Elf on the Shelf is taking over your home this Christmas?! Don’t worry, we’ve been there and survived this mischievous Christmas tradition. We have all the ideas you can possibly need to keep your Elf busy this holiday. Nothing is more fun than watching your kids get up and scatter excitedly through the house looking for your family Elf on the Shelf.

What is elf on the shelf? Everything you need to know with lots of ideas. Graphic of elf sitting on a shelf - from Kids Activities Blog
What is Elf on the Shelf? We’ve got everything you need to know and Loads of Free ideas to last all holiday season!

This article contains some affiliate links for your convenience. But most of our resources are free!

What is Elf on the Shelf?

Elf on the Shelf will provide you with years of endless Christmas joy, tons of fun for your kids, and a little terror as a parent when you realize you forgot to move that little bugger. When you adopt an Elf on the Shelf, you are adopting a magical friend who helps Santa prepare for Christmas.

You can even register your Elf on the Shelf and get official adoption papers!

Each night, after everyone is asleep, your Elf on the Shelf will report back to Santa about your holiday spirit, Christmas activities, and your well-behaved kids (nobody wants to be on the Naughty List!) Your Elf on the Shelf can also bring messages back to Santa for special wishes! After reporting back to Santa, your Elf will return to your home to take up his post for the next day – making lots of mischief along the way.

What are the Rules for Elf on the Shelf?

There are a few important rules to know about your Elf on the Shelf!

  • NO TOUCHING! If you touch your Elf on the Shelf it uses up all his Christmas magic!
  • Your Elf can’t talk, but he’s a great listener!
  • Your Elf must return to the North Pole on Christmas Eve to help Santa get ready for the next Christmas season.

We have interpreted these rules a little over the years to help our family Elf stay out of trouble.

elf on the shelf in a sink full of marshmallows. - tons of free elf ideas from kids activities blog
Neef Free Elf Ideas? We’ve got them all!

When Does Elf on the Shelf Come Every Year?

The good news is that every Elf on the Shelf is different. Just like every kid is different. Some elves like to come right after Thanksgiving, and some elves wait until December 1st. As long as your Elf on the Shelf arrives sometime between Thanksgiving and the beginning of December, he’s right on time!

If your kids are super eager for the elf to come. Or they don’t understand why a friend’s elf comes sooner than theirs, remind them that the elves all have different jobs in the North Pole. Some help Santa answer letters, some take care of the reindeer, and some pack the sleigh. So your family elf will be there as soon as his work in the North Pole is done!

Oh No! I Touched the Elf! How Do I Restore His Magic?

It is time to channel your inner Buddy the Elf! Sing a Christmas carol loud for all to hear!

Seriously, grab the whole family, you’ll need everyone to bring your elf’s Christmas magic back, but you can do it! If your elf is still without his magic, sprinkle a little cinnamon beside him on the way to bed. It is like medicine for elves. That will fix him right up!

I forgot to Move My Elf!

If you want to make this Elf on the Shelf Season a little easier, go print out the 31 days of Elf Calendar. It will tell you what to do for the whole month so you don’t have to think too hard about it! You can get it digitally or print it if you are worried your kids might find it.

But if you forget to move your elf, know it has happened to the best of us! What to do when you forget to move your Elf on the Shelf? First, don’t panic! There are plenty of reasons your elf is in the same spot!! These are my favorites:

  • The elf must have been coming back at the last minute and heard someone moving around. He had to jump back in the same spot so nobody saw him moving.
  • He ate too many cookies at the North Pole when reporting back to Santa and now he has a tummy ache.
  • Did someone touch the elf?! Maybe his magic is low! Time for Christmas carols to give his magic a boost!
elf on the shelf getting into mischief - kids activities blog
Every Elf is Different! Do you have a mischievous Elf or a sweet Elf?

Elf on the Shelf Coloring Pages

This is the cutest Elf on the Shelf Coloring Page! It comes with a small version of the coloring page for your Elf to color too. Want to do something special for your kids? Have your elf color and sign his tiny page and leave the kid-sized pages out with new crayons for your kids to color the next day!

Your elf wants to color with your kids too! Print out this cute Elf on the Shelf Coloring Book for the elf and your kids to enjoy!

Elf on the Shelf Ideas – Enough Elf Shenanigans for the Whole Season!

Brace yourself! We have a lot of Elf on the Shelf ideas to share!

efl on the shelf playing school with a free printable prop - kids activities blog
We have all you need to know about Elf on the Shelf! Including enough Free Elf Ideas to get you all the way Through Christmas!

