elf on the shelf

17 Fun Elf on the Shelf Last Minute Ideas for Kids + Free Printables

Oh man, did you go to bed and almost forget to move your elf? Yup, I know the feeling LOL. But thanks to it, I’ve become a pro Elf on the Shelf last minute ideas and you can too.

So don’t worry if you haven’t moved your elf. You won’t disappoint your kids as I’ve got you covered with this list of fun last minute Elf on the Shelf ideas for kids, with pictures included to make it easier for you to just copy and physically paste LOL.

Most of these are ones you can do in under 5-10 minutes after the kids have gone to bed. But in case this is your first year having the elf in your home, let’s explain what it is and what your role is as the parent.

(If you’ve been doing this a while and are only here for the Elf on the Shelf last minute ideas, grab your free printables below then skip over the next two sections to get right to the picture ideas LOL. Otherwise, stick around and read as it’ll help answer your Elf on the Shelf questions.)

[Disclaimer: Please note this post may contain affiliate links. This means I may receive a commission if clicked at no extra cost to you. Though the opinions remain my own.]

What is Elf on the Shelf?

Elf on the Shelf is a popular Christmas tradition for families with kids and has been around since 2005.

In a nutshell, an Elf on the Shelf arrives at home to watch over the children for Santa. The parents (aka you, haha) then come up with creative ways to hide their elf around their home.

Each morning when the kids wake, it’s their job to find their elf’s new hiding spot. They understand that the elf moves each night because that’s when they report to Santa on the kid’s behavior.

Even though it’s a newer tradition that only started a few years ago, it’s one that has brought joy and cheer to many children around the world, including our son.

Where can you find an Elf on the Shelf?

Thankfully, you can find Elf on the Shelf at most major toy retailers including Target, Walmart and Kohl’s. However, I personally prefer to buy it online via Amazon so that the kids don’t see it LOL.

And if you plan on grabbing one, make sure you do so asap because the closer you get to the holidays, the harder they’ll be to find. So make it easy on yourself and grab your Elf on the Shelf here.

What age should you start Elf on the Shelf?

Elf on the Shelf is meant for young kids, but can honestly be done with kids at any age (especially if they’re still Santa believers).

We personally started this tradition a few years ago with my son when he was about 4 years old. If I could have introduced it to him earlier, I would have because this is something even toddlers can enjoy.

Now my son is 8 years old and he still talks about his elf. He’s been asking when he’ll be returning and can’t wait for his Scout Elf, named Mr. Jingles, to come back to our home and meet his baby sister.

So yeah, I think our elf will be around for a while longer LOL.

Related Post: 57 Cool Gifts for 7 Year Old Boys (Picked Out by a 7 Year Old)

How to Introduce Elf on the Shelf

Before you start doing any of these Elf on the Shelf last minute ideas for kids, you’ll need to introduce your kids to their elf.

Since it’s a Christmas tradition, a good time to introduce Elf on the Shelf to your kids is around Thanksgiving. It’s a great way to kick-off the Christmas season and it’ll definitely get your kids excited.

Below is the easy way on how to introduce Elf on the Shelf, but bear with me because I’ll explain it in magical terms to get you prepped from the Christmas magic too LOL.

Read keepsake book to kids

This lovely Christmas tradition begins with Santa sending home a keepsake box set that includes the Scout Elf and a storybook explaining why the Elf is there.

In this storybook, the kids learn that Santa has sent the Scout Elf to watch over them until Christmas and will report back their findings to him each night. So be sure to start by reading your kids the keepsake book as it’ll explain mostly everything to them (making it a lot easier on you).

Explain Elf on the Shelf rules

Although the book already explains the Elf on the Shelf rules, you can always give your own explanation to make it fun for the kids.

Plus, it’s a good idea to check for understanding, especially if your kids are younger.

The three primary Elf on the Shelf rules the kids should follow are:

  1. Do NOT touch your Scout Elf or they’ll lose their magic abilities
  2. Talk to your Scout Elf – they are great listeners and love being your friend
  3. Your Scout Elf MUST return to the North Pole after Christmas (or Christmas Eve) to help Santa until the next Christmas season

And of course, you’re welcome to add whatever additional rules you seem fit for your kids (like they can’t look for their elf until they’re ready for school LOL).

