Ho Ho Ho Holiday fun is coming!!! The Holidays are full of wonder, cold weather, children's imagination, traditions and storytelling. For parents, it is the time of year for decorating trees, putting up lights, listening to holiday music (All I want for Christmas is YOU.. anyone else love that song??), gathering with family and ... the Dreaded Mall Santa Trip!
Yikes! Standing in line, screaming babies, hungry children and for what? A photo that you are going to pay $50 for - and good luck if your child is smiling in it. Actually, you will probably have to go stand next to Santa just so they will stay still for the five seconds it takes to snap the shot.
Sound Familiar? Don't worry, we have you covered! It's never to early to start preparing your little one for this once per year trip.
Here are 5 Tips for a Cry-Free Santa Day:
1) Start Early
To most kids, Santa Clause is a stranger. Someone who has a big beard and you can't see his face. Although cheery, he is very scary. Start introducing your child to Santa as early as you can - at least two or three weeks before you plan your mall trip.
Read a lot of Santa books and watch some movies with Santa in it. Do you have a Santa Doll? Take him out. Re-introducing your child to Santa allows them to discover his sweet-natured character. This will be fresh in their minds when they are staring him in the face in a crowded Mall.
2) Prepare for Forgetfulness
Sure your child may have a lot of things they want to ask Santa for. Maybe they tell you EVERYDAY that they want a special toy. When a child is face to face with Santa, they may become overwhelmed and forget. They may become frustrated when asked the same question repeatedly (What they would like for Christmas) if they can't remember or they are shy. To prevent this from happening, ask your child to draw a photo of what they would like to ask Santa for. Allow the child to bring their photo up with them when the meet Santa. Having a visual reminder of what they wanted to ask for will help them feel confident. If not, Santa may ask what is on the picture which will spark a very friendly conversation :)
3) Photo or no Photo
Meeting Santa can be a joyous occasion - it could also be very scary. If your child gets to the front of the line and then decides that they would rather not walk up to Santa - think twice before forcing them. Placing a screaming or crying child in Santa's lap to "just get the photo" is very traumatizing and can lead to nightmares and other negative side effects. Remember that your child is a mini-human and their feelings should be respected. A tall man with a white beard wearing a bright red suit can be SCARY. On any other day, talking to a stranger would not be okay. It is hard for children to understand why the rules are different for this man, and this man only.
4) Timing is Everything
A busy mall on a Sunday during lunch time is not the optimal time to meet Santa. When planning your trip to meet Santa, make sure that it is not during a time where your child is typically hungry or tired. If you do decide to go meet Santa on a weekend when there are lots of other people around, remember that loud noises, people in costumes and the excitement of meeting Santa may be too overwhelming for your little one. When overstimulated, children may become tired, frustrated or impatient. Be patient and remember that this is a very BIG moment for your little one.
5) The Waiting Blues
Waiting for something you are excited about tests all of our patience. Sometimes Santa needs a break and other times there are just so many kids in line that it may take a half an hour just to get to the front of the line. Planning ahead makes waiting a bit more bearable. Make sure that your child has somewhere to sit if the line gets too long (either in a stroller or a bench nearby). Always have a snack on hand. There are a few games that you can play while standing in a line. Check out these "Going on a Walk" Activities or these "Shopping Game" activities for some simple ideas of what you can do while waiting in line.
The holidays are filled with fun and laughter, but remember that children see things in a whole new way. They don't know the difference between real and pretend. While something may seem like "no big deal" to you, your child may think the opposite. Patience is a virtue, especially around the holidays!
What are some ways that you prepare your child to meet Santa? Please share your tips in the comments below!