Making the Elf on the Shelf a Fun (and Easy) Tradition

Can I let you in on a secret? I LOVE Christmas! OK, so maybe that’s not a big secret. The day after Halloween I start asking my husband to please bring up all of the bins of Christmas decorations. I will put twinkly lights on anything that’s not moving in our house. I love to make our house a winter wonderland of Christmas magic.

So it might not come as much of a surprise that we have an elf. Yes, his name is Jingle and he typically arrives at our house sometime after Thanksgiving.

Ever since our elf first arrived, I have found that there are two kinds of parents: pro-elf and anti-elf. Most of the anti-elf parents that I have talked to are anti-elf for the simple reason that they are busy parents who simply don’t have time to remember to move a darn elf every single night. I get it. I really do.

As a mom who juggles working full-time outside of the home, chauffeuring my daughter to dance classes, sports, and school activities, and tries to maintain a home and a marriage, I really do understand the extra busyness that comes with the holiday season.

Elf on the Shelf Hidden in a Christmas Tree

Here are my tips for embracing the elf on a shelf tradition without driving yourself crazy.

1. Let Pinterest Be Your Guide. Elf on a Shelf has been around before Pinterest even started, so trust me, there are a plethora of amazing ideas on Pinterest. Yes, some are crazy and over-the-top, and I would never go to that much trouble (that I would be stuck cleaning up – I’m looking at you people who put flour all over the counter just so the elf can play in the “snow” – no thanks.) But, there are also plenty of simple ideas. Last year our elf took Barbie out on a date in her pink convertible. Simple. I like simple.

2. Make a Plan. Around the first week of November, I take a look at my Elf Pinterest board and I sit down with my calendar and I plan out Jingle’s adventures. Jingle brings a new cookie cutter the morning we are baking Christmas cookies. Sometimes he brings a new dress the day we are going to meet Santa. I add my plans to the calendar and set up a reminder (shout-out to the Cozi app) to MOVE THE ELF each night before I go to bed. This helps me not only remember to actually move him, but it helps on those busy days when I just don’t feel creative and just want to go to sleep. Having a game plan is essential.

3. Pre-Prep Your Elf Game. I take a look at the long list of ideas that I have now mapped out and I see what supplies I will be needing. I keep a bag hidden in a closet with all of the tools that our elf might need for his adventures. I make a shopping list of anything that I will need to purchase i.e. that new cookie cutter, some candy canes, stickers, etc. I stick everything in the bag and have it ready so I’m not scrabbling at midnight trying to find a bag of cotton balls for Jingle to have a snowball fight with Olaf. The Dollar Tree and Target’s dollar spot of my favorite places to find fun little things to add to our elf’s bag of tricks. I have found a mini pool table and a tiny bowling set at the Dollar Tree that are the perfect size for the elf and a few of his stuffed animal friends to play some games. Target’s dollar spot has gift tags, lip gloss, coloring books and more that are Elf on the Shelf branded, that make for cheap and easy little gifts from your elf.

4. Have Fun. Remember this is supposed to be fun. This is supposed to be a way to add some extra Christmas magic and create some fun memories with your kids. Don’t stress. It is perfectly fine for your elf to just hide in the Christmas Tree if you ran out of time to cut out paper snowflakes for him to hang around the house.

I will let you in on a real secret though, this year, Jingle is bringing his sister along for the fun. Wish me luck as I try to remember to move two elves this year.

Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Here are some of my favorite elf on the shelf ideas:

Elf Brings Some Family Fun
Elf is sitting in a mixing bowl with cookie cutters, chocolate chips, sprinkles, powdered sugar, etc. ready to make some cookies.
Elf brings popcorn, candy, and a new Christmas movie for a family movie night.
Elf brings a gingerbread house kit.
Elf brings a holiday craft for us to make.
Elf brings supplies to make Christmas cards (or just brings a fun pen with a box of cards to sign).
Elf brings some marshmallows and hot cocoa for a snow day.
Elf brings cinnamon rolls or donuts for a fun breakfast surprise.
Elf packages up some Christmas cookies to deliver to neighbors and friends.

Elf Creates Some Harmless Mischief
Elf cuts out paper snowflakes and hangs them around the house.
Elf puts googly eyes on food in the fridge.
Elf hides candy canes around the house.
Elf covers himself in stickers.
Elf wraps child’s bedroom door with Christmas wrap and gets himself wrapped up with Christmas wrap and ribbon.
Elf gets himself tangled up with Christmas lights.
Elf makes his own Christmas tree out of play-doh or legos.
Elf makes a shopping list full of candy, syrup, and all the sugary treats that elves love most of all.
Elf puts paper elf hats on family photos around the house.
Elf puts Christmas bows on random items around the house and covers himself with them too.
Elf makes pancakes for breakfast and sticks a straw in the syrup bottle for his morning pick-me-up.

Elf Makes Friends
Elf takes Barbie on a date in her car.
Elf plays tic-tac-toe with marshmallows.
Elf has a snowball (cotton balls) fight with another stuffed animal.
Elf reads a Christmas book to his stuffed animal friends.
Elf reads the story of the first Christmas from your child’s Bible.
Elf plays a game (Checkers, Candyland, Go Fish) with some of his stuffed friends.
Elf goes bowling with some candy kisses and a peppermint ball.

Elf Brings a Gift
Elf gets caught hanging a new ornament on the tree.
Elf brings a new coloring book and box of crayons. He might even color one of the pictures himself.
Elf measures Christmas stocking for Santa and leaves a small surprise.
Elf brings a new outfit for a visit to Santa.
Elf wraps up a special Christmas Eve going-away present. Every year we make up a special Christmas Eve box with new pajamas for everyone, a new Christmas movie, a Christmas book, and some popcorn and snacks for Christmas Eve movie night. We have started having our elf bring this box to make it even more fun.

When Elf Needs a Super Low-Key Day
Elf cuddles on the sofa with a blanket watching a movie or playing a video game.
Elf writes a letter to Santa.
Elf has a cold/injury. Covers himself in band-aids or blankets and has tissues around him.
Elf brings back a sneak preview of the naughty and nice list.
Elf hides in the Christmas Tree.
Elf plays hide-and-seek hiding somewhere hard to find in the house.

Victoria is a wife and mom of two. Her firstborn, Joshua passed away shortly after birth in 2013. Her rainbow daughter, Madeline just started kindergarten. Victoria and her husband, Patrick, were both born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri and love spending time exploring the city with their daughter. Victoria is a full-time working mom, dance mom, soccer mom, t-ball mom, PTA mom, slightly over-scheduled mom. Victoria has a passion for creating and spends way too much time pinning new crafts, recipes, and party ideas on Pinterest. She sometimes blogs over at Life with Madeline -