35 Easy Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Your Kids Will Love

Looking for last minute Elf on the Shelf ideas? You’re in the right place! 

These 35 fun ideas for last minute Elf on the Shelf shenanigans are designed with the busy mom in mind: 

You can set them up in less than five minutes using stuff you already have at home! 

Since its debut in 2005, more than 11 million copies of The Elf on the Shelf have been sold – and parents tend to have either a love or hate relationship with the elf. 


Those parents who love the Elf on the Shelf often get really creative – placing their family elf in funny vignettes (after the elf returns from the North Pole of course) for their kids to discover every morning. 

Other parents may view moving the elf around every night of December as just one more thing to add to their already overwhelming holiday season.

Our family Elf on the Shelf

elf on the shelf free printableWe’ve had an Elf on the Shelf at our house since 2011. His name is  Zacky, and our five kids absolutely adore him! 

In all honesty, I’ve always been a super boring elf mom – just moving him from one spot to another around the house. 

But this year we’re going all in with our elf!

Since 2020 has been such a tough year, I want our kids to have all kinds of extra reasons to find delight in the Christmas season! 

(When our elf arrives, he’ll be bringing a note with him to tell our kids that this year is going to be extra special.) 

Keep reading for the 35 last minute Elf on the Shelf ideas your kids will love! 

Free Holiday Printables Library

Really quickly, if you don’t have access to the Jen Bradley|MOMs free printables library, be sure to click on the image below to get the password! 

With Thanksgiving activity packs, Elf on the Shelf bingo, Santa letter templates, and more added every week, this is a treasure trove of printable resources for you! 

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35 Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Other than adding a few items to your grocery shopping cart or rummaging through your craft supply stash, these easy Elf on the Shelf ideas should take less than 5 minutes to set up once the kids are in bed!

Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Idea: Christmas Bingo

christmas bingo printableYou can join the Jen Bradley|MOMs free printable library to download and print this cute Christmas bingo game!

Your kids will love it if your family elf shows up with it in tow one morning for them!

(We use some of our homeschool math counters as bingo markers, but you can use anything you have on hand – candy pieces, coins, etc.)

Board Game Message

elf on the shelf idea board gameWhat’s an elf to do all during the night except leave a cute message on a Scrabble board?

This could be a great way for your elf to announce his arrival! (photo credit: Melanie Stofka)

Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?

elf on the shelf snowman ideaAll you need are a few large marshmallows, mini marshmallows, some pretzel sticks, and a black Sharpie marker.

If you have some extra time, you could build a snowman family! (But remember, the point of this is to create maximum fun with minimum time!) (photo credit: BombshellBling.com)

LEGO Elf master

Lego elf masterWith three boys at home, you can imagine we have LEGOs literally everywhere.

If you have a ton of LEGOs or Duplo, stage your elf as if he’s built something amazing!

It can be fun and festive like this cool Christmas tree or something completely random – whatever you can do in under five minutes!

Christmas concert

Elf on the shelf Christmas concertFind any toy musical instrument you have at home – a guitar, drum, tambourine, maracas, or even a microphone – and set up your elf as if he’s giving a concert.

Grab a few stuffed animals to be his or her audience.

Sneaky Underwear Shenanigans

sneaky elf on the shelf ideaIf your kids are like mine and think all potty-related humor is hilarious, this idea will send them through the roof!

Before you decorate your tree, have your silly elf decorate your Christmas tree with your kids’ underwear and some shiny tinsel! (photo credit: Melanie Stofka)

S’mores Making Elf

elf on the shelf smoresPull those LEGO’s out again to build a fire for your elf. (Or you could use a battery-operated tea light!)

Give him a miniature marshmallow and a toothpick for a roasting stick.

If you’re feeling extra on top of things, you could have your elf bring along s’mores fixings for your kids too!

LEGO vs. Elf on the Shelf

elf on the shelf vs. legoOnce your elf has used the LEGOs a few times, set up a cute scene full of little LEGO minifigures trying to take over your elf!

Grab some yarn, tie up your elf and scatter some minifigures all around. Your elf could hold up a sign about how the minifigures won’t be getting anything for Christmas now!

Message on the Mirror

easy elf on the shelf ideaThis is such a great idea (no matter if you’ve done it in years past) because you can write a new message every single time.

Your elf might have a funny joke to share – with the question on one mirror and the answer on a different mirror somewhere in the house!

Or he or she might have a message from Santa or some encouragement for your kids. (photo source: ComeTogetherKids.com)

Hidden candy cane game

elf on the shelf game ideaThis is my favorite idea for sure! All you need is a box of candy canes and a little note from your elf to the kids.

When your kids are asleep, hide the candy canes around the house (or keep it to one room if your kids are younger), and let the kids go on a candy cane hunt in the morning! (photo credit: KAinspired.com)

Mischievous Elf on the Shelf

mischievous elf on the shelf ideaUse a black dry erase marker to draw funny overlays on your kids’ portraits.

