22 Elf on the Shelf ideas – cute and quirky looks to copy for 2021

Elevate your Elf on the Shelf ideas this year with the funniest and cutest displays for 2021. Sure to entertain kids and adults alike throughout the holidays.

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. 

Whether the kids want to find yours on the stairs, in the lounge 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. 

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. 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

Mrs Hinch elf on the shelf ideas

(Image credit: Instagram/Mrs Hinch)

For someone who has made a tidy career from documenting her housecleaning, UK-based cleanfluencer 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 stdyle on the living room ceiling with a paper aeroplane crafted from a Manilla envelope, complete with faux postal stamps. We don't know about you, but the clean queen 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)

Swap the traditional smoked salmon on toast and Mimosa for a child-friendly Christmas breakfast setup in your dining area this season. This elf on the shelf idea includes a festive tablescape that the elves have laid.

To create this look, create a colorful red, white and green spread with foil balloons and cardboard Santa cut-outs. Then, to show who has 'really' put on the spread, position your cheeky helpers beside a chalkboard sign 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 a shelf idea is not guaranteed to deter thieves, it's a fun way to 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 too. 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

(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 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 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 cellphones, tablets and computers aside.

All your elf needs is paper and pen to create a sign and a place to store the gadgets 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 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 produce 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 a shelf idea. Because, if there's one time of the year, where 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 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.

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. Perch your elf on this prop, making sure that they are eye-level to young children. 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.

Now, re: the wreath, 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 a authentic, Real Homes feel.

12. Cover the tree in toilet roll

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 

Elf on the Shelf ideas

(Image credit: Elf on the Shelf)

Realised at 1 am you don't have an Elf on the Shelf idea for the morning? This will be your saviour. 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, icing sugar, flour, anything you have in the cupboards.

14. Let your elf conduct a fruity choir

Elf on the Shelf ideas

(Image credit: Elf on the Shelf)

Love this idea! Even we had a good giggle. Turn your elf into a conductor of their own fruit choir. Use a wipeable marker to drawer 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

Elf on the Shelf ideas

(Image credit: Elf on the Shelf)

A classic, make it look like your elves drew on your bathroom mirror. You can do it with a wipeable marker for an easy clean up and give your elf a lipstick that they 'stole' from your bedroom. You could of course go with the very 2021 message of 'wash your hands' but you could make it more silly too. 

17. Make it all easier with an Elf kit

Elf on the shelf ideas

(Image credit: Target)

Add for when you are too tired to be creative, an 'Elf kit' can save the say. This one from Target is only $10 and you get everything you need to send your Elf on his adventures – 50 pieces to be exact including tape, a ladder, trees, decorations and cute question cards.

18. Pick up an Elf games set  

Elf on the shelf ideas

(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 is from Etsy but they have them over on the Elf on the Shelf site too and they are free!

19. Roll your elves down the stairs

Elf on the Shelf ideas

(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 idea. Pop your elves into the loo 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. 

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). 

20. Use elf as a tree topper

Elf on the shelf christmas tree topper

(Image credit: @theecreativedir / Instagram)

OK, so we 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 topper.

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.

Again, using the Elf on the Shelf website, print of the departure letter board (kudos to them for the airport-style typography) and then hide 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 with our best real Christmas trees. Or for a fuss-free approach without the pine needles, our best artificial Christmas trees provide an edit of the finest fake firs.

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.

'Perhaps this is 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!'

'Don't worry about the elf antics.' says Lindsay G.

'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.'

How to be organized with your elf on the shelf

'One of the easiest was 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.

Hebe Hatton
Hebe Hatton

Hebe joined the Real Homes team in early 2018 as Staff Writer. As a renter, she is always looking for creative ways to make her flat feel like home. She loves boho and 70's style and is a big fan of Instagram as a source of interiors inspiration.