More Elf on the Shelf Ideas (Told You we had a LOT!)

elf on the shelf with lots of wrapped Christmas packages - kids activities blog

So Many Elf Ideas! (Have You Noticed Most are FREE!)

Elf on the Shelf Recipes

  • Elf on the Shelf loves to share his favorite recipes! Print out these mini recipe cards for Elf Kindness Cookies so your elf can share his favorite Christmas cookie recipe. You can actually make the cookies together the next day! <— free printable recipe cards!
  • Nothing is better than snuggling up with a cup of hot cocoa! Your elf is sharing his favorite cocoa recipes. Set up your elf with the printable recipe cards and a hot cocoa bar for a morning Christmas treat with your family. <— free printable recipe cards.

Fun Elf on the Shelf Products to Try

Elf on the Shelf is such a fun tradition for the Christmas holiday. We’re sharing a few of the products we have in our own home that you might like too.

Countdown to Christmas with this Elf on the Shelf Advent Calendar. There are so many cute surprises for every day!

elf on the shelf advent calendar for kids during Christmas holiday - kids activities blog

Pancake breakfast is extra special with this Elf on the Shelf Pancake Skillet Set!

elf on the shelf pancake skillet set with pancake mix or christmas holiday - kids activities blog

Does your elf like to bring little treats? These Elf on the Shelf Cake Bites are delicious, individually wrapped, and have a space for your family elf to leave a little message for your kids.

elf on the shelf cake bites for a special Christmas treat for kids.- kids activities blog

This Elf on the Shelf Magic Portal Door is literally the greatest idea ever! It is a magic portal where your Elf can travel back and forth to the North Pole to report to Santa every night!

Elf on the shelf magic portal to the North pole for Christmas for kids - Kids activities blog

Elf on the Shelf Activities for the Whole Family

Does your family like puzzles? I love them and my kids tolerate them but they always show up around Christmas time for family games and puzzles. This Elf on the Shelf puzzle pack is perfect for younger kids too since there are 4 puzzles included and only have 100 pieces each.

elf on the shelf puzzle pack for christmas - kids activities blog

Our whole family loves games! We have regular games nights that include all sorts of card games and board games. But this Elf on the Shelf card game always appears during the holidays. It is perfect for younger kids.

elf on the shelf card and dice game for the Christmas holiday - Kids Activities Blog

Elf on the Shelf Movies, Shows, and Videos To Watch

Did you know Elf on the Shelf has his own YouTube Channel? There are lots of videos, songs, and shorts with Elf on the Shelf and all of his friends!

Elf on the Shelf has his own movie called “An Elf’s Story.” You can stream it for free if you have Netflix or Apple TV. Or you can watch on other streaming services like Prime Video for a small fee. Or you can grab the DVD of “An Elf’s Story!”

cover art of the elf on the shelf movie - kids activities blog

Need More Elf on the Shelf Ideas?

Is your Elf on the Shelf always getting into trouble? These funny Elf on the Shelf ideas are for the family that loves a little mess, a smidge of trouble, and some occasional toilet humor (literally!)

Also, check out these 85 Elf on the Shelf ideas. And these 40 Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas too!

Feel like you messed up with the Elf this year? You will never mess up as badly as these parents — and it is hysterical!

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  1. I’ve come across various adaptations of the elf. It’s hard to really know what is elf on the shelf?! I like that you’ve provided lots of information and ideas on the topic, clearing things up for me!

  2. This is such a hectic time of year! Struggling to find elf ideas is not something I want to add to my list of things to do. Thanks for making things a bit easier with all of these ideas and resources!

  3. I love all the “what is elf on the shelf” rules being in one place. I never know how to give him his power back if someone touched him!

  4. I love that you include a quick recap of the important Elf Rules along with these elf ideas! I’ll never forget the Christmas that my kiddo touched the elf… luckily there was a special exception granted by Santa that saved the day, but it was touch and go for awhile! LOL!

  5. Our family’s elf must be really busy (or just lazy, LOL!) because she is forever stumped. I love all of the background information and elf ideas that his article offers! I am going to print some of these ideas out and leave them next to her as a little hint, moving forward 😉

  6. What is elf on the shelf? A whole world of imaginative, engaging fun if you ask me! Thank you for this adorable and helpful article.

  7. I am always looking for more elf ideas. I love the excuses for those mornings you forgot to move it. These are great, and I think all the printables are so fun and easy!