25 Elf on the Shelf ideas for a creative Christmas countdown

25 Elf on the Shelf ideas for a creative Christmas countdown— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.

If you’ve been anywhere on social media for the last decade, you’ve heard of the Elf on the Shelf. Santa’s little spy arrives around or a little after Thanksgiving and keeps watch of children up until Christmas morning.

If you ask us, however, it should be called "Elf off the Shelf," because those scouting little elves seem to spend very little time sitting in one place. Instead, they bop around the house keeping kids honest and on their toes during the lead up to Christmas.

While it’s a fun and Instagram-worthy holiday tradition to find a new nightly hiding spot, it tends to come at the expense of parents' precious time. If your family’s Elf on the Shelf tradition is adding tedium to your holiday to-do list, have no fear. Here are some fun and stress-free ways to kick off some holiday elfin magic in your home.

1. Get yourself an elf

Two elves in funny positions.
Credit: Elf on the Shelf

To get the fun started, get yourself an elf.

If you don’t yet have an Elf on the Shelf, what are you waiting for? Be sure to get one that comes with the (now famous) accompanying storybook. The book outlines all the history, background, rules and details of the scouting elves, which will make your foray into this tradition a bit easier and will set your kids up for what to expect in the weeks to come.

Get the Elf on the Shelf Christmas Tradition book and elf at Amazon for $32

2. A holiday-themed elf and fairy door

An elf door.
Credit: Tonttuovi

Welcome your elf in style.

Let’s be honest. An uninvited elf showing up at your home unannounced can be a little bit disconcerting—especially for a small child. This mini door is not only adorable, it’ll set some nice boundaries for your kids and the elves that keep watch on them. This one is fully holiday-themed, with a wreath, a welcome mat, sparkling garland and essential elf-sized winter accessories.

Get the Magical Door for Elf on the Shelf at Amazon for $19.90

3. Hobby-themed scenes

Elves partaking in sledding, fishing, and soccer.
Credit: Elf on the Shelf

Your elf needs some boredom busters while they're staying with you.

You may think it’s dull at the North Pole but these elves know how to have fun. Outdoor and sports-themed hobbyists at heart, they aren’t the type to grow sedentary while keeping watch of your kiddo’s behavior. This fun set will make sure they can keep up with their sledding, ice fishing and soccer-playing skills, while they’re guests in your home.

Get the Elf on the Shelf Holiday Hobbies 3-Pack at Amazon for $41.95

4. A costume set to help them get into character

Six elves in feminine outfits.
Credit: Elf on the Shelf

For some elfin couture.

Little known fact: Elves are all about fashion. This couture set will make sure your elf is on trend, whether they are ice skating or heading off to a holiday party. It also has some fun surprises like a mermaid’s tale and a shimmering flapper dress.

Get the Claus Couture 6-Outfit Mega Pack at Amazon for $69.95

5. For the outdoorsy elf

A camping elf and a lumberjack elf.
Credit: Elf on the Shelf

To help your elf bring out their inner lumberjack.

It seems the camping trend made it all the way to Santa’s Village. This setup will have your elf ready for any outdoor adventure. It comes with a camping tent, a red plaid scarf to stay cozy and a paperboard campfire and roasting sticks with marshmallows. And, if your elf’s inner lumberjack is calling, it also comes with suspenders, a manly beard, a saw, a cardboard conifer, log pile and Christmas tree farm sign.

6. A personalized prop kit

A full 24-set of elf kits in a box.
Credit: Premier Wood Studios

This elf kit can be completely customized.

If you want to have your whole month laid out for you, this kit does all the work! Just add an elf. There are options to buy 12 or 24 days of personalized antics that include props as well as suggested setups for the perfect snaps of your little visitor. You can also personalize this kit with a child’s name and the name of your scouting elf.

Get the 2021 Personalized Elf Kit at Etsy for $58

7. A full set that’s all about the mischief

An elf in mischievous scenarios.
Credit: The Happy Box Co

For the mischievous elf.