Pick a name for your Elf

Once the kids understand the rules, it’s time to pick a name for your Elf.

The name you pick for your Elf on the Shelf can be anything you want it to be. As long as the kids like the name, go with it!

The name my son picked out for his is Mr. Jingle LOL. Don’t ask me why because I have no idea. All I know, is that he wanted to keep it within the Christmas spirit.

Some other Elf on the Shelf name option ideas are:

  • Snowflake
  • Chirpy
  • Chuck
  • Ms. Glittery

Your elf can literally be named anything. It’s almost as easy as naming a pet. So have fun with it and enjoy coming up with name ideas with your kids.

Jump on a call with Santa

Yup, don’t you love the internet? Now you can schedule a video call with Santa himself! And to make your kids feel the true Christmas spirit even more, you can customize the call with Santa to your liking.

That’s why it would be the perfect opportunity to have Santa mention the elf your family is about to adopt. Not only will they feel the Christmas magic, but they’ll feel extremely special to have received this never before call from the North Pole.

However, spots are limited are fill up fast. So be sure to act quickly if you want to make this video call with Santa happen.

Now that you have adopted your Elf on the Shelf and they have become an official family member, it’s time to start moving your elf around.

And this my mama friend, is where you come in. 

The ideas of where you move your elf and how you place them are absolutely endless. But because I know there’s going to be days where you’re not feeling that creative (or you almost forgot to move your elf), here’s a list of Elf on the Shelf last minute ideas.

Related Post: Letter to Santa Printable + How To Get a Reply From Santa Himself

Fun Elf on the Shelf Last Minute Ideas

Alright mama, onto the good stuff LOL. Here are your Elf on the Shelf last minute ideas with pictures so you can simply just copy and physically paste.

But before you scroll down, note that we used some Elf accessories here and there. These Elf on the Shelf props here make it sooo much easier to quickly change your elf’s spot and position as all you really need to do is give them a prop LOL. These are especially useful on the day you almost forgot to move your scout.

So be on the lookout on how we used these props and grab your Elf on the Shelf props set and ideas book here before they are sold out.

Be sure to save this post for later as I’ll be updating it this year (and every year) as we come up with new ideas.

Blending in with the décor

Now this is literally the easiest idea to do when you completely forgot about moving your elf. Simply hide it in a new spot where it can blend in with your décor.

And since it’s Christmas, your color scheme may already include some bright red which makes your home prone to infinite hiding locations for your scout elf.

Plus the simple fact that your Elf on the Shelf is blending with your décor, it makes it appear as if they’re playing hide-and-seek which involved lots of effort (when it reality, it didn’t).

Here are some examples of when our elf, Mr. Jingle, hid between the Christmas décor.

1) Hiding with a notebook by the door window décor

last minute elf on the shelf ideas

Look at Mr.Jingle just hanging by the doorway… oh what’s that? I wonder what he wrote this time in his little notebook…

2) Hiding out in the chimney with his buds

elf on the shelf ideas - scout elf hiding in the decor

Hey! What’s our Scout Elf doing inside our chimney? This one was hard for our son to spot LOL

3) Is that the Scout Elf or an ornament?

last minute elf on the shelf ideas - scout elf hiding in the christmas tree

And of course, he blended in extremely well with our Christmas tree as it’s decorated red and white! Bonus Tip: we hid him towards the back to make it more challenging to find haha.

4) Oh so you want to be a candle now huh?

elf on the shelf hiding in a candle holder

We simply removed the candle from its candleholder and placed our elf in it with a little help from his candy cane.

5) I guess he wants to hang out high up in the garland

Elf on shelf hiding in Christmas garland

This garland hangs out over our living room balcony and at first was hard for my son to spot. Now, he knows it’s one of Mr. Jingle’s favorite hiding spots haha.

6) Looks like Santa sent us a Scout Elf in the mail

Elf on the shelf hiding in Santa mailbox

Okay, so this one isn’t that hard to spot as we have this mailbox in a very visible location. But hey, at least the elf moved right?

Related Post: Christmas Would You Rather Questions for Kids

More Creative But Still Quick Ideas

Okay, so you gotta admit that the ones up top are pretty basic. But like I said, at least our elf moved haha. Plus, the younger your kids are, the harder it’ll be fun them to spot out your elf, no matter how easy the location is.

