Are you in desperate need of some easy last minute elf on the shelf ideas? I hear you!
I’ve always avoided the whole Elf on the Shelf tradition because I really didn’t need anything else on my plate in December, but last year my daughter was so desperate to join in that she bought an elf herself.
Because I know that lots of parents are spinning 100 plates this time of year I thought I would share the exact 24 elf on the shelf ideas that I did for my kids last year. They’re quick, they’re easy and they didn’t cost me a fortune.
I hope that it helps!
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Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas
So I’m going to start by saying that I did plan things out in advance a bit, just as I expect you are doing now. Although, yes I also did the whole late night googling panic too.
I knew that with running this site, having two kids, trying to make everything magic plus remembering everything on the school calendar it was highly unlikely that I would manage to keep all those plates spinning.
In November I wrote a list of all the elf of the shelf ideas I was thinking of planning so that I could also make sure that I had everything I needed for them.
Although I did buy a couple of small things to make my life easier, in most cases this was just so I’d know not to use up all the white pom poms in a craft for this site so that I’d still have them when I wanted our elf to have a snowball fight.
I also, in a fit of organisation rarely seen in our home, put all the materials I’d need in a bag and hid it somewhere easily accessible so that I could grab it just before I went to bed.
I wanted elf on the shelf ideas I could easily do in five minutes before I went to bed, not something that took over my entire evening because moms need a rest this time of year, ok?
The only exception to this was my Go Hard Or Go Home activity that I did on the last day, which was very much a last huzzah and took me twenty minutes (yes, I timed it). I don’t know how I’ll beat that this year but I’m not planning on spending any more time on it. Hopefully anyway!
All of these elf on the shelf ideas are the ones from my home that I did for my kids, so if the photos are less than Pinterest perfect that’s because I took a quick photo on my phone each night to share with a friend who was also looking for some ideas.
The lighting is bad because it’s bedtime but I figure that just shows these things are realistic and that you can manage them too – right?
Elf on the Shelf Accessories
I didn’t buy much for my elf on the shelf so the things I did buy really had to be worth the investment.
Obviously if this is your first year of your elf visiting then you’ll need to buy an elf.
One thing I bought that my kids loved was a pyjama set for our elf. This is a great buy if you want your elf to have a rest at any point, and you know what? The rest day I did was my daughter’s favorite day apart from the leaving day. A total win.
One thing I’m looking at buying for this year is an elf baby. Frankly this is just adorable and I know that my youngest is going to squeal when they see it.
You can also check out our free printable elf on the shelf ice cream stand so that you elf can serve up some treats!
24 Elf on the Shelf Ideas
I did a super easy and quick arrival for our elf as I knew my kids would be excited anyway just to have him arrive and I didn’t want to set their expectations too high for the rest of the month.
I know some people do things like a special elf themed breakfast but that sounds like quite a bit of work especially if it’s a school morning and I know I wouldn’t be able to keep that level of input up over the month.
Instead I printed out a little note from my elf saying how they were excited to visit us from the North Pole and that Santa had given them some money to help pay their way – the money was some chocolate coins for my kids to share.
Toilet Roll Snowman
I loved doing some of our elf ideas in the bathroom because they were so unexpected – you’d always get a yelp the next day when someone (often my husband) found the elf in there!
This is one of the easiest elf on the shelf ideas, just use toilet rolls to create a snowman, drawing the features on with markers or a sharpie or using cardstock and double sided tape as I have.
I also printed out in advance a little ‘do you wanna build a snowman?’ card so that our elf could embrace his inner Anna and Elsa.
There are loads of creative free printables out there to help with your elf antics. I googled a elf twister board that was free to download, printed it out and let our elf play with some other toys.
Elf Has A Lie In
This was one of our most popular elf ideas which just goes to prove that you don’t need to spend hours setting up your elf each night, five minutes is normally more than enough time.
My kids had been at a party the day before and I knew that we’d all be tired so I put our elf in some elf pyjamas, tucked him up under a blanket and left a note saying that he was tired.
Coco Pop Poops
I don’t think it will come as a shock to any parents that kids often like quite childish humour? These poops made from coco pops were a big hit.
This elf idea is one that took me less than a minute to set up so it’s perfect for those nights when you know that you really won’t have the time or the energy for anything much.
Pour out some rice onto your table or floor and move your elf around to make an angel shape like you would in normal snow.
