The best collection of top-rated, quick, and easy Elf on the Shelf ideas, all designed to add festive fun in under 5 minutes! This list is updated every year to bring you newest and best!
Our Elf, Jasper, has now been visiting our home for the last 15 Holiday seasons! So, I’ve had years and years to try ALL the ideas! What I have found is that I am 100% about having a lot of quick and easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas that take under 5 minutes!
In this post, I’m sharing so many ideas to help you plan your 25 Days of Elf on the Shelf! I’ve separated them out into some categories to help you find exactly what you’re looking for!
Also, don’t forget to check out my page of FREE Elf on the Shelf PRINTABLE Activity Cards! All of these ideas are super simple too and help bring a little twist into your Elf Season! You can find them all on my Elf on the Shelf Printables Page!
FIRST DAY ELF ON THE SHELF IDEAS
Here are a few ways to help make your Elf’s arrival extra fun, but easy this year!
- Elf Welcome Letter: Print a simple welcome letter and place your Elf anywhere easy to see! In this post I have a welcome letter for a first time arrival or returning Elf!
- Breakfast Greeting: Have your Elf make a surprise appearance at the breakfast table, sitting in a cup or perched on a cereal box with a small note saying, “I’m back!”
- Elf in a Jar: Place your Elf inside a clear jar or container on the kitchen counter or living room shelf, with a note saying they got ‘trapped’ on their way back. It’s a simple yet amusing way for the Elf to appear.
- Doorstep Discovery: Leave the Elf by the front door, either sitting on a small sleigh or just by themselves with a note saying, “Knock, knock! Guess who’s back?” This can create a fun discovery moment for the kids as they enter or leave the house.
- Elf Mail Delivery: Create a small envelope or use a Christmas card, labeling it as “Special Delivery from the North Pole.” Place the Elf next to it, as if they’ve just arrived with mail from Santa. This can be set up on a hallway table or near the kids’ rooms.
FAST ELF ON THE SHELF IDEAS
One of the best tricks I’ve discovered for streamlining our Elf on the Shelf season is to keep a stash of Elf on the Shelf Printables ready. These handy, creative printables are perfect for quick setups with our Elf. Below are my all-time favorite picks that I’m excited to share with you!
1. Secret Message Printable – Uncover Santa’s hidden message with this fun printable! Your kids will be thrilled as they use the special decoder at the bottom to reveal a secret message brought by the Elf, straight from Santa’s workshop. There’s also a second version of this Secret Santa Message Printable available.
2. Elf Sized Bingo Cards – Experience the cutest game night ever with these Elf-sized Bingo Cards! Set the scene for a whimsical playtime by arranging stuffed animals, Barbies, dinosaurs, and more as participants in this adorable, miniature Bingo game, perfect for your Elf and tiny friends.
3. Elf on the Shelf Mission Cards – Spark adventures with these Elf on the Shelf Mission Cards! Each printable page is filled with secret missions for your kids, all cleverly brought by their Elf. To add to the excitement, there’s a cute, reusable envelope included, perfect for delivering new missions across multiple nights. It’s a fun and engaging way to bring a little extra magic to your Elf on the Shelf experience!”
4. Elf Good Deed Cards – Encourage good behavior in the most charming way with these adorable cards delivered by your Elf straight from the North Pole. They’re a delightful reminder for kids to stay on their best behavior during the holiday season!
5. Elf Joke Cards – Bring a burst of laughter to your home each morning with a page full of Christmas or North Pole-themed jokes, specially delivered by your Elf. Your kids will wake up to a daily dose of giggles and be excited to share these silly, festive jokes with their friends all day long!
FAST ELF ON THE SHELF IDEAS
When my children were younger, I needed to devise simple Elf on the Shelf setups that were out of reach to avoid temptation. The ideas listed below are all positioned high up, away from little hands.
Each idea is fast, easy, and realistic, perfect for families with young children. Plus, they’re versatile enough to be easily adapted to fit almost any home!