If the scout Santa sent to keep an eye on your behavior is a bit of a prankster, this is just the set to bring the laughs. Whoopie cushion and a bad report card, included. He’s not a model for “nice” behavior, but his naughty antics will certainly get some laughs!

Get the Elf Antics 2021 Elf on the Shelf Kit at Etsy for $69.99

8. A deluxe prop kit

A full 24-set of elf kits in a box.
Credit: Premier Wood Studios

This elf kit can be completely customized.

If you love mini props, set dressings and costumes, these deluxe kits are exactly what you need for 24 days of fun. This one comes with a delivery letter from Santa, a felt envelope that the Elf arrived in, and all sorts of backdrops, costumes and tiny toys for authentic-looking setups. You can even add Santa’s lost button to this package.

Get the Luxury Elf Prop Kit at Etsy for $139

9. Some elf-sized footprint stencils

Tiny flour footprints that look like elf shoes.
Credit: Little Orchard Craft

These little footprints look so authentic!

For some frosty footsteps! This stencil transforms baking flour, baking soda or confectioners sugar to make perfectly sized elf footprints. Little ones will love the magical trails they make throughout your home.
Get the Elf Footprints Stencil at Etsy for $4.41

10. Some delicious donuts

Elf-sized donuts
Credit: Wondermint Shoppe

Elves love sugary treats from Kringle Kreme.

A proper elf knows what it takes to be a good houseguest. Make sure yours arrives with some treats. May we suggest some holiday-themed donuts?

Get the Elf Holiday Donut kit at Etsy for $18

11. A comfy set, to make them feel welcome

A scarf, robe, sleeping back, glasses, scarf.
Credit: Skylety

Just the thing for an elf to kick back and relax in.

If they’re going to be spending the next few weeks at your place, it’d be rude not to give them a comfy setup for their stay. This one comes with a flannel-lined plaid sleeping bag, a fluffy robe fit for a 5-star hotel, a scarf and some reader glasses—in case they brought along a book.

Get the Elf Doll Plaid Sleeping Bag Overnight set at Amazon for $10.99

12. Some PJs to go with that sleep setup

A green pajama set and black slippers.
Credit: Tinsels Boutique

Some cozy PJs and slippers.

You’re not going to make them sleep in their work clothes, are you? These comfy, candy cane-themed pajamas and fuzzy slippers are just the way to get on the nice list.

Get the Candy Cane Elf Pajamas at Etsy for $19.99

13. Some paper crafts for set dressing

A book of ideas as well as some miniature props.
Credit: Elf on the Shelf

This book has loads of pop-out props for elfin play!

Part of the fun of the Elf on the Shelf tradition is setting your scout up in cute scenarios. This kit will get you started with all sorts of setups, including a roaring fireplace, a sweet shop and a present-wrapping station.

Get the Elves at Play Paper Crafts set at Amazon for $28.95

14. A book of inspiration

A book of ideas as well as some miniature props.
Credit: Elf on the Shelf

This book is brimming with amazing elfin ideas.

It can be hard to come up with new and innovative ideas for your elf when they’re around for at least 24 days and nights. For the days when you’re all out of ideas, this 60-page book will help inspire quick and easy scenes, to keep the fun going. It comes with 15 elf props and tools, over 135 colorful photos, and pages and pages worth of inspiration.

Get Elves at Play: Tools and Tips at Amazon for $39.95

15. A set of pre-written notes

A stack of elf-themed report cards.
Credit: SGD

This kit even comes with a report card!

A note of the day keeps the bad behavior at bay. If you’re looking to get a little behavior modification out of this tradition, look no further. This set of letters, reminders and a behavior report (to be sent back to Santa on Christmas Eve) will help keep your impish one on track.

Get the Christmas Elf Notes Santa Letter and Checklist at Amazon for $25.99

16. A simple set of behavior cards

Children holding a set of green and red cards. A stack of those cards with pencils.
Credit: Marks Park

These post card-sized behavior cards will help keep your kids on the nice list.

