I’ve created many different versions to print out ideas for the Elf on the Shelf over the years, but this year since I’m into planners (especially the Happy Planner), I thought I’d make something to add to that. If you like calendar style, you can just print and cut these, then glue them on your calendar or planner! If you have a planner, it will work just the same way in there. Another way to put them in your planner is to print on label paper (found on Amazon and office supply stores) and cut to size, then just stick in your planner. What I love about this method is that I can put these anywhere I want…I don’t have them dated or put on any certain day or in any certain order, so they can fit your own holiday schedule perfectly!! There are 60 ideas included (plenty to choose from). I hope you enjoy this printable. Don’t forget to pin on Pinterest. 🙂 You can also use the search bar on this blog to find the ready to print calendars for Elf Ideas.
A quick rundown of the ideas in case you’re new to the Elf on the Shelf and might need some more information.
North Pole Breakfast is our family’s way of welcoming our elf back to the family every year. The room is decorated in a new theme every year with a fun breakfast and some new goodies, like pj’s and an ornament for each child. You can do as much or as little as you like, or you can start your own unique tradition of bringing the elf back.
Candy Cane hunt: we use the plastic candy canes that you can get from Dollar Tree (or other stores) and hide them around the house for when the children wake and leave a note with the elf, telling the children to find xx number of candy canes. They love this every year (even at the ripe old age 😉 ). Cheap! Buy real or fake candy canes. If you buy real, you could include neighborhood children, neighbors, or friends.
Trying to bake: the elf just gets out supplies and gets it started to bake something. It could be breakfast, dessert, cookies, or anything! Free with your own supplies.
Building a snowman: you can use anything – marshmallows, toilet paper rolls, legos, etc. Free with your own supplies.
Taking selfies: Or “Elfies” as the elf calls it. Use your phone or tablet to take a photo and set the elf up. Totally Free.
As Minecraft Elves: so many free printables for Minecraft elf masks…just fold and pop onto their head. Practically free!
Growing lollipops: I have a little note I leave for the children (super tiny, like from an elf) with the “supplies” to grow a special treat (candy sprinkles into lollipops). Put the sprinkles into a bowl of sugar and sprinkle with the sprinkles for xx number of days (how long you think they will stay entertained) and one morning place the lollipops in the place of the sprinkles. I like to use our Christmas colored sprinkles, aka “seeds.” Cheap idea! Needs sprinkles and lollipops.
Polar Express Movie (or ANY other themed movie night): I like to dress the elf up to go along with the movie we’re watching. We’ve done Grinch, snowmen, Polar Express, reindeer, the possibilities are numerous. I try to use what I have on hand, whether it’s yarn to make a costume or felt. You don’t even have to know ho to sew…just use a glue gun. Boom! Cheap – supplies on hand.
Make ornaments: my daughter loooooves to do this. We make cinnamon ornaments every year and they smell Aah-mazing on the tree. We make quite a few and give them as gifts around the neighborhood or to nursing homes for random acts of kindness. The elf leaves supplies out – glue, cinnamon, cookie cutters. Cheap idea, great memories, thoughtful gift, smells wonderful…this one is a winner. 😉
Draw on photo: take a dry erase or wet erase marker and draw away! Free and cleans right up!
On vacation: if you don’t have supplies, this will take creating. Make a mini magazine, some sunglasses and use some small cloth (felt, tissue, wash cloth, etc) for a towel. You can get more creative with some brown sugar for sand (or real sand if you have some), or other mini accessories. Barbie supplies are the perfect size for an elf (and in a pinch, some American Girl supplies work).
Kissing Booth: there are free printables for this and you can just put it together. Hershey kisses are optional, but what’s a kissing booth without some kisses? Mmmmmm, chocolate!
Make a photo stand: this just requires a trifold board and some paints. Draw any scene on there with something you can cut a hole for the elf’s head and your child’s head. This is a creative way your child can get in on some action with the elf and have a picture taken together. Make a faux “seat” for propping the elf up behind the booth. Low cost, but somewhat time consuming.
Bring donuts: easy! Just bring home donuts…you have to plan this in advance, of course. That’s what the planner (calendar) is for. Don’t forget to have donuts for the elves. You can make them by dipping cheerios in frosting and putting some sprinkles on them or you can use a prop. I had to make them the first couple of years, but when Calico Critters came out with a bakery, you better believe I wanted it for elf props! Hahaha.
Cards to elderly: great opportunity for serving others, as well as spending some qt with your little ones. You can just make simple cards with construction paper, or you can save colored sheets from school work or coloring books to upcycle into cards. Another thing I’ve dine is when I have way too many Christmas cards, I take my least favorite or the older ones and cut off the front or the photo and glue those to create a new card. Low cost to free – priceless serving opportunity. If you don’t make them for a nursing home (or say you do, but you have so many), you can make some for the police department, fire department, emergency personnel, doctor/pediatrician, teachers, ICU, foster homes, shelters, and it goes on.
