Last-Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas You Can Grab at Target

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READING TIME: 7 min.

I really aspire to be the kind of mom who has her life put together. But I’m not. I told myself that I wouldn’t wait until the last minute to figure out my Elf on the Shelf ideas, but here we are. It’s December and I have only three days planned.

BUT! One quick trip to Target, and I was able to finalize the rest of the month in under an hour. So, if you’re interested in some cheap and easy ways to foster family playfulness through your Elf on the Shelf, here are a whole bunch of ideas:

Target Dollar Spot

{$1} Elf Games

Three different games caught my attention immediately. They are sized perfectly for the 11-inch elf and include hop scotch, pin the nose on the reindeer, and a snowball stand. For a dollar each, I can use these to stage fun scenes using other dolls in our home. 

{$1} Gel Clings

I purchased two sets. Our elf will adhere one set to the window in a really disorganized fashion, and the second set will be left out for my child to adhere as he wishes.

{$1} Elf Food Costumes

Slip these on your elf for a little something different. You can hide your milk-wearing elf in the fridge or have your pizza-wearing elf announce pizza for dinner every Friday in December. 

{$1} Holiday Socks

My son’s school has theme days planned for December. I picked up some festive headgear in the holiday section for $5. The elves get to gift my son a silly holiday hat while they don these fuzzy socks as their hats. My son can then wear those socks for Crazy Sock Day at school.

{$1} Mini Grow Kit

Have your child plant something fun for the holidays. In years past, we’ve buried peppermints in dirt at night for candy canes to appear in the morning. 

{$3} Kids Baking Set

These small silicone molds are perfect for having your Elf on the Shelf encourage your child to bake holiday cookies. We reserve weekends or non-school days for activities like this since they take more time. 

{$3} Christmas Tree Chalkboard

Use this chalkboard alongside any activities the elf brings to your home. I get a kick out of writing out whatever is happening with these nutty elves. 

{$3} Krazy String

I’m still learning to accept that mess and chaos come with parenthood. My kiddo totally gets a kick when our elves have made a mess. I’ll gather some plastic toys and be strategic about what kind of stringy mess to create, since I’m the one who will be cleaning it up the next morning!

{$3} Terracotta Pot Bells Craft Kit

Another fun activity reserved for a rainy (or cold) day courtesy of our elves. Any opportunity to encourage my son to stay off electronics is always a win at our home. These would make cute ornaments for a tree once they are painted. 

{$3} Santa Sighting Kit

I’ll use this on Christmas Eve as proof that Santa entered our home. The stenciled footprints are a fun way to create evidence of Santa’s hard work while the kids sleep and can be combined with the departure of our beloved elves.

{$5} Snow Globe Decor

This will be our official quarantine headquarters if either of our elves needs some space from others. I also envision using this as a prop to contain the elves with a bit of comedic flair. 

elf on the shelf ideas: elf in a snow globe

{$5} Garland Stockings

In an attempt to foster some gratitude this season, I plan to use the 25-day garland as a reminder to demonstrate thankfulness. I’ve got some small pieces of scrap paper that can be used to stuff each stocking, inscribed with things our child is thankful for this month. 

Party Supply Section

{$3} Party Streamers

Crêpe paper strips can be taped outside his bedroom door (and possibly other doors) to create a barrier as a fun and easy prank from our sometimes-sneaky elves. The streamers can also hang from ceiling fans or create impromptu elf-sized hammocks throughout your home. 

{$3} Robot Hand Party Favor

Our elves are going to challenge our son to use this robot hand to pick up as many things as possible from his bedroom floor. That’s right! I’m tricking my kid into cleaning. I might also use this to make up a family game where we compete and cheer for each other to pick up random objects throughout our home. 

{$5} Mini Pinata

Grab the leftover Halloween candy and stuff the piñata with some fun treats to surprise your child. Use string to hang the piñata from a light fixture that everybody is sure to notice.

Wondershop Plates & Threshold Mugs

{$2} Santa Plate + Festive accent bowls

Have your Elf on the Shelf greet your child with holiday inspired pancakes, complete with all the toppings. The inexpensive and easy-to-clean tableware elevates any breakfast, lunch, or dinner during the season. 

{$5} Holiday Mugs

The varieties are endless with Target’s assortment of holiday stoneware. Our elves will surprise the family with some new Christmas mugs for us to use for hot chocolate. I added some chocolate spoons from the holiday section for about $5 to complete the gift.

elf on the shelf ideas: cute target mugsSeasonal Holiday Section

{$5} Ninja Gingerbread Man Cookie Kit

Move over gingerbread houses, my son is going to get a kick out of decorating gingerbread ninjas this year as another elf activity. 

{$5} Fabric Tic-Tac-Toe Christmas Game

Another family-friendly option to include in our menu of games this time of year. The tic-tac-toe board doubles as a drawstring bag to keep track of all its pieces.

{$5} Road Trip Car Bingo

We have no upcoming travel plans (yet), but playing games during family dinnertime is not uncommon for us. Whether you’re traveling or looking for a different way to encourage family interaction, B-I-N-G-O is a good game for all ages. One set includes 4 cards.  

{$5} Christmas Bows

I use the bows primarily for gift wrapping, but whatever extras I don’t need, I put to use in a scavenger hunt. The elf encourages our son to find all of them by telling him how many to look for. This activity keeps my little guy moving, and I’m able to take a quick break. 

Miscellaneous Accessories

{$2} Holiday Metallic Mailer

Use this to deliver special announcements or experiences to your kids. My son gets so excited to receive mail. This year our elves will “mail” him various things, such as letters of encouragement or coloring pages. Use them to announce various experiences, such as surprise movie tickets or coupons for extra video game time. I’ll reuse the mailer throughout the month.

{$10} Putty

You can find putty in the toy section, near the fidgets and Pop It! displays. Crazy Aaron’s is my preferred brand. This year, our elf will bring a tin of clear putty filled with little faces displaying different emotions for kids to find as they squeeze, stretch, and play with the putty. It’s a great way to reinforce emotional awareness. 

{$18} Elf Christmas Pajamas

It’s a tradition we do every year, so I like to incorporate our elves into the fun. This year, my boys will get matching elf onesies. Target has such a variety! I picked up some $10 fleece pajamas too, and my kids are loving how soft they are!

easy Elf on the shelf ideas of pajamas and books

{Prices Vary} Books

Every year, our elf brings a new addition to our collection of holiday-themed books. This year the focus is on books that both our boys will enjoy. We added Never Touch a Polar Bear board book for our special needs son. And our older son is getting How to Catch Santa, an easy-to-read book with whimsical illustrations.

It’s very possible that I could have saved money going to different stores. But one resource that seems limited for me around the holidays is my time. I always seem to believe I’ll have more time than I actually do. Being able to go to one place and gather lots of different items was absolutely what I needed to feel better prepared. 

Happy holidays from my family to yours. May your Elf on the Shelf plans be as fun and easy as a trip to Target!

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