This post is written in partnership with Oriental Trading. I received free product to facilitate my post. Opinions are my own.

Every year, my kids eagerly anticipate the arrival of our Elf on the Shelf. “Fred” typically arrives a few days after Thanksgiving. The first few days, I’m usually gung-ho and excited to dream up scenes and situations for Fred to be in when the kids wake up. And then….I get lazy  busy.

And, I may or may not have woken up in a panic at 3 am because I’ve forgotten to move the elf. I’ve also wandered aimlessly around the house, hoping a creative hiding place will “come to me.” And yes, I’ve searched Pinterest for ideas only to walk away feeling like a fuddy-duddy for not wanting to make a giant mess all in the name of “the elf.”

Here’s the thing – your elf doesn’t need to be “magical” to be fun for your kids. It’s more than okay to simply have your elf be in a different spot around the house each morning. If you’re into setting up battle scenes, or having your elf do snow angels in flour on your kitchen counter – strap on your jingle bells and have a merry time! But, if you find yourself just longing for some EASY elf ideas – I’m with you!

I wanted to compile a list of SIMPLE Elf on the Shelf ideas that even the busiest parent can pull off.

Cup Stack

I’d seen a few variations on an Elf cup stack – and loved the idea, but also inwardly groaned at the thought of wasting a whole pack of Red Solo cups. I found these ADORABLE Holiday Tumblers from Oriental Trading (there is SO much cute Christmas stuff at Oriental Trading!!), and loved that I could pull off the cup stack with cups we can use from year to year!


Hide and Seek

One of my “go-to” Elf ideas is a fun hiding spot. Like I said, sometimes a fun morning game of “Hide and Seek” is all you need.

  • Inside the Christmas tree!

  • Peeking into the stockings

  • Sitting inside the wreath
  • In the fridge! (The kids always think this one is hilarious!)
  • Visiting the Nativity Scene

  • Hanging from an overhead light or ceiling fan
  • Sitting inside a potted plant


Small Gift

You can have your elf present your kid(s) with a Christmas candy or a small toy. They’ll love it – and you won’t have to think of anywhere to put your elf! Some of my favorite ideas include:

  • Advent Calendars (Boom! Your elf duties for December 1st are done!)

  • Elf on the Shelf Giant Candy Canes (Want to get fancy? Hide the candy canes and have the “elf” leave a note telling the kids he/she hid each of them a treat!)

  • Elf on the Shelf Chocolates (These are great to use after a day where they’ve had especially good behavior, showed kindness etc. Leave them with a “Great Job! I’m Proud of you!” note from the elf. =)



TP the Tree

This doesn’t take a lot of effort, and your kids will think it’s funny.

Elf Donuts

Confession: I like donuts….probably an unnatural amount. I’ll use any excuse to have them for breakfast. I picked up a pack of “human size donuts” and then threw some Cheerios dipped in powdered sugar on a plate. Easy peasy – AND you get to eat donuts.


EASY “Scenes” 

  • Have the Elf be “driving” your child’s Barbie car
  • Have the Elf be reading a stack of Christmas books (that you can read together later that day!)
  • Give your elf a “sick day.” Put the Elf under a small blanket and wad up some tissues next to him/her.
  • Draw mustaches on the glass of a framed family photo (with an expo/dry erase marker!) and have your Elf holding the pen.
  • Put your Elf next to the cookie jar/package of cookies and make some cookie crumbs around the Elf/on the Elf (my kids always think this is so funny!)

Have FUN doing Elf on the Shelf this year, and remember that it does NOT need to be elaborate or “Pinteresty” to be magical for your kids! Happy hiding!