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Elf on the Shelf Return Letter & Arrival Ideas For 2024

Looking for memorable Elf on the Shelf arrival ideas? You’re in the right place. There is no excitement in most households quite like the Elf on the Shelf return… except for perhaps Christmas day itself!

Plan some extra magic for the 1st of December in your household with a free printable Elf on the Shelf return letter and creative Elf return ideas that will delight the kids when they wake up and discover their little friend has returned!

Want more Elf printables? Get my complete tool kit!

Elf on the shelf

Elf on the Shelf Return

Elf on the Shelf has become a popular family Christmas tradition.

If you are new to the concept, it is a concept intended as a little fun from December 1st until Christmas Eve, when an Elf comes to watch over the kids and report back to Santa each night.

He can’t be touched or he loses his magic to return to the North Pole.

But what makes the whole thing fun is the creative and mischievous things your elf gets up to while the children are asleep. They wake to find him in a new place, sometimes up to no good.

If you’ve had an elf in your family home previously, making sure your Elf return is memorable can be a lot of fun!

When does the elf on the shelf return?

Traditionally Elf on the Shelf arrives in your home on 1 December, in position before your children are out of bed. This means preparing for the return the evening before.

When does elf on the shelf leave?

Your Elf returns home to the North Pole with Santa as he makes his way around the world delivering presents. Your children can say their farewell on Christmas Eve, until the following year when he will return again.

Free Printable Elf On The Shelf Return Letter

printable elf on the shelf planner return letter

A simple way to announce your Elf has returned to your home for another December is with an elf return letter.

You can handwrite a letter for your children, but be sure to disguise your handwriting with some messy Elf writing. A few backwards letters can work well!

Or, use a printed letter instead. This is a huge time saver and looks very official coming from the North Pole!

To make it easy for you, I have created a free printable Elf on the Shelf return letter with my Elf Planner bundle.

You can download the free printable elf letterhead as well as a daily elf planner and an ideas list to get you organised for the return of Santa’s favourite helper!

This is a fun ‘I’m Back’ letter kids will love reading. Don’t forget to sign the bottom of the letter from your elf!


free printable elf on the shelf letter

If you are welcoming your Elf for the first time, check out my printable Elf on the Shelf Kit for an introduction letter for Santa and plenty of other letters, props and ideas! It includes an Elf on the Shelf arrival letter for the first visit. This huge kit will make save you a load of time and make sure your elf time is fun instead of stressful!

Elf On The Shelf Return Ideas For Arrival

Now that you’ve got your Elf on a Shelf arrival letter sorted, it’s time to plan the arrival itself.

You can absolutely keep it simple and prop your elf up somewhere with the printed letter tucked into his lap or nearby (remember your kids aren’t allowed to touch their elf).

Or come up with a fun way to announce the Elf return instead!

We almost always have our Elf on the shelf return with Advent calendars for our two girls.

Usually, we just get the cheap supermarket advent calendars with a small daily chocolate treat.

Or we use our homemade advent calendar instead and fill it with little treats or toys.

Either way, kids love the idea of getting a treat and there are plenty of non-candy advent ideas. Some great options for kids are stationary advent calendars, book advent calendars or what we did last year was LEGO advent calendars.

Here are some more ideas for the Elf on the Shelf return:

1. Elf Return Breakfast

A lovely way to welcome your Elf is by sharing a special breakfast together as a family on 1 December, courtesy of your elf!

This could be having breakfast foods that you usually only have on special occasions, or by adding some festive treats to your breakfast spread.

The key is to set this up before your kids are awake so that it can be seen as a gift from your elf. If this is a little tricky to achieve, you may need to adjust your plan a little.

Arrival breakfast

Perhaps your elf brings a pancake mix with him when he arrives. Or you can decorate the dining table with festive items the night before so that your kids can wake up and see a beautiful setting for breakfast.

