Elf on the Shelf
Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas Guide for Parents

Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas Guide for Parents

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Elf On The Shelf Ideas” is one of the most googled phrases as the holidays grow near. It is amazing how this little tradition has grown in popularity.

There is nothing like realizing at six in the morning that you forgot to move that little bugger – and excited little eyes are about to realize that! Hopefully, this elf on the shelf ideas guide of ours will help keep you informed of all things elf!

Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas Guide


Easy. That seems to be the keyword parents are looking for. Easy. Let’s face it – we don’t all have the time to make an elite obstacle course and engage 43 other toys to make a Pinterest worthy gem that all other parents can only hope to replicate.

We would find you. That would be a virtual target on your back and we would have to simply take you out for showing us all up, lol!

Why do parents do Elf on Shelf?

If it is such a hassle, WHY do parents do it then? I think there are as many different answers here are there are families. It can be a great way to keep littles focused on being “good” as the elf supposedly reports back to Santa each night.

It can be fun. In a world so full of hate and violence, letting them be young and seeing the possible magic in the world is simply amazing. Kids grow up way too fast and this helps create a little bubble of magic that lets them just revel in the holiday spirit.

What age is appropriate for Elf on the shelf?

Elf on a Shelf is officially created for kids between 36 months and 15-years-old. Some as young as 2-years-old “get it” and enjoy the festivities too. When kids stop believing in Santa, they tend to lose interest in their elf, unless they have younger siblings.

Older kids love to help keep the magic alive for younger kids. That, and if your elf normally brings gifts, they want to make sure they still get in on all of the action! Lets face it – kids are SMART!

What? Elves don’t rest? Shut the Front Door! (But cute music video)

Elf on the shelf arrival letter

If you are getting an elf for the first time, there is a letter in the boxed kit that the elf comes with. It is each year after that you may want a letter to announce that your little friend is back. We found this GREAT list of elf on the shelf arrival letters – see it HERE.

What can I do with Elf on the shelf?

This is where you are only limited by your imagination! You can simply move the sitting little guy (or gal) round the house from night to night or you can go for more. You elf can be fun, your elf can be naughty, your elf can be kind, you elf can bring gifts, and so much more.

Elf on the shelf calendar

This is what you need if you have absolutely no ideas of your own. We shared an elf calendar in 2017 that can be used ANY year. It has several fairly easy ideas on it that cover funny, naughty, and more.

elf on the shelf ideas calendar

Does the elf bring gifts?

This is entirely up to you. Our elf comes the day after Thanksgiving and usually brings 4-5 gifts over the time period she visits. On December 1st – there is ALWAYS a chocolate advent calendar. You can get them for about two bucks at your local Aldi store.

December 24th? The kid wakes up with an elf who has a brand new pair of pajamas. We got the Pajama Elves Book when the kid was about 4 and it seemed a fitting tradition to keep up.

The other gifts? What ever really catches my eye. Maybe something fun from the local dollar store? In 2020 they had some beyond cute elf-themed ornaments and our elf brought one for the kid.

There has been a time or two that the elf was face down in the kid’s Christmas stocking so the next day? The kiddo knew to get in that stocking the next day and see what treasure was left. It might have been lip gloss, a key chain, or even candy. Once it was a package of Pocky! Again, use your imagination.

Elf on the shelf jokes

We like FUN and so do your elves! With standard elf jokes like:

  • What kind of music do elves like best? “Wrap” music.
  • Why kind of photographs do elves like taking? Elfies.
  • What’s the first thing elves learn in school? The “elf“-abet!
  • Santa rides in a sleigh. What do elves ride in? Mini vans!

You can’t help but have a chuckle. You can jump over to Canva and whip up your own cards or you can get free printables on sites like Skip to My Lou or The Simple Parent.

Elf on the shelf kindness ideas

Instead of being retro-active and seeing if the kids have been OK for the day, how about your elf PLANNING on them being good? There are a lot of great printable activity cards that have the littles focused on helping out. We found some good ones at Over the Big Moon and Mommy Savers.

Elf on the shelf naughty ideas

Occasionally, it is good to show that even an elf has a little temptation. Maybe it is wasting an entire tube of toothpaste in the bathtub to write a name out? Using a roll of TP to create a garland on the Christmas tree? How about hiding their favorite stuffy with a scavenger hunt set of clues?

Google can be your friend here – even Pinterest. Just don’t fall down the black hole of ideas…

Top 10 Naughty Elf on the Shelf ideas…

As you can see, usually the elf is naughty if the kids have been naughty…

Elf on the shelf note ideas

We covered welcome letters and jokes – if you want more notes from your elf then you either write them yourself or use little “caught you doing something good” notes as we found at the Pragmatic Parent.

Elf on the shelf ornament

You either have your elf bring an elf on the shelf ornament OR bring all the items needed, along with the instructions, to make an ornament!

Does the elf on the shelf move every night?

OK. I have been busted by this one before. BOTH of us forgot to move the elf…that just means you need a creative excuse like “The weather between here and the North Pole must be bad“. Maybe the elf DID leave and come back. They just parked their hiney in the same spot to trick you!

There are great standbys like “The elf fell asleep because everyone went to bed too late” or “Maybe there was too much activity like people going potty, etc?”

May I suggest you come up with at least 5 different ideas now – trust me, you will eventually need to know what to say when you forgot to move the elf!

What happens if your elf on the shelf doesn’t move?

Right from the Elf on a Shelf Website:

If your elf didn’t move, they may be trying to communicate an important message to you! If your elf is accidentally touched, they may have just enough energy to get to the North Pole but not enough magic to create a whole new scene in your home.

