25 Elf on the Shelf ideas for a creative Christmas countdown
Check out these clever ideas for your mischievous holiday visitor
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If you’ve been anywhere on social media for the last decade, you’ve heard of the Elf on the Shelf. Santa’s little spy arrives around or a little after Thanksgiving and keeps watch of children up until Christmas morning.
If you ask us, however, it should be called "Elf off the Shelf," because those scouting little elves seem to spend very little time sitting in one place. Instead, they bop around the house keeping kids honest and on their toes during the lead up to Christmas.
While it’s a fun and Instagram-worthy holiday tradition to find a new nightly hiding spot, it tends to come at the expense of parents' precious time. If your family’s Elf on the Shelf tradition is adding tedium to your holiday to-do list, have no fear. Here are some fun and stress-free ways to kick off some holiday elfin magic in your home.
1. Get yourself an elf
If you don’t yet have an Elf on the Shelf, what are you waiting for? Be sure to get one that comes with the (now famous) accompanying storybook. The book outlines all the history, background, rules and details of the scouting elves, which will make your foray into this tradition a bit easier and will set your kids up for what to expect in the weeks to come.
2. A holiday-themed elf and fairy door
Let’s be honest. An uninvited elf showing up at your home unannounced can be a little bit disconcerting—especially for a small child. This mini door is not only adorable, it’ll set some nice boundaries for your kids and the elves that keep watch on them. This one is fully holiday-themed, with a wreath, a welcome mat, sparkling garland and essential elf-sized winter accessories.
3. Hobby-themed scenes
You may think it’s dull at the North Pole but these elves know how to have fun. Outdoor and sports-themed hobbyists at heart, they aren’t the type to grow sedentary while keeping watch of your kiddo’s behavior. This fun set will make sure they can keep up with their sledding, ice fishing and soccer-playing skills, while they’re guests in your home.
4. A costume set to help them get into character
Little known fact: Elves are all about fashion. This couture set will make sure your elf is on trend, whether they are ice skating or heading off to a holiday party. It also has some fun surprises like a mermaid’s tale and a shimmering flapper dress.
5. For the outdoorsy elf
It seems the camping trend made it all the way to Santa’s Village. This setup will have your elf ready for any outdoor adventure. It comes with a camping tent, a red plaid scarf to stay cozy and a paperboard campfire and roasting sticks with marshmallows. And, if your elf’s inner lumberjack is calling, it also comes with suspenders, a manly beard, a saw, a cardboard conifer, log pile and Christmas tree farm sign.
- Get the Elf on the Shelf Cheery Christmas Camper and Lumberjack Lad set at Amazon for $27.99
- Get the Realistic Elf S’mores Kit at Etsy for $20
6. A personalized prop kit
If you want to have your whole month laid out for you, this kit does all the work! Just add an elf. There are options to buy 12 or 24 days of personalized antics that include props as well as suggested setups for the perfect snaps of your little visitor. You can also personalize this kit with a child’s name and the name of your scouting elf.
7. A full set that’s all about the mischief
If the scout Santa sent to keep an eye on your behavior is a bit of a prankster, this is just the set to bring the laughs. Whoopie cushion and a bad report card, included. He’s not a model for “nice” behavior, but his naughty antics will certainly get some laughs!
8. A deluxe prop kit
If you love mini props, set dressings and costumes, these deluxe kits are exactly what you need for 24 days of fun. This one comes with a delivery letter from Santa, a felt envelope that the Elf arrived in, and all sorts of backdrops, costumes and tiny toys for authentic-looking setups. You can even add Santa’s lost button to this package.
9. Some elf-sized footprint stencils
For some frosty footsteps! This stencil transforms baking flour, baking soda or confectioners sugar to make perfectly sized elf footprints. Little ones will love the magical trails they make throughout your home.
Get the Elf Footprints Stencil at Etsy for $4.41
10. Some delicious donuts
A proper elf knows what it takes to be a good houseguest. Make sure yours arrives with some treats. May we suggest some holiday-themed donuts?
11. A comfy set, to make them feel welcome
If they’re going to be spending the next few weeks at your place, it’d be rude not to give them a comfy setup for their stay. This one comes with a flannel-lined plaid sleeping bag, a fluffy robe fit for a 5-star hotel, a scarf and some reader glasses—in case they brought along a book.
12. Some PJs to go with that sleep setup
You’re not going to make them sleep in their work clothes, are you? These comfy, candy cane-themed pajamas and fuzzy slippers are just the way to get on the nice list.
13. Some paper crafts for set dressing
Part of the fun of the Elf on the Shelf tradition is setting your scout up in cute scenarios. This kit will get you started with all sorts of setups, including a roaring fireplace, a sweet shop and a present-wrapping station.
14. A book of inspiration
It can be hard to come up with new and innovative ideas for your elf when they’re around for at least 24 days and nights. For the days when you’re all out of ideas, this 60-page book will help inspire quick and easy scenes, to keep the fun going. It comes with 15 elf props and tools, over 135 colorful photos, and pages and pages worth of inspiration.
15. A set of pre-written notes
A note of the day keeps the bad behavior at bay. If you’re looking to get a little behavior modification out of this tradition, look no further. This set of letters, reminders and a behavior report (to be sent back to Santa on Christmas Eve) will help keep your impish one on track.
16. A simple set of behavior cards
If you want to keep it straightforward “naughty” or “nice”, these postcard-sized cards are bright, cheerful and colorful. They don’t get into the nitty gritty, but—depending on your kid—maybe that’s a good thing.
17. A mailbox for North Pole correspondence
This magical mailbox takes letters to and from the North Pole nightly. It’s just right for sending off Elf reports, or getting messages back from Santa to encourage good behavior—or when a Christmas list needs immediate updating.
18. A cute cookie-making set
Everyone knows that elves love sugar and that cookie-making is one of their greatest talents. This set comes with everything they need to make Christmas confections, including cookie cutters, a tray and colorful holiday sprinkles.
19. For the moonlighting elf
As you may have noticed, elves don’t sleep much. Word is, they are coffee addicts. If you want to get in on that morning coffee, pick up one of these sets to have your own in-home barista.
20. For the couch potato elf
These elves have been working hard all year. To be honest, they never get a day off. Set your elf up for a night off, with this chillaxing set of popcorn and a comfy sweatshirt to kick back in.
21. A clever disguise for the hidden elf
Part of the fun of the Elf on the Shelf is putting them in surprising places. In this hilarious outfit, they can go incognito in your fruit bowl.
22. A North Pole-style twister game
If your elf is looking a little stressed, help them blow off steam with a good, old-fashioned game night. Tinsel Twist is really popular north of the Arctic Circle. Gifting this game to your elf will definitely score you some points with Santa.
23. Some inflatables, for relaxing
True, these are made as floating cup holders. You know what else they hold? Elves! Turn your kitchen sink or bathtub into a pool party with these fun floaties. Invite Barbie and maybe a dinosaur or two to the fun. Your elf is going to be here for a while: it’d be rude if they weren’t at least a little bit social.
24. A tool belt, for toy-building
While we do appreciate a good pool party with Barbie and friends, this Elf didn’t just come here to relax. They have some work to do! This tiny tool belt will help them get things done as Christmas Day approaches.
25. A travel set and chart
They came a long way! This set comes with an elf-sized sleeping pad, a roller suitcase, a personalized arrival note and a chart to keep track of naughty and nice days while this elf is in town.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.