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Saturday, October 2, 2021

25 Fun Elf On The Shelf Arrival Ideas

The most exciting time of the year for kids is December and the most exciting morning for any elf family {other than Christmas Day} is December 1st because the kids know their special elf friend will be coming back to visit. But how will they make their appearance? Will they bust in with a grand entrance, be sneaky and hide, or return with some Christmas goodies? 

Whether you have an Elf on the Shelf, or any other type of elf, there's so many fun ways to make the elf's {or elves} return extra special. Here's 25 different ways for the elf to arrive {some of them can even be combined for an extra spectacular arrival}. It doesn't matter if your elf is arriving for the very first time, or returning for another year of fun.

elf on the shelf arrival December 1st


If this is the very first time you're introducing an elf to your family these are a few ways you can get prepared for their arrival:

You can also use any of the arrival ideas featured in this post for the first time the elf arrives, however instead of saying I'm back have them say I'm here {or we're here if there's more than one}. I would definitely recommend adding in a special arrival letter the first time though to give the kids some more context {if they're old enough to understand it}.


Families from different countries all over the world celebrate the elf in many different ways, however the general consensus is that the elf will arrive to your home sometime between Thanksgiving and December 1st. Whether they arrive on Thanksgiving, black Friday, or December 1st {or even later if you forget}, all of these elf arrival ideas are perfect ways to welcome the elf into your home for the very first time or to welcome them back for another season of fun.

1. Elf Arrival Letter

personalised elf arrival letter

One of the simplest ways to have the elf return for another year is with a special arrival letter. You can get many personalised printable arrival letters on Etsy for just a few dollars and you can edit them with your kids and elf {or elves} names. Or you can hand write out a letter from the elf yourself.

2. Ring Ring

elf arriving through ring camera.

If you have a ring doorbell, or any door bell with a movement camera, you can half the elf {or elves} appear on the front door camera asking to be let in. Either record a video of them peeking up into view and show it to the kids, or take a screenshot of them on the camera. Then tell the kids to go find them at the front door.

3. Special Delivery Parcel

elf arriving in a special delivery box.

An exciting way for the elf to arrive is wrapped up in a special delivery box from the North Pole. You can get the Elf Mail packing labels here or print out free Santa delivery swing tags here to attach to the parcel. Then leave the parcel at the front door {only if you think it'll be safe outside, or leave it inside the front door} or put it under the Christmas tree. If you prefer sticker labels you can get North Pole delivery stickers here.

4. Elf Express Arrival Envelope

special elf express arrival envelope

Another fun way for the elf to arrive is in their own special elf delivery envelope from the North Pole. You can get some really cute embroidered felt Elf express envelopes on Etsy and you can also get return envelopes to send the elf back to the North Pole.

5. Yard Sign

elf yard sign.

Have the elf announce their arrival to the whole neighbourhood with an epic yard sign. You can hire Elf on the Shelf yard signs from hire companies {look up one local to you} or you can find some generic elf yard signs on Amazon.

6. On the Window with Snow

elf arriving on window idea.

Uh oh! The elf was so eager to come back they've gone splat on the window! Add some fake snow spray and write I'm back in it for dramatic effect.

7. Stuck in the Blinds

elf returning stuck in blinds.

If you have horizontal blinds in your house you can place the elf stuck in the blinds like it magically came through the window and then got caught up in the blinds. You can also use the poem Roses are red, Violets are blue, I got stuck in the blinds coming back to you.

8. Arrive With Advent Calendars

If your elf arrives on December 1st and you normally do advent calendars for the kids, then an easy arrival idea is for the elf to bring the advent calendars with them. We did this the first few years when my big girl was still quite young and didn't expect elaborate escapades from our elf.

9. Arrive With December 1st Box

elf arriving with December 1st box
Image: Advent Elf

If you have a December 1st box tradition {similar to a Christmas Eve box, but it arrives December 1st} like we do then it's always fun for the elf to arrive in the box. Typically December 1st boxes are filled with items like Christmas pyjamas, craft activities, movies, books and advent calendars.

10. Elf Parade

elf arrival parade with toys.

The elves can arrive with a parade, similar to the Macy's Thanksgiving parade, complete with car and truck floats and helium balloons. The other toys can line the street to welcome the elves back.

11. Elf Door

elf door

The elf can enter your house through their own special elf door that only appears in December. To build the excitement even more you can put up under construction tape and add some toy construction vehicles before the elf door appears.

12. Elf House

barbie house turned into elf house.
Image: Gail Ekola

If you want to go all out you could make an entire elf house by either upcycling a shadow box similar to how we made our own fairy house using a shadow box, or by renovating an existing doll house into an elf house. Gail transformed a Barbie doll house into the amazing elf house shown above with some decorative paper, vinyl and the most amazing tiny props {have a look in our group for close up pics}.

