22 Elf on the Shelf ideas – cute and quirky looks to copy in 2024

Entertain kids and adults alike with these Elf on the Shelf ideas

Elf figures creating a chocolate tower in the kitchen, one of the best Elf on the Shelf ideas
(Image credit: Elf on the Shelf)

When it's time to upgrade your Elf on the Shelf ideas, you're going to need all the inspiration you can get. Because coming up with witty, cute, funny Elf on the Shelf displays to entertain kids (and adults) all throughout the holidays is a true skill. 

This fun Christmas tradition is a great way to get the little ones excited for the big day ahead. But you'll have to get creative if you're going to think of a new display every day of the festive season.

Whether the kids want to find yours on the stairs, in the living room, or peeking out from kitchen cabinets, styling this little guy is a simple way to add cheer to your surroundings all over Christmas. Combine your Elf with other DIY Christmas decorations for simple but very effective seasonal upgrades. 

22 Elf on the Shelf ideas to make you laugh out loud

So for Elfish fun, grab your figurine and try out these hilarious Elf on the Shelf ideas — just make sure you have one of the best artificial Christmas trees ready too, as lots of these ideas involve your tree! 

And don't forget to tag @real_homes on Instagram — we'd love to see what Tomfoolery your tiny goblin gets up to.

1. Get off to a flying start with your Elf introduction

screenshot of Mrs Hinch's Instagram sharing Elf on the Shelf ideas

(Image credit: Instagram/Mrs Hinch)

For someone who has made a tidy career from documenting her housecleaning, UK-based queen of clean Sophie Hinchcliffe (aka Mrs Hinch) knows a trick or two to get off to a flying start with your elf on the shelf ideas.

Here, the cheeky character has swooped in, in style on the living room ceiling, with a paper airplane crafted from a Manilla envelope (you can pick up a pack of 100 envelopes on Amazon) complete with faux postal stamps. We think Mrs Hinch has certainly understood the assignment when it comes to Christmas decoration ideas.

2. Dine in style with a North pole-inspired tablescape 

A North Pole themed table with elves and chalkboard signage on dining table with Christmas tree in background

(Image credit: @alifewith_i)

This Elf on the Shelf idea includes a festive tablescape that the elves have laid with a child-friendly Christmas breakfast setup.

To create this look, create a colorful red, white, and green spread with foil balloons and cardboard Santa cut-outs (you can pick up a selection of Christmas balloons on Amazon). Then, to show who has 'really' put on the spread, position your cheeky helpers beside a chalkboard sign (like this budget-friendly Chalkboard sign from Amazon) with a welcoming North Pole Breakfast message.

Here, mom Kelly Wren, (AKA @alifewith_i) has upgraded this Christmas craft idea, by using Chalkola on Amazon pens to add a bit of color to her written message.

3. Stay safe with an elf security guard

An elf toy sitting by the window with an A4 elf surveillance notice

(Image credit: @Advent.elf)

Why not enlist the assistance of Santa's little helper for his surveillance services? While this Elf on the Shelf idea is not guaranteed to deter thieves, it's a fun way to create a Christmas window display if you don't fancy getting messy with spray paint or lighting

This notice is available online from AdventElf on Etsy, but you can also go ahead and create your own design. And, while we've got your attention, stay vigilant by shopping our best home security systems

4. Get your elves to build a chocolate tower

Elf on the Shelf ideas – two elves building a chocolate tower on the kitchen counter made out of KitKat bars

(Image credit: Elf on the Shelf)

See, cute and easy! Just pile up the KitKats (you can use any chocolate bars but we think KitKats are the most effective) and position your elves to look like they are playing Jenga, pulling chocolate out of the tower. 

We love the milk chocolate variety, but you could make this look so much cooler (and Instagrammable) by using the Japanese Matcha, Purple Yam, and Ruby chocolate varieties for a muted green, lilac, and pink version — perfect in a pastel kitchen or pink room.

5. Include your elf in your virtual meetings

Elf on the shelf idea using laptop to create virtual remote call

(Image credit: Elf on the shelf)

Whether you're working from home, or have family who live abroad, we all know the importance of staying connected over the Christmas period. 

So, inject a bit of fun into your virtual meetings and informal catch-ups with friends by featuring your elf companion on FaceTime and video conferencing calls.

Colleagues and companions are bound to see the fun side to this Elf on the Shelf idea in your home office ideas setup.

6. Spend some family time in a no-tech zone

Two elf figurines with one sat above a glass vase with various cell mobile telephone devices

(Image credit: Elf on the Shelf)

Familiar scenes of teens talking and texting at the dinner table leaving you feeling frustrated? Let your elf help to create a tech-free zone. Turn off, tune out, and focus in on spending quality time with loved ones. Your elf will see to this by instilling a strict no-electronics zone that inspires family members to put cell phones, tablets, and computers aside.

All your elf needs is paper and pen to create a sign and a place to store the gadgets (a glass jar is a good option) to get rid of them for an hour, day, week, or however long your elf decides! Not the prettiest of Christmas table centerpieces, we'll admit — but it's certainly a conversation starter.