Making snowflakes: uh, super easy and kinda fun. Just make 1 or 2, leave the supplies for the children to make some when they find it. Free! Well, if you have paper. 😀
Countdown chain: use construction paper and glue to make a mini countdown chain like back when you were a kid. Sign is optional. You can number them or not. My daughter just liked counting them every day. Low cost – glue and construction paper.
Movie Night: set up a movie, grab some popcorn, and the elf is set. You can do this with 1 or multiple elves…or with some Barbies or stuffed animals. Just needs popcorn! Or skip the popcorn and just set up a movie and it’s free.
Air balloon ride: I use fishing line to hang our elf from the ceiling when doing setups like this. You can use a balloon or you can use one of the paper lanterns. If you have something lightweight for the elf, like a basket, that’s great, but you can also use a solo cup or something the elf can fit in. Use curling ribbon, yarn, ribbon, rope, anything to tie the basket with and tape the other end up on the balloon or lantern. Hang from ceiling. 🙂
Funny Fruit: you can use googly eyes if you have them, but if you don’t, you can use a food marker and just draw on your food – it doesn’t even have to be fruit. Eggs, milk cartoons, toast… If you do have googly eyes, you can use tape or glue dots to attach them. Please remember to help your little ones take them off because they are chocking hazards. Low cost to free!
Gifting Elf Poop: Print or make a tab to fold over a baggie of red and green m&ms. Low cost!
Wrapped Toilet: hahahaha, this will take some time. And will make some noise. Don’t choose a toilet close to the kids’ room or start after you know they are in deep sleep. Just need lots of wrapping paper for this one!
Ugly Sweater: You can find these little sweaters just about everywhere now. They are for wine bottles! Low cost.
Road Trip: I like to make up goodie bags for the children to open along the way on a long road trip. One bag per child per every 2ish hours. If it’s less than that, just 1 bag for the trip. Add in some items you’ve stocked up on ahead of time for the holidays: think stocking stuffer type things. Mine like gum (they’ve been learning to blow bubbles), dry erase games, mini travel games, stickers and pads of paper and crayons, mini spill proof bubbles (makes for an interesting ride), flarp/slime (only suggest this if they are older and you have a travel tray – ask me how I learned, lol), window clings, new dvd or book. Set it all up so the children can see the elves with it and it’s optional to have the elves ready for a trip, too!
Wish List: This can be something simple or really go all out. I love setting up the “station” where they’ll sit down with a cup of cocoa and write out their Christmas wish list (aka Letter to Santa – we don’t “do” Santa) while Christmas music fills the air.
Light Up Playset: One year we brought their playhouse into the garage so they could keep playing during the winter and I decided to decorate it like a large gingerbread house from the elf. You can use whatever you have on hand – play house or swing set, make a tent with the dining room table, use a pop up tent…anything like that and just put some lights on it and decorations. Free
Food Fight: These are marshmallows and powdered sugar, so it’s like a snowball fight basically, but I had to differentiate between this one and the other snowball fight. Free, if you have the marshmallows and sugar.
Mirror Message: Use a wet erase or dry erase marker and leave a fun, holiday message from the elf on the mirror! Free.
Camping: I just recently ran across a cute makeshift tent setup and wish I had saved the photo, but you can make one with anything or use a doll accessory if you have one. 🙂
Superhero: Use some felt and make a cute super-elf costume ahead of time.
New Door: You can purchase a fairy door (and now there are elf doors being sold) or you can make one. You can also just decorate the whole Barbie house for the elves to move into for the season, which is what I end up doing so I don’t have to buy a door. You can put a construction site area setup there the day before where you’ll be putting the door or house.
Elf School: I printed google images and just taped them to a Barbie house (like a wall background) and used the school accessories from my daughter’s AG. Who knew all this AG stuff would come in so handy? ❤
12 Day Advent: This is explained in better detail on one of my previous posts, but basically it’s a countdown to Christmas with 1 character coming out each day with a card explaining his/her purpose in Christ’s birth story. I use a little nativity that I bought off Amazon just for this. It’s cute and my daughter gets to play with it instead of my pretty one. lol. The one pictured here is not it, but you can find it in that previous post or maybe I’ll post a new photo this year!
Christmas Light Hunt: I love, love, love this Christmas light scavenger hunt. We try to do ours the Friday before Christmas. Print out the free scavenger hunt printable (I picked this one from Pinterest) and surprise the children with a fun, memorable night of hot cocoa and light hunting in your neighborhood.
Dressed Up: You can find something you have laying around the house or you can get a cute costume off etsy oooorrr you could just use felt and make something up really quick. That’s how I got my gingerbread ones. 😉 I usually set them up with a movie night and try to match the theme!
Elf Surveillance: I painted this on canvas I had around with no other plans for. You can use posterboard if you want a more affordable option!
Snowball Fight: We are slowly adding to our snowball collection each year. We are a little obsessed with these cute indoor snowballs. You can get them on Amazon, in Hallmark, Target, Walmart, Michaels…so many places. Or, you can make some with yarn…I did that our very first year, years ago. Make a pom pom snowballs with yard, but start a month or two in advance. It takes a while to get a lot.
