My recent last-minute elf-on-the shelf idea was also one of my best-ever elf-on-the-shelf ideas. When I walked into our kitchen the other morning, my 7-year-old exclaimed, “Mom! Elf is playing Xbox! I bet they’re playing NBA2K.”
It was one of the simplest yet most creative Elf ideas I have ever done. It took me all of 10 seconds to grab the Xbox controllers and put them with the Elves right before he woke up.
And he loved it. Creative and funny elf ideas don’t have to mean they’re complicated and time-consuming.
This is one of our household’s favorite Christmas traditions.
Last-Minute Elf Ideas
Now that my boys are teens, we are still doing Elf ideas. Hey, we’re busy, right? How often are we in bed and think, “I forgot to move the Elf!”
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And let’s be honest, most of the complex vignettes you see on social media are NOT for kids.
That’s adults having fun and trying to outdo other adults. I just don’t have the time or the energy for that.
Most of my elf-on-the-shelf ideas are last-minute since they happen late at night or early in the morning.
Kid-Friendly Elf on the Shelf Ideas
The key to this is simple. Talk about it. Yep, that’s it. Engage your kids in a conversation every morning when they find their Elf. “Why do you think he decided to go there? What do you think he’s looking for in the fridge? Do you think he eats his Cheerios with bananas?”
I followed the lead that my second grader was putting out there, and now we have simple ideas, but they are fun and memorable. You can also find Elves with different skin tones to make it more personal for your child.
So here you go: dozens of super easy, creative, and funny ideas for your Elf. When I say “no props!” I mean, they don’t require any special purchases.
Most of us have some version of these household items that we can use. No special purchases or set-up are necessary. And, yes, I’ve done most of these with my kids.
Elf for Teens
You know what? My sons no longer believe in Elf or Santa. After all, they are tweens and teens. I still get him out.
They humor me. My boys still enjoy seeing what Elf will do next.
And this year, we are taking turns moving him.
Teens may enjoy exploring their creativity in a safe environment. Especially now that we’re stuck at home together, nostalgia may make them feel safe and comforted during uncertain times.
Elf on the Shelf Arrival Ideas
I plan on keeping our Elves once my kids outgrow them, and then they’ll have them for their kids.
Since many families have Elf arrive Thanksgiving night, you likely need a last-minute elf on the shelf idea because you’ve been busy preparing a feast.
You can buy Elf on the Shelf just about anywhere. At least, I have seen them at most of the major retailers, Hallmark stores, and online.
Since Elf comes with a storybook about his arrival, you may also want to look at bookstores.
I have seen the Box Sets and small, local book retailers at Barnes and Noble. Usually, it has a fixed price, so you won’t necessarily save money by shopping at a big box store instead of supporting a small business.
Some of the easiest Elf ideas were also the funniest to my family. Now that my kids are teens, they roll their eyes at me. They know he isn’t real. Still, we have a lot of fun. The kitchen and the bathroom Elf ideas can be some of the funniest.
Even though my kids know that he isn’t real, they won’t touch him. I guess superstitions die hard! When a child cannot touch Elf, putting him in some funny and inconvenient places makes it more fun.
It’s a great way to keep a kid off the Xbox for a day.
Here are the easy elf on-the-shelf pictures. Scroll through to get many simple elf ideas for the last minute.
Elf on the Shelf: Hiding Ideas
- Does your child pour their breakfast cereal in the morning? Put him inside the box.
- Put him through the handle of a jug of juice or milk in the fridge.
- In the produce or dairy drawer if yours are clear; or if the child will reach for fruit in the morning.
- Unroll your paper towels about 3-4 feet. Put Elf in, head sticking out, and roll back up. Put back on the paper towel holder. (make sure you don’t have to use paper towels that day, or leave a roll on the counter)
- Sitting at the table eating something.
- Depending on what your kitchen cabinets are (not just knobs) put Elf through the door handles.
- Where do you keep glass flower vases or jars? Put him in one.
- Do you have wine/beer/bar glasses out on display? Put him in one.
- Put him on edge of the sink, hugging the sink hose nozzle. But not tight enough to squeeze it and get someone wet–just like he’s threatening to.
- Does your child help pack his/her lunch? Put Elf in the lunch box for a surprise when they pull it out to get ready for school. This last-minute elf-on-the-shelf idea is a huge bonus because then I don’t have to pack a lunch that day either.
- In your child’s favorite juice glass or cereal bowl that you know they use in the morning.
- Use a sharpie and draw on bananas.
- Hanging on the oven door handle.
Easy Elf Ideas: Bathroom
Make sure it’s a non-bath day!
- Rolled up in toilet paper, like the paper towel example above.
- In a tissue box, covered with tissue blankets.
- In your child’s drawer, where they will go for comb, toothbrush, etc.
- Sitting on the bathroom counter pretending to use a product.
- Hanging from light fixture if possible.
Easy Elf Ideas: Bedrooms
Time to get up!
- Wear your child’s underwear in their underwear drawer (open it when they get ready for school).
- If your child plans out their outfits the night before, stick Elf in the sleeve or pocket. Guess they’ll have to pick something else!
- Put it in the sleeve or pocket of a coat.
- In a backpack or on a backpack (don’t recommend making the journey to school!).
- Reading your child’s books.
- Riding in a toy vehicle-the TMNT shellraiser vehicle works well, or Barbie stuff.
- Building something with Legos.
- Hanging from a light or ceiling fan.
- In your child’s shoe in their closet
- What hobby/toy/game/thing/trend is your child into right now? Have Elf do that.
- A Scout elf! If your child does scouting, have him working on a badge or reading the book.
Guess you’ll have to buy lunch today.
Easy Elf Ideas Around the House
- Notebook paper or scratch paper and pen-making a to-do list.
- Making a naughty/nice list.
- Doing your child’s homework (if they have a workbook/worksheets).
- Writing a check to Santa with your checkbook.
- Reading a magazine, preferably a seasonal one.
- Making a list of cookies to bake, presents to buy, and favorite Christmas songs.
- Find a bungee cord, belt, or scarf, even tie 2 socks together–can hang him from just about anywhere-ceiling fan, curtain rods, light fixtures, etc.
- Hogging the remote on the couch.
- Playing Xbox or PlayStation or other video game.
- Sitting with your child’s earbuds on his ears.
- Put Elf in the mailbox after the mail comes but before the child gets home from school, ask them to go out and get the mail.
- Bundled up on the couch with “sick” supplies like tissues and a thermometer.
- In linen closet.
- If you have a glass breakfront or other piece of furniture that displays things (curio cabinet) put him in there.
- In a Christmas stocking, if they’re up.
- Have him wrap up something silly in Christmas wrapping paper. (like the remote)
- Put him on your Christmas tree someplace. Just sitting on a branch peeking out is fine.
- Sitting on a wreath.
- Does your child have a pet in a tank? Put the doll in there. Or outside looking in.
- Start your Christmas cards, but have him start putting the stamps on at night (you can finish the next day)
- Reading the Bible or another religious book.
- Reading a Christmas book.
- Have your Elf read one of your child’s books or activities, such as working on a Scout badge; or a Scout Elf!
And that makes 50 last-minute Elf on the Shelf ideas for the busy parent. Good luck, and stay sane this holiday season!