It’s that time again. Yup, your helper elf is about to parachute in to make your life (slightly) more challenging for the next few weeks. Get ahead of the game and prep your bag of tricks with these 40 brilliant ideas. From classic hiding spots to hilarious antics that’ll make the whole family giggle, read on to discover enough Elf on the Shelf ideas to last you the entire month.
1. Dramatic rescue. Rescuing the family elf is always fun. If you’ve got train tracks, going Wild Wild West is a super easy way to keep him tied down!
2. Spell it out. Do you have scrabble tiles or Bananagrams? Then it’s a cinch to let your elf leave a sweet message for your littles to discover the next day.
3. Deeds worth doing. Since reporting good deeds to Santa is your elf’s duty, it’s the perfect opportunity to remind kids about the spirit of Christmas. We dig the free downloadable from Over the Big Moon.
4. Daring dino ride. If you’ve got a plastic dinosaur (T-Rex preferred) then you’ve got what you need to give your elf a prehistoric ride.
5. Window view. If you’ve got a window and a curtain rod, you’ve got a sweet spot to place your elf. Easy-peasy.
6. Cookies, please. Elves love anything made with sugar. Set yours up with the stuff to make cookies; not only will you be able to cross one day off your calendar, but you’ll get to spend quality time with your kiddos. Bonus: If you don’t get around to making them, a repeat appearance by your elf with a more urgent request for cookies is totally appropriate.
7. Zipline. This idea is popular, but it does take a little time to set up. All you need is string or yarn, a candy cane, and a way to secure your elf to the candy cane!
8. Not-so-fresh Frosty. Looks like Frosty the Snowman got himself into a warmer climate! Head over to Picklehead Soup for more genius ideas.
9. LEGO throne. Whether you use DUPLO or LEGO, making a sweet seat for Santa’s Little Helper can be done in less than five minutes.
10. Caught in the act. Use M&Ms, chocolate chips, or even sugar cereal and position your elf with its backside out of the bag. It's a best best for giggles!
11. Exhausted elf. All those trips up to the North Pole make for one tired elf. Let your little one in red take a day off. Psst! You don’t need an elf-sized sleeping bag. A doll blankie works just as well.
12. Elf spaghetti. Whip up Buddy the Elf’s favorite dish for your own little helper. Hint: this is a great idea for the night you make pasta! You'll also need syrup (of course), marshmallows, candy, and chocolate syrup. Find out how to make a batch over at Instructables.
13. Riding the banister. Those naughty elves are always looking for an adrenaline rush! Use a frisbee and some sticky tape to get your little buddy set up at the top, ready to ride.
14. Sitting pretty. Have your elf take a seat inside your wreath for a picture-perfect spot.
15. Elf in the kitchen. Got a play kitchen? Then, let your elf whip up something yummy.
16. Super Elf! Your kids will love to find their family elf has gone superhero overnight. Construction paper or felt works great for a cape and mask.
17. On the road. With a toy car, your elf can go just about anywhere he wants to go. Headed to buy a Christmas tree? Done. Want to take Wonder Woman out on a date? Totally!
18. Put the elf in the freezer. Your elf sure does miss the North Pole! Give him a little time to chill.
19. Play Picasso. A dry-erase marker, a family photo, and a sense of humor is all you need. Give your kids beards and cat ears: See how much they laugh!
20. Toilet paper tricks. Add an elf to a roll of toilet paper and send down the stairs. Don’t have a second level? Leave a trail down the hall with a written message instead.
21. Bath time. You don’t need a Barbie bath to let your Elf soak aching bones— a plastic bowl or storage container will do the trick. Add marshmallows for bubbles and you’re set.
22. Gone fishing. Your kids will love waking up to find the elf "fishing" for goldfish crackers in the bathroom sink.
23. Story time. Position the elf with a favorite holiday book and a captivated audience.
24. Hanging by a limb. Any elf will feel right at home when dangling from a branch of the Christmas tree.
25. Coloring elf. Take 30 seconds to scribble in a coloring book, scatter crayons and set up your elf. Giggles are guaranteed!
26. Spa day. Wrap your elf in a washcloth, give him a loofah, and just like that, it's a spa day.
27. Puzzle play. Settling your elf in for the night with a puzzle is easy and fun.
28. Sweet snow angels. It’s just not quite as cold down here as it is at the North Pole. When your elf gets antsy for chilly weather, make her a personal snow angel. We suggest using rice for easy cleanup!
29. All wrapped up. Give your elf the scissors, tape and, wrapping paper. Scatter shredded paper and tape around and it'll be like she was caught in the act of wrapping up Santa's gifts!
30. Elf making popcorn. Someone's ready for family movie night!
31. Paper bag race. Take those lunch bags that have been cluttering your drawer and collect a few stuffies. Then, stage a sack race-style scene across your dining room table or kitchen island.
32. Don't move the elf. Well, it looks like your kids so were so well behaved, no North Pole reporting was needed.
33. Let it snow. Sprinkle some sugar as "snow," and let your little rascal make snow angels on your counter.
34. S'more to love. Some toothpicks, roasted marshmallows, chocolate squares, graham crackers and a tea light are all you need to set up this cozy scene.
35. Read all about it. Prop him up on a favorite Christmas story or beloved book.
36. Take a seat. From Barbie's car to Santa's sleigh, having your elf take a ride is a riot.
37. Cards, anyone? Your little merry maker loves to play games. Set him up with some small cards to explain how he whiles away the hours.
38. Caught pink handed. Have your elf stage a scene and tape up an area with crepe paper. Frame the little fella with the materials so they know who done it.
39. Making his mark. He can't help but make mischief, and marking up a festive photo is a silly way to say "Elf wuz here."
40. Elfie Selfie. Position your elf in front of the family laptop and snap a picture. Just be forewarned, if it's a laptop you actually use, you'll need to get it set back up before the kids get home from school.