20 of the Most Elaborate Elf on the Shelf Ideas That Will Challenge the Craftiest of Parents

It's that time of year again! Stockings are hung by the chimney with care, presents are tucked safely under the tree, and Elf on the Shelf (aka you) cause mischief at night when your kids are asleep. The elf, which can be named a number of cute, holiday-themed things, becomes a part of your family every year to help Santa Claus keep tabs on everyone's good behavior. While not every parent is thrilled with the idea, so many people go all out with creative and hilarious scenarios for their kids to wake up and find.

You can do quick and simple things to ignite your child's imagination, like having your elf make snow angels in baking flour or drink maple syrup out of the container with a straw, or you can go snowballs to the wall if you have the time (and energy). Things have become slightly easier in recent years with all the cute Elf on the Shelf accessories you can buy, but there's still so much detail that goes into planning and executing the ideas. Keep reading for some of the more elaborate Elf on the Shelf ideas to really step up your game.


Up, Up, and Away

This idea might seem simple at first, but when you need to make sure the dog doesn't get it or it doesn't float toward a sharp corner, you need to plan, plan, plan.


Hot Air Balloon Tightrope

Anything that happens in midair is tricky, even for a magical Christmas elf.


Pillow Fight

You can use some of your kids' other toy accessories to set this one up, but just make sure you have a few feathers on hand.


Stranger Things

Take your kids to Hawkins, Indiana, with this cool (and slightly creepy) Stranger Things setup.


Gumdrop Village

Putting together a gumdrop tree is pretty easy, but those tiny gingerbread men with wraparound arms? Work.


Lemonade Stand

Missing Summer? Take your kids back to those hot and sticky days and have your elf run its own (insanely detailed) lemonade stand.


Kiss the Cook

Minibiscuits and doughnuts? Wow.


Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

This re-creation of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City is so clever and fun.


A Concert

Turn your elf into a major celebrity by throwing a candy cane-infused rock concert.


Birthday Party

Re-create your kids' favorite birthday party, but on a much smaller scale this time.


Dog Cupcakes

Have a beloved family dog? Let your kids know their elf loves their furry friend too with these spot-on cupcakes.


Texting Santa

Sure, this one doesn't include an elaborately staged set, but you still have to get someone in your photo to agree to be Santa and text back and forth about your kids' good and bad behavior.


The Voice

Your kids will definitely turn their chairs around for this hilarious re-creation of The Voice.


Christmas at Home

If you're enjoying a heavily decorated and festive house, why not do the same for your elf? Everything from the tiny stockings to the opened present boxes makes this one come to life.


The Grand Prix

Ready, set, go!


Swinging Into Christmas

Get the handy person in your life to build an elf swing.


Under Elf Watch

This one is for a whole classroom of students, but you could easily re-create this in your own living room.


Baking Up a Storm

Wait until your kids are asleep to bake a huge batch of festive cookies, and pop in an elf or two before you hit the hay.