33 Elf on the Shelf Arrival Ideas for 2023

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It’s that time of year again and we want to give you some Elf on the Shelf Arrival ideas! Every year around this time, some parents across the country start to dread one thing: the return of their Elf on the Shelf. But for some families, Elf on the Shelf is a fun tradition. If you’re looking for some fun and festive ways to make your elf’s return a magical success, we have 33 Elf on the Shelf Arrival ideas for a fun Christmas season.

fun and easy elf on the shelf arrival ideas for the month of December for kids families

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What is Elf on the Shelf?

For those who are unfamiliar with the Elf on the Shelf tradition, it involves adopting a special elf who comes to visit your family starting on December 1st. The elf then gets into mischief around your house each night, and it is up to your kids to find him each morning. On Christmas Eve, the elf says goodbye until next year.

As fun as this tradition can be for families, it can also be a lot of work for parents. If you’re struggling to come up with Elf on the Shelf arrival ideas for what your elf can do each night, never fear! Here are 33 fun ideas to get you started.

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Here is a list of 33 Fun Elf on the Shelf Return Ideas for 2022:

1. List of your Child’s Good Deeds

Have your elf write a letter to your kids letting them know he’s been watching them and listing all of their good deeds. Leave the letter on the kitchen table or slip it into their lunchboxes.

2. Milk and Cookies for the Elf’s Arrival

Put out a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for Santa and his elves with a note thanking them for working so hard. In the morning, find bite marks in the cookies and half-empty glasses of milk!

3. Arrive by Balloons

Arrange for your elf to fly in on a string attached to helium balloons. Let him float around the room until he finds a place to land.

4. Elf returns with a Sunburn

Bring your elf back with a sunburn from playing too much in the snow! Make sure to put sunscreen on him from now on so he doesn’t get too much sun.

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5. A Note From Santa

If you have younger kids who still believe in Santa, a wonderful Elf on the Shelf Arrival idea is to have your elf bring a note from him with some simple instructions for leaving out a snack for him and his reindeer on Christmas Eve.

6. Elf Return Outfit

Dress the elf up in an outrageous outfit that could be his standard returning outfit. You can even have him wear baby clothes if you want to embarrass your older kids (just make sure they’re clean first).

7. Elf Arrival With Candy

Have your elf leave small candy cane surprises around the house for everyone to find. Attach them to doorknobs, hide them in shoes, or put them in coat pockets.

8. North Pole Breakfast

Set up a “North Pole Breakfast” complete with pancakes shaped like bells and “snow” made out of powdered sugar sprinkled on top. Of course, no North Pole breakfast would be complete without hot chocolate!

9. Naughty? Can an Elf bring Coal?

If anyone in your family has been naughty rather than nice, have your elf leave coal instead of candy cane surprises (bonus points if you can find real coal). Just make sure you don’t actually give anyone real coal because that would just be mean…and messy.

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10. Elf “Welcome Back” Scene

One fun way to make your cute elve’s arrival return a special event is to set up a little “welcome back” scene. Maybe your elf could come back with some new friends, like a few Frosty the Snowmen or a team of reindeer. Or, if your elf is feeling adventurous, he or she could come back with a note explaining where they’ve been and what they’ve been up to! The possibilities are endless!

11. Play Games

One of the best ways to make your elf’s return memorable is to have a little game or activity planned. Maybe you can have a treasure hunt around the house for your elf, or set up an obstacle course in the living room for them to navigate.

12. Hang or plane toilet paper the living room.

This fun Elf on the Shelf arrival ideas is always a classic elf prank that is sure to get a few laughs from your kids. Just make sure you don’t use too much toilet paper, or you’ll be cleaning up for days!

13. Use Magnetic Letters

Put magnetic letters on the fridge so you can make an announcement like “The Elf has arrived”. It is also fun to make silly sentences or even leave other messages from the elf to your kids.

14. Fun with Building Forts

Is there anything more fun than a fort built with pillows and blankets? Your kids will love finding their elf curled up in a cozy little fort made just for them.

15. Christmas Cooking with Your Elf

Your elf can arrive just in time to help you bake cookies, make gingerbread houses, or decorate cakes.

16. Festive Footprints

An elf’s arrival could mean leaving festive footprints all around the house. This is an easy and low-mess Elf on the Shelf Arrival idea that will add some excitement to your Elf’s return. Use washable paint or markers to make footprints leading all around the house – just make sure they find the elf at the end of the footprints!