Make sure to keep a dustpan and brush to hand for cleaning any mess up easily in the morning.
This idea took a little while to set up due to the props but it still didn’t take ages and it looked really cool so I figured it was worth it!
Have your elf and other toys have a snowball fight using white lego to make little snow walls for them to hide behind.
Use tiny pom poms as snowballs, if you want your elf or toys to hold them just use a little bit of double sided tape to keep them in place. Yes, that is a yellow snowball as well. I’m childish, sorry.
If you don’t have any mini pom poms you could use mini marshmallows as a cute alternative.
For this activity you want the googly eyes that already have some kind of tape or glue on the back of them.
I then went round our home and added these to every picture I could find which had a face.
Family photos, Santa decorations and the pictures my kids had up in their rooms all ended up with googly eyes on them instead.
This is a good one for lasting a while as my kids were hunting round the house looking for pictures their elf had decorated for ages.
This was one of our favorite easy elf ideas, pop your elf in the bathroom with an open packet of oreos.
Scrape out the cream from a couple of them and have your elf replace it with toothpaste!
If your kids have any villain toys then this is a great one to do and super quick too.
We used a Zurg toy from the Toy Story film with his blaster aimed at our elf and then used the velcro on our elf’s hands to have him cling to a draw high up while escaping.
You could also have your elf escape onto a ceiling fan or chandelier to keep them high up while your villain toy awaits them underneath.
Elf Card Game
Grab a pack of cards and get your toys to have a little card game.
I prepared this one in advance by taping a few cards together using double sided tape and then the toys were able to hold it by using a bit more of the tape to stick it to their hands.
Toilet Roll Countdown
Another super quick idea, sit your elf next to a partially unrolled toilet roll and using a marker write on it how many sleeps there are until Christmas.
Making Christmas Decorations
Because I wanted something for the kids to do over the weekend, I bought in advance some Christmas decorations they could make and then wrapped these up and let our elf give them as a gift.
I absolutely love a cheesy joke so we had to include some funny elf jokes. Make a slice of toast and then cut out holes for your elf’s arms and legs then leave a little note next to it – I was cold but now I’m feeling TOASTY! Guaranteed to get them rolling their eyes.
Hiding In Candy
I’m not sure if in other countries a big box of chocolates is a holiday tradition but in the UK it’s definitely a must and in most households you’ll find a big box of Quality Street or Roses chocolates over the Christmas period.
If you have a tub of some kind of festive treats in your home just hide your elf in them, you could even leave out a few empty wrappers as if your elf has been helping himself.
If you have a toy train or Barbie car at home pop your elf and any toy friends in it and then have them try to drive away – you could leave this near to a door as if they’re off on an adventure!
We’ve got quite a lot of paper bags at home so I set up a sack race for our elf and some other toys by standing them up in paper bags and letting them have a race.
This works even better if you can make them a little finishing line.
Raiding the Cookie Jar
Leave your cookie jar open and have your elf hanging out of it or next to it with some half eaten cookies and a few crumbs.
I really liked our little elf zip wire! Ours was made across our stair case but you could do this anywhere where you can fix up some string starting in a higher place and then ending somewhere lower.
If your elf has velcro on their hands you can attach this round the string to make it that they are zipping down it or even better use double sided tape to attach your elf’s hands to a candy cane and pop that over the string to make your zip wire.
Like a lot of people we still have face masks lying around at home. Grab one of these and make a little hammock in your Christmas tree for your elf to chill out in.
Toilet Paper Snowflakes
Carefully fold some toilet paper and use scissors to cut out toilet paper snowflakes.
Gingerbread Christmas Trees
If you have the time and inclination you could set out some tree shaped gingerbread cutters and leave a note saying you were going to make biscuits.
Personally, I bought a kit from my local supermarket that my kids could decorate and left it for our elf to give them as a gift.
Decorating The Tree
Decorating in the loosest sense of the word, obviously. Grab a toilet roll and wrap it around your Christmas tree. leaving your elf to hold the other end of it so they’re caught red handed!
For the final day of our elf I decided to have one last go and go a bit over the top for when my kids woke up on Christmas Eve. I bought some cups with an elf print on them from my local store as a leaving gift and then used wrapping paper to cover our fireplace and any pictures in our front room.
It took about twenty minutes for me to do this on my own and a couple of Christmas wrapping paper rolls but it was definitely worth it for the surprise on everyone’s face. I have no idea how I will top this one this year!