25 days of Elf on the Shelf for a Toddler

For as long as I can remember, I have waited to share the magic of the holidays with my children. Unfortunately, in the midst of a global pandemic, a lot of the traditions I’ve dreamt of passing along to my daughter are looking different. I’m struggling to make this year as special as possible. In a moment of pure desperation and insanity, I decided that this was the perfect time for us to start our own Elf on the Shelf tradition.

Ground Rules

The intent of the Elf on the Shelf is to bring magic and joy to the holidays; not to make myself crazy. In order to make sure I wasn’t going to bite off more than I could chew, I set a few ground rules:

  1. This is fun: I’m not competing with anyone or anything to “win” the Elf awards.
  2. Don’t go overboard: Amelia is 2.5. Though I may think she is a genius, she still thinks putting a blanket over her head makes her invisible. The bar is pretty low for making this enjoyable for her. This also means, don’t spend a ton of money. I bought a few things, but the goal is to use what we have on hand.
  3. Don’t reinvent the wheel: Pinterest has a ton of ideas on it. I started curating a Pinterest Board of great ideas. This actually took a lot of pressure off of me. At night, instead of freaking out about what to do, I just opened Pinterest, and looked at what would be my easiest option.
  4. Play Along: Amelia still believes a blanket makes her invisible, because I play along. The whole point of this is to play together. It isn’t just about setting up an elaborate photo-op overnight to brag on Instagram. It is about hunting for the elf in the morning. Letting Amelia’s imagination blossom by explaining to me what she thinks the elf did during the night.

Ok. Now that we have those rules set, here we go….

Week 1

1. Elf in Quarantine

Since this is 2020, I had to have a little fun. Our Elf arrived fully quarantined. I’ll admit, this one took some work. I used my Cricut Joy to make the decals, and painted a mason jar with some white acrylic paint and glitter Mod Podge. I did not go overboard, and make a mask – especially this was basically to entertain me and my husband.

2. Elf on a Train

Without fail, the first thing my daughter does at my mother’s house, is run for the Brio train set. When I bought our Elf, I had the option of “bundling” with a few kits, and I figured, “why not”. One of the kits had a cardboard train, so it was the perfect prop for our second night. Honestly, you don’t need the kit to do this. My daughter was overjoyed by the train set being set up with the Elf.

3. Climbing Elf

I’m going to admit, I’m extremely proud of this one. We used string lights, hair elastics, vaseline and baking soda for this one. I freehanded an Elf Footprint on some printer paper, and cut it out to make a stencil. Using a Q-tip, I stenciled vaseline footprints on the mantle. Using my finger, I dabbed baking soda on each of the vaseline footprints, and voila! We attached the Elf and the reindeer to the string lights with hair elastics. It looks really elaborate, but the whole thing took maybe 15 minutes. The best part, clean up was SO EASY the next night! the baking soda and vaseline wiped off perfectly.

4. Snow Angels

There are so many variations of this on Pinterest, but I liked using sprinkles the best. The elf didn’t get too dirty, and clean up was super easy. When Amelia came downstairs and saw this she was so excited! She loves sprinkles. She told me the elf needed to eat the sprinkles, and turned her face down. Yes, I know the elf magic disappears if you touch the elf – but you try explaining that to a two year old.

5. Elf Eating Cereal

After a few days, the whole family was really in to our Elf antics. My mom went grocery shopping and found Elf on the Shelf cereal. While the cereal has absolutely no nutritional value, we did use it for some entertainment. That night our elf, Matilda, enjoyed a nice bowl of cereal.

6. Snow Elf

Night 6 was a long day of driving for us. When we got home, it was already pretty late. I didn’t want to kill myself, so I used one of the Elf Couture costumes I bought with my bundle. Overpriced, yes. Worth it? Totally. And this WILL be reused in future years. The cutouts are actually really good quality, so they will work again as well.

7. Elf Engineer

Like most toddlers, Amelia loves to build things. Mostly so she can knock them down. We had been given a gift certificate to Home Depot a while ago, and it came in a really cute mini Home Depot apron. I knew I wanted to use it for the Elf on the Shelf somehow. I was going to use her blocks to build a house, but forgot to get them from her room before she went to sleep. Instead, I used popsicle sticks.

Week 2

8. Chalk Art

Since Amelia can’t read, we opted for a pictorial message on our chalkboard.

9. North Portal

A little redundant, but chalk markers on the window and a few suction hooks make for a great window to the North Pole!

10. Ornament Gift

Every year we give Amelia a special ornament that represents something from that year. This past year, she fell in love with “Baby YoYo” from the Mandalorian. We decided that we would get her a “Baby Yoda” ornament, to represent 2020.

11. Fruit Friend

Desperation is the mother of creativity. adhesive googly eyes from our craft box, and a wax pen to draw the mouth. Voila! Our elf has a friend!

12. This is How We Roll

We also celebrate Hanukkah in our family, so on the first night, our Elf brought some fun and games for the whole family.

13. Mission Impossible Elf

Extra bead garland to the rescue. Hung our elf from the chandelier with an extra ornament to look like she was decorating the tree.

14. Craft Gift

Our elf brought some crafts. It was a great activity for the morning. Amelia now calls the ornaments she made her elf ornaments.

More ideas will be posted soon!

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