7. Scribble on, then scramble some eggs

An elf sitting on a carton of chicken eggs which have had facial expressions drawn on them with pen

(Image credit: @laurennn___xo)

What an egg-celent idea this is! So quick, cheap, and easy — anyone can crack this Elf on a Shelf kitchen concept. All you have to do is buy a carton of eggs and draw some facial expressions on each one.

For an even more festive idea, look out for Duck eggs (great for icy blue kitchens) or white-shelled hen eggs.

As eco-friendly Christmas ideas go, this one involves no plastic, you can recycle your tray or box, and if you use a non-toxic pen, you can use this for a healthy, protein-packed breakfast. 

8. Forge a fairground-style kissing booth

Elf on the shelf kissing booth with Hershey's kisses and accompanying snowman figurine

(Image credit: Cathy Crafts)

Another cute, chocolate-based Elf on the Shelf idea. Because, if there's one time of the year, when we excuse our usually healthy eating habits — it's Christmas right? Here, one expert shares the deets on how to create this affectionate, carnival-style creation.

"Our elf had a bit of minor surgery to make her bendable and easier to be posed," said Cathy Crafts.

"This is a simple box made out of cute patterned paper. The Cricut Explore drew just the outline for the wording and the rest had to be colored in by hand. It was simple to put together and a real hit!"

Consider buying Hershey's Kisses in bulk from Amazon to make sure you've got the supplies for this sweet idea.

9. Set the scene with a movie kit

An elf in a green caddy container with plush reindeer, grapes, popcorn and confectionery with movie night bucket containing DVDs

(Image credit: Elf on the shelf)

In the build-up to Christmas, we love snuggling up on the sofa to watch festive films including The Grinch, Harry Potter, and of course, our fave – Home Alone. Create the cinema experience by setting up a movie night package filled with popcorn, candy, and maybe some healthy carrots and a mince pie — y'know, just in case Santa and his reindeer pop in.

This idea doesn't need to be expensive. Lump elf and your foodie treats in a craft caddy and take him to the living room. But, if you do want to create the ultimate cinematic experience, it's worth investing in the best surround sound system for a home theater setup.

10. Create a staircase bobsleigh

An elf figurine on a banister with candy cane acting as sled.

(Image credit: Stacey Molter Photography)

Looking for Christmas staircase ideas that are a bit more creative than a bit of tinsel and/or some LED fairy lights? Turn your banister into an elf on the shelf extreme sport. If you're a parent who is a fan of the film Cool Runnings then pay homage to the bobsleigh blockbuster with this idea. This is one of the most fun Elf on the Shelf ideas.

11. Set up a sweet candy treasure hunt

An elf figurine on a Christmas wreath with candy cane treasure hunt signage

(Image credit: Cathy Crafts)

Christmas is synonymous with lots of candy and fun-filled festive activities. But, if you're struggling to keep restless children entertained, set up a hunt for candy canes and other sweet treats.

This is one cool way to use a Christmas wreath inside the house too. Perch your elf on this prop, making sure that they are at eye-level with young children. You can go two ways with this. Either shop the best Christmas wreaths or go handmade and discover how to make a Christmas wreath for an authentic, Real Homes feel.

This elf on the shelf idea was created by blogger, Cathy Crafts using a Cricut machine, but you can make your own sign without the need for specialist design equipment too.

12. Cover the tree in toilet roll

a Christmas tree covered in toilet roll with an Elf on the mantelpiece next to it, one of our Elf on the Shelf ideas

(Image credit: Elf on the Shelf)

This Elf on the Shelf idea takes just a few minutes but your kids are sure to find it hilarious. Take a roll of toilet paper and gently wrap it around your tree, then place the roll in the hands of the naughty elves!

13. Create a snowfairy with your elf 

an elf creating a snow fairy from marshmallows, one of our Elf on the Shelf ideas

(Image credit: Elf on the Shelf)

Realized at 1 AM you don't have an Elf on the Shelf idea for the morning? This will be your savior. Lay down a pile of mini marshmallows on your kitchen surface and have your elf create a snow fairy in them. No marshmallows? No problem — we have seen people use rice, paper, powedered sugar, flour, anything you have in the cupboards.

14. Let your elf conduct a fruity choir

an elf conducting fruit on the kitchen counter, with the fruit having had faces drawn onto them with pen

(Image credit: Elf on the Shelf)

One of our favorite Elf on the Shelf ideas! Even we had a good giggle. Turn your elf into a conductor of their own fruit choir. Use a wipeable marker to draw the faces on your fruit — it might even encourage your kids to eat a piece for breakfast or take a piece to school. Just make sure you give it a wash first. 

15. Turn your elf into a baker

Don't worry, you don't have to go baking from scratch (unless you are up for that), simply lay out some shop-bought cookies and decorate them — it can be super messy if you like, blame it on the elves. You can take it even further and copy this Elf on the Shelf idea and add some googly eyes to your baking ingredients to make it look like they got involved too. 

However, if you are a culinary queen or know one, our Christmas gifts for bakers contain some really considered buys.

