Meeting Santa for the first time or not is always an 'experience'. Put aside whether the Santa is good or bad, we'll say for this post that he is me (i.e. very good) and I'd like to share my advice about how best to meet the jolly fellow.
Babies are the sweetest, cutest guests that Santa gets to meet. For the most part they're pretty unaware about what's going on, so it makes them sitting on Santa's lap fairly easy. Every now and then though, you will get a baby who, quite rationally, gets scared of a big deep-voiced old man in a beard.
If this is a possibility, hold the baby facing away from you, don't show them to Santa, walk in backwards and slowly hand over the baby to Santa. This way, the child is unaware that they have been given to another person. Then, as the parent/guardian, move away and let him take the photo. Once the photo is done, all hell breaks loose, but at least you got your photo.
Toddlers are arguably the most difficult young people that Santa will meet. They're aware of their surroundings and almost always terrified of St. Nick. I wish I had some proper advice on how to get a good photo, but it seems to be about more than just on-the-day technique. Bringing your child up with the mindset that Santa is a nice person is the best way to go. Often he is used as a justification to get the children to behave. "If you don't behave Santa won't bring you any presents." "Santa is watching you." Sound familiar? Well, stop doing it. Santa is nice and loves you. Do not fear Santa.
If you really do want to get a good photo, my best advice is this. Be quick, be mad. The faster the child is put onto Santa's lap and the photo is done with, the less time the toddler has to realise what's going on and react negatively.
I had one mother basically run in, pop the kid down on my knee, quick photo, I gave the toy and they were out the door within 30 seconds. Not only do they get a nice photo, but I get a minute's break too!
Young kids are always interesting. Do they still believe in Santa? In these cases, always assume that they do. They might be sceptical, but the magic is still there. And you definitely don't want to be the person to tell them that Santa isn't real. Especially if YOU ARE SANTA!
Having grown up around cameras and phones in recent years, they're used to taking photos, so that's not the hard part. Making them excited and happy to see Santa beforehand will help but the real trick is to make a bit of magic happen.
The elves that you meet before entering the grotto are trained professionals, willing to help you out. If you want to really seal the deal between Santa and your little ones, hand over a note to the elves for Santa. This note could be the kids names, something they want, how they are doing in school, anything to make their visit more personal. If the kids come in and Santa greets them by name, thanks them for doing well in a particular school subject or even talks about their family or pets, the kid will be overwhelmed and much happier to smile for the camera.
Yeah, we get it. Santa is too 'uncool' and 'for kids'. Get in there and take the picture. It's Christmas. Bribe them if you have to. That tends to work.
As Santa, I really enjoyed having this age group in because I could make cheesy jokes and be the 'embarrassing parent' and really make them feel uncomfortable. It's hilarious to watch if you're a parent.
Mums and Dads
Yep. You get a section too. We know you want this experience to be memorable and fun, and we (the elves and Santa) will do everything we can to make that happen but there are some ground rules.
Put your phone away. Enjoy the moment. We've got a camera for a good picture, and you can snap a few on your phone, but when I'm asking if they've been good and what they want, just sit, smile and pay attention.
Let Santa do his thing. After 2,500 children there was a routine that worked liked clockwork. Not only did I set the right mood for all ages, but it also helped me remember all the important bits. Did we take a photo? Did I give a toy? Did I ask them what they want? Have they been good? If you come in and start calling the shots I'll get thrown off and your experience will feel like you've worked for it rather than you've had others work for you.
Don't stand in front of the light. It's basic. Keep your eyes open.
Welcome to Santa's grotto. I'm going to treat you like a kid, because it's funny and it's my routine. Sit on my knee if you want. I'm pretty strong. If you don't want to, that's fine, but do a big cheesy grin and enjoy it. Christmas isn't just for kids. It's for everyone!