What should I do if my child touches the elf on the shelf?

I know it is in the rules that you shouldn’t touch the elf, but let’s face it. We are talking about kids and accidents happen. I certainly didn’t want MY little traumatized over possibly hurting an elf beyond repair! That is where magic “elf dust” comes in.

While there are tons of elf dust free printables out there – it is pretty simple. Elves love all things sweet – so just sprinkle a little (LITTLE) bit of cinnamon next to your elf – NOT ON YOUR ELF! NEXT to it. It only takes a little bit of time and then your elf is good to go – thanks to the magic spice that Mrs Claus loves to put in their treats!

Can you hug your elf on the shelf on Christmas Eve?

Most of us say “yes” to this – after all, who doesn’t need a goodbye hug? On December 24th, and ONLY December 24th – the elf can even be carried around. Show it off, tell it jokes, read a book, snuggle for a Christmas movie, whatever comes to mind. It will be about 11 months before they are together again, so let them have one day of fun.

Elf on the shelf cookies and treats

It can be fun waking up and finding your elf with a bagged cookie mix and a note asking for treats -or all the ingredients along with one of our recipes printed out. 12 Top Elf On A Shelf Recipes – keep in mind that some of these are designed for Mom and Dad – not the littles, LOL.

After all, don’t the parents who keep elf magic alive need a little treat once in a while?

Elf on the shelf goodbye letter

This might be one of the most looked for Elf on the shelf free printables. It can be hard to wake up after a month and not have the elf to look for, even if Santa did bring a bunch of presents! Mom & Munchkins has a nice one and so does MomDot.

Elf on the Shelf Accessories

You can spend as much or as little as you want after you invest in that initial $29 elf kit. There are clothes, activities and so much more that they are willing to sell you! I saw this incredible 15 piece set of Santa Couture that was a steal for $22 when compared to the “official” sets that are all at least ten bucks.

You can get a ton of ideas yourself just by checking this list on Amazon. Pinterest might have some gems too – if you can knit, crochet, or sew – you are all set for thrifty fun!

Elf on the shelf videos

Besides Elf on the Shelf videos you can get on Youtube, there are a few fun ones on Amazon:

Elf Pets: A Fox Cub’s Christmas Tale

How does Santa travel the whole world in one night? Set against the backdrop of the mystical Northern lights, Scout Elf newsey investigates as a little boy named Michael, The Elf on the Shelf Scout elves and loads of adorable elf pets Arctic foxes find out for themselves that nothing is more powerful than hope—not even Santa!

The Elf on the Shelf Santa’s St Bernards Save Christmas

What happens when Santa discovers there’s not enough Christmas spirit to make Christmas magical? Together, Scout Elves, a slew of Saint Bernard pups and a big-hearted family change their community for the better and ensure Santa’s yuletide mission succeeds.

An Elf’s Story DVD

An Elf’s Story is the inspirational tale of Chippey, the enthusiastic young scout elf who is assigned by Santa to restore Taylor McTuttle’s belief in Christmas magic. When Taylor breaks the number one Elf on the Shelf rule and touches Chippey in a boyish act of defiance, the elf loses his Christmas magic. Through the power of love and forgiveness, both Taylor and Chippey learn that true belief cannot be taught.

Quick YouTube Elf on the Shelf Music Video: Scout Elves Don’t Rest

Yes, there are Elf Pets!

What Are Elf Pets?

When you think of the North Pole and the animals who live there, you may think of polar bears, owls, and of course the most famous: reindeer! Among the animals who spend their days frolicking in the snow are magical furry friends known as the Elf Pets. These special animals are Santa’s trusted companions who help him make Christmas a success each year. Read on to learn fun facts about these cuddly Elf on the Shelf pals that all come with their own storybook!

Santa’s Christmas Eve journey occurs in one night, thanks to an arctic fox that sets polar lights aglow—pausing time and protecting his sleigh!

All it takes is for children to adopt an Elf Pets Arctic Fox, cuddle it and shake its glow-in-the-dark snow globe to show they believe in the magic of Christmas. This creates the Christmas Spirit needed to help Santa travel the world on Christmas Eve.

  • Reindeer

    BUILD THE SPIRIT: For Santa’s sleigh to bring joy on Christmas Eve it is going to be up to the Elf Pets Reindeer and kids who believe! In this charming tale, more Christmas Spirit is needed to make the sleigh soar, so Santa relies on more reindeer and the faith, hope, and love of children everywhere to help him.
  • St Bernard

    This heartwarming tale encourages children to perform acts of kindness throughout the Christmas season alongside the Saint Bernard pup included in this boxed set.

All it takes is for children to adopt an Elf Pets Saint Bernard, cuddle it and show it love! Thanks to the magic barrels around their necks, the Elf Pets Saint Bernard stores the Christmas cheer children create when they show love to others.

Can you touch the elf on the shelf pets?

Of course! Don’t all pets love to be touched? In some cases your child has to hug it and do kind things for it to collect Christmas spirit in the barrel around its neck. It is then released on Christmas Eve to power Santa’s sleigh and the Christmas star.

Elf on the Shelf ideas Bottom Line?

You can get as far into the tradition as you want – and spend as much money as you want to build the tradition with your family. Honestly? You don’t need more than the initial elf kit for the job and I have shown you that you can get a ton of FREE printables and ideas just with a quick Google search.

It is a fun thing to do with the kids- you can bring acts of kindness into it or even pull the Christian focus like I found on My Joy Filled Life.

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