57 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 57 fun ideas for last-minute Elf on the Shelf shenanigans are designed with the busy mom or dad 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 57 last-minute Elf on the Shelf ideas your kids will love! 

FREE Printable Elf Kit 

Get over 20+ ideas and easy things to do with your elf that take less than 5 minutes per night! 

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57 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 our FREE printable Elf Kit above 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!

Easy Spiderman Elf Idea

easy spiderman elf idea

If you have little superheroes at your house, they’ll love this idea! 

Cut out a small square of paper, draw a black spider in the center, and color the background red. Use a small piece of double-sided tape to affix it to your elf’s body. 

Then use some fishing wire or white thread to hang your elf upside down in your house. (We used the light on our ceiling fan and it worked great!)

Snowman elf

quick elf on the shelf idea

Setting up the elf in the bathroom can be a fun and unexpected location! 

For this cute idea, you’ll need three rolls of toilet paper. Draw three black buttons on one roll and a snowman face on another with a Sharpie. 

Then stack the bottom rolls of your snowman, and place your elf in the center of the rolls. Finally, tilt the third roll with the snowman face onto your elf’s hat. It’s a good idea to lean it against a mirror or wall for stability too!

Easy Elf Prank: Menu vandal

silly elf prank idea

If you use a menu board in your kitchen, let your elf change it up a bit this week! 

True to elf form, our elf picked meals that were chock-full of sugar and syrup. 

Place your elf next to the board with the marker in her lap so your kids know who the culprit is!

Punny Elf Prank

funny elf prank

Isn’t this a great pun?!

Have your elf make a simple “gingerbread house” that’ll make your kids crack up!

All you need is a bottle of ground ginger and one and a half pieces of bread. Place the ginger on its side on a plate or countertop.

Next, tear a piece of bread piece in half, and put each piece on either side of the ginger bottle. Then take the last half-piece of bread and put it on top of the wall pieces to make a roof. Easy! 

Elf Night at the Movies

cute elf on the shelf idea for kids

Set up your elf and a few of his favorite pals in front of an iPad or TV.

Queue up a cute Christmas movie and place a few cupcake liners filled with popcorn in front of the movie-watchers and you’re all done!

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 Want to 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 our FREE Elf Kit Printable Pack! It says “Christmas concert $2 per ticket.” 

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?! 

Coming in for a landing!

elf arrival idea

This cute elf-on-an-airplane could be a great elf arrival idea! 

Take a strand of battery-operated lights and lay them lengthwise across a long table or countertop.

Then place your elf on an airplane of any type (we used a wooden fighter jet we already owned, but a simple balsa wood airplane or any toy airplane would work great too!) and put it at one end of the table. 

Choose two small figures (LEGO minifigures work great!) to stand at the end of the “runway” with the arms raised to guide the plane. 

Last-minute Elf on the Shelf prank

silly elf prank idea

Have your elf wrap up one of your kids’ stuffies as if he’s trying to give it as a Christmas gift. 

Roll out some wrapping paper, grab an accomplice, some scissors, and clear tape, and start to wrap up the stuffed animal. 

Leave everything a bit unfinished so it looks like your kids have caught your elf in the act! 

Elf Game Idea

elf on the shelf game idea

This is another simple and fun Elf on the Shelf game idea! 

Set your elf in a prominent place with a note that he’s hidden a package with each child’s name somewhere around the house. 

Then have your kids search for their package, similar to searching for Easter eggs!

(We hid small ornaments with our kids’ names on them and they loved finding them.)


Christian Elf on the Shelf idea

religious elf on the shelf

If you celebrate the Nativity, this is a sweet and super simple elf idea!

Open your Bible to Luke chapter 2 in front of a nativity set and have your elf lean into the scriptures as if he’s reading the nativity story. 

Daredevil last-minute elf idea

daredevil last minute elf idea

This idea coordinates great with the Ziplining Elf and the Spiderman Elf ideas! 

Quickly stick some premade Christmas bows on the wall. Then stick your elf’s feet and hands into the openings of the bows with double-sided tape so she’s secure. 

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!

Funny Elf Idea: Yogi Elf

funny elf doing yoga

Grab a few washcloths and poseable figures your kids have around the house. (Barbies work great!)

Then fold each washcloth as if it’s a yoga mat and have your elf lead them in a simple yoga position, such as downward dog! 

Construction Elf

construction elf

Use miniature marshmallows and a bunch of toothpicks to create a cool structure. You could make an igloo, a Christmas tree, a gingerbread house, or Santa’s sleigh like we did here! 

Leave a few extra marshmallows and toothpicks lying around so your kids can tell who did all the work! 

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 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 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! (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 prank

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. (idea 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 get this sign as part of our FREE Elf Printable Kit! See the form at the top and bottom of this post!)

When your kids are asleep, hide the candy canes around the house (or keep them in 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 have mustaches, pirate eye patches, goofy glasses, big eyebrows, or 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

Grab your FREE Elf Printable Kit 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 corn, 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 toward 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 as 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.

Use clear fishing wire to suspend your elf above the bars. Tie one loop around each leg and the elf’s upper body. This works best underneath a kitchen cupboard! (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, that 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

easy elf on the shelf idea

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 (not in the fridge), so he can still do his main job of watching the kids during the day! (idea 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. 

Simply 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 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 our FREE Elf Printable Kit!


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, or letterboard, or get this one from our FREE Elf Printable Kit! Seriously, it will save you SO much time this Christmas!

(idea inspiration: DIYSweetheart.com)


Elf watchtower

this elf on the shelf idea is so easyKids love seeing their elves 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 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)

Last minute Elf on the Shelf: Karate elf

karate elf

Cut a tiny piece of felt and tie it around your elf’s head as if he’s wearing a bandana. 

Then put him in a cool stretching or karate pose. Grab a few poseable figures or LEGO Minifigures to join in the impromptu karate class! 


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 pranks

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 we’re long past the great Toilet Paper Scare of 2020, it’s okay to do this!

(idea 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 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 ideas

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

Grab a long strand of yard or rope and tie it from one high point to another. (We did bookshelf to bookshelf, but you could use your Christmas tree and a curtain rod, too!) Strategically tie a loop of yarn or rope around your elf’s body to make sure he doesn’t fall during the day!

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 worth it in our opinion – especially with simple, last-minute Elf of the Shelf ideas like these! 

And finally, don’t forget to grab our FREE Elf Printable Kit to make your Elf on the Shelf experience even easier! The time you’ll save makes it SO worth it! 




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

57 Easy Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Your Kids Will Love57 Easy Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Your Kids Will Love57 Easy Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Your Kids Will Love57 Easy Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Your Kids Will Love57 Easy Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas Your Kids Will Love

Jen Bradley, the founder of Jen Bradley|MOMs

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


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6 thoughts on “57 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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