17. Make a mess with Confetti

This one is definitely more mischievous than most, but that’s what makes it so much fun! Your kids will love finding their elf surrounded by sparkly confetti everywhere he goes. Just be sure to vacuum before Santa comes!

18. Use Wrapping Paper

Another great way to get your kids laughing is to use wrapping paper to wrap up things in the house. Use wrapping paper, ribbon, and bows to wrap up everything in sight – from vases and lamps to books and remote controls. Show the kids that the elf arrival brings excitement all around the house.

19. Play tag with Post-It notes

This one is great if you’ve got multiple elves visiting your home (or if you want to start a game of tag with your own kids). Write “You’re it!” on Post-It notes and stick them all over the house – on furniture, walls, doors – anywhere you can think of! Whoever finds the most notes “wins.”

20. Silly Costumes

Let the elf wear silly costumes such as a superhero costume. One of the best things about having an elf visiting is that they can get away with wearing some pretty silly outfits! Have your elf dress up like a favorite character or even put on a silly hat or wig.

21. Snowball Fight Fun

Let your elf have a snowball fight. This one is sure to be a hit with any kids who live in snowier climates (or if you’re lucky enough to have a real snowball indoors). Get a small plastic container and fill it with cotton balls or shredded paper – then let your kids loose! They’ll have so much fun “snowball fighting” with their elf that they’ll be looking forward to a fun month of adventures with the elf.

22. Elf Arrival Letter

If you want to keep your Elf on the Shelf arrival ideas simple, put out this elf arrival letter written to the kids from the Elf.

23. Use a Toy Bus or Car for Arrival Transportation

Let the Elf arrive in a toy bus, train, car or any type of toy vehicle that your child enjoys playing with. Add a Christmas sweater for the elf’s clothes to get in the Christmas spirit.

24. Elf’s Text Message

Announce your elf’s arrival through the most common form of communication these days – a text message! Text your child a message from the elf, your kids will love it!

25. Elf as a Gift

Every kid loves to receive gifts! A fun elf arrival idea is for the elf to arrive wrapped in a package. Let your child unwrap the gift and they will get excited about the upcoming season.

26. Use an Advent Calendar

Your elf could arrive with an Advent Calendar and Advent ideas!

27. Arrive with a Gift in Hand

Instead of wrapping up the elf as a gift for your child to open, you could let the Elf arrive with a gift for the child! Even a small gift would brighten your child’s face and make them look forward to the upcoming Christmas season.

28. Welcome Party

Throw a Welcome Back Party for the Elf!

29. Use Candy to write a Message

Write a message using candy with the elf announcing their return.

30. Don’t all Elves travel with luggage?

Elf on the Shelf arrives at the front door carrying luggage. The elf is here to stay for a month!

31. Mischievous Elf Arrival

When an elf wants to be mischievous, it can stir up lots of trouble! Mischievous elf arrival ideas include getting tangled up in wire or ribbon, hanging from the ceiling, causing a mess in the kitchen, etc.

32. Where is the Elf Hiding?

It would be so much fun to play hide and seek when the elf arrives! Let your child hunt for the elf by leaving clues around the house, and giving them hints to where the elf on the shelf hiding places are.

33. Grand Arrival by Air

The elf arrival always calls for a grand entrance! Why not let your elf arrive by air using a paper or plastic airplane, a helicopter, hang glide in, or even enter by a space rocket into your home or living room.

With these 33 fun ideas, returning your Elf on the Shelf will be a breeze! Just pick one that sounds like it would be most enjoyable for your family, and enjoy all the laughter and holiday cheer that comes along with it. Whatever you do, just be sure that it’s something that will get the whole family involved and excited about the elf’s return. After all, the holiday season is all about spending time with loved ones and making cherished memories! Merry Christmas! We have 31 Elf on the Shelf Arrival Gift ideas that will get the month of December started right. Check out the free Elf on the Shelf notes printable here, and a fun Elf on the Shelf Printable Craft for Kids here. Here is a fun Elf on the Shelf decoder Printable that would be a fun Elf activity for your kids! You can find an Elf on the Shelf Cardboard Cone Craft here, and we have Elf on the Shelf Printable Gift Tags that are free to download and print.