Whether you use your own elf — or prefer an official Elf on the Shelf — these easy (and sometimes mischievous) ideas will help you survive the holiday season!

I resisted welcoming elves into our home for years, but now that they are here — I have to admit, they can be kind of fun.

We have a house full of elves each December, and I have grown to enjoy it.  The kids just really love waking up each morning and trying to figure out what sort of shenanigans their elves got into overnight.

The hardest part about the elves is contemplating what mischief they might get into (and then cleaning it up afterwards). My husband doesn’t help here, and my pleas to get the older boys involved is usually met by, “I don’t know what to do,” and a blank stare — so after a few nights, I get kinda stumped.

I hope some of these mischievous elf ideas help you out, like they did me!  And remember — it doesn’t have to be hard (or messy!).  The fun part for the kids is just finding where they’ve ended up each day.  Anything your elf does will be met with happy smiles.

Elf on the Shelf Mischievous Ideas


Don’t have an Elf yet? You can get the official Elf on the Shelf, or any elf toy will do.

Basically, the Elf at your house is acting as a “scout elf” for Santa.  The elf is supposed to be watching your children and reporting back to Santa each night about their behavior.  Because they’re magically traveling to the North Pole each night, they’re always in a new place each morning.

The main rule of elves is that they cannot be touched.  If they’re touched by humans, they’ll lose their magic!  So make sure the kids know…no touching.  (We’ve used tongs to move ours if they ended up in a needed space!)

Elves can sometimes be mischievous and like to play funny pranks, but some elves are just not into that.  They just like to find funny places to hang out — or bring little gifts along the way.

No matter which kind of elf ends up at your house, there are lots of great ideas.  Here are some of our favorites.


  1. Our elves took a bag of candy (from Halloween) and sat under the tree eating candy and watching the lights. They even pulled a few candy canes off the tree.
  2. Invited all the kids’ stuffed animals to a movie night (movies all over the place, popcorn everywhere).
  3. Made snow angels in flour.
  4. The elves love toilet papering our Christmas tree.
  5. Sometimes the elves bring little gifts (candy, hair bows, pencils, paper, markers, etc).  To make it “mischievous,” you could have the elves hide their gift with a clue to lead them to the prize.
  6. Emptied the Tupperware drawer
  7. Switched lunches around
  8. Emptied clothes drawers
  9. Tried on all the coats in the closet
  10. Took a bath in the kitchen sink (all the soap and shampoo got moved to the kitchen).
  11. Pooped in the toilet (M&M’s)
  12. Wrapped themselves with gift wrap.
  13. Rolled the bedroom with holiday-colored streamers.
  14. Left marshmallows all over the kitchen counters
  15. Went on a joyride with all the house stuffed animals. We found the (Barbie) car down the street on the way to the bus stop.
  16. Went fishing in the toilet for goldfish
  17. Wrote on my son, and the bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker.
  18. Took all the gift bows and put them all over the bathroom.
  19. Christmas Eve night the elf hid several gifts and left notes about being good for the year.
  20. Turned the ceiling fan on high so all the homework papers on the kitchen counter went flying everywhere
  21. Put green food coloring in the milk. (We could tell it was the elf because he had green fingers.)
  22. Put the elf on the counter with a piece of toast on top of him (like a blanket,) with a note that says, “It’s cold outside, but I’m feeling toasty.”
  23. Elf caught his whole body in the cookie jar.
  24. Elf overindulging on syrup, the elf drink of choice.  (Straw in syrup bottle.)
  25. Let Elf play board games with Barbie, Ken and any other playmates around.
  26. Have Elf surprise the kids with breakfast. Mini-pancakes with lots of syrup would be good.
  27. Elves taking a mini-marshmallow bath in the bathroom sink.
  28. Elves playing tic-tac-toe with big marshmallows.
  29. Use some of the free printables from Living Locurto!  Our favorite?  A doctor’s note saying the elf can’t move for a few days!  Ha!
  30. In these times, travel is still hard due to COVID-19…even for your magical elf!  Check out this awesome quarantine kit for your elf from Mama Cheaps.
  31. Love this idea from A Small Snippet. Have the elf put fake moustaches on everyone in a family photo, while he’s sitting nearby with his own fake moustache!