1. Draw Faces on Pictures – We’ve done this almost every single year and my kids love it! Even the older ones! Just use a dry eraser marker and make silly faces on a family picture!
2. Elf TP the Christmas Tree – Create a humorous scene by positioning your Elf high up in the Christmas tree, appearing as if they’ve playfully TP’d the tree. It’s a mischievous and amusing setup that’s sure to bring smiles and giggles to your family’s holiday celebrations!
3. Replace Stockings w/ Undies – For a hilariously unexpected twist, let your Elf switch out the stockings with pairs of undies! It’s a quirky and amusing prank that my kids absolutely loved when they were younger, and it’s sure to bring lots of laughter to your household too!
4. Repelling – Grab some yarn, ribbon, or string to create an adventurous scene where your Elf appears to be repelling from the kitchen cabinets. It’s a simple yet imaginative setup that adds a touch of Elf-style action to your kitchen decor!
5. Hang in a Chandelier – If you have a high chandelier, stage your Elf in it! It will make for a fun and easy Elf setup. Don’t be shocked if the kids excitedly run beneath it numerous times before they finally spot the mischievous Elf hiding above!
6. On Top of the Fridge: Set the Elf on the refrigerator’s top, maybe with a small note or prop, like a festive magnet.
7. Shelf Sitter: Place the Elf on a high bookshelf or mantel, amidst books or decorations.
8. Curtain Rod Rendezvous: Situate the Elf on a curtain rod, giving the appearance of them peering out or climbing.
9. Above the Cupboards: Tuck the Elf in the space above kitchen cupboards, perhaps with a kitchen tool or a small snack.
10. Plant Shelf Perch: Place the Elf on a high plant shelf or among indoor plants, blending in with the greenery.
11. Top of the TV Cabinet: Set the Elf atop a tall TV cabinet or entertainment center.
12. Laundry Room Shelf: Hide the Elf on a high shelf in the laundry room, with a small laundry-related prop.
ELF ON THE SHELF KITCHEN IDEAS
The kitchen is a treasure trove of effortless hiding spots for your Elf on the Shelf! Each of these creative ideas takes just minutes to set up, making it simple to bring daily delight with minimal effort.
1. Elf Makes Cookies – Get a box of cookie cereal and set up a scene where your kids find out at breakfast that your Elf has been ‘baking’ cookies. It’s a sweet and imaginative way to start the festive fun!
2. Elf “Bubble Bath” – Create a whimsical ‘bubble bath’ scene by filling a bowl with marshmallows and nestling your Elf inside, as if they’re luxuriating in a marshmallow bath. It’s a playful and easy setup that’s sure to charm everyone!
3. Minion Bananas – Have some fun with bananas by drawing silly minion faces and bodies on them! Place the marker alongside your Elf, right next to the bananas, for a creative and amusing setup that’s sure to get a few giggles.
4. Elf Sipping on Syrup – For a sweet and humorous Elf setup, position your Elf and a little friend on the countertop or in the pantry, especially if you have little ones. Arrange them with syrup and straws to look like they’re enjoying a syrupy drink. It’s a playful scene that’s sure to delight and amuse your family!
5. Cold in the Fridge – The kids will think that the Elf didn’t come back until they go to get breakfast or a drink! Wrap your Elf up and make it look like they’re bundled up in a blanket in the fridge!
6. Hungry Elf – Of course your Elf gets Hungry! Throw together a baggy of fun random food in your pantry and label it Elf Food! What does your Elf like to eat?
7. Cereal Box Surprise: Tuck the Elf inside an opened cereal box, peeking out among the flakes or loops. When your kids reach for breakfast, they’ll be greeted with a cheerful Elf surprise!
8. Fruit Bowl Fiesta: Position the Elf in the fruit bowl, nestled among apples and oranges, as if they’re taking a break in a fruity paradise.
9. Coffee Maker Companion: Set the Elf beside or on top of the coffee maker with a tiny makeshift mug (like a thimble or small toy cup), pretending to pour themselves a morning brew.