You could mustaches, pirate eye patches, goofy glasses, big eyebrows, antennae – be creative!

Be sure to position your elf nearby with the marker on his lap! (photo credit:

Elf on the Shelf date night

elf on the shelf date nightHave your elf take Barbie out for a night on the town!

Simply grab a Barbie car, or anything other toy car and set your elf at the wheel.

You may consider setting up Ken as if he’s running after Barbie and her elf date!

Last Minute Elf on the Shelf idea: workout time

elf on the shelf working outYou can quickly create an adorable barbell for your elf with two large marshmallows and a paper straw.

Cut the straw so that it’s the right length for your elf’s arms and position him as if he’s ready to start pumping some iron!

Gymnast Elf on the Shelf

gymnast elf on the shelfOf all the ideas here, this one is the most involved. But at a gymnastics mom myself, I couldn’t leave it out!

To make the uneven parallel bars, cut some paper straws to the right length and position them using mini marshmallows.

Honestly, I have no idea how to get your elf to fly above them as you see here. Our elf is gonna be hanging from the tallest bar instead! (photo credit: Jenny Onsager)

Booby trap surprise

easy elf on the shelf booby trapFor a funny morning surprise, use painters tape to create a simple booby trap across your kids’ doors!

They’ll either have to pull it down or crawl out, and find your Elf on the Shelf lurking nearby (with the tape resting nearby if you can swing it!). (photo credit: someone cool)

Snowflake crafting

simple elf on the shelf ideaThis is such a simple last-minute Elf on the Shelf idea, you may want to save it for a night when you know you’ll be busy.

All you need are a few Q-tips. Simply lay them in snowflake shape all around your elf and you are good to go! (photo credit: KAinspired.com)

Silly fruit

last minute Elf on the shelp This super easy last minute Elf on the Shelf idea is perfect for kids who love a good practical joke!

Grab some self-adhesive googly eyes and stick them on any fruit you have in the refrigerator. Then put a pair of eyes on your elf too.

I do recommend putting your elf and the fruit on the kitchen counter, so he can still do his main job of watching the kids during the day! (photo source: DirtyDiaperLaundry.com)

Color with your elf

For another super quick Elf on the Shelf idea, set your elf with a few coloring pages and some crayons strewn about.

To make this extra festive and fun, snag the easily-affordable Elf on the Shelf Festive Fun Activity Book right here! (photo source: BallardBunch)

Gingerbread house thief

One of our favorite Christmas traditions is to make gingerbread houses from these cute gingerbread house kits.

We always end up throwing them away at the end of December, and I love the idea of getting a little more use out of them!

Simple place your elf near the gingerbread house and pull the majority of the candy off of the house – as if he’s been sneaking candy all night long! (photo source: MyMommyStyle.com)

Easy Elf on the Shelf Message

last minute elf on the shelf ideas - messageTo create this easy last minute Elf on the Shelf message, you only need a box of cereal!

Cheerios or Froot Loops would be best for this for sure.

You can write any message you’d like your kids to receive! (photo credit: Melanie Stofka)

It’s game time

last minute elf on the shelf idea gameIt won’t be hard to take a few minutes and set up a game of Battleship for your elf and a stuffed animal friend!

One thing I love is how the ships and markers have been arranged so carefully to show a happy face and the word ELF! (photo credit: JediCraftGirl.com)

Elf countdown

last minute elf on the shelf ideas countdownIf your kids are eagerly counting down the days until Christmas (what kids aren’t, right?!), you can quickly get your elf in on the action.

All you need is a long roll of paper, a marker, and a high perch for your elf.

(If you don’t have a long roll of craft or art paper, use the inside of some Christmas wrapping paper!) (photo source: someone cool)

Find the hidden treats

easy elf on the shelf idea gameThis is one of the most genius Elf on the Shelf ideas out there, isn’t it?!

Put lots of plastic or paper cups upside down on your living room floor. Underneath a handful of cups, place different favorite wrapped treats for your kids to find!

To help your kids know what to do, use a simple note card, letterboard, or download my Elf on the Shelf printable pack from the Free Printables library! (photo credit: DIYSweetheart.com)

Elf watchtower

this elf on the shelf idea is so easyKids absolutely love seeing their elf getting creative with their toys!

Use a building blocks set, or some Magnatiles like these to build a cool watchtower for your elf.

Prop him up high so he can see everything that’s happening during the day.

The best Elf on the Shelf practical joke

funny Elf on the Shelf ideasGrab a roll of Christmas wrapping paper and wrap the toilet the best you can!

It doesn’t matter if it’s a messy wrapping job either because your elf is obviously not part of Santa’s gift wrapping division!

I recommend wrapping the least-used toilet in the house or putting your elf somewhere else in the bathroom so the toilet can be unwrapped without moving the elf. (photo source: Nifty Thrifty & Thriving)

Elf on the Shelf sprinkle angel

fun elf on the shelf sprinkles ideaYou may have seen the idea to lay your elf down in a small pile of flour or powdered sugar to make a snow angel.