Now that my son is older and is going on our 4th year having our elf, we’re starting to have to get more creative. So below are some more creative Elf on the Shelf ideas.

They may take an extra five minutes but can still be done fairly quickly, especially since you’re planning ahead by being here.

7) Uh-oh, what a candy mess the Elf made!

elf on the shelf got into some candy treats

Mr. Jingle sure does have a sweet tooth like his family (us) LOL.

8) Wow, he must have been working on that gingerbread house all night!

Elf on the Shelf made a gingerbread house

Haha actually, this was a fun little and quick project my husband and I did together after our son went to bed.

9) Every kid’s dream – to show their Scout Elf around their life

Elf on the shelf last minute idea hiding in cup

This one is my son’s ABSOLUTELY FAVORITE and looks forward to it each year. In fact, he wouldn’t mind if his elf stayed in this cup the entire Christmas season.

By having him in a cup, it allows my son to take him everywhere with him. So when you’re in a rush, print out this free printable Elf on the Shelf letter, write a quick note to explain to your kids why he’s in a cup and let them show the elf their world.

10) Santa lets him stay one more night so he eats Santa’s leftover cookies!

elf on the shelf ate the leftover cookies

In our home, we allow our elf to return back to the North Pole on Christmas night. My son really likes this as he gets to show off his presents to Mr. Jingle.

But the elf was originated to return Christmas Eve night so it’s up to you how you want to do this. Or if you pick one option and then change it later on.

11) And he came in like a wrecking ball–oon 🎶 haha!

elf on the shelf hanging on by a thread (the balloon thread)

He was hanging on by the string from one of our living room wall décor. This one is quite tricky and you definitely have to be careful when walking around your elf to avoid them falling down.

12) Looks like Mr. Jingle likes his own cereal LOL

elf on the shelf idea is to put him in his cereal box

This cereal hits the grocery stores during the holiday season. All I did here was cut out the elf’s head (LOL) from the box and replaced it with our elf.

13) Hanging out with his boss man, Santa and his favorite chocolate

elf on the shelf hiding in the chocolate bowl

If you have a candy or chocolate plate laying around over the holidays, it’s a great place to lay your elf. You can definitely get more creative with how they interact with the candy too (like smudging some chocolate on their face around open candy wrappers).

14) Um, no ziplining through the living room allowed Mr. Jingle

elf on the shelf ziplining through the living room

Mama, have your husband do this one for you LOL. Mine had to figure out how to place the string to where our elf could hang on it in a good position while not letting us accidentally touch him with our heads. We used these scout elf props here to bring this idea to life.

15) Uh oh, looks like someone didn’t behave yesterday

elf on the shelf made a mess with cereal

The day after my son came home with a “yellow” in his behavior chart from school, Mr. Jingle told him that Santa wasn’t pleased with his behavior. This let my son know, uh-oh, he really does know what’s going on no matter where he’s at.

16) Mr. Jingle appears to be under the weather lately…

elf on the shelf appears to be sick or under the weather

The fun part about this Elf on the Shelf idea where the elf is “sick” is that it saves you from moving him for the next xx amount of days in order for the elf to recover.

So if you want a break, take the extra 5 minutes to put this one together and then relax for the next couple of nights LOL. Side note – it’s a good idea to leave the kids a note from their elf letting them know.

17) Look who’s backkkk… surprise!!

elf on the shelf hanging by a thread with a note

Whenever our elf returns, he normally isn’t hiding anywhere as my son isn’t looking for him yet. So he makes some sort of big entrance with a note saying he’s back and ready to have some fun! **Psst, there are letter templates for you to use below.

Optional Elf on the Shelf Accessories

Now you have some great Elf on the Shelf last minute ideas for kids. But there are other ways you can spice up your Elf’s routine without making it hard on you.

The Elf on the Shelf accessories below are completely optional but insanely cool. As the years have gone on, I’ve definitely grabbed quite a few of these myself.

Elf on the Shelf Pets

There are three Elf on the Shelf pets and you can watch their story in this DVD pack here.

But beware because many times after the kids watch the pet stories, they really like reallyyyy want a pet of their own.

And yes, I’m speaking from experience here LOL.

