Elf on the Shelf Ideas and Planning Guide

Need some Elf on the Shelf ideas and inspiration? After having the Eld on the Shelf for a few years, you might be running out of ideas! This Elf on the Shelf Ideas and planning guide will help you be prepared this year… it doesn’t need to be a hassle and you can get it ready in about 4 minutes each day!
Elf on the Shelf Ideas and Planning Guide takes all the hassle out of this fun tradition

Do you have an Elf on the Shelf for your family? We did one last year for the first time, and our Elf “forgot” to move at least three times! And when he did move, it was usually a rushed attempt, that stressed me out, because I needed to be in bed! So this year it’s going to be different! I actually planned ahead, made a calendar, went shopping, and have everything I need neatly tucked away in a box for easy access! Don’t have your elf?  Buy one here!

Elf on the Shelf Ideas and Planning Guide

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide

Get the Full Size Pre-Planned Calendar or a blank Countdown to Christmas Calendar you can fill in yourself!

The Plan:

Our Elf on the Shelf shows up on December 1st, and stays through Christmas Eve (he catches a ride home with Santa!). So we needed 24 activities. Since my kiddos like to wake up and find him, I’ll be setting these up before I go to bed, the night before. We’ll remind you each day with a picture on our social media channels!  Most of them can be moved around to whatever day you like (especially the less time consuming ones!) Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Shopping Lists

We want you to be TOTALLY prepared for this fun Christmas Tradition, so here’s an easy list of everything you need! Download it for free! You can print it out and write all over it to make sure you have everything you need for  stress free Elf Season!

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 1 Welcome Back Gift

Welcome Back Elf – Our Elf is bringing welcome back gifts for all of us! Since we are HUGE Lego fans, our Elf got each of us a Lego Advent Calendar. This is absolutely a crazy thing to do, but I got a great deal on them and they are something my family will really love! My husband is getting the City Advent Calendar, I’m getting the Star Wars Advent Calendar, and my daughter is getting the Friends Advent Calendar. My littlest is too young for Lego sets, so he’s getting Planes Fire and Rescue. But it really doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive. A bouquet of balloons, some hot chocolate, new Elf on the Shelf Accessories, a family Christmas movie, a new Christmas book, anything! If this is your first year doing Elf on the Shelf, it’s fun to simply read the book and name your Elf!

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 2 Attack of the Mini Figs

Attack of the Minifigs – We are going to tie our Elf up with some twine (we’ll use this for several days) and some Lego bricks on a building plate.  We may have overdone it a little on the minifigs, but I just couldn’t choose!

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 3 Decorate the Bathroom

Decorate the Bathroom – Our Elf on the Shelf is going to be doing a lot of the Christmas decorating! Honestly, this is because it’s simply easier to do it while my 1 year old is asleep! But it’s also fun to do some of it with the kids, so this makes for a good compromise! I picked up this Snowman Bathroom Set when it was on sale for $7.87… it’s gone up quite a bit since then, but there are still a bunch of Christmas Bathroom Sets you can pick up for under $10 if you don’t have something. But I’m betting that you already have something awesome tucked away in your Christmas decorations!

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 4 Zipline Adventures

Zipline Fun – Grab a candy cane, a piece of twine and some tape, and set up a zipline through a room of your house! Your kids will laugh at their Elf being caught mid Zipline all day long! Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 5 Bake Cookies

Bake Cookies – My kids love to bake! I couldn’t resist this Elf Apron Set when I found it on clearance last year! Add some baking ingredients, near your mixer or a bowl, and you’ve got it made! Need some inspiration on fun cookie ideas? Check out our Cookie Recipes!

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 6 Build a fort

Build a Fort – Specifically planned on a Saturday so there is lots of time to play in it, turn your kitchen table into a fort with some sheets or blankets and Binder Clips! (you can skip the clips, but they help position your elf so he doesn’t fall off while the fort is in use!)

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 7 Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunt – There are a couple of ways you can do this one… Have your Elf hold a sign saying something like “I hid 6 Candy Canes in this room. Can you find them in 6 minutes?” Or have your elf hold a clue, and each time you find what you are looking for, there is another clue! It can be written or done with pictures, depending on the age of your kids! You can print the Candy Cane version or a blank version to write your own!

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 8 Toilet Paper Swing

T.P. Roll Swing – Get a piece of twine, an empty toilet paper roll, and a couple of thumb tacks, and set up an Elf swing in a doorway! You can use tape to secure your Elf to the swing, and because of the no touching rule, your kids will never get close enough to see! We found that it helps to weigh the roll down a bit to keep the elf in his seat. We used green and red sharpies to weigh down the roll.

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 8 Toilet Paper Roll Swing Turned Circus Elf

Note: Make sure to use enough tape.  Otherwise, your elf may become a member of the circus!

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 9 Wrap Picture Frames

Wrap Pictures – Have your Elf wrap your pictures around the house. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to really dress up a room for Christmas. You can use some twine to make a bow, add bows, or use some of those amazing Ribbon Bows.

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 10 Sugar Snow Angels

Sugary Snow Angels – By far one of the messiest of the Elf Adventures, pour some sugar on your counter top (powdered works better than granulated, but either works), and make your Elf do snow angels! You can also use sprinkles, chocolate chips, rice crispy cereal, M&M’s… there are lots of options, and I bet you have something that will work right in your pantry!  A Clean Up Hint: A baby wipe gets the powdered sugar mess right off your Elf on the Shelf!

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 11 Bubble Bath

Bubble Bath Time – Grab a Barbie bath tub, or even a bowl or gravy boat, and fill it with mini marshmallows. Add your elf, and a few strategic marshmallows on top, and viola! Elf bubble bath!

