Home Gifts & Guides 10 Can’t Miss Elf on the Shelf Ideas (+ 3 bonus nights!)

10 Can’t Miss Elf on the Shelf Ideas (+ 3 bonus nights!)


Whether it’s your first or tenth go-round with Elf on the Shelf, we’ve got you covered with 10 can’t miss Elf on the Shelf Ideas to make it super easy on you.

Guest post alert! This post was written by the Magic Makers behind the amaze Scout Elf Support Team Instagram account. They’re pulling back the curtains on some of their most popular Elf on the Shelf ideas just for us!

This post contains affiliate links.

It almost feels too early to talk about it, but with all the Christmas memes already surfacing on social media, I think it’s safe to say that we are all looking forward to the warmth & merry of the holidays. For some of us, this means our little Elf on the Shelf scout elves will be returning to—or joining for the first time—our homes this holiday season.

Our family enjoys our little mischief maker so much. And while he can take a little effort (think: ensuring one or both parents don’t accidentally fall asleep & forget about the little scout elf), the joy he brings to our two small children is immeasurable.

Two years ago we launched “Scout Elf Support Team” with the goal of sharing the fun spirit of the elf & helping provide families with a stress-free way to partake in the magic! We would so often hear about parents who truly did not have the time, didn’t want the burden of nightly elf magic, or just wanted someone else to take on the creative role in this endeavor…and we listened.

Keep scrolling for some of our favorite Elf on the Shelf ideas, including 10 of our very favorite elf evenings.

Some new, some tried & true, and a few helpful links to get you off and elf-ing!

Before we jump in—pointed elf ears first, of course—here are a few tips that we love & live by. Whether you choose to use our ready-to-go Elf on the Shelf kit (more on that at the end), buy your own props, scan Pinterest, or scroll Instagram every night in a panic praying for an easy elf idea…a quick check on Amazon or trip to your local grocery or craft store can add magic to even the most simple elf evening.

Our team always has the following things on hand to make almost any Elf on the Shelf idea come to life:

  • Sprinkles (red and green, or Christmas themed, candy cane, there are so many options)
  • Flour (think snow angels, baking mishaps, tiny foot prints)
  • Snow dust
  • Marshmallows (small, large, multi-color – last year we even found ones shaped like gingerbread men and trees at Walmart)
  • Extra Christmas lights
  • A set of tiny Christmas ornaments

And now for our Top 10 Elf on the Shelf Ideas:

1. “Snowball Fight” (a scout elf must)

elf on the shelf idea snowball fight

A few different size pom-pom craft balls (medium & large)—or the awesome faux snowballs mentioned below—and tiny plastic army people are all it takes to set up an epic snowball fight. Make sure there are obvious sides, teams, & stacked snowballs. Feel free to add some snow dust or flour to each side!

For added fun—while we use soldiers in our kits, we have used Peppa Pig characters, Paw Patrol characters, & Frozen characters in our home.

Side note: We have a huge tub of faux snowballs. You do not need the faux snowballs—not for the elf, not for any good reason—but if fake snowballs are news to you…well, nothing is more fun than snowball fights as an alternative to family game night!

2. “Tree Farm” (one of our favorites from last year)

elf on the shelf idea tree farm
We used little sisal trees & mini chalk boards with a chalk marker to create a cozy tree farm. It’s a simple evening but if you can sneak it in before your own tree is up, or even immediately after, it truly feels like your elf is living the holiday right alongside you.

3. “Bathtub Buddies”

elf on the shelf idea bathtub
You will need a “tub,” tiny marshmallows, & at least one bath buddy. Do yourself a favor & choose a night your children really need a scrub. We guarantee they will be inspired by their tiny sugar-loaded friend. Our favorite holiday rubber ducks are a fun addition around the holidays. And the bathtub can be a bowl or cup. Our kits come with a little tin tub.

4. “No Business in the Kitchen”

elf on the shelf idea kitchen cooking

Part 1: You can purchase a play set for this—or you can use a real pan + spatula & set this up on the stove top. This evening is a great example of how sprinkles & flour can take an elf night from good…to GREAT!

elf on the shelf idea kitchen snack

Part 2: For fun, last year in our house we extended “No Business in the Kitchen” by 1 day. The second morning the girls woke up to an elf who had opened approximately 6 Little Debbie Christmas trees. Some were whole, some were broken, some were smashed—and a little ended up on our elf’s hands & mouth. He went from baking…to eating his masterpiece.

And he left each child a whole one in the wrapper for breakfast.

5. “Hey, All You Cool Cats and Kittens”
We couldn’t help ourselves. In the spirit of keeping with this year’s themes—and ensuring we provide some adult humor & enjoyment—here’s one for the Tiger King fans…or viewers, as I’m not sure anyone is a true fan? Ha.

A set of tigers & the aforementioned mini chalk boards & marker (mini dry erase boards would work great, too—even an index card can be folded & used for signage). Our team recommends writing “hey, all you cool cats and kittens” but there are likely 100+ Tiger King references to amuse yourself & your tiny mini on this night.

6. “Scout Elf Snow Angels”

elf on the shelf idea snow angel
You will need snowflakes, flour, and snow dust. Worth mentioning…it is not easy to make an elf snow angel. Don’t worry about making it perfect. Most craft stores have packets of paper or flat craft style snowflakes—these are a huge help in creating this scene. The more the merrier.

