Elf on the Shelf: Fun ideas and Service ideas

I LOVE Christmas time. When I grew up holidays were a big deal, and I have a bunch of fun family traditions that are close to my heart.  I have so many fond memories of our Christmas traditions like caroling around the neighborhood, eating homemade jam on muffins for breakfast from my grandma’s special recipe, and getting new pj’s to wear to bed on Christmas Eve. It is so special to pass on these traditions to my kids now. Being a mom is so fun, especially around holidays! Halli is still really little but I love watching Hayden totally invested into the magic and spirit of Christmas.

We started the Elf on the Shelf tradition last year. To say Hayden loved it would be an understatement. He loved reading the book a hundred times, and was so excited to see where our Elf was and what he was up to. I knew it would be a tradition we would keep. You can get your own Elf on Amazon HERE!


Hayden has already been asking about our Elf and is excited for when he comes to our house. I had no idea what a hot topic that little Elf was. People have PASSIONATE opinions about it. I know a silly and somewhat creepy looking elf isn’t a NEED to have Christmas magic. Kids are only kids for a little while. While my babies are little I love taking a little extra time to make a fun memory for them. So I get it, if the Elf on the Shelf isn’t a tradition doesn’t work for your family that’s great. I have a lot of fun things planned for our Elf this year… with a few guidelines.

  1. Our Elf is NOT naughty. Let’s be honest… I do not want to be cleaning up a trashed bathroom or any other mess that our “Elf” created.  Also the Elf is supposed to be watching for all the good and nice things my kids do. How unfair is it that my kids are encouraged to be good but that Elf gets to run wild when we all go to bed?
  2. Most things I have planned for our Elf take very little time to put together or it is something I would do anyway (like making surprise cookies for a little snack the next day). I do NOT have time or the energy to be making outrageous scenarios for our Elf to do. Sometimes small and simple things are the most meaningful.
  3. Nothing is expensive. Anything I plan for our Elf is cheap or free. I love free fun!
  4. I don’t reference our Elf to help my kids have good behavior.  Hayden just knows he watches for good behavior, but I don’t use our Elf to parent, help discipline, or bribe in any way. It is just a fun tradition.
  5. Along with the fun and silly things our Elf does this year, I am going to have our Elf occasionally bring service opportunities and ideas.  Do you need an Elf to serve and get into the true Christmas Spirit?  No, but is it a fun way for my kids to remember that Christmas isn’t all about the getting but Christmas is about giving? Yes. This is true for anything. I swear Hayden didn’t totally understand that he should go potty right away until he heard Daniel Tiger sing that potty song. “If you have to go potty stop and go right away. Flush and wash and be on your way!” ….Thanks Daniel Tiger…Thanks.

Eventually my kids will outgrow our Elf, but I will still have him on display to help remind us of all the fun times we had. We have many different Christmas traditions. Some revolve around Santa and that fun, magical side. Others revolve around the true meaning and the reason for the season, the birth of our Savior. We hang a white stocking for Jesus and fill it with gifts we can give him (service, love one another, being honest, etc.). We put out multiple nativity scenes and we read The Christmas Story. We have advent Calendars, watch Christmas movies, and go to Christmas parties.

When I have opportunities to teach my kids, I think it is important to maintain a balance. I believe I can teach my kids about the magic of Christmas with Santa, elves, and reindeer WHILE teaching about the birth of the Savior, kindness and service. I try to teach those lessons all year long and Christmas time gives us a great opportunity to drive those messages home.

I love this quote about Santa, and the true meaning of Christmas: “No one can measure the effect of an unselfish act of kindness. By small, simple things great things do indeed come to pass. Of course, gifts given and gifts received make Christmas special. For many children Christmas Eve is a very long night as they look forward with eager anticipation to gifts Santa brings, which is why children love Santa Claus. Let me share what someone once said about Santa Claus: First of all, he’s a joyous individual… Next, Santa Claus is interested in making others happy. He increases the happy moments in the life of everyone he meets. He loves his work; he gets fun out of his job. He is childlike, simple, humble, sincere, and forgiving. Finally, he is a giver. His philosophy is to give himself away in service. He is a friend to everyone. He smiles. Perhaps you and I could attain greater happiness if we emulated Santa Claus a little more, for his way is the way of the infant Jesus.” ~James E. Faust

Elf on the Shelf Ideas on momspotted.com

I hope these ideas help you and your family make fun memories with your Elf on the Shelf. I made a list so you can have some options or maybe they will spark some other ideas that will work better for your family. There is one list for fun ideas and another for service.