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 12 Chocolate Coma

Chocolate Coma – Have your Elf crawling into an opened bag of Christmas Candy! M&M’s are fun, and bonus, since you are doing this while your kids are asleep, they totally won’t notice a few missing candy pieces! Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 13 Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate – Have your Elf put some hot chocolate packets (or K-Cups) in some mugs, along with some mini marshmallows (you know you still have some from the bubble bath!) and enjoy a fun time with your kids. Ask them to tell you their favorite Elf Adventure so far, or what they are looking forward to for Christmas, if they have something they haven’t done yet for Christmas that they would like to, etc!

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 14 Snowball Fight

Snowball Fight – Use some large marshmallows to build a snow fort wall, and the little ones make great snowballs! Pick a single target, or have your kids toys team up (Stuffed animals vs. Action Figures!) Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 15 Elf Chain

Countdown to Christmas Chain – Have your Elf create a Christmas Countdown Chain! You can be REALLY cute, and make it Elf sized, or make it big enough for your kids to play with! And at this point, you only have to keep them from tearing off extra days for 10 more days!

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 15 Elf Chain How to

Tip: To make the Elf Sized Countdown Chain, use a crayon to help form the rings!

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 16 Movie Night

Movie Night – Grab a Popcorn Container, fill it up, put a mini bag of candy next to your Elf, and place the remote control next to him! I love easy Elf projects! Don’t have microwave popcorn? Check out our DIY Microwave Popcorn recipe!

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 17 Drinking Syrup

Drinking Syrup – As easy as putting a bendy straw in the syrup bottle, and setting your Elf near it! My kids love to have bendy straws around for drinking smoothies in the morning. Got a tall bottle?  Use your elf’s arms to keep him standing up by wrapping them around the syrup bottle! Need a bendy straw? Ask for an extra the next time your family goes out to eat! Most places use bendy straws in kids cups to help keep the messes down.

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 18 Crepe Paper Doorway

Crepe Paper Doorway – Get some crepe paper and tape and “lock” your child in their room with it! You can do a couple of x’s, or really go to town! You are sure to find a good deal on it at your local dollar store!

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 19 Opening Presents

Opening a Present – Have your Elf try to sneak a peak into some wrapped gifts! With Christmas so close, it’s probably a good time to remind kids that if you peak at presents, you ruin the fun and surprise of Christmas morning! Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 20 Improve Pictures

“Improve” Pictures – Grab a dry erase marker, and add some fun touches family pictures! Make sure you add your mustaches on the glass, and not on the actual picture!

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 21 Reading the Bible

Reading the Bible – Having your Elf remind your kids about the real meaning of Christmas can help get rid of the “I wants.” Our elf gets caught reading Luke 2:1-20, and then we take that opportunity to read the story to our kids. We let them play with our Little People Christmas Nativity so they stay focused on what we are reading. When they get a little older, we’ll take turns reading different verses.

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 22 Sack Races

Sack Races – Grab a few disposable lunch sacks, or even some Christmas Gift bags, add some fun friends, and have a sack race across your kitchen counter or dining room table!

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 23 Color a Picture

Color a Picture – Our elf brings a goodbye gift the night BEFORE he leaves. He brings a Christmas coloring book, and new set of crayons (which we grab during Back to School Time), and colors the kids a picture. He usually gets caught mid picture, but the kids don’t mind. 🙂 It was so sweet of him, the crayons are almost as big as he is!

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 24 Goodbye Letter

Goodbye Letter – On Christmas Eve, when Santa drops off the presents, he picks up our Elf on the shelf and takes him back to the North Pole for the next 11 months! Our Elf on the Shelf writes a letter of goodbye, telling the kids how much he’s enjoyed spending the last few weeks with them, to remember the real reason for Christmas, and to remind them that Santa is always watching, so try to be extra loving to each other over the next year while he is gone!

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide Day 25 Hide the Elf

Hide the Elf – When you are setting up for Christmas, don’t forget to hide your Elf on the Shelf away until next year! I found my elf on top of the washing machine several days later! If my kids would have seen it, they would have been so sad! So, remember to hid your Elf 🙂

If you do not have an Elf on the Shelf and you would like to start this fun family tradition. You can find one here.

Want some new ideas?  We staged and photographed these 8 Elf on the Shelf scenes in 30 minutes!  That’s less than 4 minutes per night! 😀

Elf on the Shelf Toilet Paper Snowman Elf on the Shelf Googly Eyed Fruit Elf on the Shelf Marshmallow Race Track Elf on the Shelf Minion Bananas Elf on the Shelf Shaving Elf on the Shelf Snowman Door Elf on the Shelf Toilet Paper Roll down stairs Elf on the Shelf Toothpaste Graffiti Artist

Elf on the Shelf Planning Guide


  • Melanie just posted these awesome FREE frozen snowflakes 🙂 May have to have Elf decorate with some of those too!!

  • Maryellen

    So wat do u do about the rule of not touching the elf when it comes to him sat on the toilet or things like that is there a way to do that or something u tell them.. because as we all know if we touch him he loses his magic 😉

  • renée

    You’ve out-done yourself with this oh-so-awesome post Becky. Hope you are and your elf are having the time of your lives with your cute littles!

    • They are LOVING it 🙂 Well, Bee is 🙂 Bug is a little to small, but he sure does like playing with the elf (Shhh!! Santa has a secret rule for toddlers, while sissy is at school – especially if Mommy is trying to find some killer deals) 🙂

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