7 Easy Elf on the Shelf Arrival Ideas

Ready for another epic Scout Elf holiday season? You are now.

A Christmas elf sitting on a shelf.

MarLyn Hill / Stocksy

So you're doing it, huh? You're going all in on the love-it-or-hate-it addition to the holiday season: the Elf on the Shelf. Welcome to the club.

Beloved by kids but dreaded by many parents, the Elf on the Shelf typically makes its merry way into homes right after Thanksgiving and brings joy—and yes, sometimes stress—every day until Christmas.

But fear not, we're here with easy and doable ideas to welcome your child's Scout Elf this holiday season. You got this.

When Should the Elf on the Shelf Arrive?

It really depends on your family and when you're looking to mark the start of the holiday season—and how much time you want to commit. But, typically, the Elf on the Shelf returns each year right after Thanksgiving stays until Christmas.

When Does Elf on the Shelf Start and End?

The "Scout Elf Return Week" for 2022 falls between November 24 and December 1. Your elf should stick around until the night of December 24 when they head back to the North Pole with Santa.

Elf on the Shelf Arrival Ideas

PSA: The Elf on the Shelf experience can be enjoyable for you and your family (yes, really). Sure, some people go all out, planning elaborate scenes with the elf and piling on the gifts and accessories, but it's important that you lean into what works for you. Focus on the holiday traditions you're hoping to create for your kids and keep in mind your own bandwidth. Whether it's detailed plans or last-minute ideas, there are creative ways to celebrate your Elf on the Shelf's arrival this year.

Introduce the new addition to the family

For Elf on the Shelf newbies, you can kick-start the holiday tradition with your littles by reading The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition, which explains the story of Scout Elves and how they let Santa Claus know who's naughty or nice during the holiday season. A good time to start is a few days before Thanksgiving so your kids will have ample time to get excited—and, more importantly, name their elf.

Create an Elf on the Shelf arrival letter

Let your elf say "Nice to meet you" or "I'm back" with an official Elf on the Shelf arrival letter. Address the letter to your kids, explain that the elf has come from the North Pole to hang out at your house and will report back to Santa each night to let him know who should be on the nice list, and sign the letter from your chosen elf name. Opt for handwritten or type it up to save and pull out again next year.

Not particularly creative? There are dozens of Elf on the Shelf welcome letters available to print for free online (or simply borrow wording from)—and beautifully designed templates you can download and print on Etsy for under $3.

Let the holiday decorating begin

Have your child's elf arrive for the season with a special ornament to hang on the tree—or with some arts and crafts supplies to sit down as a family and DIY some cute and easy ornaments. Let the day your elf arrive really mark the start of the holiday season by blasting some holiday music and beginning to put up holiday decorations at home.

Bust out the holiday pajamas

Lean into the merry-making and have your family's jolly little friend arrive with holiday PJs for your child to wear all season long—or opt for matching family holiday pajamas that your entire crew can wear on Christmas Eve. Cheesy? Yes. Worth the memories? Also yes.

Prepare a festive breakfast

Red and green pancakes (dyed with food coloring), hot cocoa with extra marshmallows, sugar cookies—make a magical welcome back breakfast for your whole family. Don't forget to leave your elf a spot at the table! Bonus points for spelling out "I'm back!" or your elf's name on the table with mini marshmallows or red and green M&Ms.

Welcome Back Breakfast Hack

Opt for ready-made holiday food at your grocery store to keep things extra simple. You can't go wrong with Kellogg's three different Elf on the Shelf cereals, ready-to-bake holiday cookies, or store-bought cinnamon rolls. Enjoy!

Plan an Elf on the Shelf dance party

Let's be honest: Most of us have been listening to Christmas music since November 1. But you can dial up the "Jingle Bell Rock" or dance it out to an official Elf on the Shelf sing-along on YouTube the morning of your elf's return—or let the music play all day long to get the kids in the holiday spirit.

Have the elf come bearing gifts

A candy cane, mug for hot cocoa, a new winter hat—have your child's elf bring a gift (no need to spend a fortune!) to really kick off the gift-giving season. Alternatively, you can have the elf leave $5 for your child to donate to the charity of your choice. Use the opportunity as a good way to teach kids about giving back, especially during the holiday season.

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