26 Last Minute Elf on the Shelf Ideas You Can Pull Off In Under 2 Minutes

Ready, set, go!

It happens to the best of us. As much as you might like coming up with creative scenes to stage your Elf on the Shelf, at some point, you’re probably going to be too tired to move the dang doll. And that’s when the child who has never been an early riser pops up before sunrise to search for their Elf. That’s why having some last-minute Elf on the Shelf ideas in your arsenal is so important.

Now, you might be thinking that last minute Elf on the Shelf ideas are going to be a bit… well, basic. While they might not be as elaborate as, say, crafting a plane that your Elf can ride on or covering your entire toilet in wrapping paper, they’ll still get the job done. And because they’re slightly simpler, these ideas aren’t only doable, but they won’t make you feel like you have to outdo yourself each morning. After all, it’s impossible to have a Pinterest-worthy Elf on the Shelf idea every single day. And here’s a tip for parents who aren’t totally thrilled about the whole Elf on the Shelf phenomenon — start small, because once you start introducing elaborate props and poses, your kids will expect the same effort every single morning.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you plan out your Elf on the Shelf’s antics weeks ahead or you’re just a wing it kind of Elf parent. Having some of these last-minute Elf on the Shelf ideas will take the pressure off of you and actually allow you to enjoy the magic that the adorable red doll brings to your child — and your whole family, really.


Shopping on Amazon

Jennifer Parris

Your elf likes to click and add to cart, too. If you need a quick n’ easy last minute Elf on the Shelf posing idea, plop them in front of your computer, open up your brower to Amazon or other retail site to show that they’re looking for something special for Santa Claus.


Making snow angels with sprinkles

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Sprinkle a pile of colorful Christmas sprinkles or sugars from the pantry and pose your elf to look like they are making sprinkle angels.


Sitting in your child’s car seat

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If you’re running late, try to surreptitiously get your elf outside and place them in your child’s car seat. Don’t forget to buckle them in. If you’re worried your child will be worried about not spotting the elf until they’re off to school, you can ask them to grab something you forgot (like their water bottle) from the car, or buckle them in a toy car they likely have somewhere in the house.


Stuck in a shoe

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Maybe it’s a reminder for your child to tie their shoes before heading to the bus, but sticking your elf in some sneaks can be a great way to start their day on the right (or left) foot. Make sure you remove them properly with kitchen tongs.


Crashing next to a clock

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When your kid is counting down to Christmas, perching your elf on a clock is a quick and cute last minute Elf on the Shelf idea.


Peeking out from a dresser drawer

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It’s not flashy or fancy but having your elf appear in your kid’s drawer is fast and easy, and you won’t have to worry about your kid panicking all morning if they don’t spot their elf right away.


Sitting on top of your child’s book

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Did your child actually do their math homework? When they sit on top of the textbook, only their elf will know if your kid practiced their perimeter and area equations.


Holding the remote

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Hey, your elf wants to watch TV, too. Hand over the remote so that they can watch a fun episode of a show they might not get at the North Pole, like the hilarious Bluey “Whale Watching” episode where Bandit and Chili are (ahem) hungover.


Wrapped up in holiday lights

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Your elf was trying to add extra illumination to the tree but wound up getting tangled in the lights instead. Quickly wrap your Elf on the Shelf up in some fairy lights and call it a day.


Gaming for the win

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Your kid isn’t the only one who wants to beat Bowser in Mario Cart. So let your elf have control over the controller — for once.


Playing Candy Land

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Of course, you’ll want to snag the sweetest board game for your elf to play with. When they get a double purple card, the next move will be your child’s.


Helping with the laundry

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Once you’ve washed, dried (and forgotten to fold your clothes), the laundry basket makes a sensational spot for your elf to hide at the last minute.


Tackling breakfast duty

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Traveling all night and showing up in a new spot in your house each day can make your elf truly feel like toast. Use the play on words to your advantage by toasting up two slices of bread and sandwiching your elf in between.


Taking a “bubble” bath

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Sure, some people prefer soap, but your elf likes to suds themselves up with marshmallows. Grab a medium-sized bowl and fill it with regular-sized marshmallows to look like soapy bath water, and mini marshmallows to appear as bubbles.


Getting clean with your clothes

Jennifer Parris

It might not be enough for your elf to sit idly by in a basket until your child finds them. No, your elf wants to have fun, too, which explains why they got inside the washing machine hoping for a spin… cycle. If your kids have trouble locating their elf, go ask them to grab something from the dryer to lead them in the right direction.


Running a race

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Your elf is BFFs with many of your child’s toys. Grab a few lunch bags from the pantry — disposable brown paper bags will do, and Your kid can catch their elf in an action-packed sack race and see who crosses the finish line first. If you don’t have enough bags, use socks.


Lounging in a bun

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Hot dog! Your elf was looking for something to eat when they stumbled upon this bun that is now doing double duty as a bed.


Being all ears

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Sure, Elf on the Shelf is a big deal during the holidays, but they also like to share the spotlight with other seasonal characters, too. So don’t be surprised to see your elf dressed like the Easter Bunny, even though it’s December.


Being on strike

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Let’s say that your child is quickly climbing their way up the naughty list. Have your elf hold a sign saying that they are striking until they see better behavior.


Playing a printable game

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Shall we play a game? When your elf invites your child to sit down and play bingo or a word scramble, it can be a fun time — unless the doll deliberately cheats. You can quickly print out a game from the internet, grab a couple pens, and lay everythign out on the dining table.


Taking a pic of their posterior

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Your elf wandered into your home office, found the scanner, and welp, the rest is history. If you have a printer, print out some photos of the recent “scan” or have it displayed on the computer screen.


Lying on a pillow

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Godfather fans will surely appreciate this reference to one of the most iconic scenes in the movie trilogy. When your kid asks why their elf is simply staring at them, just say that they’re (ahem) horsing around. Just make sure they’re not so close to your kid that they end up accidentally touching them because then you’ll have to restore your elf’s magic and have your work cut out for you.


Talking turkey

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Depending when your Elf makes their arrival, they can talk turkey with their buddy, Turkey on the Table.


Covered in bandages

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Getting into all sorts of predicaments can take a toll on the body. That’s why your child might find their Elf on the Shelf covered with Band-Aids. You have young children, so you surely have a stash of bandages you can quickly stick all over your elf.


Getting a cup of coffee

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Elves can’t run on sugar alone. As you’re pouring your own cup of coffee, the doll can sit next to your coffee maker to get a much-needed boost of energy for a last minute posing idea.


Lifting some weights

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You might not know it from their gangly arms and legs, but your elf likes to stay in shape. Show your kid that they prefer to pump iron in the morning by attaching two marshmallows to the end of a pretzel stick for a sweet exercise idea.

While it can be fun to come up with elaborate scenes for your child to enjoy, there’s nothing wrong with having last-minute Elf on the Shelf ideas — because running out of ideas is definitely a risk you don’t want to take.