But I like this sprinkle angel version better because it seems much less messy and it’s more colorful!  (photo credit: KAinspired.com)

Pin the nose on Rudolph game

cute elf on the shelf gameIf your kids love party games, this is a perfect last minute Elf on the Shelf idea!

Print out the Rudolph page from my Elf on the Shelf printable pack (in the Free Printables library) and put a page of red dot stickers nearby.

Tie a tiny blindfold for your elf and position him so he looks like he’s playing Pin the Nose on Rudolph.

Be sure to print a few extra copies so your kids can play too if they’d like! (photo source: PopCulture.com)

Prankster Elf on the Shelf

last minute elf on the shelf idea pranksFor a classic Elf on the Shelf prank, grab a small roll of toilet paper and have the elf put it all over the Christmas tree.

Now that the great Toilet Paper Scare of 2020 is over, it’s okay to do this! (photo source: CincyShopper.com)

The Elf on the Shelf brings a treat

last minute elf on the shelf idea treeIf you find yourself having another rushed evening, simply set out some festive Hershey Kisses in the shape of a Christmas tree!

Once your kids find it, they can eat some of the Hershey Kisses as a treat.

Everyone loves this one! (photo credit: KAinspired.com)

A small gift from the Elf on the Shelf

last minute elf on the shelf giftWhile I’m more of a fan of focusing on the magic and meaning of Christmas than on all of the things our kids get, I think your family elf bringing a sweet holiday book to your kids is a great idea!

For a list of the best Christmas books for kids, check out this article!

(photo source: Mrs. Pauleys Kindergarten)

Elf on the Shelf extreme sports

elf on the shelf last minute ideasIf you have a houseful of little dare-devils, they’ll really like this fun last minute Elf on the Shelf idea!

Grab a bungee cord from the garage and hang it from a high lamp or ceiling fan. Strategically tie a loop around your elf’s arm and leg to make sure he doesn’t fall during the day! (photo source: Ballard Bunch)

Elf on the Shelf bubble bath

cute and easy elf on the shelf ideaIf you were an elf and had to take a bath, I think you’d want to take a marshmallow bath, wouldn’t you?

All you need for this cute idea is a medium sized bowl and a bag of miniature marshmallows. Set your elf inside and fill the bowl with marshmallows!

Done and done! (photo source: BombshellBling.com)

Elf on Stilts

For this last minute Elf on the Shelf idea, simply prop two tall rolls of Christmas wrapping paper against the wall. Put each roll inside a slipper for stability.

Then place your elf’s legs into each of the wrapping paper tubes. (photo course: DIYSweetheart.com)

Art by the Elf on the Shelf

easy last minute elf on the shelf idea bananasLet your elf express his creative side by drawing some Minions on a bunch of bananas!

You don’t have to be an artist for this to turn out really cute.

And you know your kids will love to eat these bananas too! (photo source: BeautifullyBeingMom.com)

Story time with Elf on the Shelf

elf on the shelf storytimeGather some stuffed animals and toys around to hear your elf read them a fun Christmas story!

To see my list of favorite Christmas books for kids, check out this article!

Elf on the Shelf accessories to buy

If you have the money and want to save even more time, check out these cute Elf on the Shelf accessories that you can buy on Amazon:

Final thoughts on the last minute Elf on the Shelf ideas:

elf on the shelf ideas 2020If you’ve never been a creative Elf on the Shelf mom, that’s okay! Join me this year in making 2020 end on a high note.

While I know it’s important to focus on the effects the worldwide pandemic has had on our economy, public health, and more, I think we often overlook the impact it’s had on our kids too.

With school cancelled early this spring, lots of uncertainty about school resuming in the fall, and sports, vacations, and extra curricular activities cancelled, our kids have had a lot of disappointment to deal with.

That’s why I’m convinced that 2020 is the perfect year to try these last minute Elf on the Shelf ideas and bring some extra joy to your kids this Christmas!

Related articles about family Christmas celebrations:

-13 Awesome Christmas Traditions for Families You Must Try This Year

11 Great Tips to Get Ready to Decorate Sugar Cookies with Your Kids

-21 Awesome Christmas Books for Kids You Need to Read to Your Kids

-How We Practice Intentional Christmas Gift Giving

Which of these last minute Elf on the Shelf ideas do you like best?

35 Easy Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Your Kids Will Love
35 Easy Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Your Kids Will Love
35 Easy Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Your Kids Will Love
35 Easy Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Your Kids Will Love
35 Easy Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Your Kids Will Love

Jen Bradley is the creator of The Confident Closet

Hi there! I’m so glad you’re here. I am a mom of five kids who is trying to live a stylishly intentional life and help other moms do the same. Read More …


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6 thoughts on “35 Easy Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Your Kids Will Love”

    1. Same for me, Abby! So far my kids have loved the Elf on the Shelf tradition – and that’s before we started making it extra fun! Thanks for reading!

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