Tis’ the season. The wide-eyed wonder in a child’s face when they see holiday lights is a joy to behold. So then why are so many toddlers crying in the “Take a Photo with Santa” line at the mall? Blame the conflict between toddler reasoning and emotions.
Toddlers are usually unable to connect the video or storybook Santa with the large man in the suit, speaking in a booming voice through a mass of fake white beard. They don’t know him, and don’t intend to get up close and personal with a stranger without a fight. Being in a noisy line with strangers instead of exploring or moving in a stroller is always a recipe for fussiness. Add cute (but new) and possibly not very comfortable clothing that cannot be messed up by snack crumbs or a bottle….it can all be too much!
What can you do? Think like a toddler, then reverse-engineer this experience.
1. Arriving with a full belly and after a good nap is best. Full-body smocks protect fancy clothes from bottles, sippy cups and crumbs.
2. Try on those clothes a few times before the big photo op. When your child is in a good mood, suggest “dress-up” time. You can dress up too. Take a photo and print it out.
3. Wander by the mall if you can, and see if you can get close enough to the Big Man to make him less of a stranger.
4. Make up stories about your child’s stuffed animals going to see Santa and how they loved it. Maybe one felt nervous but explain how they squeezed a parent’s hand and felt better.
5. If your child has a shy temperament or has sensory processing issues that make this event really frightening for them, buy your own costume and have “Santa” show up at home. You will get a photo of a happier child and less stress for yourself. Your child will sense that his parents respect his limits while making positive holiday memories.