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.
Our family Elf on the Shelf
To be honest, 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!
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 the free Elf on the Shelf printable pack, Christmas bingo and other games, Santa letter templates, and more added every week, this is a treasure trove of printable resources for you! Click the image below to get access.
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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: Pin the nose on Rudolph game
If your kids love party games, this is a perfect last minute Elf on the Shelf idea!
Print out this adorable Rudolph page from the Elf on the Shelf printable pack (in the Free Printables library) and put a page of red dot stickers nearby.
You could also 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!
Board Game Message
What’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, or send a personal message to your kids.
I think this reminder to my 7-year-old boy to wash his hands was a perfect Elf on the Shelf idea for 2020!
Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?
All you need for this last minute Elf on the Shelf idea 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!) (idea inspiration: BombshellBling.com)
LEGO Elf master
With 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!
Find 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.
There’s a really cute card to put with this scene in the Elf on the Shelf printable pack! It says “Christmas concert $2 per ticket.” Click here to get access to the free Elf on the Shelf printable pack!
Sneaky Underwear Shenanigans
If your kids are like mine and think all potty-related humor is hilarious, this idea will send them through the roof!
Covertly grab a pair of underwear from each of your kids’ dressers and hang them from your ceiling fan. (If you’re folding laundry – and what mom isn’t? – pull a clean pair from the laundry to be extra sneaky!)
Of all of the last minute Elf on the Shelf ideas, this is one my kids have loved the most.
S’mores Making Elf
Give your elf a miniature marshmallow and a toothpick for a roasting stick.
Then sit your elf in one candle and have him hold his marshmallow over a neighboring candle.
These battery-operated candles worked perfectly. I timed one to turn on in the morning so it would seem that the fire had just turned on. (My little kids kept waiting for the marshmallow to turn golden – so. stinkin. cute.)
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
Once 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!
Candy Cane Sled
You can make a quick candy cane sled with 5-6 candy canes and some blue sticky tack.
(If you look really closely at ours, you can see it in between a few of the candy canes.)
Tuck your elf’s legs underneath him and set the sled on a slight incline to make it look like he’s heading down a hill!
Message on the Mirror
This 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
This 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! (idea inspiration: KAinspired.com)
Mischievous Elf on the Shelf
Use 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:
Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Idea: Christmas Bingo
You 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.)
Elf on the Shelf date night
Have 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: Sugar rush
Remember the four main food groups for elves? Sugar, candy canes, candy corns, and … syrup!
For this last minute Elf on the Shelf idea, position your elf in a pitcher or tall glass so that he’s leaning out towards a bottle of syrup.
Stick a straw in the syrup bottle on an incline towards your elf’s mouth.
When our kids saw this one, they said this was the “elfiest” thing our elf had done so far!
Gymnast Elf on the Shelf
Of 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
For a funny morning surprise, use masking 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!).
This 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)
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.
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! (idea inspiration: MyMommyStyle.com)
The cute explanation card can be found – you guessed it – in the Elf on the Shelf printable pack in the Jen Bradley|MOMs Free Printables library!
Easy Elf on the Shelf Message
To 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
It won’t be hard to take a few minutes and set up a game of Battleship for your elf and a stuffed animal friend!
Baby Yoda was the obvious choice for Elf on the Shelf ideas 2020 – but you can use your kids’ favorite stuffed animal for sure.
One thing I love is how the markers have been arranged so carefully to show a happy face and the word ELF! (idea inspiration: JediCraftGirl.com)
If 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
This 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! (idea inspiration: DIYSweetheart.com)
Kids 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
Grab 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
You 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 is much less messy and it’s more colorful! (idea inspiration: KAinspired.com)
Prankster Elf on the Shelf
For 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
If 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
While 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
If 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
If 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! (idea inspiration: 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. (idea inspiration: DIYSweetheart.com)
Art by the Elf on the Shelf
Let 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
Gather 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:
- sleeping bag and elf robe
- elf Christmas cookie baking set and apron
- inflatable snow tube and elf scarf
- elf Christmas pajamas outfit
Final thoughts on the last minute Elf on the Shelf ideas:
If 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!
Pin this post so you can remember to come back to it throughout the month of December.
And finally, don’t forget to snag the free Elf on the Shelf printable pack from the Jen Bradley|MOMs library to make your Elf on the Shelf experience even easier!