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Elf on the Shelf ideas for Christmas 2023

It's the moment children have been waiting for - and as parents you may have been dreading - the festive army of elves are back and pitching up on a shelf near you.

Fast becoming a treasured tradition for lots of families, scout elves are positioned in homes throughout December to report back to Father Christmas about the nice and not-so-nice behaviour they witness as well as causing some minor mischief of their own when backs are turned - so what havoc might Santa's squatters cause this year?

Hundreds of elves are getting ready to arrive from December 1. Credit: iStock/Joannakaczuk.
Hundreds of elves are getting ready to arrive from December 1. Credit: iStock/Joannakaczuk.

1. I'm back!

Every elf likes to make an entrance in the first few days. Arrival messages in toothpaste, flour, lipstick, chocolate spread, strewn sprinkles or any other smear-able material will make for an arrival of sugar-high proportions. They might even top it off with an icing sugar snow angel - just for some added mess!

2. A season for giving

Alongside checking-in on children's behaviour, elves like to encourage kindness and what better time than the season of giving. Before the kids get an influx of new toys perhaps your elf, with the help of an empty box, could encourage them to donate a handful of things they no longer play with to a charity of their choice or suggest they help take some items to their nearest foodbank donation point? Advent calendars, sweet treats and nice toiletries are particularly welcome in late November and early December while many food banks also run reverse advent schemes or collections of festive hampers too.

The elves like to encourage children to donate where they can. Image: iStock.
The elves like to encourage children to donate where they can. Image: iStock.

3. Ride the shoe train

Parents hate mess in the run up to Christmas and one thing guaranteed to make them angry is an emptied shoe cupboard as the elves, and the rest of the toys, snake their way around the living room in a train of the family's shoes.

4. Marker mayhem

The elves love a marker pen! If you leave any pens lying around be prepared for funny faces on bananas, eggs or the front cover of mum's new magazine. And if there's any 'googly eyes' in a craft box, watch that they don't appear over the eyes of granny in the framed family photograph.

5. North Pole breakfast

The elves can go to town on the weekend! If your family is lucky, they'll perhaps bring a mountain of sugar and sweet treats from the North Pole for a special breakfast. Think pancakes, waffles, marshmallows, all the sugary cereal they're often not allowed, hot chocolate, syrup, sprinkles and even the odd candy cane thrown in for good measure. What a treat!

6. Tree decorating

An elf likes to help - or hinder! Be prepared to find them raiding socks and underwear drawers in search of unusual decorations for your Christmas tree. Despite the chaos the kids will love to see their school vests or a pair of a parent’s pants hanging from the the tree like icicles!

They can be help and a hindrance! Image: iStock/DSharma90.
They can be help and a hindrance! Image: iStock/DSharma90.

7. Elf zip lines

Elves can be adrenaline junkies. A piece of string or wool strung across the house, together with a candy cane to hang on, makes the perfect elf-sized zip line across the living room.

8. On your marks, get set, go!

Watch those toy cars and trucks parked up nicely at night. A midnight grand-prix down the hallway and around the kitchen against the other toys, brings out an elf’s competitive streak.

9. King of the gingerbread

Elves love sugary treats. It also means they come armed with the very best festive recipes. Elves often make a quick dash back to the North Pole to collect some recipes and ingredients for a quick weekend baking session. Be it Christmas cupcakes, gingerbread or just a humble digestive decorated with some coloured icing and sweets, kids and elves love a chance to throw ingredients around in the kitchen.

Elves enjoy weekend baking. Image: iStock.
Elves enjoy weekend baking. Image: iStock.

10. Snow scene from home

It's not unusual for tiny elves to get homesick. With a few white towels, toilet paper, kitchen paper and cotton wool the elves are able to recreate a snowy scene to make them feel right at home of an evening.

11.That's a wrap

Their experience at the North Pole makes elves expert wrappers. The kids love to find the contents of their lunch box, mid-morning fruit snack, school books or water bottle wrapped in Christmas paper when they arrive at school and open their bag.

12.Write a letter to Santa

If the kids haven't yet written a letter to the big man - the elves are brilliant at encouraging them to put pen to paper nicely. If they come armed one morning with a few pieces of paper, or stickers to decorate, writing to Father Christmas can become quite the occasion and a nice festive activity for everyone, particularly on a rainy day.

The elves can report back to Santa about the children they visit. Image: iStock.
The elves can report back to Santa about the children they visit. Image: iStock.

13. Christmas karaoke

If you're having trouble tracking down the festive tunes - rest assured your elf soon will. Armed with headphones, a Christmas CD or the lyrics for the school carol service, be prepared to come down and find that your elf has had quite the late-night party listening to anything from Wham to Bing Crosby.

14. Get snappy

We all – parents and kids – leave our phones and tablets lying around. But the elves do enjoy putting themselves in front of the camera so be careful with devices, you might come down in the morning to find the elves have filled your camera or tablet roll with tens of selfies taken around the house after dark!