16. Write messages on the mirror from your elves

an elf sat on the bathroom sink next to a bottle of hand soap, one of our favorite Elf on the Shelf ideas

(Image credit: Elf on the Shelf)

One of the easiest Elf on the Shelf ideas! A classic, make it look like your elves drew on your bathroom mirror. You can do it with a wipeable marker for easy cleanup and give your elf a lipstick that they 'stole' from your bedroom. You could of course go with the very post-pandemic message of 'wash your hands' — but you could make it more silly too, if you wanted. 

17. Make it all easier with an Elf kit

an elf kit featuring a mini Christmas tree, a ladder, a north Pole sign and a joke card

(Image credit: Target)

For when you are too tired to be creative, an 'Elf kit' can save the day. This one was from Target, and while it is now sold out, you can find plenty of similar options with everything you need to send your Elf on his adventures.

18. Pick up an Elf games set  

an elf with a twister board on its lap and a twister mat next to it

(Image credit: Etsy)

Along similar lines, you can make your life a whole lot easier with something as simple as printables. This adorable games pack was from Etsy but is sadly now sold out — luckily, they have them over on the Elf on the Shelf site too and they are free!

19. Roll your elves down the stairs

elves rolling down the stairs in toilet roll

(Image credit: Elf on the Shelf)

Loo roll does seem to feature a lot with the elves this year, but we love this fun and easy Elf on the Shelf idea. Pop your elves into the toilet paper roll and roll them down the stairs — easy peasy, this is a good one for when you forget the night before and have to sneak up in the morning to position the elves. 

20. Use elf as a tree topper

Elf on the shelf on top of the Christmas tree, being used as a Christmas tree topper

(Image credit: @theecreativedir / Instagram)

We can admit that our elves are not the most angelic of creatures at times, more often that not causing mischief. But over the holiday season — they are undoubtedly the star of the show. So give them the best seat in the house and put them in the spotlight by using them as Christmas tree toppers.

Placing your elf on a shelf up high will give your character the perfect vantage point to see if the children are really being naughty or nice. And we love what Jamasa (aka @theecreativedir), a digital designer has done with hers.

21. Prepare for Elf's exciting exit

A living room with lit Christmas tree and elf on the shelf window decor with elf silhouette created with artificial snow spray paint in white

(Image credit: Elf on the shelf)

Your festive friend made quite the appearance flying into your headquarters, so it'd be rude to not depart in a decorative way. Here, he or she has departed with Santa, but not before leaving a frosty farewell display on the window for you to find!

To create this silhouette, take a visit to the Elf on the Shelf Frosty Farewell printable guide, a handy PDF for you to print and use as a stencil, and you'll also need some artificial spray snow which is available on Amazon.

Alternatively, you could also create some Santa and elf-sized 'footprints' as a Christmas porch decorating idea.

22. Create a decorative departure message

Elf on the Shelf in lit Christmas tree holding cardboard departure sign

(Image credit: Elf on the Shelf)

If you're scared you'll ruin an upholstered sofa or don't want the hassle of scrubbing fake snow off your windows – this alternate bye-bye message is just as beautiful and the kids will love that their elf said goodbye. Elf on the Shelf ideas should continue until the festive period is over, after all...

Again, use the Elf on the Shelf website, print off the departure letter board (kudos to them for the airport-style typography), and then nestle your figurine into your Christmas tree.

You'll want maximum impact so your elf can go out with a bang until the following year so make sure the foundations are a good fit.

If you are after more Elf of the Shelf ideas, the Elf on the Shelf site has loads of inspiration; there's even an under-five-minute section that we will be turning to A LOT this year. Plus there are loads of fun accessories you can buy to make your ideas even more fun (and actually a whole lot easier). 

What is the biggest tip for Elf on the Shelf?

"Pick a storage place and put your elf there every Christmas Eve." says Lindsay G., mom and author of So Easy Being Green Blog who lives in Tennessee.

"This is perhaps the most important Elf on the Shelf tip ever. I have seen SO many 'I can't find the elf' posts on Facebook this year. The first couple of years we put Criddle [the elf] in with our Christmas decorations and totes that went in the attic."

"Do not do this! I never remembered which tote she was in, so I was on high alert if the girls were trying to help us unpack the decorations!"

How to be organized with your Elf on the Shelf ideas

"One of the easiest ways to remember to move your elf is to incorporate it into your nightly routine in December.

'You can also set a phone reminder to help yourself out.' explains Lindsay G."

Stressed out about coming up with new ideas? "Don't worry about the elf antics," Lindsay G says. 

"This is my single biggest tip. Just move the elf. Don't worry about your elf going fish with goldfish crackers or writing on the bathroom mirror with toothpaste. Don't make it hard on yourself and don't make the kids think these things are a good idea. Plus, those antics inspire some major burnout. Plus, I do NOT want to be cleaning up anymore toothpaste than I already do."

Hebe Hatton

Hebe joined the Real Homes team in early 2018 as Staff Writer before moving to the Livingetc team in 2021 where she took on a role as Digital Editor. She loves boho and 70's style and is a big fan of Instagram as a source of interiors inspiration. When she isn't writing about interiors, she is renovating her own spaces – be it wallpapering a hallway, painting kitchen cupboards or converting a van.