Here are some ways to make a really magical return breakfast:

  • Have your elf arrive with a basket of special breakfast ingredients you can use to make a meal together as a family
  • Beat your kids out of bed and put together a breakfast spread before they are awake
  • Decorate the dining table the night before once the kids are asleep and leave a little note telling them it is ready for a special breakfast in the elf’s honour now they have returned.

2. Special Delivery

Getting parcels is exciting no matter your age… and for kids, a special delivery with their name on it, direct from the North Pole is sure to set the tone for a crazy exciting start to the festive season.

Put your elf in a decorated box on the doorstep. The only tricky part here is that once the box is open, no one can touch the elf and he may have to stay in the box for the day.

Alternatively, have your elf arrive with (but not inside) of a 1st of December Christmas box instead.

This is a little like a Christmas Eve box, except it arrives on the first of December instead.

elf delivery box

Unless you have some magic gloves or a special set of kitchen tongs that allows you go do these things!

elf gloves for touching elf

A personalised Elf delivery envelope is another great option. You can get these personalised with your children’s names for an extra special touch. This option is a great tradition to start with your elf arriving.

elf arrival envelope

3. Arriving With a Gift or Advent Calendar

I mentioned above that we always have our Elf bring the annual advent calendar, whether it be a LEGO advent calendar or a budget-friendly chocolate one.

If you enjoy getting creative, check out these ideas for making your own DIY advent calendar.

This is a simple gift that brings an extra element of fun to the days leading up to Christmas.

If you have younger children, it also has the benefit of supporting their learning with the countdown to Christmas.

They can find the correct number on their advent calendar each day and count how many days left until Christmas from the treats they haven’t yet opened.

Alternatively, your elf can arrive with a small gift for your children, such as a book or a new set of pyjamas. While kids do love toys, a more practical gift is a great option!

4. Elf Scavenger Hunt

printable elf on the shelf scavenger hunt clues

Part of the fun of having an Elf on the Shelf is finding them each morning. For younger children, having your elf in a slightly more obvious place will make it easier for them to find him each morning.

But for older children, having a few very tricky hiding spots is great fun.

And on your Elf arrival day, try kicking off with an extra hard hiding spot to kick off a game of hide and seek.

Create a few clue cards for your kids to follow, that leads them on a seeking adventure around the house. This turns the Elf on the Shelf arrival into a game.

You can get my free printable Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt clues here.

Add a Christmas treat or two along with your clues, such as candy canes or stickers. Then the final clue will reveal the hiding spot and your returning Elf!

Hide a new clue in the place their last clue leads them. Having 5-10 clues will make a fun Scavenger hunt game for them.

Here are some simple Elf hide and seek clues:

  • Follow the clues for a gift for you. The first one is easy. It’s in your shoe.
  • You don’t have to search very long or far. The next one is where we park the car.
  • Elves are fast. Not like a snail. When you get a letter, they come in the mail.
  • This is fun. It’s really neat. The next clue you will find, at the place you sit to eat.
  • Is that all the clues? Why no it is not. Try a place that gets really hot.
  • Your very last clue. Try not to peep. It’s at the place where you go to sleep.

5. Christmas Freak Shakes

Freak shakes have become a popular indulgence so why not have your elf arrive with a few special ingredients to make the ultimate freak shake.

A freak shake is just a really loaded milkshake with extra ice cream, whipped cream, full blocks of chocolate sticking out and heaps of edible decorations.

This might need to come with a note to say this is a treat for later in the day otherwise your kids might be ready for a sugar high at 6 AM!

Use candy canes and Christmas coloured sprinkles to decorate your festive milkshake treats.

6. A New Decoration For The Tree

One of our Christmas traditions that was also a tradition when I was growing up is to decorate the Christmas tree on 1 December. This coincides perfectly with your elf arrival if you have the same tradition.

Incorporate this into your Elf on the Shelf return by having him bring a new decoration for the tree each year.

There are some stunning and sentimental collectable Christmas tree ornaments that would make a special addition to your tree.

Or perhaps go with a novelty decoration related to something relevant to your family for that year. After all, the elf does love pranks!

