Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas for Parents (You're Welcome)

The holiday season signals the return of your Elf on the Shelf, and this is your cheat sheet to fun, easy, and last-minute ideas for your elf that are totally doable—yes, even if you forgot and have 5 minutes in the morning to prep!

With the holiday season quickly approaching, our minds are cluttered with gift shopping, menu making, card coordinating, and decorating. But many parents add one more item into the mix, for better or worse: Elf on the Shelf.

As Santa's little helper, this elf reports to the North Pole every night, then relocates to a different spot once they get back. Kids love searching for their clever elf each morning—but parents can run out of creative hiding ideas fast.

Elf on a Shelf Around Christmas Decorations
Ursula Page/Shutterstock

According to the official website, your Elf on the Shelf's arrival should happen between November 24 and December 1—basically right after Thanksgiving. But even if you haven't been planning for weeks or are short on time to make some magic happen, we've got you covered. Here are some fun and easy Elf on the Shelf ideas that the entire family will love.

Gone Fishing

Fishing enthusiasts will go crazy for this Elf on the Shelf idea. Simply fill your sink with water, drop in some fish-shaped crackers, and position your elf with an easy DIY fishing pole. Don't put the crackers in the water too early, though, or they may disintegrate!

Still Standing

Lift your elf up—literally—by transforming two rolls of wrapping paper into stilts. A pair of winter boots give Santa's helper some feet—and they also hold up the paper rolls.

Bathroom Break

Elves need to use the bathroom, too! For this clever Elf on the Shelf idea, perch the toy over your toilet seat, with their legs secured snugly under the lid. Drop a few peppermints into the water as "elf poop."

Save the Date

Count down to Christmas with this fun-loving Elf on the Shelf idea. All you need is a roll of toilet paper and a marker.

Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?

Have some fun spraying shaving-cream snowmen on the bathroom mirror—then blame your mess on the naughty elf. Leave the can of shaving cream on the counter for good measure.

Sprinkle Angel

Let your Elf on the Shelf imitate a favorite wintertime activity: making a snow angel. Colorful sprinkles work well for this idea, but you can also use flour, sugar, coconut flakes, or mini marshmallows.

Reindeer Droppings

Who knew reindeer poop could be so tasty? This Elf on the Shelf idea is simple to recreate: fill a container with brown-colored treats (like chocolate chips or cocoa-flavored cereal), and stick in a paper sign glued to a popsicle stick.

Sledding Race

On your mark, get set, go! It's your elf against a stuffed animal in this downhill sledding race. Recreate it by attaching sheets of paper together and securing them to a windowsill. Your racers can ride paper plates in any color.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Have your Elf on the Shelf cover the entire Christmas tree—ornaments and garland included—in a layer of wrapping paper, topping it off with a bright red bow. Don't wrap the tree too tightly, or you risk breaking bulbs and ornaments. Also exercise caution and don't turn on the string lights while your tree is covered.


Ask your child to open the fridge, and they'll catch the sneaky elf defacing your eggs. Make sure to draw funny faces on each egg with marker.

Googly Eyed

All you need for this last-minute Elf on the Shelf idea is a pack of googly eyes—plus the contents of your refrigerator.

Say Cheese

Set up toys in a family portrait-style pose, then position your elf as the photographer with a camera. You can also use an iPhone if you don't have a DSLR.

Not-So-Frosty the Snowman

This Elf on the Shelf built a snowman on the counter—then destroyed it with the hairdryer. Before trying this idea, make sure the liquid won't stain your counter, floor, or surface of choice.

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