3 Ways to Introduce Santa to Your Toddlers

Family Matters on 11.28.11
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Photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Last year was our daughter's first Christmas. At only 6 months old, she was fairly oblivious to what was going on. She liked the glittering lights and the sparkly ornaments, but she just didn't really get it. So, when we took her to see Santa, I wasn't sure what to expect. Would she like the long white beard and soft red coat, or would she take one look at the jolly fellow and have a colossal meltdown? We were lucky; she simply stared at him with curiosity and then turned to the camera with a deer in headlights look. But there were no tears, so we considered it a success.

This year, I have no illusions as to what will happen when we plop her down on Santa's lap. Many of you have probably been through the same experience and have the photo to prove it. She will have her head thrown back, her mouth wide open, and while you won't be able to hear it through the photo, you will be able to imagine the sounds of terror as she screams her head off. In anticipation of our visit, we've been trying to introduce Santa to her to make him seem fun and happy, instead of big and scary. Only time will tell if our tricks will work, but here's what we've been doing.

Books

As with everything else, there are countless books out there for kids at Christmas. We started reading them last week, and she's already totally into them. They're what she goes for now when it's time to read, and she loves the reindeer, elves, and Christmas trees. There's one in particular, Christmastime is Here with the LittlePeople, that has a huge photo of Santa on the front, and contains pages and pages of flaps to lift. When she picks up that book, she yells out "Ho Ho Ho!," knowing that's Santa's mantra. She's able to pick him out on every page, and she gives a big smile when she sees him. However, a one-dimensional picture of Santa that doesn't make any noise in a book is quite different than the real thing, so we also turn to...

Movies and TV

Like many children out there, my daughter is quite taken with the Sesame Street gang. She's particularly fond of Elmo and loves to see him on TV. My husband and I both have SesameStreet.org programmed into our favorites on our computers, so we can quickly pull up a short video to give her a quick fix every once in a while.  You can find just about any video you're looking for, whether you're searching by character or by topic. Learning to count? No problem. Potty training? The Muppets of Sesame Street can help. So, after a quick search, I found a cute little video of Elmo visiting Santa Claus up at the North Pole. Not only is Elmo excited to see Santa, but it goes into the spirit of Christmas and there's a song to boot. But again, seeing Santa on TV isn't quite the same thing as when he's right in front of you, so we've also brought out some...

Dolls and Figurines

Unfortunately, the dolls we have around our house have given me an inkling as to what we're in for when we go see Santa. Last night, we put her to bed and hauled out all of the decorations. We thought it would be fun to get it all done while she was asleep, and then have her walk through the house with everything glowing this morning when she woke up. And it was fun! She loved it and continued through every room with a look of wonder on her face. Until, that is, she spotted the two Santa dolls we have with our respective school logos on their sweaters. These Santas are probably 12 inches tall and are too cute. She took one look at them, furrowed her little brow, and took off running as fast as her little legs would carry her. My hope is that she'll get used to them the more she sees them. Only time will tell. In the meantime, wish us luck with our visit to Santa. And if we do have the all-too-common photo of a screaming toddler and an exasperated Santa, at least we'll have a great story to tell for years to come that will embarrass her to no end.

How about you? Was your first visit to Santa stressful or serene? What tips can you share?

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