  1. Our elves bake cookies leaving sprinkles for decorating.
  2. Our elves have been know to write notes on the mirrors.
  3. Our biggest surprise was when they (2) threw an elf party & our Christmas tree ended up on top of our coffee table. They were “rocking around the Christmas Tree.”
  4. Our elf was in a hot air balloon this a.m.
  5. Ours stuck Christmas bows all over the toilet one day, turned the toilet water green.
  6. Our elves had monster trucks invade the Christmas village, even made herself a skirt out of Christmas ribbon! (So apparently she is a she.)
  7. Left a Note and a Hot Chocolate with an “8 WEEKS OF FUN” from 365 Atlanta Traveler – (Thanks Kristy Stevison-Casey. This one is my favorite elf on the shelf ideas!)

What have your elves done? Send us a photo!


Now, not everyone has an elf who’s mischievous…right?  I mean, some elves just love to visit their families — but they don’t make huge messes that you have to clean up!

There are also elves who get back to your house after reporting to Santa…at the last minute.  So maybe those elves don’t have time for a long, drawn-out scene.  (I set a “move the elf” alarm on my phone to avoid this, but…it still sometimes happens.)

Some of my favorite, non-messy, and super easy ideas are…

  1. Wrap the elf up in a washcloth (like a blanket) and hide them in the refrigerator or freezer.
  2. Put a straw in a bottle of syrup, so it looks like the elf is drinking it.
  3. Put the elf inside a drinking glass (upside down, so it’s trapped) with a little sign that says, “Help!”
  4. Tape the elf to the wall, with tape on its arms and legs, and army figurines pointing their weapons at it.
  5. Make it a little cotton ball-covered hat, along with a sign that says, “I’m a Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins!”
  6. Place it in or on one of your child’s toys — inside a dinosaur’s mouth, or driving a Barbie car.
  7. Have it “cook” M&Ms in a pan on your stove top. (Just have him sitting nearby with a whisk!)
  8. Put him in your silverware drawer…just lying down with the spoons.
  9. Have him coloring a coloring book — make sure the page is full of scribbles and your elf is holding a crayon.
  10. Have him write a message out of candy or cereal.  Something like…”Be Good” out of Cheerios would work!


There are lots of fun ideas for how your elf can arrive at your house for the season.
My friend’s elf arrives on December 1st, with a fun breakfast set up and Advent Calendars.  Some elves arrive early (maybe if you’re trying to get your kiddos to be on their best behavior!) and some arrive later (if maybe you just…aren’t ready).
Here are some other great Elf on the Shelf arrival ideas:
  1. Make a paper airplane out of cardstock that your elf can sit it!  Decorate the plane with “North Pole Express” and then hang on the ceiling for a memorable arrival.
  2. Spell out “I’m Back” out of candy — like red and green M&Ms, gumdrops, or peppermints.  Frugal Coupon Living has more great arrival ideas.
  3. Have your elf next to a bowl filled with water, a carrot, 2 googly eyes, 3 buttons, and two arm-like sticks with a sign that says, “I brought you back a snowman!”
  4. Have a wrapped “gift” with the address for your child on the front, the return address Santa Claus, and the elf bursting out of the middle of it.
  5. Another airplane idea — have your elf seated in a toy airplane with Christmas lights on the floor as a runway.
One year, our elf arrived via Santa Claus himself at Phipps Plaza!

Elf on the Shelf Mischievous Ideas

The elves hitched a ride with Santa and he delivered them when we went to get our picture taken. The photo I snapped of Santa giving my son the elves, is one reason I wish I had given into the request for the elves earlier when my older son begged and begged.
Elf Mischief Ideas
Look at his face!  This is why I allow ‘elves’ in my house.
The mischief doesn’t have to be huge, or cost a lot, and the joy on the kids faces is pure gold.  Happy Elving!
Pin This Post:
Have an Elf on the Shelf, or Magic Elf? You know they get into a lot of trouble. Here are some Elf on the Shelf Mischievous Ideas you can expect to see. The second one is my favorite.
25+ wacky and fun Elf on the Shelf Mischievous Ideas for holiday fun. The second one is my favorite.

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