If you want to decorate your own special elf house have a look at my list of elf accessory ideas for heaps of miniature prop ideas. If you have the Ikea Flisat dolls house you can get a special elf house decal here.

13. Stuck in a Balloon

elf on the shelf stuck in a balloon

A really fun way for the elf to arrive is inside a balloon. This one can be a little tricky as you need to get the elf inside the balloon then blow it up, but don't worry there are tips to help you. Firstly, buy larger latex balloons and then use a canning tool to help open the balloon wide enough for the elf to easily fit in. Frugal couple living have a tutorial for putting the Elf inside a balloon here.

14. Elf Puzzle

personalised elf puzzle.

Another fun way to announce the elf's arrival is to leave a personalised puzzle from the elf {or elves, there's a few different designs}. Leave the pieces scattered in a pile so the kids need to put the puzzle together to read the message. You can reuse it every year and if the kids get bored doing the puzzle as they get older then glue the completed puzzle onto a backing board and use it as an arrival sign instead.

15. North Pole Breakfast

elf on the shelf north pole breakfast idea.
Image: @brittney_delk

A popular tradition for the elf's arrival is a special North Pole breakfast. The Elf arrives by setting up a scrumptious feast for the kids which can include pancakes, waffles, gingerbread men, fruit, smoothies and even donuts. You can also get a free printable North Pole breakfast colouring sheet here.

16. Elf Scavenger Hunt

A really fun elf arrival idea is to have a scavenger hunt to find the elf. Just like an Easter egg hunt, you can use a series of clues to lead the kids around the house to eventually find the elf. Simplify Create Inspire has a free set of elf scavenger hunt clues you can download and use in any order.

17. With Christmas Tree Decorations

elf arriving with Christmas tree decorations

If you put your Christmas tree up on the 1st of December {or even the night before}, the elf can arrive with the decorations to decorate the tree. We've done this one a few times with a mini tree just for the kids so they have their own special tree to decorate {and then it also doesn't matter if the actual Christmas tree has already been set up and decorated}.

18. Elf Hidden in Christmas Tree

elf arrives in the Christmas tree

If you have a sneaky elf that likes to play tricks they could arrive hiding in the tree. The picture above shows an awesome elf arrival that also combines an elf envelope, advent calendar and sleigh!

19. Arriving in a Sleigh

elves arriving in a sleigh with reindeers
Image: Pinterest

If you have an elf sized sleigh this is a great way for them to make a memorable entrance on December 1st {it's also a fun elf departure idea too!}. If you're crafty you can always make your own sleigh or sled with ply wood or popsicle sticks, or you can buy handmade sleighs and there's also an inflatable Elf on the Shelf sled.

20. Elf Hot Air Balloon

elf on the shelf diy hot air balloon

One my girls really loved was the elf arriving swinging from a hot air balloon. We made our own DIY elf hot air balloon using a paper honeycomb ball, toilet paper roll and some clever engineering. This is also a great one to do any time during the month.

21. Zip Line to the Christmas Tree

elf bauble zip line

Every year our elf likes to zip line across to the Christmas tree at some point during the month. This would be a great way to arrive too - even better if the elf had an I'm back banner attached to the zip line!

22. Elf Express Air Mail

elf arriving by paper plane air mail

Another fun way for the elf to arrive is by express air mail. If you know how to make a paper plane then you'll be able to make your very own express mail plane so the elf can fly in for his grand arrival. Follow the instructions at Busy Kids Happy Mom to make your own elf plane.

23. Christmas Light Runway Landing

elf Christmas light runway landing.

If you have a real toy airplane, the elf can fly in and land on their own special Christmas light guided runway strip.

24. Elf Surveillance Camera

elf with santa surveillance camera

If you think the kids need to be reminded to be on their best behaviour for Santa then your elf can arrive with a special Santa surveillance camera. We got ours at a dollar store and it flashes so they know he's watching. If you can't find a specific Santa cam, you can always use dummy cctv cameras.

25. Elf Quarantine

elf in quarantine

One of the most popular elf arrive ideas for 2020 and 2021 was elf quarantine. This idea is still relevant for 2023 and you can use it as a 1 day option, or up to 14 days in quarantine. To make your elf quarantine set up you'll need a clear jar or upside down glass, a quarantine sign/notice and you can print off some quarantine props like these.

fun elf on the shelf arrival ideas.

Now that you have plenty of ideas to organise the elf's arrival, get a head start and plan the rest of the elf's antics so you're not running around at the last minute each night. You can find loads of easy Elf on the Shelf ideas here and if you want to make the month of December run really smooth then you can plan all your elf antics ahead of time with an elf planner {just make sure the kids don't find it!}. 

For lots of fun elf ideas, encouragement and motivation throughout December, join our elf ideas Facebook group where parents from all over the world share the mischief their elves get up to.

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