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!
Although I resisted inviting elves into our home for a few years, we now have a house full and I have grown to really enjoy it. It’s so fun to see the kids wake up each morning and find out what sorts of shenanigans their elves got into overnight.
The hardest part for me is coming up with the ideas each day! I hope some of these Elf on the Shelf mischievous 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 that mischievous elf ended up each day. Anything your elf does will be met with happy smiles.
WHAT IS ELF ON THE SHELF?
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 out there. Here are some of our favorites.
ELF ON THE SHELF MISCHIEVOUS IDEAS
- Our elves took a bag of candy (from Halloween) and sat under the tree eating candy and enjoying the lights. They even pulled a few candy canes off the tree for a late-night treat!
- They invited all the kids’ stuffed animals to a movie night. (Movies all over the place, popcorn everywhere.)
- Made snow angels in flour on the kitchen table.
- The elves love toilet papering our Christmas tree.
- Sometimes the elves bring little gifts (candy, hair bows, markers, etc.). To make it “mischievous,” you could have the elves hide their gift with a clue that leads them to the prize.
- Our elves once emptied our Tupperware drawer.
- Switched the kids’ packed lunches around.
- Emptied the clothes drawers.
- They tried on the coats in the closet and left a big mess.
- Took a bath in the kitchen sink, and all our soap and shampoo was found in the kitchen.
- The pooped in the potty, leaving their red and green M&M poop behind.
- They wrapped themselves in gift wrap.
- Rolled the bedroom with holiday-colored streamers.
- Left marshmallows all over the kitchen counters.
- They once went on a joyride with all the stuffed animals. We found our Barbie car down the street on the way to the bus stop!
- Went fishing in the toilet for Goldfish crackers.
- The elves wrote on my son and the bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker.
- They took all the gift bows and put them all over the bathroom.
- On Christmas Eve night, the elf hid several gifts and left notes about how good the kids were all year.
- The elves turned the ceiling fan on high, making all the papers on the table fly everywhere.
- Our elf put green food coloring in our milk.
- We once found our elf on the kitchen counter using a piece of toast like a blanket. He had a note that said, “It’s cold outside, but I’m feeling toasty.”
- Our elf once got stuck in the cookie jar.
- We found our elf overindulging in syrup, the elf drink of choice! (There was a straw in our syrup bottle.)
- We found our elf playing board games with Barbie and Ken.
- Your elf may surprise the kids with breakfast, complete with mini pancakes and lots of syrup!
- Elves like taking a mini-marshmallow bath in the bathroom sink.
- Sometimes elves play tic-tac-toe with big marshmallows.
- 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!
- Have your elf make a sandwich by putting him on the counter with two pieces of bread covered with sugar sprinkles.
- Mama Cheaps has a fun quarantine kit for your magical elf.
- 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!
ELF ON THE SHELF IDEAS FROM OUR READERS
- Our elves bake cookies leaving sprinkles for decorating.
- Our elves have been known to write notes and jokes on the mirrors.
- Our biggest surprise was when our two threw an elf party & our Christmas tree ended up on top of our coffee table. They were “rocking around the Christmas Tree.”
- Our elf was in a hot air balloon this morning!
- Ours stuck Christmas bows all over the toilet one day, which turned the toilet water green.
- Our elves had monster trucks invade the Christmas village. Our girl elf even made a skirt out of ribbon!
- 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 IF YOUR ELF…DOESN’T LIKE MESSES
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…
- Wrap the elf up in a washcloth (like a blanket) and hide them in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Put a straw in a bottle of syrup, so it looks like the elf is drinking it.
- Tape the elf to the wall, with tape on its arms and legs, and army figurines pointing their weapons at it.
- Make it a little cotton ball-covered hat, along with a sign that says, “I’m a Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins!”
- Place it in or on one of your child’s toys — inside a dinosaur’s mouth, or driving a Barbie car.
- Have it “cook” M&Ms in a pan on your stove top. (Just have him sitting nearby with a whisk!)
- Put him in your silverware drawer…just lying down with the spoons.
- Have him coloring a coloring book — make sure the page is full of scribbles and your elf is holding a crayon.
- Have him write a message out of candy or cereal. Something like…”Be Good” out of Cheerios would work!
ELF IDEAS: THE ARRIVAL
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!”
- 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.
- Another airplane idea — have your elf seated in a toy airplane with Christmas lights on the floor as a runway.
MORE INFORMATION FOR HOLIDAY FUN IN ATLANTA
- YOUR ATLANTA VACATION
- FREE CHRISTMAS: 29+ Free Christmas Events Near Me: Ring in Holiday Cheer in Atlanta in 2023
- STONE MOUNTAIN CHRISTMAS: Your Complete Guide to All the Holiday Fun (2023)
- GARDEN LIGHTS: Atlanta Botanical Garden Lights, Holiday Nights: Brilliant Holiday Fun in 2023
- HOLIDAY CRAFTS: 9 Awesome Nature-Based Holiday Projects Kids Will Love
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