My parents were pretty awesome at being Santa. I still remember the year my brother and I got our Nintendo — never have you seen happier children. Of course, I didn’t truly appreciate all the work that went being Santa until I had children of my own. At 3 months old, my daughter is still too young to fully appreciate it. But my 3-year-old son is at the perfect age to fully grasp the magic — and believe me, we are using it to our full advantage. You don’t want to eat your dinner? Fine, looks like Santa won’t be coming. Not picking up those Legos, huh? Are you suuure you want to make Santa mad? Ahhhhh, the power that comes with being Santa. It’s like the One Ring, only you don’t turn into Gollum and you get cookies and milk. All kidding aside, there really is nothing like reliving the magic of Christmas morning through your kids’ eyes. For you parents and grandparents who may be playing Santa for the first time (or for the first time in a long time) here are some parent-tested tips for pulling off the ultimate Santa.
Step 1: Help them with their list.
Once your kids get to the 2 to 3-year-old range, it’s easier for them to verbalize what they want from Santa. My 3-year-old wants literally everything he sees on TV. Lion Guard Training Lair? “Mommy, I want that!” SnuggieTails? “Mommy, I want that!” Cereal? “Mommy, I want that!” My job is to help him narrow it down and get to the heart of what he really wants by sitting him down and turning it into a list. Make sure you sign it, seal it and pop it in the mailbox!
Pro parenting tip: Don’t be afraid to pull the Santa card as needed. If they refuse to eat their spinach, brush their teeth or get their hands out of their pants, it is completely within your rights to threaten them with a lump of coal for Christmas. Until they get older, they won’t realize you won’t follow through on this.
Step 2: Hide the gifts.
First, if you’re shopping online, make sure you leave plenty of time for shipping. Next, find a spot to hide the gifts. If your kids are smaller, this may be an easier task than if they’re, say 6 or 7 and possibly starting to wonder about whether this whole Santa bit is really legit. You may want to ask a friend if you can hide your toy stash at their place.
Step 3: Download a Santa tracking app.
Keeping the Santa jig up is all in the details. Early on Christmas Eve, download a Santa Tracking app. This way you and the kids can track Santa all day long.
Step 4: Make sure the kids are asleep.
Don’t make the rookie mistake of putting gifts out too early. The kids will be super amped up, so it may take them longer than usual to drift off to la la land. Once they fall asleep, sip your eggnog for another 30 minutes before you start assembling and putting toys under the tree.
Pro Santa tip: If you have a co-Santa, assign them to be a lookout and keep their eyes and ears peeled for any wandering children trying to sneak a peek at Santa. Got a baby monitor? Use it.
Step 3: Eat the cookies. Drink the milk. Nibble the carrots.
And make sure you leave a few crumbs on the plate. For extra Santa points, leave a trail of light soot, dirt or grass.
Step 4: Fill the stockings.
For many Santas, stockings are an afterthought, but the best Santas know great things come in sock-like packages. Load up on stocking stuffers and make these as important as what’s under the tree.
Step 5: Relax and pour yourself a cup of Santa’s special sauce.