15 clever ideas for things to do with your Elf on the Shelf

Elf on the Shelf

If you have the privilege (ahem) of having an Elf on the Shelf take up residence in your home each holiday season, you’re probably already running out of ideas on where to put Santa’s little tattletale every night.

The thought of having to find a new place and activity for the little guy every single day can get so exhausting that this year, a judge in Atlanta even jokingly banned the elf from his county.

Even if it’s your first year moving the elf around every night, when you’re doing it for an entire month, you run out of clever ideas pretty quickly. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of 15 clever things to do with the Elf on the Shelf that will give you a break from thinking of your own ideas!

1. Make Christmas Cookies

This idea comes directly from the Elf on the Shelf website, so that clearly means it’s an activity the Elf will enjoy. Once your kids are off to bed, just whip up some Christmas cookies, frost and decorate them, then leave some of the cookies and frosting out with the Elf to make it look like he was baking all night.

The Elf on the Shelf

2. Help With Christmas Decorations

If you don’t have your decorations up yet, you can enlist the elf to help! Simply place it in the tree with an ornament, or if decorating isn’t going very well, set it under the tree tangled up in Christmas lights.


3. Put the Elf to Work

Since the elf is living at your house rent-free, try putting it to work. Simply make a small mess, like a spill on the counter, and set it near the spill with some paper towel. If you have plants, you could also put it near those with a small cup of water for your kids to find it taking a break from watering the plants. This idea will also show your kids that it’s fun to help out around the house!

Purple orchids on windowsill with other potted orchids

4. Play Hide-n-Seek With Stuffed Animals

This one is easy and you won’t need anything other than some of your children’s toys or stuffed animals. Simply place the elf among the stuffed animals, then leave a note from the elf asking your child to find them!


5. Make Hot Cocoa

A fun way for your kids to find the elf on a weekend morning, set it out along with some hot chocolate ingredients like marshmallows and cocoa powder, along with a note asking if your child will help them make hot chocolate. The two can then enjoy the cozy treat together!

hot chocolate for the holidays with candy canes and whipped cream

6. Have Your Elf Sell Christmas Trees

This idea comes from Instagram user laurend0824. Simply place your elf anywhere you want, then surround him with Little Debbie’s Christmas tree cakes. Be sure to leave them in the wrapper so they don’t get stale, but as a bonus, once the elf has moved on to a new activity, you can enjoy the treats!

Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes packaging
Little Debbie

7. Surprise Lunch Wrap-up

Another idea from the creators of Elf on the Shelf, pack your child’s lunch like usual, but wrap everything in wrapping paper. Set it out with the elf and a note that says something like “Surprise lunch! Have a great day at school!”

The Elf on the Shelf

8. Go Bowling!

You can buy an elf bowling kit on Etsy for just $5.75. The kit includes 10 bowling pins, two bowling balls and a printed alley. Just set it out along with your elf and it will look like they have been up bowling all night. As an added bonus, you could also take your kids bowling that same night!


9. Christmas Movie Night

Another weekend idea, have your elf sit near the TV along with some Christmas movies you either already have or some new ones you just bought. Leave a note saying the movies are a favorite of the elf’s, so they wanted to share with your child. Then, have a movie night and enjoy some festive treats!


10. Enjoy some Elf on the Shelf Cereal

Along with finding the Elf eating breakfast, your kids can join in with this idea and it only involves pouring some bowls of cereal! While you can use your child’s favorite cereal, you can buy Elf on the Shelf cereal, which tastes like either hot cocoa or sugar cookies.


11. Have Your Elf Track in Some Snow

You don’t need to make a huge mess for this fun idea. You can buy an elf footprint stencil on Etsy or make your own, then make the footprints on your floor or counter with powdered sugar or flour. It should only take a minute to do and will look like the elf has been playing outside in the snow.


12. Make Reindeer Food For Santa’s Reindeer

This one will need to be done in advance and closer to Christmas Eve, but you can whip up some reindeer food for Santa’s reindeer pretty easily. Just pair it with a note from the elf that asks your child to leave it out when they leave cookies for Santa. This recipe from Elf on the Shelf uses corn cereal and red and green sugar sprinkles, so it is also edible for humans.

The Elf on the Shelf

13. Put Your Elf in Quarantine

If you’ve had enough, check out this idea from Emergency Services Humour. Simply place the elf in a container of some sort while they are waiting on Covid test results — the elf did just travel from the North Pole — to give you a few days off. While you could make them stay put for two weeks, just giving it a few days will give you some time to think of ideas while not upsetting your kids too much.

14. Have the Elf Take a Bath

Put some fake bubbles (ie: cotton balls) in the sink and let them take a bath. Be sure to include a bottle of bubble bath and some accessories like a rubber duck. You could also use this idea for the weekend, as even elves need spa days.

15. Put the Elf in a Cast

If all else fails and you’ve completely run out of ideas, put the elf in a cast for however many days are left until Christmas. If the little guy has a broken leg, for example, he won’t be able to move around, so you can bring the activities to him. Think: eating popcorn, reading a book, watching TV on a tablet, etc.

You can make your own cast by simply wrapping his leg in a material of your choice, or you can buy a cast kit on Etsy or a cast and crutches kit from the Elf on the Shelf website for $10.95.

The Elf on the Shelf

What is your favorite thing to do with the Elf on the Shelf?

MORE: Watch this adorable baby recreate Elf on the Shelf setups

Family & Parenting, Holiday & Seasonal

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About the Author
Kaitlin Gates
Kaitlin is a freelance multimedia journalist with a degree in journalism and psychology. Along with Simplemost, she also writes for Don't Waste Your Money, where she loves finding great deals to help people save money. Visit Scripps News to see more of Kaitlin's work.

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