10. Utensil Drawer Hideout: Hide the Elf in the utensil drawer, lying flat among the spoons and spatulas, ready to be discovered during meal prep.
11. Microwave Movie Night: Position the Elf inside or the microwave (turned off, of course) or next to it, sitting with a small bag of popcorn as if ready for movie night.
12. Dishwasher Peek-a-Boo: Place the Elf in the dishwasher, peeking out from between plates or cups, for a playful surprise when someone goes to unload the dishes.
FAST ELF ON THE SHELF IDEAS
1. TP Countdown – That’s a creative and fun idea! Writing the countdown to Christmas on toilet paper and then having your Elf sign their name at the bottom is a unique and engaging way to build excitement for the holiday. It’s no wonder it was a hit!
2. Reading a Book to “Friends!” – Utilize Pez dispensers or other small figurines to create a charming scene where it looks like your Elf is reading a book to an attentive audience. It’s a simple yet adorable setup that adds a touch of whimsy to your Elf’s adventures!
3. Napping in the Tissue Box – During the winter, it’s common to have a tissue box handy, and sometimes your Elf might need a little extra rest after all their busy travels back and forth from the North Pole. It’s the perfect spot for a cozy nap!
4. Elf Locked Out – One day, your Elf might not make it back before Mom locks the doors. You can create this playful scenario by attaching the Elf to a window or door, using a bit of clear tape or a suction cup, to make it seem like they’re just getting in!
5. Sack Race – Using paper lunch bags to set up a potato sack race for your Elf and a variety of toys and stuffed animals is a creative and fun concept. It’s one of my kids favorites each year!
6. Shoe Fun: Hide the Elf in one of the family member’s shoes, with just their head peeking out.
7. Elf under a Cup: Invert a cup and hide the Elf underneath it on the table.
8. Tucked in Bed: Lay the Elf in a doll bed or makeshift bed with a washcloth as a blanket.
9. Hanging on a Door Handle: Dangle the Elf from an interior door handle.
10. Paper Airplane Pilot: Fold a paper airplane and place the Elf as if they are ‘flying’ it.
11. Bathroom Mirror Message: Use a dry erase marker to write a funny message from the Elf on the bathroom mirror.
12. Sock Drawer Surprise: Put the Elf in a sock drawer, peeking out from among the socks.
We did one similar to this last year. Who doesn’t have some sort of Reindeer or Sleigh Decor?
Elf Glow Party – Do you have leftover glow bracelets for the 4th of July or Halloween? Have your Elf staged playing with them!
You could really do this any day with any type of message! I think I’ll save this for the day after a day that my kids have been especially naughty!
My kids love their Fisher Price Nativity Set and they would love finding Jasper rocking Baby Jesus!
This one would be pretty easy too! We’ve got some big tires in our Lego’s!
Wrapping the Toilet
I can’t wait to hear what my 4 year old says about this – haha 🙂
Elf Sick Day
Don’t we all have a sick day every once in a while? So does our Elf!
Here’s another great idea for an activity! Click through to see the adorable letter that goes with it!
Little naughty Elf – tries trapping the kids
Hang in Stocking or Boot
Looking for a few extra fun ideas – that may take a little extra time? I loved these!
Click through the link to see more on this! Such a cute idea!
Hot Air Balloon Ride
Looking for some other fun ideas to incorporate with your Elf Season? Check out all of Elf on the Shelf Printable Ideas! Here are just a few of the most popular:
- Elf on the Shelf Printable Good Deed Cards
- Magical Recovery Kit for your Elf on the Shelf
- Elf on the Shelf Mission Impossible Envelopes and Cards
- Printable Elfisms
- Elf on the Shelf Printable Joke Cards
- + more!
If you’re looking for some fun Elf on the Shelf Outfits and Accessories for your Elf, check out this amazing shopping guide!
More Favorites from Over the Big Moon
Hope these ideas help make your Elf season more fun! If you love them, I’d love you to pin the below image to help spread the word to others!
Also, if you’re looking for more fun ideas like this – check out these other fun Elf on the Shelf Ideas!