15. Festive film fest

Watch that unopened bag of popcorn you had in the cupboard - when the kids go to bed those elves will be raiding the cupboards and settling down with the remote for some festive viewing and running a movie night for all the toys.

You're likely to find the crumbs from unfinished sweets, popcorn and crisps across the carpet by the television and a remote missing as they enjoy Elf, Home Alone or Arthur Christmas.

16. Prepare for landing

Making paper aeroplanes is a popular pastime for the elves when the kids have gone to bed. Expect to find the planes on bookshelves, in the Christmas tree, on tops of photo frames and coming into land with a runway of fairylights along the carpet.

Tiny visiting elves are becoming a popular tradition. Image: iStock/Cindy Shebley.
Tiny visiting elves are becoming a popular tradition. Image: iStock/Cindy Shebley.

17. Snowflake city

Left alone with some scraps of paper and a pair of scissors and your living room will soon look like the North Pole when the elf gets to work. Think Will Ferrell in Elf when he decorates the department store after it closes.

18. Fun in the tub

Just like small children - every little elf needs a bath. A sink or bowl full of mini-marshmallows or small white balloons make for the perfect elf-sized spa for a soak. And don't forget to leave them out some shower gel and a rubber duck too!

19. Do you want to build a snowman?

If your town is distinctly lacking in some real snow be prepared for a few rolls of toilet paper to go missing overnight as the elves attempt to build their frozen friends. Stacking the rolls and adding black pen and orange paper for buttons and noses make more than suitable substitutes for company.

20. A toy ambush

If the other dolls and toys are getting fed up of the elf's mischievous ways or feel like they missed an invite to the karaoke or Christmas movie night - all it takes is a few well-built LEGO men with a vehicle and some string to tie up the elf, load him on like a roof box and cart him off in revenge.

Elves have a very sweet tooth!
Elves have a very sweet tooth!

21. Food and fridge forages

When the sugar craving gets too much you will find your elf foraging in your kitchen for food. You might find him attempting to knock over an open cereal box, knee deep in the biscuit tin, with his hands in the Christmas chocolates or his face in the chocolate spread jar. Either way you’re likely to find him face planting all the treats the kids aren’t allowed without permission!

22. Sweet dreams

Every elf needs a place to rest their head. You may often come downstairs in the morning to find your elf asleep in the kids' dolls house, a shoe box, a tissue box (still with the tissues inside for some extra comfy bedding), a Christmas-looking tea towel or oven glove from the kitchen or in the style of Goldilocks - sound asleep inside a small child's shoe - having discovered that mummy and daddy's shoes were neither the right size or comfortable enough for a good night's rest.

They're not adverse to roping in a teddy for a Christmas-themed bedtime story either. The Night Before Christmas is a firm favourite when it comes to their top choices.

23. Embrace the toilet humour

As parents it often makes us cringe but the kids love it - and every good elf knows the kids do too! A popular pastime of the elves is to encourage a visit from Santa's reindeer who aren't' adverse to leaving their poop - in the form of chocolate chips or chocolate-covered raisins - behind.

Have you got a cheeky elf?
Have you got a cheeky elf?

24. Paper pranks

Elves know that the inside tube of a toilet paper or kitchen roll makes a great zorb or toboggan. Don't be surprised to find your elf wedged inside the cardboard that has been launched out of the bathroom and down the stairs at speed - leaving a trail of paper in its wake.

25. Rocking around the Christmas tree

Sometimes the elf likes to turn up the volume on his night time antics - and an impromptu music set is often the way to go. Upturned tins of food in the back of the cupboard - and a couple of tea spoons - make for the ideal drum kit to enable the pint-sized pixie to rock out to an enthralled audience of dolls and soft toys.

26. Anyone for mini golf?

Elves love a game of mini golf - North Pole style. They prefer to use candy canes for golf clubs and miniature marshmallows or small sweets for their golf balls.

The elves will soon start appearing in people’s homes!
The elves will soon start appearing in people’s homes!

27. I'm an elf get me out of here....

There's no need to travel to the Australian bush to have your own eating trials this Christmas. A small pack of jelly worms is enough to let the elf try their own mouth-watering challenge.

28. A festive trail

They might decide to hide the advent calendars one night or arrive with the family’s tickets to a pantomime, Santa's grotto or a surprise festive outing to see the best Christmas lights in your town. A festive treasure hunt with a house map and clues will lead you and the children back to what you've lost and can be a fun weekend activity for all the family. A few chocolate coins along the floor from the kids' bedrooms to start the trail can go down a treat too.

29. An elf on the shelf suitable goodbye

They might borrow Barbie's car or a truck from the toy cupboard to move their belongings, leave behind a Christmas Eve box with new pyjamas or chocolate treats or could even spell out 'see you next year' in magnetic letters, on a chalk board, or with sweets on the kitchen worktop.

It's not unknown for them to even leave a postcard as they prepare for a post-Christmas holiday and a well earned rest after Christmas morning.

But however your elf disembarks the night before Christmas it's usually memorable. After all, it's more than 300 days until you'll set eyes on them again!

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