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Elf on the Shelf Ideas for Lazy Parents (That Make it Look Like You Sorta Tried)

January 7, 2016

Our Elf on the Shelf is affectionately named “Buttons.” To us, it can easily feel like yet another responsibility to add to our list, during the busiest season of the year. But to our 4-year-old daughter Lucie, he’s the reason she jumps out of bed in the morning for 24 magical days out of the year. So we continue to bust our “Buttons” each year on this Elf on the Shelf exercise, usually scrambling to find a good hiding spot in the 5 minutes before she wakes up.

I’ll admit – some Elf on the Shelf ideas that I see circulating Pinterest make me cringe. Pulling out all of the shoes from the closet and scattering them around the house? Give me a elfin’ break. Pouring powdered sugar all over the floor? No. Just no.

We like to keep it real with Elf on the Shelf, but also occasionally use some creativity to keep the magic alive. Here are some of the things that Buttons did to delight our 4-year-old this past Christmas.

Freezing Cookie Monster Out. You’ve got a Cookie Monster doll lying around, right? Give your elf a plate of cookies on a windowsill, and have Cookie monster looking in eagerly. Best part? You get to eat cookies!

cookie monster elf on the shelf idea

Less-Mess Snow Angel. Pour flour onto a large platter, so you can just dump it when you’re done. Don’t worry – the elf wipes clean fairly easily.

elf on the shelf snow angel

Bows Everywhere! Buy a big bag of bows (for wrapping gifts) – I got mine at Walgreens for less than $5. Stick them all over the walls or cabinets. We decided on her bathroom, since it’s the first place she visits in the morning. Here, buttons is holding wipeable bathtub crayon and wrote “Buttonz Wuz Here” on the wall.

bows on wall elf on the shelf

My elf in a [cereal] box. Step 1: cut a hole in the box. Step 2: put yo’ elf in that box. 

elf on the shelf cereal box

All tangled-up. I’m not really sure how Buttons the Elf managed to get tangled up while wrapping some presents, but hey. Your preschooler probably won’t ask that many questions. Elves can get tangled up in just about anything you have lying around the house.

elf on the shelf tangled wrapping paper

Using the elf to your advantage. Does your kid hate brushing her hair? Bathing? Wearing pants? Or, in our case, brushing her teeth? Behold the power of the elf. Because for some reason, kids are more likely to obey a creepy felt doll than their well-meaning parents.

elf on the shelf toothbrush

Fruity Elf. Got some clementines, lemons, or limes lying around? Draw faces on them with a Sharpie. Put them next to the elf. Boom.

elf on the shelf minion idea

Fancy Elf. Barbie clothes on a BOY elf? Funniest. Dang. Thing. Ever. *to a 4-year-old

elf on the shelf barbie clothes

Reverent Elf. My mom came up with this one. It’s a good way to start a conversation about the meaning of Christmas.elf on the shelf in nativity

Elf donuts. Another great one, courtesy of “Mimi.” These are Cheerio’s decorated to look like little Elf donuts. Time involvement is on the higher end.

elf on the shelf cheerio donuts

When all else fails…just move him around and have your kids hunt for him. Some of our spots were swinging from the light fixture, hanging on to the Christmas tree, inside of the lantern, and, of course, on the shelf 🙂

elf on the shelf light fixture

What were some of your best, “lazy” Elf on the Shelf ideas from this past Christmas? Let us know in the comments!