These are the three pets you can choose to grab for your kids:

Elf Pet: An Artic Fox Tradition

Elf Pet: A Saint Bernard Tradition

Elf Pet: A Reindeer Tradition

Elf on the Shelf Clothing

Now something else you could do is put them in a new outfit for the day. You don’t have to do this everyday but it’s a quick way of making them appear different than the previous day.

When I use these outfits, I don’t even get creative with what Mr. Jingle is doing LOL. All I do is put him in his soccer outfit by his goal net on the counter and call it a day haha.

Here are some cute outfit options for your Elf on the Shelf:

Scout Elf Superhero Girl

Sweet Tees Multi-Pack

Party Skirt Set

Scout Elf Soccer Gear

Elf on the Shelf Tools and Gadgets

From paper crafts, to sticky support and more ideas, these are super useful to have. 

Not only do they help give you more ways to place your elf, but they either come with accessories or are tools to help keep them in place.

Elves at Play: Tools and Tips for Your Scout Elf

Elves at Play: Paper Crafts to Inspire Your Scout Elf

Elves at Play: Orna-Moments Snow Day Sled

But like I said, if you plan on grabbing anything Elf on the Shelf related, shop early and shop online.

Other Questions Kids Might Ask

Have your kids gone through the “why” phase yet? Yeah, that phase is fun and never seems to end LOL. 

So be prepared for questions your kids might ask. And instead of you being put on the spot and having to pull an answer out from thin air (like I had to), here are some ways to answer questions they may ask.

Why is Elf on the Shelf being sold in stores?

First, I’m going to be honest and say that IF I spot an elf in the store, I do everything in my power to NOT walk by that aisle. 

However, it isn’t always possible and your kids may spot it out before you do. So if they ask why the elf is being sold in stores, here’s what you can say.

You can tell them that just in case some kids haven’t received their elf yet due to a waitlist, Santa has provided “adoption-centers” for their elves across stores in the country. In fact, this came directly from the company when another parent emailed them to ask.

This way, some parents can skip over the waitlist and adopt-an-elf to introduce to their family.

Why doesn’t my friend have an Elf on the Shelf?

We get this question each year from my son. He loves talking about Mr. Jingle with his friends so many times he’ll come home and ask why all kids don’t have an elf.

Of course, us parents know the real answer to this. We know that many parents simply don’t want to do it (or can’t) butttt that isn’t what we tell them haha. 

To keep it aligned with the answer to the previous question, you can tell them kids are on a waitlist to get their elf. 

Not many parents are aware of the Elf adoption-centers or due to their own circumstances, they may not be able to adopt one. This also presents a great opportunity to discuss with your children how each family is different and should be supported no matter what.

And although they enjoy talking about their elf with friends, it may be best to avoid the topic with the kids who don’t have one.

What happens if we accidentally touch Elf on the Shelf?

So we know the number one rule is to not touch the elf. However, Santa knows that accidents happen and has provided parents with advice on how to renew your elf’s magic.

This includes writing a letter to Santa apologizing , sprinkling some Cinnamon (or sugar) next to your elf and singing a Christmas song with them. 

And if there’s a time where you feel like you need to touch your elf because they slipped or fell down somewhere, using tongs is the best way to move them back into place. 

So let your kids know that their elf will be okay. But also remind them that touching their elf on purpose is never okay. If an elf is touched on purpose, they may not be able to recover their magic abilities. 

At least, this is what we’ve told my son, haha. Now he makes sure that everyone and anyone who comes over, stays away from Mr. Jingle LOL.

Why didn’t the elf move last night?

Whoops. Did you forget to move your elf mama? Don’t worry, this happens to all of us. After all, we are super busy moms.

If you completely forgot to move your elf last night, tell your kids that the elf did move but that they went back to the same spot. 

This could be because it’s now one of their favorite spots in the house or that they forgot that’s where they were the day before.

last minute elf on the shelf ideas plus free printables

Time To Move Your Elf

Alright mama, now you have all the tools and Elf on the Shelf last minute ideas to ensure you have a great Christmas season with your elf. 

Your kids are going to have so much fun having their elf around and so you should definitely have fun with it too. Also… tell Dad to cover some night shifts and have him be the one to move the elf to more extreme locations haha.

What other Elf on the Shelf ideas have you already tried? What other questions have your kids been asking related to their elf? Please share in the comments below as I would love to hear from you!

Don’t forget to grab your free Elf printables below and make this a super memorable Christmas!

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