By now, if you are a parent, you’re probably aware of the “Elf on the Shelf” tradition: a family adopts one of Santa’s magical elves, who appears at the start of the Christmas season to watch over the children. The elf reports back to the North Pole each night to tell Santa about the children’s behavior, then returns to a new spot while the children are nestled all snug in their beds. In the morning, kids wake in delight to find where the elf is hiding and what shenanigans he or she has gotten into in the middle of the night.
While I enjoy coming up with new ideas for the silly tricks our elf Jovie plays each year, some parents find the task of moving the elf daunting, and I totally understand that! As a mother, it’s hard enough to balance the usual daily tasks of laundry, packing lunches, and running errands, so adding one more duty during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be frustrating. This is why I am offering you a simple 25-day guide to Elf of the Shelf for this Christmas season.
If you find that any of these don’t quite fit your lifestyle or busy schedule, take to Pinterest! There are a million creative and quick ideas saved over there.
The elf arrives with a note. A simple yet exciting way to kick off the elf’s stay!
Tip: I usually like to add a few personal details about my daughter’s behavior or what’s on her wish list. I also type it and give it a little holiday themed border which makes it easy and adorable.
Since the elf is going to be staying for a while, have him create a little Grocery Wish List and clip his hat to a magnet next to his list.
Tip: Some fun ideas to add to the list: candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup. Or add things the elf is going to use for his crazy mischief over the next few days, like marshmallows or hot cocoa.
Silly elf—she gave all the photos in the house Rudolph noses!
Tip: You can use a hole punch and red construction paper and tape on the little red noses or use red stickers.
Have your elf get carried away with Christmas stickers. Put them all over her face, hands, hat, and clothes. Leave some stickers for your children to play with, too!
Tip: A little Note the elf can leave: “You have been good! I’m so proud of you. So off to the North Pole to Santa, I flew. He sent me back with some stickers for you! They are shiny, great, fun, and new. I hope you don’t mind, I used just a few.”
Did the kids have a rough day? Remind them to be good! Have the elf spell out “Be Good!” in magnets or Cheerios.
Set up a little backdrop and leave your camera out with a note that says “Let’s take an Elfie” Take some photos of your tiny tots with their elf.
Tip: If you have some extra time, you can even set up mini photo booth props made with toothpicks (or popsicle sticks for the kids).
It’s time for a fun treat! Have the elf bring back donuts from the North Pole.
Tip: Most Krispy Kreme locations are open late, so you can grab these after the kiddos head to bed. Or wake up early and go to a mom and pop donut shop. These often come in plain white boxes, which you can decorate with a “North Pole Donut” logo. Even easier, put some donut holes on a plate and add sprinkles.
If it’s the weekend, have the elf bring popcorn or movie candy and suggest family movie night.
In Texas, we don’t get the excitement of many snow days. Have the elf leave white Play-Doh or marshmallows with a little note that asks, “Do you want to build a snowman?”
Tip: Here’s a little note the elf could leave: “To the North Pole I went and came back with a game. Let’s build a marshmallow (or play-doh) snowman and give him a name.”
Do you have to hound the kids to brush their teeth? Did your child lose a tooth? Have the elf leave a note in toothpaste to remind the kids to brush. Or have the “Tooth Fairy” wrap the elf in dental floss to keep him from stealing the dollar under your child’s pillow.
Tip: Unless you save it for the stocking, have the elf bring a new toothbrush or tube of toothpaste.
Oh no! Your elf went to the North Pole and came back with a cold. Set him up wrapped in a washcloth “blanket” with tissues, the remote control, and a thermometer.
Get some green food coloring and put a few drops in your milk jug. Hide the Elf giggling in the refrigerator. Your kids will love this one!
Making Christmas cookies for the neighbors? Use the extra dough to create elf-sized cookies.
Tip: Use a frosting tip as a tiny cookie cutter. Don’t forget to adjust the temperature or timing on the oven so they don’t burn.
Have your elf suggest or leave a fun breakfast treat!
Tip: Make Santa or reindeer pancakes, hot cocoa, or if you’re a fan of the movie Elf—and you just had spaghetti night—have your elf eat “Buddy the Elf Spaghetti” with marshmallows, syrup, and M&Ms.
Your elf decided to go on a little camping trip.
Tip: Set up a book spine side up like a little tent and use Barbie’s sleeping bag. Or have Elfie toast a marshmallow over a candle.
Your elf is fishing in the sink, and he caught a rubber ducky!
Tip: A fishing pole is easy to make out of a chopstick and some yarn.
Time for a game of Twister!
Tip: Here’s a free printable from Pinterest if you don’t have time to make one. I can’t wait to try this one this year.
That silly elf is up to his same old tricks! He put googly eyes on all of the fruits and veggies in the refrigerator with a note that says: “All eyes are on you! Be good!”
Set your elf up with some crayons, writing a note to Santa. Or give him the laptop so he can send a quick email.
Tip: You can use this as a behavior warning or to praise good behavior.
Story time! Your elf brought some Christmas books for the kids to read before bed. Or maybe she opened the Bible to the story of Jesus’s birth.
Tip: Luke 2:15-21
Time for a little relaxation! Elf can take a bubble bath in the sink or have a spa day with Barbie.
Tip: Give her a little lotion face mask and wrap her hat in a towel. Or put out some nail polish and dip her toes in a bowl of mini marshmallow bubbles.
Let your elf indulge in a little treat. He’s drinking syrup out of the container or maybe he’s caught eating Nutella straight from the jar! Yum!
It’s time for one last surprise! The Elf decorated the kid’s rooms with paper snowflakes!
Tip: This can be as simple or extravagant as you want. My girl loves ballet and waits all year for her elf to bring her these special ballerina snowflakes.
The fun might be over, but be sure your elf leaves a little “Goodbye until next year” note. It could be found in your child’s stocking or under the tree.
Remember that each day doesn’t have to be an Instagram-worthy experience for your kids. Just have fun with it, and they will too!