Fun Ideas:

  1. A hello breakfast! For an easy table cloth I throw down some wrapping paper on the table. Then we have North Pole food.  (Powdered donuts, Frosted Cheerios, Red and White Pancakes, Hot Chocolate, etc) ~At the bottom of this list there is the hello letter from our Elf.  Click it, save it, print it, and sign your elf’s name if you would like to use it as well.~
  2. Have Elf drink Maple Syrup.
  3. Growing Candy Canes: I had Hayden “plant” a peppermint candy before bed and then I replaced it with a Candy Cane for the next morning.
  4. Have the Elf hold the baby Jesus or be a part of a nativity.
  5. Watching Christmas Movies.
  6. Taking a bubble bath in marshmallows.
  7. Our Elf brought peppermint bath paint w/shaving cream: I bought cheap shaving cream, stirred in a little peppermint extract, and swirled in red food coloring. Hayden painted in the tub with it forever!
  8. Make snow angels in sugar.
  9. In the freezer with ice cream.
  10. In the fridge and turn milk red/green.
  11. Turn a door into a snowman.
  12. Make powdered donuts have snowman faces.
  13. Drinking hot chocolate.
  14. Make snowflakes out of q-tips.
  15. Spell name child’s or Elf’s name or write an encouraging message out of M&Ms.
  16. Giving “Elf kisses” (Elf sitting with chocolate Hersey’s kisses).
  17. Elf plays games with “friends” or other toys.
  18. Reading Christmas Books.
  19. Hang Snowflakes.
  20. With the Elf movie eating the 4 Elf food groups: Candy, Candy Corn, Candy Canes and Syrup.
  21. Hang upside down from somewhere.
  22. With gingerbread house making supplies.
  23. Photo or Kissing Booth: Living Locurto has the CUTEST printables for these.
  24. Make Reindeer food: Last year our Elf brought this a few days before Christmas.
  25. Make ice cream into a snowman.

Service: (Some of these ideas our Elf will bring the supplies for, and some we will do as a family just because)

  1. Make Christmas cards for family, friends, military, etc. (Elf is with stationary and other art supplies)
  2. Make cookies for neighbors: (Elf brings the supplies or already has cookies made)
  3. “Snowflake Attack” a friend, or neighbor’s house. (Elf brings paper snowflakes and you could write what you love about that person on the snowflakes).
  4. Take dog food to an animal shelter. (Elf brings dog food.)*
  5. Make and send hygiene kits. (Elf brings toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, comb, etc)
  6. Take school supplies to an elementary school, preschool, or after school program.
  7. Go caroling around the neighborhood, a retirement center, or someone who might be lonely. (Elf brings sheet music)
  8. Take treats to local fire fighters. (Elf brings Gatorade, granola bars, etc.)
  9. Make a hot cocoa kit for someone who needs a friend.
  10. Reminder to give family and friends spontaneous hugs.
  11. Say “Happy Holidays” with a smile to 5 people when running errands with mommy
  12. Put change in a Salvation Army Santa bucket. (Elf hangs out by child’s piggy bank, so child will see the value of giving his/her own money. It makes a difference…)
  13. Donate to toys 4 tots (Elf brings pictures of toy suggestions and the children pick one to buy and donate.)
  14. Pick up litter at the park.
  15. Donate books.
  16. Give a gift card to a family from a local grocery store.

*be careful, you might bring home an adorable puppy 🙂

I hope you and your family have a great holiday season and make lots of great memories! Happy Holidays!!!

Elf Hello Letter:


About Megan

Megan loves being a stay at home mom to a busy boy Hayden (10) and sweet girl Halli (6). She has been happily married to her ridiculously good looking husband for 11 years. She also enjoys blogging, trying new recipes to cook or bake, girls nights, fashion, and reading. You can also find her on twitter and instagram @fourheartsproject


  1. Teresa Honores says

    such great ideas and i love the santa quote! SO TRUE! Love this! we will prob start this tradition too!

  2. Mer says

    Thanks for the ideas! I really love the service suggestions, what a great way to incorporate the spirit of the season in this tradition.

  3. Alexia says

    I have been unsure about the elf on the shelf idea. It can be funny but seems more like an adult item. I don’t like the idea of kids thinking that he is “watching”to make sure they are being good for santa- I think it’s a bit creepy BUT I really liked many of your ideas, especially the ones that promote the spirit of giving back. I may have to rethink this and just change it up like you. Thanks for the ideas!

  4. Dianna Thomas says

    I think its a fun idea and seeing to get the whole family involved especial service–its taken my kids a while to understand service–I have a friend that works in the soup kitchen at our church–who has taken my kids under her wing to work in the soup kitchen–washing tables and chairs,setting them up, filling salts and pepper, you get the idea– that there is different types of service– one to help my friend with all the little jobs that takes her time, and 2 with helping the community. I can see the elf working with them

  5. joanna garcia says

    i love the service ideas those are great to help inspire the kids also about giving and not just receiving!

  6. vickie couturier says

    we haven’t started it yet,I ordered one for my daughter’s family,,she is excited ,,she has her two boys plus she has custody of her niece an nephew,both under 3yrs old,so hopefully this willhelp them behave better before Santa comes

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