Home » Seasonal Celebrations » Elf on the Shelf » Elf on the Shelf Arrival Ideas for 2024

Elf on the Shelf Arrival Ideas for 2024

If you’re looking from the best Elf on the Shelf arrival ideas, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite elf arrival ideas with photos and instructions so you can pick your favorite and be ready for the little guy to return.

We’ve also got some free printables to download and print for some easy Elf arrival props.

If you’re like most parents, you’re no doubt excited to welcome your elf back into your home — but also a little overwhelmed at the thought of coming up with creative ideas for its return. Don’t worry! Below are some easy and fun ideas for when your elf comes back.

(This post probably contains affiliate links. See the disclosure policy for more information. You can find the disclosure policy here.)

elf on the shelf arrival ideas

Elf on the Shelf Arrival Ideas

The holiday season is a special time of year, and nothing brings more joy to children than the return of their beloved Elf on the Shelf. The arrival of an elf is always a special occasion — no matter how many times it has happened before!

But coming up with ideas for your Elf’s return can be tricky, especially if you want to make it extra-special! To help out, here are some easy yet creative ideas for how to welcome your little Elf back into your home.

elf on the shelf return ideas for arrival

Don’t miss our 100+ quick Elf on the Shelf ideas – for the elf return week and the rest of December!

Elf on the Shelf Return Ideas for Arrival


The return of your Elf on the Shelf is a special event, full of mystery and wonder. It’s the start of your Elf’s adventures in December, so you want to make it memorable.

These ideas will work whether it is the first time with your elf or if you are a veteran elf parent. Without further ado, here are some fun ideas for when your Elf returns!

best elf on the shelf arrival ideas

Our favorite Elf on the Shelf return ideas for arrival are

  • Elf hiding in gift wrap
  • Elf bringing a gift
  • Elf Scavenger Hunt (See our favorite scavenger hunt clues below)
  • Elf hiding in Christmas tree or Christmas tree costume
  • Elf bringing Elf arrival letter
  • Elf arriving in an ‘elfazon’ box
  • Elf being mailed from North Pole in magical envelope
  • Elf arriving through magical Elf door (Scroll down to grab the free printable Elf door)
  • “Donut Worry I Have Arrived” Sign – Free printable sign – Just add donuts!
  • Writing “I’m Back!” with candy or popcorn on the dining table
  • Elf with an “I’m Back sign (riding in on a robot vacuum)
  • Elf arriving inside a balloon

See below for photos and details for these elf on shelf arrival ideas.

Elf on Shelf Return Ideas

The first Elf on Shelf return ideas are all related to Christmas presents or gift wrap. It’s often an easy and fun way for your Elf to arrive.

elf on the shelf return

Elf Hiding in Gift Wrap

A great way for your elf to make his grand entrance is by being wrapped up like a present beneath the tree. If you have some presents wrapped already, then you will most likely have some Christmas gift wrap handy. This is a fun and easy option for elf on the shelf first day ideas.

Your kids will love to find their Elf wrapped up like a present under the tree. Make sure his head is peeking through so they know that the elf is inside. You can let them know that is ok to touch the elf to unwrap him…but not to touch him again afterwards or his magic will disappear.

Elf on the Shelf Brings Gifts

Another fun tradition is to have your Elf bring a gift for each child. You could say that the gift is an early present from Santa. Simply gift wrap the item and have your elf sit on it or next to it so they know it’s part of Elf’s welcome back.

elf on shelf return ideas

The gift doesn’t have to be large and it doesn’t have to be wrapped. It can be small like candy. The kids will be excited no matter what it is.

welcome back elf ideas

This year our Elf brought an Elf-themed card game gift. Elves have also been known to bring advent calendars!

elf arrival ideas

Elf Being the Gift

If it’s the first time with your Elf or you just want a funny Elf on the Shelf arrival idea, then have Elf arrive in a gift bag filled with tinsel. You could hide some candy at the bottom of the bag if you like for extra fun.

elf on the shelf brings gifts

Elf on the Shelf Welcome Back

How about writing “I’m Back” with candy or popcorn as a fun and easy elf arrival idea? What child wouldn’t love waking up to this? haha.

elf on the shelf come back ideas

Elf on Shelf Arrival Ideas

The next fun elf on shelf arrival ideas option is an elf-themed scavenger hunt. This might be a new favorite tradition for your elf on the shelf return every year.

Elf Scavenger Hunt

Setting up a Christmas scavenger hunt around the house is such a fun way to welcome your elf back. You can make your own by writing clues on pieces of paper that direct your kids from room to room, leading them right up to where you placed their elf!

free printable elf on the shelf scavenger hunt

We have created a FREE PRINTABLE Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt clues game for you that you will love. (Pictured above)

There are also two fun elf treasure hunt clues games below. We didn’t create these games but they are super fun to play and we highly recommend them. You can find the game right here. (Pictured below)

elf on the shelf return ideas

We also love this Elf treasure hunt game as a fun arrival idea – or play it with your Elf anytime during December. (Pictured below). Find treasure hunt game here.

elf on the shelf scavenger hunt clues

Photo courtesy: DesignsAholic

Elf Arrival Ideas

The next elf on a shelf arrival ideas are all about the Christmas tree.

Elf on the Shelf Christmas Tree

A fun way for your elf to return is by hiding somewhere unexpected—like inside (or on top) of the family Christmas tree! Why not hide your elf among all those twinkly lights?

This could become a new tradition for your family for your elf’s annual grand entrance. He could bring a new elf-themed Christmas tree decoration every year to hang on the tree.

