Easy Classroom Elf on the Shelf Ideas (2023)

Easy Classroom Elf on the Shelf Ideas (1)

It’s almost December, which means it’s time for all the elves to make their way from the North Pole into homes and classrooms.

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with our elves, Sprinkles and Gilbert. Remembering to come up with fun, exciting stunts and activities every single day totally stresses me out, but the excitement they bring to our classroom makes it so worth it! If you’re anything like me, nothing creates more panic than welcoming students into your classroom in the morning, then suddenly realizing you forgot to move the elf.

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With that thought, I’ve decided to get organized and compile some fun, easy ideas ahead of time. These elf on a shelf stunts are perfect for anyone who has a tendency to wait until the last minute (aka ME). They require very minimal prep, but will bring plenty of joy to your students!

15 Easy Elf on a Shelf Ideas for your Classroom

Many of these ideas can be used either at home or in the classroom at school. I hope these ideas save you the stress, time, and money that you would otherwise spend on Elf on the Shelf. Most of the ideas on this list are completely free and do not involve an overwhelming time commitment. If you do not already have an Elf on the Shelf, you will want to purchase one here before you get started.

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Elf in Hiding

Have the elf peek out from behind a tree, ribbon, book, or other hiding spot in your classroom.

All Tangled Up

Tangle your elf in garland, lights, or ribbon. Pair with a mischievous note to add to the fun!

Elf Needs a Nap

Lay the elf next to a Kleenex box, and cover him or her with a tissue blanket.

The “Elfabet”

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Set up your elf with a pun or a good joke to brighten your students’ day.

Special Delivery

Have the elf surprise your class with donuts or another special treat! I love starting with our class elf, Sprinkles, bringing donut holes during the first week of December to kick off the “hole” lot of fun we’ll have.

Snow Angel Elf

Set up your mischievous elf to make a “snow angel” out of powdered sugar or mini marshmallows. The powdered sugar makes a mess, but the kids love it!

Elf needs coffee

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Place a straw in your morning K-Cup to let your elf enjoy his or her morning brew. Yes, I included my favorite quote from Kicking and Screaming.

Scavenger Hunt

Hide candy canes around the classroom for each of your students. Students must find all the candy canes brought by the elf.

Do you Want to Build a Snowman?

Ok. This one requires a little bit of prep, but it is so much fun! Have your elf bring white clay, sticks, and black buttons for students to build a “snowman” for your classroom.

Elf Goes Ziplining

This one also requires a tiny bit of prep, but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Hang a ribbon or string from the ceiling or top of board. Have your elf “zipline” using a candy cane.

Snowball Fight

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Another fun idea using Kleenex is to surround your elf with tissue snowballs and a playful note to students.

Elf loves to read

Set up your elf behind a fun picture book. I recommend using a hardcover book so it is easy to stand up. You could even have the elf deliver a new book for your class to read together.

Elf Writes to Students

Have a journal for the elf to write to students in. Students can then respond to the elf’s prompts by creating their own journal entries during writing centers.

Elf in the Bubble Bath

Fill a bowl with your elf surrounded by marshmallow “bubbles” for some relaxation time after all that hard work at the North Pole.

Pop into Christmas

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Have your elf deliver popcorn for your students as Christmas gets closer. Just don’t burn the popcorn like I did!

Printable Notes

Enjoy these free printable notes to use with your Elf on the Shelf! They can be used both at school and at home. I usually keep these notes in a drawer and pull one out when I’m in a pinch and need a quick set up for my elf.

Need More Ideas for your Elf?

Have students write a letter to your elf about what they think he or she should do next! The kids get so excited when the elf does a trick or activity that they suggested.

Another fun idea is to set up a reading center in which the elf listens to students as they read books to him or her. It’s so sweet seeing students put their best effort into reading their story for the elf.

For even more ideas, check out this awesome printable elf calendar and notes from Coupons are Great. If your students love jokes and puns as much as mine do, you may also want to use the Elf on the Shelf printable joke cards from Pam at Over the Big Moon.

Should I have an Elf on the Shelf in my classroom?

Although it can be quite the task, I enjoy having an Elf on the Shelf in my classroom. However, it’s definitely not for everyone. If you are thinking about starting Elf on the Shelf but are unsure if it’s for you, here are some pros and cons to help you weigh your decision.


  • Let’s start with the most obvious benefit: the kids love it. It keeps students excited about coming to school every day in December.
  • Some students do not have an Elf on the Shelf at home, making it that much more special for them to get to experience at school.
  • The elf can help encourage positive behaviors and discourage undesired behaviors.
  • You can find creative ways to tie in your Elf on the Shelf with your lessons to engage students.


  • Probably the biggest issue with Elf on the Shelf is that not all students celebrate Christmas. You never want to assume, so it is best to make sure all parents are on board before bringing Elf on the Shelf into your classroom.
  • Some students might find the elf too distracting to stay focused on lessons and schoolwork.
  • December is a busy time for teachers. Adding to the lengthy list of things teachers have to keep track of during the month may be overwhelming.
  • If you have children of your own that attend the school you teach at, it can be extremely challenging to find arrangements for your elf every day. The last thing you want to do is spoil it for your child who may be in your classroom with you after school.

More Ways to Keep Students Excited About School During the Holidays

It’s all too common for kids to check out as Christmas draws closer. Bringing a little holiday magic into the classroom can help keep students engaged and excited about coming to school.


Play calming classical or instrumental Christmas music for students while they work. Putting a relaxing fireplace display up with holiday music is the perfect way to make your classroom feel cozy on a cold winter day. Try this Instrumental Christmas Music with Fireplace. Another one of my favorites that students love is the Christmas Snowing Village.

Christmas Books

Read aloud your favorite Christmas books to your class, and use them to plan themed units and cross-curricular activities. Christmas Farm by Mary Lyn Ray is one of my top recommendations for cross-curricular Christmas activities. Use this story to plan a fantastic lesson on character traits and theme, then connect to science with the life cycle of a Christmas tree.

Holidays Around the World

Teaching students about different holidays celebrated around the world is an excellent way to keep students engaged in learning about other cultures and traditions. There are so many fun activities for learning about holidays around the world. I highly recommend this fabulous lapbook from Mrs. Jones Creation Station.

Secret Santa Book Exchange

Host a Secret Santa book exchange for students to look forward too! Have students draw names for each student to be gifted a book from a classmate. Just make sure parents are on board before hosting your Secret Santa book exchange. I highly recommend sending home a permission form in advance.


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I know, the last thing you want to do is go overboard with the crafts when the weight of all those educational standards is on your shoulders. But I promise, a fun craft tied in with a lesson here and there won’t hurt! Make it festive and tie it in with your favorite Christmas book. For more ideas, check out these easy and educational Christmas crafts from Linda at Around the Kampfire.

You could also make ornaments or easy parent gifts with your students. Follow my Pinterest or subscribe to my blog to get updates on a FREE snow globe ornament craft that I will writing about soon. I have my students make this snow globe ornament every year, and the kids and their parents love it!

I hope you enjoy!

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For more teaching ideas and classroom resources, follow me on Pinterest and TpT.

How do you keep students excited about school during the holidays? I’d love to hear your ideas! Feel free to share in the comments below.

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