How to Master Elf on The Shelf This Year

Ah, The Elf on The Shelf. Our favorite necessary evil of the holiday season. It’s true—your kids love to find their little red friend every morning, but you hate having to come up with 27 different places and ways to hide him! Plus, there’s only so many times you can read that book before you start to recite it in your sleep…

Luckily, we came up with a list of tips and ideas to make Elf on The Shelf fun and memorable for everyone, including mom! Read on to learn how to make this the best year yet, plus 20 creative ways to pose your elf!

Plan Ahead

This one is a no brainer. Make a day-by-day schedule of what you’re doing with Elf and stick to it. We also recommend coming up with 4-5 ‘last-minute’ hiding spots for those nights where life gets in the way and you forget to move him.

Alternatively, come up with a bunch of ideas and sort them by mom laziness level, and decide day-of what you have time for. Chances are you’re not going to have time to set up a Nativity scene staring Elf after your neighbor’s holiday party, but you might on a night when your kids are sleeping over a friend’s house.

This is a bit of a no-brainer, but you’ll also want to save anything that involves getting Elf dirty for the end of the month. No one wants to be frantically scrubbing an Elf arm with a toothbrush at midnight!

Elf Activities

Another fun idea is to set up an activity from Elf to do with the kids. Leave him somewhere pretty obvious (like the kitchen table) holding a candy cane with a note telling the kids to find 10 more candy canes. Hide some candy canes in easy places for younger kids and harder places for older kids so siblings can search together. Or, if you’re feeling creative, set up a full-blown scavenger hunt. This is a great way to start or end the month, or pick up some momentum if things have started to get repetitive.

What to do with The Elf

The most important part! Here’s 20 ways to position Elf.

1. “Elfie”

Snap a selfie of Elf and set it as the background on a device your kids use a lot. Have Elf holding the device when kids come downstairs in the morning. Now they’ll know that elf is always watching…

2. Sprinkle Angel

Pour a bunch of sprinkles on a baking sheet make a snow angel with Elf. The baking sheet will help with easy cleanup, and you can stage the area with other cookie ingredients and leave a note about baking cookies for Santa.

3. Elf Car Wash

Set elf up with a sponge and a handful of Matchbox cars and a sign. This can easily be translated into Elf asking the kids to clean up the playroom!

4. Making a Break for It

Put Elf’s legs in a pair of boots and point them towards the door. He’s asking the kids to play outside today!

5. Hershey’s Elf

Wrap Elf up in aluminum foil in the shape of a Hershey’s kiss. Surround him with a couple real kisses for a morning treat.

6. Nice List

If your kids had a particularly tough day, stage Elf in front of your computer typing out an email to Santa detailing what happened, and how it made him (you) feel. The point of the elf is to report back to Santa, so you might as well turn it into a lesson.

7. Mommy’s Helper

We’ve all got massive piles of laundry laying around the house. Put Elf to work by positioning him on top of a couple folded pieces of clothing. This will encourage kids to help out with chores!

8. Marshmallow Roaster

Stick a couple mini marshmallows on a toothpick and pose Elf sitting by a candle campfire. So easy! Bonus points for a Christmas candle!

9. The Thirsty Elf

Wrap Elf around a juice box sitting on a shelf in the fridge. We like this one because it’s quick to set up but takes a little longer for kids to find.

10. Elf Pen Pal

This one requires a bit more effort. Have kids write notes to Elf, and have Elf write back. Much like number 6, an elf pen pal can be used to enforce and reward good behaviors.

11. Elf Serves Breakfast

Pose Elf in a cereal bowl with a spoon and some dry cereal, tip the box over behind him, and have some cereal spill out. When the kids come down for breakfast, tell them that Elf helped get breakfast together. Bonus points for a new or special kind of cereal!

12. All Smiles Elf

Got a kid who won’t brush their teeth? Set Elf up in the bathroom with their toothbrush, toothpaste, and a note reminding them to brush. Again, this one is super quick to set up, and enforces a good behavior. Mom win!

13. Spell it Out

Utilize fridge magnets or lettered blocks to spell out a message from Elf! Use your kids’ names to make it feel more personalized and keep the magic of Elf alive.

14. Tree Climber

Pose Elf in the Christmas tree, hanging off of a garland, or hugging an ornament. Much like number 9, it’s simple for mom to set up, but it takes a little more effort for kids to find.

15. Elf has a Playdate

Set him up with a couple other stuffed animals, a Barbie, or driving a toy car. Like number 3, this can be spun into a playroom cleanup request!

16. Pancake Feast

Whip up a batch of Elf-sized pancakes and set them up on a platter with syrup. Leave a note saying he made breakfast! Save this one for a weekend since pancakes require a bit more time than cereal! Bonus: do this after number 11 and include something in the note about him getting better at cooking.

17. Crafty Elf

Stick a couple stickers on Elf and leave him with a pile of card-making supplies. Add a note saying he wants to make Christmas cards! Have the kids make a bunch of cards and drop them off at a local nursing home or hospital. This is probably our favorite item on the list—it’s easy to set up, keeps the kids busy for a couple hours, and reinforces the true meaning of Christmas. It can’t get better!

18. Gone Fishin’

Here’s another great last-minute option. Pose Elf sitting above a bowl of Goldfish crackers. Next, make him a little fishing pole with a straw and some string, and tie a Goldfish to the string so it looks like Elf caught the cracker. Bonus: leave out a couple plastic bags and have kids pack their lunch snack from the Goldfish bowl!

19. Lego Elf

Put that absurdly large Lego bin to use! Build a Christmas tree out of green Legos and perch Elf and the tree at the top of the pile.

20. Part of the Family

Hang Elf from a framed family portrait. Cut out Elf hats for each family member and tape them on each person’s head. Leave a note from Elf saying something about matching outfits! Bonus points for making hats for every picture in the living room!

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