Playing a mini game: I printed out a mini version of Candyland and took it a step further and created character pieces for my children and the elf!! I have a previous post on it. Free printable elf games are found on Pinterest.
Pokémon Hunt: I used a pokemon card creator to make an elf card for each child and then I used Google images for the little pokemon that I placed around the house for the children to hunt with their nerf guns and ping pong balls. Free (already had the balls for crafts).
Wrapped Books: We’ve added to our collection for so long that we have 2 books to open per night, so 1 for each child and it’s perfect. If in the beginning you’re like we were and don’t have 24 Christmas books, here’s what I did: go to the library and check out the Christmas books and make sure those are the ones you would open the first week of December, wrap up Christmas dvd’s, wrap Christmas puzzles.
Stranger Things Cast: I have not done this yet, but my son’s favorite thing right now is ST. So, I’m going to try to go with it. I’m going to try to make some costumes like these and use the Barbie and AG props I have. Wish me luck, lol. I’ll post to the blog when I’ve done it.
Leave Clues: my children love hunts, so this will be so fun for them. We actually haven’t done this yet and I’m excited to add something new to our daily shenanigans.
Decorate Gingerbread Houses: We done this every year with our elves. Just set up all your supplies for decorating and set your elf up to enjoy the activity.
Santa Cam: You can make one of these for very little. Use the plastic ornaments you can find in almost any store (including Dollar Tree) and paint your ornament to look like a camera. How fun is that?! If you have some accessories you can add (little frames or such) to add to the authenticity, the better. Low cost!
Donate Toys: You can just write out or print up a cute poem to your child about donating their toys to other children and spreading the kindness to those less fortunate. You can use a bag, a basket, or a box. Free!
Praying: So easy and sweet. Free…praying costs us nothing. ❤
With Nativity: We have a nativity for the children and you can set your elf up with that. We also have a teeny tiny version that we set up in the elf house so they have their own nativity. You can use nativity ornaments or nativity gnome/fairy garden sets. They are small and make such a cute addition to the elf house. Low cost.
Elf wraps and packs lunch: Free…you just need wrapping paper. So, I guess not totally free, but we always have some from the year before. Wrap up everything in their lunch bag and add a cute little note. Let’s aim to show the elves are educated, lol, and spell correctly and keep all the letters forward facing. 🙂
Balloon Drop: If you don’t have the large balloon drop bag, you can use a plastic drop cloth from Dollar Tree or you can use trash bags or streamers taped side to side of the doorway. Low cost – you just need a bag and balloons. Set the elf near by or secure well on the top so he/she doesn’t fall.
Leave Note: You can write up a note telling the children a phrase they can ask Alexa for Christmas. Items needed : Alexa (or similar)
Elf Crepe Tree: You’ll need lots of time for this one! Just create a tree made of green crepe streamers. Very low cost. You can frame it around the coffee table, a chair, the dining table, or just leave it open at the base for the children to play in for a few minutes (cause you know it won’t last long).
Elf Tree House: made with popsicle sticks! So cute. Then, you can decorate it up as much or as little as you like. Low cost – need popsicle sticks.
Note by Dog Treats: Low cost – if you don’t have a dog, borrow some dog treats from a friend or neighbor and leave a little note for the children saying, ” These cookies taste bad. Don’t leave for Santa (or simply, don’t eat).”
Goodbye: Using snow in a can spray, spray a glass door and wipe out the shape of the elf and write See you next year or good bye (or any sweet thing you’d like). Low cost.
Lego Maze: If you have legos, this is great. We actually haven’t done this one yet and I’m excited to do this this year. My children LOVE Legos. It will take time and planning, but they will play with it all season, I’m certain. Low cost (free if you have Legos).
Cookies: Let out supplies to make cookies and make sure you have mini ones for the elves. I saw on Pinterest and idea to have a shrink machine if you want to make one. Decorate an empty rectangle tissue box, cut an opening in each side. Make a ramp and place the regular size cookies on one side and mini cookies on the other side. Cute and low cost.
Cast: Use gauze to wrap around your elf’s foot and make a cast. If you want to make it more realistic (as we will this year), wrap his foot in saran first, and dip the strips of gauze in a flour/water mixture and layer around his foot. When it dries, the children can sign it! You can save it as a keepsake.
Elf Report: All kinds of free printables on Pinterest for different elf reports or you can just make one! Free!
Sick: Easy and cute. If your little one gets sick, this is the perfect time to have your elf be sick. Just tuck him/her in somewhere with some wadded up tissues strewn about and a thermometer. I wouldn’t suggest leaving out medicine with the elf in the children’s reach, as I’ve seen on numerous posts. If the bottle is empty, great…it’s a cool prop. I just am concerned a little one will get ahold of a bottle with medicine still in it and I don’t like to take chances, so we just skip that. Free!!
Elf Meter: You can also make one of these or find a free printable that you like. Also free!
I hope you’ve enjoyed these ideas and have fun setting up your calendar! Check back in the season to see our Elf fun! xoxo
Here is the link for the FREE printable for your calendar: