Simple Elf on the Shelf Ideas for Toddlers

150 Simple Elf on the Shelf Ideas for Toddlers

Dive into a world of holiday enchantment with these Simple Elf on the Shelf Ideas for Toddlers that promise to keep your little ones gleefully entertained while sparking the festive magic of the season.

Welcome to the whimsical world of Elf on the Shelf, where enchantment meets everyday household fun! For parents of toddlers, the holiday season becomes even more magical with the mischievous antics of our tiny North Pole visitor. Introducing your little ones to the joy of Elf on the Shelf can be an incredibly heartwarming experience, filled with giggles, surprises, and the delight of discovery. 

In this guide, we’ll explore a treasure trove of simple and delightful Elf on the Shelf fun ideas specifically tailored for toddlers. These easy-to-execute ideas promise endless fun, keeping the holiday spirit alive and creating unforgettable memories for your little ones. This elf season, get ready to embark on a journey of wonder, laughter, and creative elf adventures that your toddlers will cherish!

What is Elf on the Shelf?

The history of Elf on the Shelf is steeped in tradition and familial storytelling. This beloved holiday tradition finds its roots in a 2004 children’s book, “The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition,” written by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell. The story revolves around magical scout elves who report to Santa each night about children’s behavior, returning to a different spot in the house each morning.

The idea behind the book was inspired by Aebersold’s own family tradition of an elf sent by Santa to watch over children. With the book’s success, it became a fun Christmas tradition for many families to adopt their own scout elves during the holiday season. The Elf on the Shelf has since become a cherished part of Christmas celebrations, offering families a whimsical way to create lasting memories and build excitement for the holiday.

How does Elf on the Shelf Work?

Elf on the Shelf operates as a festive family tradition during Christmas time. It begins with a magical storybook detailing how Santa sends scout elves to homes to watch over children and report back to the North Pole each night. These elves return to new spots every morning, engaging in playful antics while the family sleeps. Children can’t touch the elf, as doing so could make the magic disappear, but they can talk to them and share their Christmas wishes.

The elf’s nightly journeys and mischievous adventures add an element of wonder and excitement for kids as they wake up the next day to find where their little elf has landed. They return to the North Pole on Christmas Eve with a promise to return next year with new fun hiding places. 

Why Introduce an Elf to Your Family?

Participating in Elf on the Shelf has become a cherished tradition for many families, mine included, offering numerous reasons to join in on the fun during the holiday season. Here’s why families might choose to embrace this tradition:

  1. Creating Magic: It’s an enchanting way to infuse the holiday season with a touch of magic and wonder for children. The idea of a scout elf reporting to Santa encourages good behavior and adds excitement leading up to Christmas.
  2. Building Traditions: Elf on the Shelf creates enduring traditions and memorable experiences that families can look forward to each year. It’s a unique way to bond and create shared memories during the holiday season.
  3. Fostering Creativity: The daily adventures and antics of the elf spark creativity for both parents and children. It encourages imaginative play, problem-solving, and creative thinking while finding new and amusing ways to position the elf.
  4. Family Engagement: It’s an opportunity for family engagement and quality time as everyone participates in planning and enjoying the elf’s escapades. It prompts conversations and laughter, fostering a sense of togetherness.
  5. Encouraging Good Behavior: The elf’s watchful eye encourages positive behavior, reinforcing good habits and kindness. Children are incentivized to exhibit good conduct to stay on Santa’s “nice” list.
  6. Counting Down to Christmas: The anticipation of finding the elf in a new spot every morning builds excitement and contributes to the countdown to Christmas Day.
  7. Creating Traditions: Families can personalize their elf’s adventures, creating unique traditions that reflect their values, interests, and family dynamics.
  8. Holiday Spirit: Above all, Elf on the Shelf encapsulates the spirit of the season, spreading joy, laughter, and a sense of magic that makes the holidays more special for kids and adults alike.

How to Keep Elf on the Shelf Stress Free

If you scroll Instagram or Pinterest, you will surely find a LOT of elaborate scene set-ups and antics for the little elf. While seeing these ideas are fun (especially the naughty elf ideas) they are not always practical for all families. Sometimes the simple idea is the better options and is still a great way for little kids to get in the Christmas spirit. 

For busy parents, the holiday season can be hectic, but Elf on the Shelf doesn’t have to add stress to an already full schedule. Here are some ways to make the Elf on the Shelf tradition easier:

Set Realistic Expectations

You don’t need elaborate setups every night. Embrace simple ideas and don’t pressure yourself to create elaborate scenes daily. Spend a few minutes each week brainstorming easy ideas for the elf’s next moves. Jot down simple concepts to make execution smoother.

Rotate Spots

Don’t feel obligated to find a new, creative spot every night. Move the elf to different locations, but it’s okay to revisit previous spots occasionally. Encourage children to suggest ideas. This not only eases your load but also enhances their excitement.

Time-Saving Themes

Dedicate certain nights to specific themes (like movie night with the elf or hide-and-seek). Themes can simplify planning. Employ household items like cups, fruit, or stuffed animals. Simple things can be transformed into engaging elf scenes. For rushed evenings, go for quick setups like the elf sitting on a bookshelf or peeking out from behind a picture frame.

Share Ideas with Friends

Join Elf on the Shelf groups or communities to get easy and quick setup ideas. Collaborating with others can offer inspiration. On less hectic days, set up multiple elf scenes in advance to cover busier times during the week.

Don’t Stress

If a night is missed or the idea is simple, don’t stress. The magic lies in participation, not perfection. Your kids will appreciate the effort regardless. Check out these quick excuses for if your elf fails to move:

  • Frozen by Magic: Sometimes, the elf gets frozen in place by their magic when they hear any movement at night.
  • Someone was awake: The elf might not have moved because some one wasn’t sleeping or kept getting out of bed.
  • Scouting the Area: The elf could be staying put to keep an eye on things and make sure the house is secure and safe for Santa’s arrival.
  • Elf Game Night: They could have been having a fun little game night with some of the other toys or elves, which made them forget to move.
  • Watching Extra Closely: Maybe they found a super awesome spot where they could see everything, and they decided to stay there for an extra day to observe everyone’s kindness and good deeds.

Ultimate List of Simple Elf on the Shelf Ideas for Toddlers

Looking to sprinkle some magic into your holiday season without the added stress? Dive into this list of 150+ easy elf ideas perfect for busy parents and full of fun for the little ones. These simple yet creative concepts are tailored for toddlers, designed to delight without requiring hours of setup. From quick tricks to clever hideouts, each idea ensures your mischievous scout elf brings much joy and excitement to your home while keeping the holiday spirit alive in the simplest, most hassle-free way possible.

  1. Marshmallow Snow Angel: Arrange mini marshmallows in the shape of a snow angel.
  2. Elf Selfie: Elf takes selfies with toys using a toy camera or your phone.
  3. Toilet Paper Roll: Elf unrolls toilet paper roll around the bathroom.
  4. M&M Tic Tac Toe: Set up a mini tic-tac-toe (or try this Christmas Bingo!) with elf toys as participants.
  5. Lego Fun: Elf creates a tiny Lego scene.
  6. Tissue Box Tumble: Elf dives into a tissue box, scattering tissues around.
  7. Sticker Surprise: Elf leaves stickers on your toddler’s favorite toys.
  8. Paint Job: Elf draws silly faces on fruits or eggs with non-toxic markers.
  9. Fishing Fun: Elf goes “fishing” in the sink with a tiny fishing rod.
  10. String Maze: Elf creates a string maze for toys to navigate.
  11. Jenga Shenanigans: Elf tries to build a tiny Jenga tower.
  12. Doll Tea Party: Elf arranges a tea party for dolls.
  13. Toy Train Ride: Elf takes a ride on a toy train.
  14. Candy Cane Hunt: Hide candy canes around the house; elf holds a clue.
  15. Cereal Box: Elf hides inside cereal box.
  16. Paper Snowflakes: Elf makes paper snowflakes and hangs them around.
  17. Bubble Bath: Elf relaxes in a small container with bubbles.
  18. Toilet Paper Swing: Elf swings on a roll of toilet paper hung between chairs.
  19. Cotton Ball Blizzard: Scatter cotton balls around with elf in the middle.
  20. Dress-Up Time: Elf tries on doll clothes.
  21. Elf Fashion Show: Arrange different clothes on the floor like a fashion show.
  22. Balloon Fun: Elf creates a balloon display or is stuck inside a balloon.
  23. Block Tower: Elf tries to build a small tower with building blocks.
  24. Fruit Stand: Elf sets up a tiny fruit stand using plastic pretend fruit.
  25. Tiny Christmas Tree: Elf decorates a tiny tree with miniature ornaments.
  26. Puzzle Play: Elf attempts to solve a small puzzle.
  27. Christmas Tree: Elf hides in the Christmas Tree
  28. Mini Sports Game: Elf arranges a small sports game with toy balls.
  29. Elf Pets: Elf brings an “Elf Pet
  30. Surprise Egg: Elf brings regular eggs one morning with a note that says to sprinkle glitter overtop. The next day, the eggs magically transform to Kindereggs.
  31. Bath Toy Hideout: Elf hides among bath toys.
  32. Clothesline: Elf sets up a mini clothesline with doll clothes.
  33. Paper Airplane Fleet: Elf makes paper airplanes for a fleet.
  34. Crayon Art: Elf draws on a piece of paper using crayons.
  35. Bean Bag Toss: Elf sets up a bean bag toss game for toys.
  36. Book Pile Reading: Elf arranges books for a reading session.
  37. Hide and Seek: Elf hides in an unexpected spot for your toddler to find.
  38. Hangs from a Light: Elf hangs from a light fixture.
  39. Inside a Wreath: Elf sits inside a Christmas wreath.
  40. Painting Party: Elf creates a tiny painting on paper.
  41. Toy Slide: Elf slides down a toy slide or banister.
  42. Spiderweb: Use yarn to create a mini spiderweb for the elf.
  43. Lunchbox Snack: Elf arranges tiny snacks in a lunchbox.
  44. Bathroom Art: Elf draws on the mirror using washable markers or writes a reminder to “brush your teeth”
  45. Elf Sleepover: Elf uses socks to have a sleepover with other dolls/toys.
  46. Toy Car Race: Elf arranges a toy car race on a track.
  47. Toy Movie Night: Elf sets up a tiny movie night for toys.
  48. Snowball Fight: Elf throws cotton balls or crumpled paper around.
  49. Picnic Party: Elf arranges a tiny picnic with doll-sized food.
  50. Superhero Stunts: Elf tries superhero poses using small toys.
  51. Mini Obstacle Course: Elf creates a tiny obstacle course.
  52. Bubble Wrap Pop: Elf jumps on bubble wrap for fun.
  53. Crafting Corner: Elf tries to make a small craft.
  54. Inside Lamp Shade: Elf hangs inside a lamp shade.
  55. Scavenger Hunt: Elf leaves clues around the house for a scavenger hunt.
  56. Doll Concert: Elf arranges a concert with toy instruments.
  57. Ladder Climb: Elf climbs a small ladder or step stool.
  58. Tiny Sandwich Making: Elf creates tiny sandwiches with play food.
  59. Inside Fridge: Elf hides inside fridge (can wrap up in a washcloth for warmth).
  60. Pillow Fort: Elf creates a tiny fort with pillows.
  61. Tent Time: Elf camps out in a tiny tent made of fabric or paper.
  62. Mini Pizza Party: Elf arranges a pizza party with toy pizzas or gummy pizzas.
  63. Masked Elf: Elf wears a tiny mask and cape.
  64. Toy Boat Race: Elf sets up a boat race in a sink or bathtub.
  65. Tape Maze: Elf creates a maze on the floor using tape.
  66. Puppet Show: Elf puts on a puppet show with finger puppets.
  67. Toy Bowling: Elf sets up a mini bowling alley with toys.
  68. Toy Parade: Elf arranges a parade with toy figurines.
  69. Sandcastle Build: Elf uses kinetic sand to build a small castle.
  70. Tissue Box Slide: Elf slides down a tissue box “slide.”
  71. Candy Cane Garden: Elf prompts kid to plant a peppermint, the next day it turns into a Candy Cane.
  72. Inside Stocking: Elf peaks out of a stocking.
  73. Broomstick Ride: Elf rides a toy broomstick.
  74. Hot Cocoa: Elf holds mug with hot cocoa mix
  75. Gingerbread House Making: Elf arranges cookie ingredients and gingerbread house supplies.
  76. Train Conductor: Elf becomes the conductor of a Shoe-Shoe train (line up kids shoes)
  77. Puzzle Pieces: Elf arranges puzzle pieces in a fun pattern.
  78. Baking Fun: Elf “bakes” using toy cooking utensils.
  79. Hides in Car: Elf hangs from the rearview mirror.
  80. Toy Swimming Pool: Elf takes a dip in a tiny container filled with water.
  81. Stacking Cups: Elf arranges stacking cups in a pyramid.
  82. Toy Castle Building: Elf constructs a tiny castle with building blocks.
  83. Hides in Pantry: Elf hides in pantry among snacks.
  84. Miniature Art Gallery: Elf displays tiny pieces of art on a wall.
  85. Playing Cards: Elf plays game of cards with other toys.
  86. Takes Photo Sleeping: Elf makes a polaroid picture with kid sleeping.
  87. Hide Behind Presents: Elf hides behind presents under the tree.
  88. Ornament Craft: Elf constructs an ornament with craft sticks.
  89. In a Jar: Elf hides in a jar so a kid can carry them around.
  90. Pool Noodle Slide: Elf slides down a mini pool noodle “slide.”
  91. Caught in Blinds: Elf gets stuck in the blinds.
  92. Letter to Santa: Elf prompts kid to write or draw a letter to Santa.
  93. In a Flower Arrangement: Elf hides inside a flower arrangement.
  94. Toy Hospital: Elf plays “doctor” with doll toys.
  95. Tape Roadway: Elf creates a roadway using masking tape.
  96. Paper Plate Toss: Elf plays a ring toss game with paper plates.
  97. Balloon Volleyball: Elf plays a pretend game of balloon volleyball or Keepy Uppy if you have Bluey fans.
  98. Popsicle Stick House: Elf constructs a house with popsicle sticks.
  99. Bubble Wand Fun: Elf holds a tiny bubble wand.
  100. Feather Tic-Tac-Toe: Elf plays tic-tac-toe with marshmallows.
  101. Hides in Coat: Elf peaks out of coat pocket.
  102. Mini Play-Dough Sculptures: Elf sculpts mini play-dough figures.
  103. Rubber Band Loom: Elf weaves rubber band bracelets.
  104. Rock Garden: Elf arranges painted rocks in a garden setting.
  105. Spaghetti Sensory Play: Elf plays with cooked spaghetti.
  106. Toy Car Wash: Elf sets up a toy car wash
  107. Puzzle Mat: Elf arranges puzzle pieces to form a play mat.
  108. Rainbow Painting: Elf draws a rainbow using crayons.
  109. Balloon Rocket Launch: Elf creates a rocket with balloons.
  110. Silly String Fun: Elf sprays silly string around.
  111. Giant Paper Clip Sculptures: Elf constructs sculptures with giant paper clips.
  112. Ribbon Obstacle Course: Elf sets up a ribbon obstacle for toy cars.
  113. Cotton Ball Basketball: Elf plays a tiny basketball game with cotton balls.
  114. Jingle Belles: Elf zip ties jingle bells to the kid’s shoes.
  115. Felt Tree Decorating: Elf decorates a felt Christmas tree.
  116. Puzzle Box Hideout: Elf hides inside a puzzle box.
  117. Mini Foam Block Tower: Elf builds a tower with foam blocks.
  118. Fake Snow Powder: Elf brings fake snow powder
  119. Doll Laundry Day: Elf does “laundry” with doll clothes.
  120. Button Sorting: Elf sorts buttons into different piles.
  121. Pipe Cleaner Sculptures: Elf creates sculptures with pipe cleaners.
  122. Candy Maze: Elf arranges candy or chocolate chips into a maze.
  123. Pasta Jewelry Making: Elf makes jewelry using pasta shapes.
  124. Sponge Sailboats: Elf creates sailboats with kitchen sponges.
  125. Bead Threading: Elf threads beads onto a string.
  126. Doll Hair Salon: Elf styles doll hair with mini hair accessories.
  127. Crayon Art Gallery: Elf displays drawings on a mini “art gallery” wall.
  128. Ribbon Weaving: Elf weaves ribbons through a wire grid.
  129. Sticker Mosaic: Elf creates a mosaic using stickers.
  130. Rock Painting: Elf paints rocks with vibrant colors.
  131. Felt Tic-Tac-Toe: Elf plays tic-tac-toe with felt pieces.
  132. Spoon Puppet Show: Elf puts on a puppet show with spoons.
  133. Tiny Sandbox: Elf plays in a small sandbox with toy tools.
  134. Ice Cube Play: Elf plays with ice cubes in a bowl.
  135. Cookie Cutter Shapes: Elf arranges cookie cutters into shapes.
  136. Bottle Cap Game: Elf plays a game using bottle caps.
  137. Cardboard Box Castle: Elf builds a castle with cardboard boxes.
  138. Rubber Band Canvas: Elf creates art on a canvas using rubber bands.
  139. Spaghetti Sculpture: Elf creates sculptures with cooked spaghetti.
  140. Lacing Card Animals: Elf laces strings through card animals.
  141. Pom-Pom Patterns: Elf arranges colorful pom-poms in patterns.
  142. Craft Stick Puppets: Elf creates puppets with craft sticks.
  143. Ribbon Painting: Elf paints using ribbons dipped in paint.
  144. String Maze Puzzle: Elf creates a string maze puzzle.
  145. Feather Sorting: Elf sorts feathers into different colors.
  146. Sponge Stamp Art: Elf creates art using sponges as stamps.
  147. Puzzle Building: Elf works on a small jigsaw puzzle.
  148. Balloon Animal Zoo: Elf creates balloon animals with balloons.
  149. Cardboard Tube Construction: Elf builds structures with cardboard tubes.
  150. Play-Dough Bakery: Elf creates pretend pastries with play-dough.

Simple Elf on the Shelf Ideas for Toddlers

This cherished tradition brings enchantment to homes and endless smiles to little ones’ faces each December morning. Remember, it’s not about elaborate scenes or grand gestures but about the sheer delight and wonder it brings to children. I hope these Simple Elf on the Shelf Ideas for Toddlers help make your Christmas season more magical.

Embrace the simplicity, relish the creativity, and cherish the moments this tradition creates, making the countdown to Christmas an enchanting experience filled with laughter, surprise, and treasured memories for years to come. Happy elfing!

Get inspired with these additional Elf on the Shelf ideas!


  • Kayla Peloquin

    A blogger, Social Media Specialist and digital influencer, Kayla is the founder and driving force behind, a blog designed to provide party planning ideas, family travel tips, and fun DIY projects with her Millennial 'Girl Mom' audience. She has partnered with several brands, a few favorites include Walt Disney World, Google, Coca-Cola, Carters and LEGOLAND Florida. This venture perfectly fits her current lifestyle with two young daughters.

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