Now if you don’t have your Christmas tree up yet in time for Elf’s arrival, then don’t worry. Stack some tinsel on the floor and hide your Elf in that. Or grab one of these amazing Elf Christmas tree costumes (pictured below) for your Elf to hide in.

Find the Elf Christmas tree costume right here.

elf on the shelf returns

This Elf Christmas tree costume can be used year after year. It’s a good quality decoration and it even makes your elf stand up if you tuck your elf’s legs inside.

elf on the shelf christmas tree

Elf on the Shelf First Day Ideas

The next Elf on the Shelf first day ideas in this article are elf arriving as a letter or with a letter or both. These are such fun and creative ideas and the kids will love them.

Elf with Arrival Letter

There are so many options for a fun arrival letter to leave next to your elf. We’ve made one for you with a unique elf arrival poem. Grab our free printable Elf on the Shelf arrival letter to leave next to your elf.

elf on the shelf first day ideas

Or another alternative is to have your elf bring a letter from Santa. See our free printable Santa letterhead paper for an easy way to write a Santa letter.

The Santa letter could explain why the Elf needs their help this year and what tasks he wants completed during his stay with them. This could include helping around the house, doing good deeds for others, spreading kindness and joy during December, and so forth. Kids love feeling like they are part of something bigger than themselves—this is sure to be a hit!

Elf Arriving via “Elfazon”

Why not have your elf arrive in a cheeky DIY “Elfazon” box. Fill the box with tinsel or ribbon….or you could also add a little candy surprise in the box as well.

first day elf on the shelf ideas

Elf Arrival Postal Envelope

Why not deliver Elf in an envelope postmarked from the North Pole? This will get your kid’s imaginations running wild as they try to figure out how the letter got there so fast!

Inside, you can include a note from Santa about how excited he is for Christmas this year. You can either grab an envelope like the one pictured below – find envelope here. Or you could make your own envelope with paper, glitter glue and colorful pens.

elf on shelf arrival ideas

You could also include an elf arrival letter in the envelope explaining why they are visiting during this special time of the year. Grab our free printable Elf arrival letter with our unique elf arrival poem. 

Or alternatively write a Santa letter with our free printable From the Desk of Santa letterhead paper to easily create a Christmasy letter. 

Elf on the Shelf Return Ideas

The next fun ideas feature an Elf on the Shelf door for Elf’s arrival. We also have a free printable Elf on the Shelf door for a handy last minute idea.

Elf on the Shelf Door

How cute is this Elf on the Shelf door set up? I’m using it for my kids this year for the first time as I’ve only just purchased it. I can’t wait to see their faces! You can find the elf door and accessories right here.

elf on the shelf door

Now if there is no time left to buy an Elf door, then we’ve still got you covered. I made a free printable Elf door for you to download and print straight away.

elf on the shelf door

The elf on the shelf door can be printed on white paper (letter size or A4). Print it in either landscape or portrait orientation. Then stick it to the bottom of your wall and leave your elf next to it. 

Click on the link to download your free printable Elf door right here.

elf on the shelf door

Need help planning the rest of December for your Elf antics? Check out our free printable Elf on the Shelf calendar planner. It will simplify your December if you can work out your Elf ideas in advance.

Elf on the Shelf Welcome Back Ideas

This is one of our favorite ideas for elf on the shelf arrival. A “Donut Worry I Have Arrived” sign. Just print the sign out and add donuts for a super sweet arrival.

Donut Worry I Have Arrived Sign

elf arrival ideas

We’ve got the free printable available for you right here.

Elf Arriving on Robot Vacuum

This is a fun idea if you have a remote vacuum cleaner. Sticky tape your elf on top of the vacuum so that he doesn’t fall off.

elf arrival idea

Find the all the free printable elf on the Shelf notes you need in December including the ‘I’m back’ note pictured above.

Now this next elf arrival idea is super fun if you dare!

Elf in Balloon

Have your elf come back inside an extra-large balloon, with a note saying “Pop me!” Or simply write pop me on the balloon with a marker.  Once popped, your elf can be found inside. Your kids will love popping the balloon to find their elf!

You don’t have to use a helium filled balloon. Just blow the balloon up as normal once the elf is inside and hang it somewhere in your house where it will be safe until it’s ready to be found!

The easiest way to get your elf in the balloon is to use a canning funnel to open up the mouth of the balloon. Once your elf is inside the balloon, use a hand held or electric balloon pump to blow up the balloon.

Don’t miss our other awesome Christmas themed and Elf on the Shelf articles with FREE PRINTABLES.

Elf on the Shelf Ideas – All our fun ideas and free printables in the one place.

Elf on the Shelf Planners – free printable Elf antics planners to help make your December super EASY!

Elf on Shelf Free Printables – (free printable games and activities)

Elf on the Shelf Letters to Santa (free printables)

Elf Arrival Letter (and letterhead free printables)

Elf on Shelf Printables (Free printable signs and activities)

Elf Notes (Free Printables)

Elf on the Shelf on Strike (Free printables)

Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt Ideas (Free Printables)

Christmas Elf Jokes (Free Printables)

Elf Twister Printable

Free Printable Christmas Games

Free Printable Christmas Cards to Color 

Elf on Shelf Games (Free Printables – Great for road trips and vacay).

Returning Elves are always an exciting time of year for kids—it marks the beginning of their adventure before Christmas arrives. These creative ideas will ensure that your Elf has an unforgettable entrance that starts off his month-long stay with lots of excitement and wonderment!

What do you think of all of these first day elf on the shelf ideas? Which one would you choose? Let us know in the comments below! Happy Holidays everyone!

Elf image in title and on Donut Worry printable is courtesy of drewbdoodles on Etsy.


Leave a Comment