If you want to keep it straightforward “naughty” or “nice”, these postcard-sized cards are bright, cheerful and colorful. They don’t get into the nitty gritty, but—depending on your kid—maybe that’s a good thing.

Get the 100-pack of Naughty or Nice Elf Notes at Amazon for $14.99

17. A mailbox for North Pole correspondence

A tin elf mailbox.
Credit: Tin Box Co.

For sending off letters to Santa.

This magical mailbox takes letters to and from the North Pole nightly. It’s just right for sending off Elf reports, or getting messages back from Santa to encourage good behavior—or when a Christmas list needs immediate updating.

Get the Elf on the Shelf Magic Mailbox at Amazon for $12.99

18. A cute cookie-making set

A tiny cookie-making kit.
Credit: Chews Cutter Company

Elves LOVE baking cookies.

Everyone knows that elves love sugar and that cookie-making is one of their greatest talents. This set comes with everything they need to make Christmas confections, including cookie cutters, a tray and colorful holiday sprinkles.

Get the Elf Shenanigan Baking Set at Etsy for $12

19. For the moonlighting elf

A tiny Starbucks apron and coffee assortment.
Credit: Tinsels Boutique

For the tiny barista.

As you may have noticed, elves don’t sleep much. Word is, they are coffee addicts. If you want to get in on that morning coffee, pick up one of these sets to have your own in-home barista.

Get the Elf Barista Set at Etsy for $16.99

20. For the couch potato elf

Miniature popcorn and a red sweatshirt for the elf.
Credit: Ann's Craft House

Some buttery popcorn and a cozy sweatshirt.

These elves have been working hard all year. To be honest, they never get a day off. Set your elf up for a night off, with this chillaxing set of popcorn and a comfy sweatshirt to kick back in.

Get the Elf on the Shelf Movie Night set at Etsy for $11

21. A clever disguise for the hidden elf

An elf in a banana suit.
Credit: Lovelf Story

This will look so funny in a fruit bowl.

Part of the fun of the Elf on the Shelf is putting them in surprising places. In this hilarious outfit, they can go incognito in your fruit bowl.

Get the Elf Banana Costume at Amazon for $8.99

22. A North Pole-style twister game

A tiny Twister game set.
Credit: Tinsels Boutique

Tinsel Twist is the hot new game at the North Pole.

If your elf is looking a little stressed, help them blow off steam with a good, old-fashioned game night. Tinsel Twist is really popular north of the Arctic Circle. Gifting this game to your elf will definitely score you some points with Santa.

Get the Tinsel Twist Elf Game at Etsy for $6.99

23. Some inflatables, for relaxing

A set of tropical pool floats for drinks—or elves!
Credit: Feidiao

Perfect for a pool party.

True, these are made as floating cup holders. You know what else they hold? Elves! Turn your kitchen sink or bathtub into a pool party with these fun floaties. Invite Barbie and maybe a dinosaur or two to the fun. Your elf is going to be here for a while: it’d be rude if they weren’t at least a little bit social.

Get the 12-pack of Inflatable Tropical Cup Holders at Amazon for $9.99

24. A tool belt, for toy-building

An elf-sized tool belt.
Credit: Tinsels Boutique

They'll need their trusty tool belt.

While we do appreciate a good pool party with Barbie and friends, this Elf didn’t just come here to relax. They have some work to do! This tiny tool belt will help them get things done as Christmas Day approaches.

Get the Elfin-sized Toolbelt at Etsy for $18.99

25. A travel set and chart

An elf-sized roller bag and sleep mat.
Credit: Epic Chicken

For the smart elfin traveler.

They came a long way! This set comes with an elf-sized sleeping pad, a roller suitcase, a personalized arrival note and a chart to keep track of naughty and nice days while this elf is in town.

Get the Elf Arrival Package at Etsy for $33.75

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