7. “O Hey, Hygiene”

elf on the shelf idea toothpaste
What’s more fun than waking up to find a sneaky someone causing a fuss at your bathroom sink? For a kid…not much. All this scene requires is a toothbrush & of course—a toothpaste mess! You can keep the mess small, large, or even include a mirror message in toothpaste. Be sure to get some on the counter & especially your scout elf’s face for authenticity. We love a travel set for this. Anytime you can introduce an item your kids have never seen before—the magic doubles.

8. “Watch This”
Part 1: Again, we are using those infamous chalk boards! You need two (or more) raw eggs, and just as many Kinder Eggs (grocery store). On the first night of this scene, place raw eggs in bowls/small dishes/paper plates/etc. close to your elf, and write “watch this” on a chalkboard. Let your kids go the entire day being sooo curious about what their elf on the shelf may be up to. Encourage their imaginations to run wild. We love to hear what our little ones think might happen!

Part 2: The following night replace the raw eggs (toss em!) with kinder eggs! Magic! You can leave the Kinder Eggs right where the raw eggs were or at each child’s breakfast spot.

Side note: I grew up in a house where everything was always at my spot at the table. Valentines, Birthday, notes, etc.—so this makes sense to me. But I truly have no idea if this is a common practice or just something my mother did. Either way, I loved it. And we always knew what was special/meant for each of us individually.

9. “Fierce Opponent”

elf on the shelf idea toy game
Is there anything more intriguing than a shark or alligator toy, a silly game, and a stumped elf? You just need a plastic predatory toy & a game (grab a couple playing cards or some dice) for them to play against one another. We love using these sharks, but an alligator or even a dinosaur would be a great fit for this, too!

Bonus night: For fun, you can reuse those sharks for a “baby shark” themed night. Give some time between fierce opponent & the next shark scene, but simply label each shark (with those chalkboards, of course) as “daddy shark,” “mommy shark,” “baby shark,” and use a tiny elf hat on your elf’s back like a fin to create “elf shark.”

10. “Tiny Travel Scout” (our favorite night, weekend, or even week!)

elf on the shelf idea travel

This allows your elf to take a weekend getaway with your tiny believer. Inside a safe container (filled with snow dust or sprinkles), your elf can travel all over—or even to visit a family member for an extended period of time. Here’s the best part: you are elf-free for however many days you (ahem, Santa) determine. These unbreakable jars are perfect for your traveling elf—& we’re positive you’ll have plenty of uses for the remaining 5 jars (they really come in handy)!

Pro tip: Do not use a glass option. One year I foolishly used a glass mason jar. Terrible. There were tears, gloved pickup of glass & beloved scout elf. It wasn’t pretty. No glass.

Well there you go—10 amazing Elf on the Shelf ideas that are easy & fun to pull off! And actually, there are 3 bonus nights in there so you’ve really got 13 magical scenes to choose from!

And not to mention that if your Elf on the Shelf takes an extended trip (sayyyy, 12-18 days or so? wink wink), you’ve got enough Elf on the Shelf ideas to last a full a month!

A few extra notes, because we think you are amazing & we’re more than willing to share:

Hosting an elf should not cost a fortune. We did our best to link items we purchase on Amazon or items like the ones we bulk buy (at the lowest cost we could find). Many of these items might be hanging around your home or playroom, too—you just need to quietly dig them out & tuck them away for the following evening.

Clean up can be super easy, but messes are a must (for us)! The real secret to making your Elf on the Shelf feel magically “over the top” is messes. Children love messes & are entirely overcome by the thought of a tiny little Christmas symbol sneaking around at night causing accidental trouble. We are here to help clean up though! The secret to a clean elf? Water. Flour, snow dust, sprinkles & many of the messes that take an elf night from good to great can be rinsed right off. By the next morning he or she should be plenty dry & mess free!

And here’s a personal thought. In our home we keep the elf for magic only. We don’t threaten with our elf or accuse him of “watching” all of the behavior from our children, causing fear around what he may tell Santa. You & your family are welcome to do whatever fits your four walls best. But for us, he is a special little symbol. A tiny little mess maker. Our children giggle over his antics & his silliness, and for us that is where he fits into our Christmas traditions. Just a thought. 2020 has been a tough year, we could all use a little magic without the fear of consequence.

One last giggle. Your elf can be a girl, a boy, or an androgynous Christmas helper. Ours happens to be a he & that’s largely because our two small children are girls, our bulldog is a girl, & our cat is …yep, a girl…so naturally my husband wanted one more boy in our house. He also convinced my tiny girl tribe to name him “Rambo.” Total dad humor & a good laugh for sure.

Now, go give our Scout Elf Support Team a follow on Facebook or Instagram!

We’ll be sharing Elf on the Shelf ideas, photos, tips, & all things Christmas—so be sure to follow along with us this holiday season!

And for those of you who want the magic to well, magically show up on your doorstep: We offer 15-night Premium Elf on the Shelf Kits. All the Elf on the Shelf ideas, all the magic, all the fun, all the creativity…with none of the effort. Our kits ship via USPS the week before Thanksgiving to help dodge the holiday mail delays! When you start your Elf on the Shelf magic is entirely up to you.

Follow us to order your Elf on the Shelf Kit!

And from our team to yours—Happy Holidays & Merry Christmas!

(PS – There’s an adorable 30 minutes Elf on the Shelf movie that is not to be missed!)

55 Christmas Gift Ideas for Her

Christmas Gift Ideas for Him

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10 Can\'t Miss Elf on the Shelf Ideas (+ 3 bonus nights!)

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