You've heard of The Elf, now learn how to hide him. These clever ideas are easy enough for any busy parent to set up.

By Katie Bandurski
Updated July 10, 2020
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Nothing makes the kids behave better than The Elf on the Shelf. This whimsical toy "watches" your kids before Christmas, and reports back to Santa whether they've been naughty or nice. As a parent, you're tasked with hiding The Elf in a new spot every day. Though this may seem easy at first, it gets trickier as the days tick closer to Christmas. There are more than 113,000 Instagram posts with the hashtag #elfontheshelfideas and we combed through them to bring you the most creative Elf on the Shelf activities for newbies and experts alike.

From cheeky games to sweet situations, these silly ideas are sure to delight your kids—and save you the stress of having to find a new idea at midnight the night before. And if you don't yet have this little red doll, it's not too late to start! The Elf on the Shelf Doll, $29.95, Walmart, comes with a sweet book you and your child can read to introduce The Elf.

Once you've decided which of these you want to set up, use our free Elf on the Shelf printables to write out your plans for the month. We've also got free letter templates so you can write your kids a note from The Elf, and a fun bingo card to inspire the little ones to do things like clean their room, finish their homework, and pick up their toys. Now that sounds like a Christmas miracle.

Gifts that Keep Giving

While The Elf on the Shelf is a great way to encourage kids to behave during the holidays, he can also help them learn to practice kindness! Make a list of ways your kids can bless others this season—such as baking cookies for the neighbors or making Christmas cards for veterans—then write the ideas on notecards. Every night when The Elf moves to a new location, add a new act of kindness for each child to complete the next day. Allison from Allison Carter Celebrates has 30 days worth of ideas (and free printable cards!) on her blog if you need help coming up with ideas.

Doing the Laundry

The Elf is so busy watching the kids during the day, he has to do laundry late at night—and this time, he got a little stuck. To recreate the scene, hang doll clothes along a string in front of your washing machine with small clothespins. Place The Elf inside the drum of the washing machine with a note explaining his sticky situation.

Sweet Tooth

Just like Buddy the Elf, your Elf on the Shelf sticks to the four main food groups—candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup. No wonder he is always getting himself into so many crazy messes! Delight your kids with this scene by adding a straw to a bottle of syrup and perching The Elf on a mug or plastic cup at perfect sipping height. Debra from Housewife Eclectic has dozens of other Elf on the Shelf ideas to keep your kids entertained all season long.

Sleigh Ride

Christmas candy makes the perfect elf-sized sleigh. While the kids are sleeping, The Elf likes to take a ride down the banister on this sled made of candy canes and chocolate bars. Simply tape the candy canes to the bottom of the chocolate, then place The Elf on top and secure it to a banister or railing.

Rock Climbing

Recreate this cute climbing wall with leftovers from your holiday wrapping! Arrange bows in a zigzag pattern along a vertical surface—like a brick wall or fireplace—then position The Elf so he looks like he’s climbing up the side. Now your kids will never have to wonder how The Elf gets into such hard-to-reach places.

All Wrapped Up

Looks like The Elf missed the lesson on how to properly wrap presents. Set up this silly situation by loosely wrapping holiday paper around his body and limbs. Tape and a pair of tiny scissors complete the look.

Twist and Shout

Make a game of "Elf Twister" for your elf and his friends. Just draw four circles in green, yellow, blue, and red on a piece of paper, then strategically place The Elf so each of his limbs is resting on different circles. For extra holiday fun, have The Elf deliver a life-size game for the kids, like Twister, $8.99, Walmart.

Wrap N' Roll

The Elf deserves a break from wrapping Christmas presents. Let him express his creative side with a miniature drum set. Craft drums from canned goods, a cymbal from a lid, and drumsticks from broken candy canes. For added fun, give The Elf a stage name, such as "Elvish Presley."

Tone Up

All of those sweet treats are starting to show! Keep The Elf in shape with his own pint-sized gym. Thread marshmallows on a short straw to create a barbell, or lay out a strip of fabric as a yoga mat.

We hope these creative Elf on the Shelf ideas help you decide where to stage your mischevious little guy this season. And since you're treating the kids to a fun holiday surprise each day, we think it's only fair that you treat yourself with a box of Shiraz On the Shelf.

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