with the elves there.
Sometimes, elves may get a little under the weather. This is a great option if you know you’ll be busy and can’t move your elf the next day. Use the free printable sick note to let your kids know why your elf won’t be moving.
My niece accidentally touched her elf, Charlie. The next day she returned covered in bandaids.
Using Human Clothing, Shoes, and Accessories
There are so many things you can do with clothes, shoes, and accessories (hats, headbands, scarves, jewelry, etc).
Our elf looked great in our son’s clothes. We dressed both of our boys’ elves in their own rooms to wake up to the next day.
The elves made a train out of the shoes and crocs in the house.
These elves invited some friends over for a sleepover using clean socks. Use the printable note to let your kid know what is happening. Without the note, I am not sure the kids would have understood what was happening. When they saw the note, they thought it was a great set up.
Adding Goggly Eyes is ALWAYS Funny
Elves are really good at playing practical jokes. And there are a ton of funny ways you can set up your elf on the shelf dolls. And googly eyes instantly make anything funny. I always keep a stash of googly eyes to use with the elves each year.
I don’t have a picture, but one great idea is to have the elf put googly eyes on everything in the fridge or cabinet.
I loved when our elf tried to bring back a snowman and ended up with a melted snowman (aka water, a carrot nose, twigs, and 2 goggly eyes). Get this free printable note at the end of this post.
For this prank, our elves put googly eyes on our family photo. I used double sided tape to put on the eyes. Make sure none of the eyes slip after you get them on – you’ll notice my husband has one wonky eyeball.
Reading, Writing, and Learning
When it comes to learning, your elf can get set up in a lot of scenarios. You can use free printables like word searches, bingo, or this Christmas Secret Code printable from Spot of Tea Designs.
Grab a book for a super easy set up with your elves. In this example, they are reading The Night Before Christmas.
Creative Alternate Uses for Items
When you are out and about, don’t forget to look at things from the perspective of how you can use it with your elf. You’ll be shocked at the number of things you can use for your elf.
Like this gift card holder from Home Depot. It is perfectly elf sized and made a great elf set up with just a toy tool.
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