45 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. 

No matter how parents feel about the little sprite, kids everywhere seem to love having an elf visit their home each year! 

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

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45 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

elf on the shelf printable 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

easy elf on the shelf ideas

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?

elf on the shelf snowman marshmallow

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

Lego elf master

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 concert

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!

Elf on the Shelf printables

 

Sneaky Underwear Shenanigans

If your kids 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.

 

More sneaky underwear shenanigans

 

elf on the shelf easy ideas

 

If your kids liked the underwear on the ceiling fan idea, try this easy, last-minute Elf on the Shelf idea too! 

Have your elf remove your kids’ Christmas stockings from the mantle and replace them with a pair of their underwear. 

How’s that for easy and fun?! 

 

Elf on the Shelf potato sack rack

 

easy elf on the shelf idea - race

 

For this cute and easy Elf on the Shelf idea, you’ll need a few stuffed animals, a couple of bags (or a small stocking), and a piece of rope or yarn for the “finish line.” 

So simple and perfect for those busy December nights! 

 

S’mores Making Elf

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!

Toasty Elf (or elves!)

 

quick elf on the shelf toast idea

 

This adorable last-minute elf idea can work well if you have one elf or several! 

Simply toast a few pieces of bread. Then cut a hole in the center that’s large enough to fit around your elf’s head. 

A little note that says, “It was cold at the North Pole, but now we’re nice and toasty!” finishes everything off nicely!

 

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!

Candy Cane Sled

easy elf ideas

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!

 

Easy Elf on the Shelf Snowball Fight

 

Elf on the shelf easy idea

 

For this last-minute Elf on the Shelf idea, all you need are a few of your kids’ stuffed animals and some large and mini-marshmallows. 

Use the large marshmallows to create a snow fort for the stuffies to hide behind. 

Then spread some mini-marshmallows all around to look like snowballs that have been thrown. 

 

Last-Minute Elf on the Shelf Tic-Tac-Bow

 

elf on the shelf tic-tac-bow

 

This fun idea works great if you have more than one elf! And If you have one elf, you can easily substitute stuffed animals instead!

Use some masking tape to make a tic-tac-toe board on the wall.

Then use store-bought gift bows in two colors to create a tic-tac-toe game. Give two elves (or stuffed animals) an extra bow in one of the two colors. 

You can also have a “Tic-Tac-Bow” scorekeeper too! 

 

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

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.

(P.S. You can download and print this cute note from our free Elf on the Shelf printable pack – get access to the library here!)

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

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:

 

Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Idea: Christmas Bingo

elf on the shelf Christmas bingo

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

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

Simply grab a Barbie car, or any 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

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

tricky elf ideas

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!).

 

Snowflake crafting

 

elf on the shelf quick idea

 

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 around your elf and you are good to go! (idea inspiration: 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)

 

Elf on the Swing

 

elf on the shelf swing idea

 

All you need for this cute Elf on the Shelf idea is an empty toilet paper tube and a long ribbon. 

Simple run the ribbon through the toilet paper tube and tie the ends together. Loop your “swing” around something high and place your elf on the swing. 

(For help with balance, it’s a good idea to have your elf leaning against something too!)

Finally, to make sure he doesn’t fall, you could either put a few quick stitches in your elf’s hands that secure him to the ribbon! 

 

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

 

sneaky elf on the shelf idea

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!

Simply 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! 

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

 

elf on the shelf hidden message

 

Look closely – can you see the hidden message?

To create this easy last-minute Elf on the Shelf message, use Cheerios against a marbled countertop!

(If you want to create a message that’s easier to see, Froot Loops would be perfect.)

You can write any message you’d like your kids to receive. It’s a great way for your elf to announce his arrival or say goodbye on Christmas Eve!

(idea inspiration: Melanie Stofka)

 

It’s game time

last minute elf on the shelf ideas

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!

You can use your kids’ favorite stuffed animal or even get a new cute stuffie as a bonus.

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)

 

Elf countdown

last minute elf on the shelf countdown

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!) 

Find the hidden treats

easy elf on the shelf game

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 notecard, letterboard, or download my Elf on the Shelf printable pack from the Free Printables library!

(idea inspiration: 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 block 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

 

elf on the shelf 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.

(idea inspiration: 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)

 

Letterboard Elf on the Shelf

 

letterboard elf on the shelf

 

If you have a letterboard, let your elf take over for a night and leave a funny elf joke for your kids to enjoy! 

Super quick and easy, right?! 

 

Harry Potter Elf on the Shelf

 

harry potter elf on the shelf

 

If your kids love Harry Potter, they’ll love this fun and quick elf idea! 

You’ll need a piece of black felt and a small wooden paintbrush.

Cut the felt into a cape by cutting a small hole in the center of a circle large enough to fit over your elf’s head. Then extend the cape by cutting a long slightly-angled triangle. 

Use fishing wire to tie your elf to the paintbrush (we recommend tying the hands and the waist). 

Finally, use fishing wire to hang your Harry Potter elf where your kids will find it! 

 

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 we’re long past the great Toilet Paper Scare of 2020, 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 giftOnce or twice during the Christmas season, your family elf could bring a sweet holiday book to your kids!

It’s a great way to build your home library and to spend a few quality moments with your kids. 

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 a leg to make sure he doesn’t fall during the day!

(photo source: Ballard Bunch)

 

Elf on the Shelf bubble bath

quick elf on the shelf

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

last minute elf on the shelf ideas

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

 

elf on the shelf bananas

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!

(idea inspiration: BeautifullyBeingMom.com)

 

Storytime 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!

 

Sweet-tooth Elf on the Shelf

 

elf on the shelf chocolate chip

 

Since your kids are probably aware that elves love sugar, simply open up a container of chocolate chips and have your elf take a deep dive! 

 

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 these last-minute Elf on the Shelf ideas:

If you’ve never been a creative Elf on the Shelf mom, that’s okay!

These ideas are here to make it simple and fun for you – and for your kids! 

There is something wonderful about watching our kids experience the magic of Christmas morning, isn’t there?

Taking a few extra minutes each evening to extend the magic a little bit longer is totally worth it in our opinion – especially with simple, last-minute Elf of the Shelf ideas like these! 

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!

Elf on the Shelf printables

 

 

Related articles about family Christmas celebrations:

Fun Christmas Family Feud – How to Play and Free Printable!

Christmas Song Trivia for Kids – 50 Fun Questions and Answers

101 Funny Christmas Would You Rather Questions Your Family Will Love

-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

The 4 Christmas Gift Rule + Other Awesome Ways to Buy Fewer Presents

 

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

 

Pin the image below to return to these easy Elf on the Shelf ideas when you need them! 

elf on the shelf ideas 2021

45 Easy Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Your Kids Will Love45 Easy Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Your Kids Will Love45 Easy Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Your Kids Will Love45 Easy Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Your Kids Will Love45 Easy Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Your Kids Will Love

Jen Bradley, the founder of Jen Bradley|MOMs

Hi there! I’m so glad you’re here. I am a mom who believes that meaningful connections with our kids can happen in small and simple ways. Read More …

 

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7 thoughts on “45 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!

  1. Pingback: 28 Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Fun Ideas - Following the Jordans

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