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QUICK – Elf on the Shelf Ideas – Under 5 Minute Ideas

Looking for QUICK Elf on the Shelf ideas that don’t take a ton of props or time to set up? You’ve found it!

I’ve got 30+ super easy and fast places to hide your elf that even a lazy Mom like me can remember to do every night in December!

HURRY! Are you looking for QUICK ideas of where to hide your elf tonight? I’ve got you covered!

The best part is these elf on the shelf ideas will take you less than 5 minutes to do and I’m include pictures and a printable list too!

It seems there are two type of parents when it comes to Christmas – Team Elf or Team Totally-Opposed-to-Elf.

I am always a little surprised at just how adamant parents are when they’re on the latter team. I have a close friend who just swears she would NEVER do that elf thing ever. And to each their own, truly. You do YOU!

But when a parent says “I just don’t have TIME to have an elf!” well, I have to pipe and say “Yes you do!”

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We’ve had our Elf, Criddle, since 2013 and while those first couple of years were a little bit harder, we now definitely have an elf groove.

I decided to jump on the Elf on the Shelf train 5 years ago because I absolutely love all things Christmas. But I remember being super confused by some of the photos I was seeing posted by parents.

Their elves were writing on mirrors, making messes in the kitchen, and just, well… being naughty!

That just didn’t make sense to me since the elves are technically, according to the official book, an extra set of eyes to report back to Santa.

We don’t threaten the girls with Criddle often, she more just brings Christmas joy EVERY SINGLE MORNING!

And that’s why we love our elf and why I enjoy the process as much as the girls.

They look forward to her coming back through the entire month of November [our elf comes back on Thanksgiving night] and talk about her often even throughout the year. She brings them so much joy and in turn brings me that joy too!

So here are my best tips for those of you who don’t think you have time for Elf on the Shelf or for those of you, who just like me, are Lazy with a capital L!


Don’t worry about the elf antics.

This is my single biggest tip. JUST MOVE THE ELF. Don’t worry about your elf going fish with goldfish crackers or writing on the bathroom mirror with toothpaste.

Don’t make it hard on yourself and don’t make your kids think these things are a good idea. Plus, those antics inspire some major burnout.

Plus, I do NOT want to be cleaning up anymore toothpaste than I already do.

Once you get these regular spots in your routine, moving your elf will become even easier!

+Set a phone reminder.

One of the easiest ways to remember to move your elf is to incorporate it into your nightly routine in December. You can also set a phone reminder to help yourself out.

+Print out my Elf on the Shelf Ideas for EASY HIDING PLACES! I have them listed at the bottom of this post, but you can also print it for easy middle-of-the-night hiding ideas.

+Forget to move the elf? Blame the cat.

So that doesn’t happen often anymore, but if you DO forget to move your elf, always always blame the cat. Don’t have a cat? Yikes.

But seriously it’ll be a great way to use your creative imagination to come up with some sort of reason why your elf didn’t move.

And after using THAT much effort to come up with a great reason, I promise you that you won’t forget again because it’s WAYYYY easier to move the elf than to make up a story why you didn’t!

+Let the elf do special things every once in awhile.

Ok, yes, I said I keep things super simple and JUST MOVE THE ELF, but I lied a tad. As the years have gone on, Criddle has gotten a little more exciting and adventurous.

Every once in awhile she brings the girls a little gift. You can find super fun, cheap Elf on the Shelf items in Target’s dollar spot.

Our elf also loves to bring a note to the girls telling ME to make them a fun Elf on the Shelf Breakfast.

I always do the note because my girls are early risers and they’d definitely catch me cooking so the elf doesn’t make the breakfast, but brings the note telling me to do it. Smart, right?

Our elf also loves bringing candy canes and this Elf on the Shelf Candy Cane Hunt printable. It’s a fun way for them to have a special little morning!

You can even let your elf bring a fun game – print this FREE Christmas Bingo game that I created for some Christmas game fun!

+Make the elf work for you.

