11 Simple Elf on the Shelf Ideas to Surprise Your Little One

Rose Morrison

Nov 30, 2023

elf on the shelf idea making snow angels in sugar

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The elves will arrive from the North Pole soon to report on your children’s Christmas Time behavior. Parents either love or hate the task of accommodating the magic and mischief from their Elf on the Shelf. If the December visitors are part of your family’s tradition, here are 11 simple Elf on the Shelf ideas to surprise and delight your little ones. 

1. Fishing for Marshmallows 

Have your elf go on a fishing trip with little to no effort. There are two ways you can do this one. The first is to make a cup of hot chocolate and place miniature marshmallows inside. Take a pencil and some thread to create the fishing pole. Maybe your elf can leave the hot chocolate supplies out on the counter for your kids to enjoy a cup the next day. 

The second method involves making the mini marshmallows the “sea” and placing a goldfish cracker on the end of the pole. 

2. Sugar Snow Angels 

A spoonful of sugar is all that’s needed to create a “snowy” adventure for your child’s elf. Pour some on a counter or table and use the elf to create a snow angel in it. You can leave the elf on the snow angel to appear like they were still making it when morning arrives, or place it nearby so your kids can see their little friend’s work. 

If you want to take the winter activities further, you can use sugar cubes to make a “snowman.” Consider keeping the containers out so your littlest ones can quickly put together what happened. 

3. Candy Cane Garden 

You can create some holiday sweetness by having your elf plant candy canes. You can choose to do this as a family activity by having the kids plant the “seeds” or make a scene of your elf doing it one day and show the candy canes the next. 

All you need is some sugar, peppermint tic tacs or other small mint and candy canes. “Plant” the tic tacs in the sugar. Overnight, you can replace them with candy canes, creating a miniature garden or minty stripes. You can do the same with different flavors of the mints and candy canes. 

4. Floss Trouble

Elves are known for getting themselves into some innocent trouble. An easy way to show this is by extending the floss out of its container and wrapping it around your elf to make it look like they tried to use it but couldn’t get the hang of it. 

Just remember to use a floss container your family doesn’t need since you can’t touch them until the kids are asleep the next night. 

5. Banana Peel Messages 

Have your elf send a message to your little ones by writing on a banana. Place the elf near the fruit with the marker or skewer in hand. When your kids wake up, they’ll have a fun note that doubles as part of their breakfast. 

Place the elf close enough to the bananas so it’s obvious they wrote the message but far enough away that grabbing the banana will risk toppling them. 

6. Caffeine Boost 

Your elf traveled through the night. They could probably use a boost. If you’re willing to sacrifice some coffee or a pod, you can do this one. 

Stick a straw in a coffee pod and have your elf “drink” it. You could also set them up with a small mug or shot glass and add a drop of your coffee in it. If you do plan to share a bit of your morning brew, it’s probably best to set up the elf with its cup and straw before you go to bed in case your kids wander in before you wake up. 

7. Late Night Coloring 

A coloring book page and something to color with is all you need for this idea. You can print off a holiday color sheet or take a coloring page out of one of your child’s coloring books–if they’ll be alright with it. Then, position the elf nearby with a crayon 

You can fully color it or just scribble. The fact that the elf drew on it often tickles them enough.

8. Decorating the Tree 

Get your elf in on the tree decorating joy and chaos by having them add a special touch. Place them on the tree to hang a new ornament or some garland. You could tangle them in the lights or garland to keep them in place and show a “mishap.”

If you want to avoid a potential tangle, you could do this one the night before you intend on decorating your tree and have them deliver some ornaments, for your children to use. You could add a note saying that the ornaments came from the North Pole. 

10. Toilet Paper Snowman 

Your elf doesn’t need snow to make a snowman. Add some silliness to your winter routine by having them create a toilet paper snowman. 

Simply stack three full toilet paper rolls together. Use markers to draw a face, buttons and other accessories. Leave the elf in the bathroom with the markers and place the toilet paper snowman so your kids can have a laugh each time they enter. 

9. Story Time

Christmas story books help our children learn about and experience the wonder of holiday traditions. Your elf can join in on the fun by reading through your child’s story books. Take a few books off the shelf and place them around a chair, where you will set the elf. Place a small book in your elf’s lap or on a table or tray in front of the elf so it looks like they’re reading it. 

When your kids get up, they’ll see their elf enjoying their books which could encourage them to enjoy a story or two throughout the day. 

11. Tic-Tac-Toe

This game can be a multi-night adventure or a great way to have more than one elf interact. 

Create a tic-tac-toe grid with a crayon and paper. You can also get creative by forming it with pretzels or tinsel. Place and “x” or “o” in the grid and leave a note inviting your child to make the next move. Keep it going until someone wins the game. If you don’t want to do this one for multiple nights you can leave the grid blank and invite them to play with a sibling, friend or parent. You could also have two children’s elves play together. In the morning, your kids can discover who won the match. 

Adding More Magic to the Christmas Season 

An elf can be an excellent way to add some more excitement to the Christmas Season. If your kids have an elf or two, these simple Elf on the Shelf ideas are easy ways to make their December visit more magical.


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