20 DIY Elf on the Shelf Ideas


Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m that annoying mom who loves the Elf on the Shelf. I’ve fallen victim to the countless Etsy stores with the cute little props too – but that stuff is expensive! So I fill in the days between with my own DIY ideas. I thought I’d share a few in case you need to move that elf and are at a loss with what to do with him or her. You should be able to accomplish these elf scenes with the stuff in your house – no need for fancy, expensive props. Happy Elf-on-the-Shelfing!

  1. Ziplining: This one is so fun! Use a string, ribbon, or piece of yarn to string a zipline from one stable surface to another (I used the Christmas tree and a bookshelf). Have the elf ride it on a carabiner, candy cane, or just use tape or string.zip lining
  2. Solving a puzzle: Spread a puzzle out and partially complete it so it looks like the elf was not quite finished yet.
  3. Reading a book: Cover your elf up with a snuggly blanket and give him or her a book to read.
  4. Playing Tic-Tac-Toe: Grab another player (a doll, action figure, or stuffed animal) and set up a game of Tic-Tac-Toe!the elf plays tic tac toe
  5. Floor is Lava: Make a “Floor is Lava” sign and put down some red construction paper, yarn, or ribbon. Suspend the elf by his hands above or have him narrowly escape by standing on a book or can nearby.
  6. Hammock: Make a hammock out of a paper towel, scarf, or handkerchief by gathering the ends and wrapping with rubber bands. Then, rubber band it into the tree and have your elf settle in for some chill time.
  7. Playing with others: The possibilities here are endless. Have the elf pull another character in a truck. Have a couple stuffed animal friends take a ride on the Sit N Spin. Have several dolls play together on the same toy – so cute!the elf pulling another toy
  8. Getting into the Band-Aids: If your kids love Band-Aids as much as mine do, they will love this! Cover your elf in four or five Band-Aids and leave the wrappers out as evidence all around him.
  9. Teaching class: Have a chalkboard or whiteboard or even a piece of paper? Write a lesson on the board (it could be as easy as, “ABC, 123”), and have the elf point to it. If you’re feeling extra savvy, you can add an audience of toys.
  10. Note on the mirror: Grab some lipstick. Write a note. Done.
  11. Snow angel: Use white sugar or rice to have your elf make a snow angel. Pro tip: Flour is way too messy for this task.sugar snow angels
  12. TP tree: Grab a roll of toilet paper and tackle your tree with it. Have the elf be the clear culprit with the empty roll.
  13. Snowman: You can make a snowman out of marshmallows or toilet paper rolls. I made little mittens out of toothpicks and paper, and then I used a Sharpie to decorate the marshmallows.DIY marshmallow snowman
  14. Paper airplane: Fold a paper airplane and have your elf appear to be riding on it. You can just place it in your tree to help the plane and elf stay upright.
  15. Coloring book: Color a page in a coloring book and leave the crayons out to show you’ve caught your elf in the act.
  16. M&M message: Write a simple message from your elf in M&Ms, cheerios, popcorn, or other treat.
  17. Paper snowflakes: Cut some old-school paper snowflakes and hang a display so it looks like it was created by your elf.the silly elf got caught in the snowflakes
  18. Eating a candy cane: This one is super easy. Put a partially unwrapped/eaten candy cane in your elf’s lap. No candy cane? Any snack will do.
  19. Gone fishing: Put goldfish in a bowl and position him or her with a fishing pole. Luckily, we had a fishing pole from another toy, but you could easily make one with a pencil or straw and some string or ribbonthe elf fishing for goldfish .
  20. Sliding down the stairs: Tape him or her to the banister in a sliding-down position. So easy. That silly elf!

I hope you are able to use some of these ideas! Most of them only take a couple minutes, so they are great for those nights you forget until the last minute. I know there are a million other ideas out there.

Please share yours in the comments!


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Cara is a freelance journalist and strategic communications consultant living in Germantown. Born in Illinois, she moved to Memphis at a young age; and, having moved away a few times for college, graduate school, and other adventures, she likes to joke that she’s moved TO Memphis more times than anyone she knows. Mom to the cutest little boys, Everett (March 2017) and Gavin (October 2018), and wife to Rob, who works as a financial planner, Cara is adjusting to her new gig as a stay-at-home mom after almost 20 years as a magazine editor and corporate communications practitioner. When not “momming” or consulting, Cara spends her time volunteering with the Junior League of Memphis, where she served on the Board of Directors for several years. Admittedly, Cara has an unreal obsession with escape rooms, an unhealthy addiction to Frappuccinos, and an uncontrollable desire to correct every grammar and punctuation mistake she sees. Learn more about Cara at https://carasievers.weebly.com/.


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