As far as Christmas traditions go, Elf on the Shelf has by far the widest range of possibilities. Parents have frozen their Christmas imps in blocks of ice, waterboarded them in fish tanks, and even left them dangling over the stove while being surrounded by an army of weapon-toting toys.
And that's just the PG-13 stuff.
While there are zillions of examples of naughty (and just downright dirty) elves, it's crucial to remember the tradition's innocent nature. In 2005, author and mom Carol Aebersold released the book "The Elf on the Shelf," inspired by the story she told her twin daughters about how Santa really got his intel for his naughty-and-nice list: elves.
As her tale goes, Santa sends a scout elf to every home as his eyes and ears, reporting back to him each night from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. The book was a hit and eventually evolved into an excuse for parents to prank their kids while sprinkling in a healthy dose of Christmas magic.
But with every year comes the pressure to think of new and creative ideas to keep your elf's visits exciting and unexpected for the kiddos. From elaborate scenes to simple, playful antics, these 30 Elf on the Shelf ideas will help you keep your kids on their toes all season long.
The first day of Elf on the Shelf is always a big deal. Make a grand entrance by tying your elf to a bunch of balloons that make it look as if they're parachuting straight from the North Pole.
Elf's Day Parade
Another way to make a big entrance is by having your elf lead a parade of stuffed animals. The more toys, the merrier!
LEGO enthusiasts will love finding a mini-message written in their favorite building blocks. Use the tiny pieces to spell out their names or a festive phrase.
Get creative with a message made out of candy for your kids to wake up to. This example uses gumdrops, but you can also use other candies, such as M&Ms or Skittles.
Cookies for Breakfast
A small plate of Cookie Crisp cereal with a tiny, elf-sized spoon and cup is sure to delight your little ones in the morning. Especially when they realize that they also get to have cookies for breakfast!
Barbie Tea Party
Your elf has a pretty full social calendar this time of year. Set up a cute table with Barbies and tiny cups and saucers, and tell your kids that their elf is getting the lowdown on which kids have been naughty or nice.
Who needs a big bonfire when you can make miniature s'mores with your elf over a candle? Gather some mini marshmallows and a toothpick, and let your elf get their late-night snack on.
Toilet Papering the House
This one is a little naughty, but it's a classic. Let your elf be a little prankster and toilet paper your Christmas tree or the kids' bedrooms.
Stick some Christmas rocks — aka bows — on your wall or fridge and let your elf show off their rock climbing skills. Bonus points if you have a toy action figure they can "rescue."
A little bit of tape and a small cardboard box are all you need to turn your staircase into a sledding hill for your elf. A trio of candy canes, as seen above, is another sled option.
Let your elf go fishing in the sink with a candy cane hook and some Goldfish bait. Your kids will love seeing what they "caught" in the morning.
Take an empty toilet paper roll, thread some string through it, and you have yourself an elf swing. Hang it from a light fixture or even a doorway for a playful surprise.
Laundry Room Rollercoaster
Elves can have fun anywhere they go. And nothing is more proof of that than taping them inside your dryer for a thrilling ride. Just don't start the spin cycle.
Marshmallow Bubble Bath
Give your elf a little spa day with some mini marshmallows and the perfect tub. Toy tubs are an obvious choice, but this setup looks just as cute in the bathroom sink or even a crockpot.
Take a face mask and hang it somewhere unexpected for a cozy elf hammock. We love the chandelier idea, but any hanging light fixture or shelf will do.
Candy Cane Hunt
Set your elf up near a box of candy canes with a sign that instructs the kids to find the few that are missing. Your kids will have a blast searching for them around the house.
Paper Plane Crash Landing
In the middle of the night, your elf got the brilliant idea to ride a paper airplane through the living room. Only, that idea backfired, and they got themselves stuck in the Christmas tree.
Some snowmen are made of snow, others are made of toilet paper rolls. This bathroom setup is easy to pull off and guaranteed to make your kids giggle.
Sprinkles Snow Angels
Sprinkles can make any dessert better, but they also make for a fun elf activity. Let your elf leave tiny snow angels in a pile of sprinkles on the countertop or kitchen table.
Set up a mini photo booth with props and a camera for your elf to have some silly pictures taken. Make sure the other toys get in on the fun, too.
Potato Sack Race
Gather some small sacks or bags and set up a potato sack race for your elf and their friends. Don't forget to mark the finish line!
Toss around some packs of pink Bubble Yum and then attach an actual pink balloon to your elf's mouth to make it look as if they set the elf record for the biggest bubble blown.
Your elf wants to show the family all the different ways you can make a Christmas tree — including gumdrops! This scene will require a little hot glue to re-create, but it's well worth the effort.
Using marshmallows or cotton balls as "snowballs," your elf is ready to have a little friendly competition with their friends. Add some points on the board and let the games begin.
Show off your elf's punny side with this decorative toilet "bow." Cover your golden throne with as many bows as possible to give your kids a good laugh
Your elf has a reputation to maintain, and that includes keeping their shoes looking shiny and new. With some tin foil and a little creativity, your elf can give every shoe in the house a touch-up.
All Tangled Up
Your elf tried to help string up some Christmas lights last night, but it looks as if they may have gotten a little too tangled up in the process. Thankfully, your kids can help set them free.
Elves have to be in constant contact with Santa to give them updates on the kids' good behavior. Set up a tablet or laptop and type out a quick report for your elf to "send off" to the North Pole.
Even elves need their coffee fix. Position your elf with a Starbucks cup and a sign that says, "I like you a latte" or "Santa's little helper."
Elves can be a little mischievous — and messy. This printable target map is great for your elf to practice shooting ketchup, syrup or chocolate sauce at. This — and all of the above ideas — are sure to bring some holiday cheer to your household.
READ MORE: 30 Best Christmas Gifts Under $25
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