Explaining Santa to Kids
No matter how you celebrate the holidays in December, it’s almost impossible to ignore the presence of Santa Claus. This mystical and mythical figure can be everything from a curiosity to a source of happiness to a scary lap for sitting on when it comes to children—and the concept of a man in a red suit, driving a sleigh to deliver gifts across the world in one night via chimney can be difficult for parents to explain.
Of course, there are some parents who find it uncomfortable, or even unethical, to encourage their kids’ belief in Santa. This is a perfectly admirable decision, as long as they ensure that their kids are willing to respect others who do believe in Santa. No matter the choice you make for you and your family regarding jolly old St. Nick, here are some ideas to help explain this concept to children.
Who Is Santa?
Depending on your child’s age, stage of development, and experience, they may wonder exactly who Santa Claus is. Is he the man at the mall in the red suit, taking pictures with people? Is he the character in the holiday Christmas movie or television special? Is he at the North Pole with his elves? The fact that different versions and images of Santa are almost everywhere for the better part of a month can be confusing for little ones.
To explain who Santa is, it’s best to focus on the qualities he represents. Kids will enjoy and appreciate the explanation that Santa is part of what makes Christmastime magical by bringing joy, kindness, and fun to others. Parents should focus on Santa’s giving spirit and the way he inspires this feeling in people of all ages and backgrounds.
Fun Santa Activities
There are many ways to incorporate the idea of Santa Claus into your holiday celebrations throughout December. These will add to the feeling of Christmas spirit for you and your children by focusing on the concept of giving to others as much as receiving.
Here are some fun ideas for Santa activities:
- Letters to Santa: It’s very common for kids to dictate or write a letter to Santa, letting him know their Christmas wishes. Rather than coming up with a long list of presents to hopefully find under the tree, you can encourage your child to include a “wish” for someone else in their letter to Santa. If they have trouble thinking of something, you can make gentle suggestions by asking, “What might (sibling, pet, teacher, grandparent, etc.) want for Christmas?”
- Gift for Santa: Many families leave a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for Santa on Christmas Eve. However, you can start a different tradition for leaving Santa something special. Your child can make an art project to share, set out some healthy veggies such as carrots and celery for Santa’s reindeer, or even create a special ornament for Santa to take home to his own tree.
- Playing Santa: Most children love to surprise others with a little gift or nice gesture. You can help them “play” Santa by thinking of someone in your family, neighborhood, or community who could use some cheer or appreciation. Then you and your child can decide to surprise them with a little, unexpected gift before Christmas such as a homemade card, flowers, baked goods, Christmas caroling, snow shoveling, etc.
Using Santa to Influence Behavior
It can be very tempting for parents to use Santa and his “naughty or nice” list as leverage to influence their children’s behavior leading up to Christmas Day. However, this is typically an ineffective strategy. For most children, the “threat” of Santa not bringing gifts based their behavior loses its impact the more it’s given. In addition, little ones often don’t truly understand the connection between their present actions and receiving future Christmas presents. Ultimately, parents may find themselves in an awkward position about Santa delivering gifts on Christmas if they insist that their child’s behavior is what will determine this outcome.
Telling the Truth
Some kids willingly accept the existence of Santa and hold on to that belief for many years. Others may feel a bit more skeptical about the whole thing. Be sure to respect the way your child processes and expresses their belief (or lack thereof) in Santa Claus. Magic and imagination, whether in the form of Santa or something else, is an important part of childhood. Therefore, it’s important to consider your child’s age, developmental stage, and unique personality when discussing the “truth” about Santa.
The best approach is to avoid any extremes, such as insisting to your child that Santa is absolutely real or “ruining” the magic by revealing that he’s not, before your child is ready to accept it. The more you respect your child’s inclinations to believe or not believe, the more respectful they will be of peers, siblings, and others when the subject comes up. Children, especially as they get older, should be encouraged not to “ruin” the magic of Santa for others as well.
One of the best ways to ensure that you and your kids have fond memories of Christmas, Santa or no Santa, is to focus on meaningful traditions and spending time together. At Cognisprings, we support parents looking for educational toys and gifts that encourage family togetherness as well as independent play. That’s why we provide games, toys, books, and puzzles that are thoughtfully designed and uniquely enhance children’s critical thinking, creativity, and curiosity. Our products allow families to connect and learn with each other in addition to creating lasting traditions and memories. They also make excellent gift ideas for screen-free fun, healthy cognitive development, creativity, and literacy skills. Thank you for letting us be part of your holiday fun!