You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not forget that Elf on the Shelf is coming! If your family is like ours, Elf on the Shelf is now a staple in your household. Our kids absolutely love waking up to find their elf, (they named their elf, Elfie). As parents, we have more of a love hate relationship trying to find clever ways for Elfie to appear the next day. But there is one thing for certain, your Elf on the Shelf’s arrival is one of the most exciting days of the holiday season!

If you have been frantically searching the internet for creative ideas on how to get started, look no further! Here is a compiled list of our favorite Elf on the Shelf arrival ideas ranging from simple to complex.

15 Adorable Elf on the Shelf Arrival Ideas!

We will kick things off with two super cute ways to tease the arrival of your elf on the shelf if you need an extra day or two before your Elf enters the home (don’t forget to print out a cute arrival letter as well for a reminder of the story and rules as well). Then, we will jump into ideas for your elf’s big debut!

All ideas brought to you by the wonderful and clever parents on Pinterest. 

1: Dashing through the snow

Is your Elf not yet ready to make an appearance? Tease your child with little footprints. The Elf is somewhere, but where? This is a cute reminder that the Elf is always watching even when he can’t be seen. Check the idea out here!

Materials Needed:

  • White powder (either sugar or salt work great)
  • Something to make foot imprints (if you don’t have an Elf quite yet)

2: See you soon!

Send a postcard to your child to update them on your Elf on the Shelf’s fun adventures! A postcard will also serve as a reminder to be on their best behavior this holiday season because Elf on the Shelf will be returning soon! Read more about this Elf on the Shelf arrival idea here!

Materials needed:

  • A fun location
    • e. Beach, Theme Park, Pumpkin Patch, etc.
  • Camera
  • Access to a printer

3: Chimneys are so much easier!

Everyone knows Santa prefers entry via Chimney, so it only makes sense that his Elves do as well! But it’s okay if you don’t have a chimney! All you have to do is tape the Elf to your front door. In the absence of a chimney, there doesn’t seem to be a way inside! Without Santa’s magic, the only option seems to be waiting on the front door for someone to let them in! Check it out.

Materials needed:

  • Sticky note and pen (Not required)
  • Tape
  • A door

4: Incoming! A Paper Plane Elf on the Shelf Arrival

This Elf’s preferred way to travel is via paper planes! Who doesn’t love making paper planes? Here are the details!

Materials needed:

  • Paper
  • Paper folding skills (See YouTube)
  • String
  • Writing Utensil

5: Elf on the Shelf Emergency Landing Arrival!

This paper plane landing didn’t turn out so well, yikes! Someone needs to take flying lessons. Maybe they can get some help from Santa’s Reindeer? Learn more about this idea here!

Materials needed:

  • Christmas Tree
  • Paper Plane
  • Writing Utensil

Shop Elf on the Shelf Favorites!

6: All I want for Christmas is candy, and lots of it.

Halloween might be over, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a gumdrop or two! Or three, or however many it took to spell “I’M BACK.” I think I’d need to purchase twice the amount of candy to make this idea happen since I’d probably eat it all. See more of this candy masterpiece!

Materials needed:

7: Scaling the walls

Although this photo takes place inside, this idea can still be used for an arrival! Instead of a window, tape/stick the bows on the outside of the house where your child can easily see the Elf scaling the wall! There’s an entrance somewhere! Check out this idea here. 

Materials needed:

8: Melted snow, melted snow, melted snow

I think this might be my favorite Elf on the Shelf Arrival idea. This is an accurate representation of what happens to snow when it meets the heat! Unless you live in a place where it’s constantly snowing and below freezing, this arrival idea is perfect for you. Here are the deets!

Materials needed:

  • Pan
  • Paper and pen
  • Googly eyes
  • Twigs
  • Buttons
  • Carrot
  • Water

9: Intruder alert!

“Stop Elf! You’re trespassing!” -Toy Soldiers

This idea is a cute way to incorporate toys that may already be present in the home. I know I have quite a few toy soldiers lying around in a box somewhere. Here are the details of this idea!

Materials Needed:

10: Pop goes the Elf!

This Elf is super excited to return; whether to spread joy or cause some mischief, no one quite knows. Let’s hope they don’t damage anything else during their stay. Here’s the idea!

Materials needed:

11: Deck the walkway with strings of light

This elf is ready to decorate the outside of this home to spread some Christmas cheer! Light up your walkway! Here’s more on the idea

Materials needed:

  • Strings of Light
  • An outside power socket
  • Possibly an extension cord (depends on the length of the lights and the distance to socket)

12: Santa Claus is always watching… always watching

I am 100 % guilty of snooping under the tree during Christmas time. I’m not going to lie; I still shake the boxes that have my name on them. Growing up, if I believed that my snooping was being recorded, I can promise you I wouldn’t have risked being caught! My family should’ve installed a “camera.” Check it out here!

Materials needed:

  • North Pole Camera
    • Paper
    • Markers
    • A bulb that can pass as a camera
    • Something to clip the “camera” to the tree
      • Binder Clip
      • Paper clip
      • Clothespin

13: The Elf has landed

This Elf has perfected the art of landing. Maybe what the Elves needed was a plane made of something other than paper. This Elf should share their skills with their friends. Crashes would happen a lot less. Here’s more on the idea. 

Materials needed:

  • Toy Plane
  • Paper
  • Pen
  • String Lights

14: Oh, bring us some Reindeer Pudding

This Elf on the Shelf idea is adorable, and I love that the pudding looks like reindeer! The family will have a sweet snack to eat when it’s time for the Elf to move elsewhere in the home. Learn more about this idea.

Materials Needed:

  • Chocolate Pudding cups
  • Brown Pipe Cleaners
  • Googly Eyes
  • Red pom poms
  • Glue
  • Fake snow

15: Home for the Holidays

An Elf is making a home inside the walls! In this photo, we see an Elf has showcased its hideout with a door. Where does it lead? No one quite knows. One can only hope it’s where the Elf keeps the materials for all their projects! The preparation and aftermath must be hidden somewhere. Check it out here!

Materials needed:

  • Door
    • Can be purchased at a craft store
  • A Letter (optional)
  • Wreath
  • Miniature toy Christmas lights

Now that you’ve picked an Elf arrival idea (at least I hope you have), it’s time to find more adventures your Elf on the Shelf can go on to encourage your child to be on their best behavior throughout this holiday season.

Click one of the below links for a list of fun ideas to continue your Elf’s journey in your home! From what to name your elf, arrival letters, and goodbyes:

75 Unique & Fun Girl & Boy Elf on the Shelf Names

10 Super Fun Ideas for your Elf on the Shelf Return Letter

10 Fun & Clever Elf on the Shelf Goodbye Letter Ideas

Frequently Asked Questions

What do you do for elf on a shelf arrival?

There are so many ideas for your Elf on the Shelf’s arrival. I love for our family elf to arrive with a bang like on a flying paper airplane or causing some serious mischief. It is also a good idea to include an arrival letter that reminds your children all about the tradition.

What does elf bring on first day?

Your Elf on the Shelf should show up on the first day with an arrival letter that reminds your children all about the tradition and your elf’s story.

When should the elf on the shelf arrive?

Your elf should arrive sometime between the last week of November and the 1st of December. This is the most popular scout elf return week!

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