Listen, this is genius. GENIUS! One night I decided I’d put Criddle on top of the girls’ laundry basket and when Sophia found her the next morning she said “Mom, don’t do any laundry today! You might touch Criddle”.

Oh my darling, you are just soooo right! So help yourself out and put your Elf on the laundry, vacuum… wherever you don’t want to work that day!

+Don’t travel with your elf.

While I’ve seen super cute ideas about elves visiting kids when they’re away for the weekend or even taking the elf along safely tucked inside a mason jar, we just don’t travel with Criddle. I’m afraid she’ll get lost or seen inside the suitcase.

So, my Elf on the Shelf hack for traveling is have your house-sitter “text” you a picture of where they found the elf that day! I actually just take the picture myself, but share it in a text and pretend it’s from that person.

And Criddle always misses the girls while they’re away so tucking her in their bed is the perfect spot! Then after I take the picture, I move her to her next spot where the girls will find her when they return home.

+Pick a storage place and put your elf there every Christmas Eve.

Perhaps this is the most important Elf on the Shelf Tip ever. I have seen SO MANY “I can’t find the elf” posts on Facebook this year!

Tip: Have your elf say goodbye in style – here are 100+ ideas for an Elf on the Shelf Goodbye!

The first couple of years we put Criddle in with our Christmas decorations and totes that went in the attic. DO NOT DO THIS! I never remembered which tote she was in so I was on high alert if the girls were trying to help us unpack the decorations!

Now we put Criddle in the top of our closet in a pillowcase… the same pillowcase and location every single year. Now that we’re on year 6, I finally remember where she is each Thanksgiving night.

Once you start moving your elf, you’ll start noticing fun hiding places more easily, but these are good ones to get you started thinking!

Now, I know what you’re really here for – those 24 Elf on the Shelf Ideas for last minute hiding! Be sure to watch the video, or take a glance at this list for EASY hiding ideas for your elf on the shelf!

24+ Elf on the Shelf Ideas and places to put your elf that take less than 1 minute.

After 5 years I definitely have certain places that our elf always tends to visit like: the Christmas Tree, our Christmas Stockings, beside our Santa figurines, and usually in my coffee cup [which always makes the girls’ laugh since I can’t drink a cup of my beloved coffee].

  1. Have your elf hang out in a coffee cup
  2. On the coat rack
  3. With Christmas figurines, like a nutcracker or snowman friend
  4. On the Christmas tree
  5. In shoes
  6. On a windowsill
  7. In the laundry basket
  8. In a fake plant
  9. Inside somewhere funny – like in a jar or in my case, a vintage bird cage. Your kids will wonder how they could get in there!
  10. On a knick knack shelf
  11. In a doll stroller
  12. Hanging on a door knob
  13. On the vacuum handle
  14. Hanging out with Barbie dolls or American Girl dolls
  15. On top of their favorite toys
  16. In your kids underwear drawer
  17. With Santa Clause decor
  18. In the fruit basket
  19. In a Christmas stocking
  20. In the silverware drawer
  21. In a dollhouse
  22. In the craft supplies
  23. On the mantle
  24. In a Nativity
  25. Inside a paper towel roll holder
  26. In the refrigerator

These Elf on the Shelf ideas will make it easy enough for any parent to succeed with an elf at Christmas!

While some parent totally get into elaborate scenes for their Elf on the Shelf, I do NOT. I like to keep things simple and fast.

And most of all I love to see the look and excitement on my girls’ faces as they scour the house looking for their little festive friend each morning in December!

Are you looking for even more Elf on the Shelf Ideas? Check out my other Elf Posts:


Elf Arrival Tips

When it’s time for your Elf to arrive, don’t be stressed. These 10 tips will get you ready for the Elf on the Shelf arrival!

Elf on the Shelf Ideas with Balloons

What do kids love more than their Elf? Their elf with balloons! Here’s a list of 20 ideas to incorporate balloons into your elf shenanigans!

Elf Crafts for Preschoolers

Christmas time is the perfect time for crafts and Elf Crafts are super fun! Check out these your child can make today!