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How To Make an Elf Trap: Christmas Challenge for Kids

How to make an elf trap! Christmas Challenge for Kids

Are your kids getting super excited for Santa to come? Looking for a learning activity that will challenge your kids creatively? Then it’s time to trap an elf.

Yes, I know a lot of families already have an elf, but I’ve let my kids know that elves can check-in at the house at any time to see how things are going. And we know from Disney’s Prep and Landing that there are elves that come to set the stage for Santa’s arrival on Christmas Eve. So there is a chance you could trap one.

This is why we decided to build an elf trap. And you can make one too. (Bonus: Scroll down to the bottom and get a free printable that makes this even easier!)

How to make an elf trap christmas challenge for kids with picture of an elf trap under a christmas tree

How To Make an Elf Trap

The only thing limiting your child’s elf trap is their imagination. So this is for sure not the only way to make one of these. I liked this trap because it can be cute sitting under the tree, and it makes sense for the holiday.

(You can get some inspiration for other trap ideas from our Leprechaun Traps!)

Supplies for your Elf Trap

This trap needs a few items that are pretty common to have around during the holidays.

  • Empty Box
  • Wrapping Paper
  • Tissue Paper (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Elf Lure (more on this further down)

How To Build Your Elf Trap

This trap is pretty easy to put together. Younger children will probably need adult help with some of the steps. And there will be cutting involved, so use scissor safety.

Step 1: Start with an empty box. Any size box can be used for this. We went with a medium to small box because we are operating under the impression that elves aren’t very big. But whatever you have works.

You are going to want a small-ish hole on the top. You can either cut the top flaps before you tape them closed, leaving a hole, or seal the box and then use an Exacto knife to cut an X and then cut around the X to make an opening.

This doesn’t have to be perfect, just big enough that your elf could fall through.

Step 2: Wrap your box. Wrap it as you would any other Christmas present, just be careful of your hole. Yes, cover the hole.

Once your gift is wrapped take your scissors or a knife and cut an X in the paper over the hole. Be gentle with this step, you don’t want the X to be very noticeable. That is where the elf will fall into the box.

Alternative Step 2: If you are feeling extra, you can use tissue paper over your hole instead. Tape a layer or two of tissue paper over the opening in the top of the box, then wrap the rest of the present. You will need to trim your wrapping paper a bit so that the tissue is open for the elf to fall through.

I personally think this method takes longer and isn’t necessary, but it does make it look a little fancier.

how to make an elf trap holiday challenge with kids with pictures of the steps needed to make this elf trap

Step 3: Gather your elf lures. We want to encourage the elves to step up on the trap we set, so we need something that will attract their attention. Here are some ideas:

  • An ornament that has ‘fallen off the tree’ and needs replacement.
  • A cookie or other treat that the elf would like to eat. (Or collect for Santa.)
  • A note announcing an Elf Treat (with an appealing picture).
  • Any other item your child thinks will get the elves’ attention. (Shiny items are great for this.)

Step 4: Place your trap under the tree, place the lure on top, and wait to see if you can catch an elf!

I recommend placing this trap before Christmas Eve. Yes, it is more likely elves will come to your house when Santa comes. And for sure you can put it out on Christmas Eve too.

But I want to make sure that the fun of the trap isn’t lost in the fun of Christmas morning. So we are putting ours out a little earlier and checking it. You never know when elves will be by to check on how things are going.


This activity is relatively safe. But you will be using scissors or a knife to cut the box and wrapping paper. So be safe and use adult supervision.

Mom Tips for Your Elf Trap

While I love and believe Christmas magic is real, this activity will probably need a little mom magic as well.

If you are placing your trap before Christmas Eve, it is perfectly okay to have it undisturbed sometimes. You aren’t going to get elves sneaking around every night. You can get away with just every so often make it look like the trap has been sprung, but the elf escaped.

You can have the elf leave a little note or a small treat behind if you’d like, letting your children know the elves are in on the fun.

If you have an Elf on the Shelf, it is entirely possible that your elf won’t be able to resist the lure you set out, despite knowing the trap is for other elves. So it could be fun if your elf accidentally found its way into the trap one morning.

Overall, how you use this trap is up to you. The goal is fun, so no pressure to make it anything more than that.

Here are more fun holiday activities to try!

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The Learning In The Trap

Oh yes, there is learning in this activity. Every activity you do with your child has benefits. Here are some that are going on with this one.

Problem Solving

The instructions here are for just one type of trap. Your child can think up anything they’d like to capture their elf! Encourage them to think big.

What if your child thinks of something that is just not realistic for your home? Dive into why that is! This is important learning too. In order to be a successful scientist, you will sometimes need to work within specific boundaries. So there is nothing wrong with saying That idea isn’t entirely feasible. Let’s figure out why.

Some questions to guide discussion are:

  • How are we going to contain the elf?
  • What would get an elf’s attention?
  • How are they going to spring the trap?
  • When should the trap go out?


Any chance for a child to be creative is a good thing. This project is also a fun holiday craft project!

You can use regular wrapping paper to make your trap look like an ordinary present. Or your child can decorate their own paper to use as wrapping paper (or just decorate the box!). What do they think would make a present look like something an elf would like to check out?

You have got to try these fun activities too!

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Building Emotional Resiliency

As much as I believe in Christmas magic, chances are you won’t catch an elf. That’s okay. It sounds mean, but that provides valuable learning for kids too.

One, your child will have to be patient. It can take time for an elf to check on your house and notice the trap. This is good, any chance to build patience is helpful.

Two, your child will have to handle not catching an elf. I know this year has been full of disappointments for children. But I still think that safe chances like this where your child can feel let down and learn how to handle that feeling with loving adults to help is a good thing.

Tips for Older Children

If you have older kids, they can still get in on the fun. You can challenge them to create more elaborate traps. Can they go full-on Rube Goldberg style with it?

Challenge them to create the biggest trap they can. Or the smallest. Or the best camouflaged. There are lots of ways to elevate this if your kids want to put in the effort.

How To Make an Elf Trap Holiday Challenge for kids with picture of a wrapped box elf trap and small sign saying elf treats

Lazy Elf Trap Activity (free printable!)

Time for some honesty here. I see a lot of crafts that look like they are super fun and I would love to try them all. But that just does not happen.

Moms are busy and under a lot of stress, so if this is something that fills you with dread, don’t worry. There is an easier way.

Challenge your child to just draw the design for an elf trap. This is much easier, all you need is some paper and crayons. But your child can still dream big. In fact, this way of making a trap takes away a lot of the practical limits of actually building one!

Grab the free printable by clicking here.

Free Christmas Printable with picture of worksheet for children to draw their own elf trap

Happy Holiday Designing!

I hope this activity brings some fun and magic to your holiday. What sort of trap can your child design?

(Oh, and if you manage to catch one please let me know!)


Where would you like to find your next activity?

Holiday Activities for Kids
STEM activities for kids
sensory activities for kids
Process Art Activities for Kids

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