7. An Epic Prank

While we’re on the topic of pranks, why not kick off the return with a really big and hilarious Elf on the Shelf prank?

Make sure it’s an obvious one that will get your family’s attention pretty quickly. This will set the bar for what will be a chaotic fun month of Elf chaos and will delight the kids.

Check out my Elf on the Shelf inspiration post for plenty of funny ideas. And if your household has 2 or more elf on the shelf visitors, check out these fun Elves on the Shelf ideas for multiple elves.

elves eating nutella

Here are a few great return prank ideas:

  • Decorate the toilet with Christmas decorations
  • Make a mess with baking supplies over the kitchen bench
  • Scatter Christmas decorations and the tree around the living room in preparation for it to be put up
  • Hang everyone’s underpants on a string across a room

8. An Elf Door

Fairy doors have become a cute tradition for families when a child has lost a tooth and expecting the tooth fairy to arrive. This idea works just as well with the Elf on the Shelf.

You can use a fairy door decoration or make your own. These festive Elf doors are perfect if you want something just for your elf.

elf on the shelf door

This idea can be a good one if you have kids who struggle with the concept of magic alone allowing the elf to enter your home, in the same way that a Santa key can give them extra peace of mind that Santa can enter on Christmas Eve.

Especially if you don’t have a fireplace!

9. Build Anticipation

Older kids will know their elf is due to return soon if they are familiar with the tradition.

You can build up anticipation early by dropping a few little elf touches in the days leading up to December.

This may include little notes from your elf to say he is coming soon.

Or a countdown on their chalkboard, using a dry erase marker on a mirror or another prominent place in your house. You don’t even need to say what the number refers to.

Just point it out and ask them what they think it means and as the countdown gets closer, see if they can guess correctly.

Then on arrival day, add a note saying “Did you know it was me?” to add the excitement of knowing he was sneaking into the house early.

10. Arrival Banner

Create your own festive bunting banner with the words ‘I’m Back’ to hang up in your house. Position your elf nearby so the kids can’t miss it.

Elf banner I'm Back

You can create a fabric banner if you’re feeling really crafty and reuse it each year.

Or create a simple paper bunting using red and white cardstock and a length of string to tape them to.

2023 Elf Return Idea

This year has been filled with plenty of chaos so if you wanted to keep your elf duties simple this December, this is a hilarious and appropriate way to do it.

Using a discount store Santa sack or you could use a jar or any other container with a clear section so you can still see your elf, and take the first 2 weeks off!

elf on the shelf quarantine

Elf Arrival Balloons Idea

elf arrival balloon scene hanging next to christmas tree.

This is a great alternative for a letter from elf on the shelf returning. A grand entrance with balloons and a special note to your child.

Welcome Back Wreath

DIY elf on the shelf arrival wreath.

This cute welcome back wreath gives your Elves somewhere special to arrive. You can see my DIY no glue wreath tutorial if you want to make your own.

The Ultimate Elf on the Shelf Took Kit

If you are excited by the idea of doing Elf on the Shelf with your family, but also don’t want to add a heap of extra stress to your load this December, my Elf on the Shelf printable tool kit is for you!

This mega bundle of printables is an instant download full of letters from your Elf to your children, a welcome letter from Santa if this is your first year as an Elf family, behaviour reports, lunch box jokes, simple ideas and printable prop cards to go with them and heaps more.

Grab the bundle in my online store

Elf on the shelf tool kit

With loads of fun Elf on the shelf return ideas to inspire you for your annual visitor’s return, you are ready to go share some Christmas magic around the house. There are plenty of Elf on the Shelf arrival ideas for your first year of elf mischief too! My free printable Elf on the Shelf return letter makes it easier than ever to prepare for the silly season!

Make sure you come and join our Elfing Around Facebook group for even more ideas and inspiration!

I hope these Elf on the Shelf arrival ideas help you come up with some creative fun!

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Elf on the shelf return ideas and elf on the shelf arrival ideas

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