By Jeni Weisiger
Visiting Santa as a toddler has to be the oddest experience! With the onset of stranger anxiety (a stage most toddlers experience where they are fearful of new or unknown people, places or things), the over whelming atmosphere of a mall, and the expectation of waiting, it’s a phenomenon that even one toddler can enjoy sitting on Santa’s lap.
With all these obstacles, how can we provide support for a positive experience resulting in adorable pictures, lasting memories and little to no tears? Again, I advocate preparedness! (Toddlers need a lot of this, over and over and over again.)
- Books. Reading books about Santa or going to visit Santa is a great way to begin preparing your toddler for his or her visit. Point out things about Santa in the pictures: “Oh, he has a long white beard,” “I bet Santa’s red suit is soft.” Reading books can bring up questions your toddler has about this mysterious man.
- Pictures. See if you can find pictures of other family members sitting on Santa’s lap: older sibling, cousins and, if your lucky and organized, maybe pictures of your self as a child visiting Santa.
- Taglines. Practice some of Santa’s taglines with your toddler. This will give them some confidence when they come face to face with his jolly old soul. “Ho-Ho-Ho, Merry Christmas.” “What would you like to Christmas this year?” Give you toddler some script to say back, some thing as simple as “Ho-Ho-Ho” or “Where is Rudolf?” Even practice what they would like to ask Santa for.
The day of the big meeting try to pick a time and place that might not be so busy, a school night for example. While you’re waiting in line, bring some of your Santa books from home so your toddler can have something familiar. Talk about what is the same about the Santa pictures and the one you are about to see. Practice your taglines while you wait, or practice taking pictures. All of these things will give your toddler some control and confidence during their visit.
If you have to wait a long time, have one adult stay in line, while another adult takes your toddler up to watch other children have their visit with Santa. (Hopefully these are positive experiences!)
With all the preparation ahead of time your toddler should be well equipped to enjoy and maybe even ham-up their experience with Santa! Enjoy.
Jeni Weisiger is a Developmental Specialist in the Early Intervention Program and teaches infant massage classes to parents and caregivers. She is new to the area and looking for ways to be involved with early childhood in Champaign County.