35 Super-Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas You Can Set Up in Under Five Minutes

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More than 13 million Scout Elves have been sold since he first made his debut in 2005.  Most of these Elves make their appearance sometime after Thanksgiving and, of course, become The Elf on the Shelf, who returns to the North Pole every night and is found in a different place in the house the next morning. You may be intimidated by all of the amazing crafty ideas you see other parents doing. But there are plenty of Elf on the Shelf ideas you can do in under five minutes.   

Remember that the Elf on the Shelf is supposed to be fun for kids and grown-ups.  Don't put too much pressure on yourself to do something new every day.  If you don't think you are up for a whole month of Elf on the Shelf there is nothing wrong with waiting until two weeks before Christmas to bring out your Elf.  The important thing is to create memories for your family and bring joy to your home.

  • Make a Rainbow Ball Pit for your Elf by placing him in a jar of jelly beans or M&Ms.
  • Print out this Elf exercise guide and place your Elf in one of the positions.
    Elf on the Shelf
    Image via Amazon
  • Cut out snowflakes and put your Elf in the middle of an indoor snowstorm.
    Elf on the Shelf
    Image via Elf on the Shelf
  • Put your Elf next to family photos – and add funny red hats cut out of construction paper to everyone's head.
  • Place your Elf in a lying down position and cover him with a blanket made from an old t-shirt or do something even easier and put him in this cute Elfin sleeping bag.
  • Give your Elf tiny coupons for a special treat or experience for your child.  This is an especially good idea for the day after you child was very good to let them know Santa noticed!
  • Make sure your Elf has its very own pet to open up a range of possibilities, like putting your Elf's dog in a bowl of marshmallows and pretend that Elf is giving his pup (or reindeer) a bath.
  • Make holiday hoops with this printout and some basic supplies and place your Elf making a slam dunk.  The hoop can be used year after year once made.  
  • Write letters to Santa for your Elf to bring home to the North Pole once the kids have gone to sleep.  This is a good one that can be used any time you didn't come up with something else for the day!  If you write letters using this kit you can get some keepsakes as well.  One night the Elf brings Santa's “magic” paper.  Kids write their letter, mom or dad shrinks it in the oven and the give the letters to the Elf to show to Santa.  The Elf brings the letters back a day or two later and they can then be hung on the tree.  
  • Leave out some coloring pages with markers and crayons with a little sign by your Elf letting kids know that Santa has asked for some new, original artwork from them.
  • Bake (or buy) some cookies and place them by your Elf.  Kids will be delighted to get some treats from Santa!  
  • Give your Elf a card to hold letting kids know how many days are left until Christmas.  Make one whenever you don't have a better idea for the day or get a small chalkboard that your Elf can hold for a reusable option.  
  • Hang rope between two handles on your kitchen cabinets and create a zip line for your Elf.  
  • Print out a mini version of your favorite piece of famous art and place your Elf in front of it.  To add an activity your child can do, leave a note with your Elf asking your child to recreate the piece of art or create a new painting (or drawing) of her own.
  • Turn your Elf into a Superhero by tying a piece of an old t-shirt around his neck to make a cape or take the easy route and buy an Elf-sized superhero costume.  
elf on the shelf
Image via Elf on the Shelf
  • If your Elf has a pet, let them cuddle! Even if your Elf doesn't have a pet, they can still cuddle with your child's favorite stuffie (just make sure it's not one your child sleeps with).
  • Blow-up a balloon and tie it to your Elf's wrist.  If you don't have helium, just tape the balloon to the wall to make it look like it's floating.
Elf on the Shelf
Image via Elf on the Shelf
  • Place your Elf tummy down on your child's favorite Christmas book so he can read while he waits for your child to find him.
  • Before your child wakes up, place your Elf in a position where he can see the TV and play a classic holiday movie or this DVD where your Elf stars in his very own adventure.  If your remote isn't too heavy, let your Elf hold it for a while.   
Image via Elf on the Shelf
  • Place your Elf in a slinky – head down.
  • On a weekend, allow your Elf to explore your child's backpack, daycare bag, or any bag.  Just make sure his head is poking out!  
  • Keep it really simple on nights when you are tired, don't be afraid to just move your Elf to another place in your house!  Try to make him challenging to find and say he was playing hide-and-seek.
  • Place your Elf behind a book or mug with only the top of his head showing and you've got an instant game of peek-a-boo.
  • Place a snack your child likes in a cup near the Elf.  Tell her it's from Santa!  To make this idea even cuter, use a Christmas-themed cup, although this isn't necessary.
  • For a twist, have your Elf ask your child for a treat to bring to Santa.  Before your child goes to bed, ask her to choose a snack to leave with your Elf to bring to the North Pole.  Bake your own cookies or choose something from the pantry.
Elf on the Shelf
Image via Elf on the Shelf
  • Make your life easy and get a few of these ready-made Elf costumes that can be used every year.  This totally tubular set is totally cute and totally easy to set up. 
  • Have your Elf hold a note asking for storytime.  Before bed, snuggle with your child on the floor and read one (or two) of your child's favorite Christmas books to your Elf.  
  • Create a new tradition by holding a little party the night your Elf arrives to show him how glad you are to see him.  
  • Get some blue and white candy (hint:  look in the Chanukkah section) and have your Elf go swimming.  
  • Leave crumbs or a little Xs made out of tape in a trail leading to your Elf.  Leave your Elf with a cookie or roll of tape if he's been a little naughty.
  • Place your Elf on a pile of cotton balls.  It's a snow storm!  
  • Take your child's alphabet magnets or blocks and have your Elf spell out your child's name, the word ‘nice', or just the number of days until Christmas.  
  • Snap a photo of your Elf (or print one you find online) and have your Elf present it to your child as a gift so that your child will remember his very own Elf all year long, even after his Elf returns to the North Pole for the year.   
  • Print out this Elf on a Shelf cut-out and have your Elf place his head in any one of the four holes to become a reindeer or Santa himself.  Or check out any of these other free printables for many, many other ideas.  
Elf on the Shelf
Image via Amazon
  • Check out this Elves at Play Toys and Tips kit that comes with several props for endless possibilities – and comes with an extensive idea book with over 100 ideas about how to very easily and creatively use the included chair, candy cane, cards, etc.  Most of the items can be reused so the idea book can get you through at least three years of Christmases with no repeats.  

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35 Super-Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas You Can Set Up in Under Five Minutes

Jamie is a Beltway Insider who loves channeling her pre-motherhood love of traveling into spending time exploring all D.C. has to offer with her brood of two girls and two boys ages 9, 7,5, and a baby. She is a reformed lawyer turned full-time kid wrangler who enjoys photographing her everyday chaos and anything salted caramel. Since life is never dull, she loves writing about the issues and events going on in her life at any given time, including caring for a daughter with special needs and th ... More

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