How to Offer a Sensitive Santa Event

Ever notice that some children struggle when visiting Santa? You might witness both tears and terror in children. If you are responsible for organizing a Santa Claus event, there is a solution to make Santa welcoming to more children and enjoyed by more children. For many children, visiting Santa contributes to sensory overload. In particular children with sensory disorders or autism have difficulty when it is busy, noisy and bright. Be inspired to create Sensitive Santa Event that is more accessible and includes more children.

Why sensitive Santa?

Do you wonder why parents search for and choose a Sensitive Santa Event for their child? For instance, do you enjoy looking back at yearly family photos of your child sitting on Santa’s lap? It may surprise you to learn that for many children, having their photo taken with Santa Claus is a challenging and stressful experience. Sensitive Santa to the rescue.

It is important to understand that the excitement of meeting Santa Claus can be an overwhelming experience for children. For some parents, this may sound very familiar.  Unfortunately, many parents simply cannot bring their child to visit a regular Santa Claus event. This is often due to the loud noises, bright lights, big crowds, waiting in long lines, and even the smells.  Moreover, it is upsetting for families to miss out on creating such a common and cherished Christmas memory.

Therefore, it is important to be a sensory-friendly supporter. Include more children at Christmas. Regardless if you are planning to organize a Santa Claus event at a local mall, for your place of worship, a community facility or even at your office Christmas party, a Sensitive Santa Claus event is the answer.

Young boy visiting Santa

Who does Sensitive Santa help?

Did you know that about 1/3 of the population is more likely to experience sensory sensitivity?

Sensory sensitivity occurs when children or adults have a heightened sensitivity to any one of their senses. For example, a child or adult may be excessively bothered by noise, crowds, bright and flashing lights or strong scents. Did you know you have at least eight senses and not just five? Up to 33% of the population has a disability that make a person more likely to experience sensory sensitivity or sensory overload.

What is silent Santa?

Silent Santa is another name for Sensitive Santa or Sensory Friendly Santa. Choose the title for your Santa event that fits with your community and what you offer.

The importance of offering sensory sensitive events

If you expect that 1/3 of the children at your Santa Claus event is likely to experience sensory sensitivity or sensory overload then help them to enjoy it! Recognize that visiting Santa and Christmas events are often sensory-rich. Create a sensory-friendly event and include more children, make families comfortable and help create magical memories and capture special moments for their family this holiday season.

Are you curious? How do I make Santa sensory-friendly? What is Sensitive Santa? Sensory Friendly Solutions has created a free, downloadable resource, How-To Guide: Sensitive Santa to help. Businesses, malls, organizations, workplaces, community centers, places of worship and families can all use the guide. Get access, too, at the end of this blog post.

Child sitting beside Sensitive Santa

Some examples of sensory-friendly changes to make.

Schedule appointment times to visit Santa

One of the most stressful factors of visiting Santa Claus is the long lines of families. For many children, waiting and standing near strangers is overwhelming. To help create an appointment schedule and set specific times. For instance, have families pre-register. Ultimately, this simple change reduces wait times. Additionally, consider booking off at least 10 minutes of time per child. Finally, if you have a waiting area, instead of a waiting line up, create a waiting space. For example, have tables and chairs, offer some Christmas crafts, like coloring, to help entertain children. Call names, instead of waiting in line.

Shopping malls or retailers: schedule sensory-friendly hours.

Another suggestion to help create a sensory-friendly Santa Claus visit is to offer the event during sensory-friendly hours. Sensory-friendly hours are dedicated periods of time when special changes are made. For example, bright, flashing lights are dimmed, loud equipment is turned off, and background music is eliminated. Additionally, check out an accessibility review of a sensory-friendly mall in the UK for inspiration to make these shopping centres more inclusive!

Therefore, if you offer your Santa event during sensory-friendly hours, and create a comfortable environment for sensory-sensitive children.

Train staff to be sensory-friendly

An important part of a Sensitive Santa event that makes it successful for children is the interaction with staff, volunteers and employees, alike. Interacting with strangers is a challenge for children. Additionally, a child being told to sit on Santa’s lap can feel overwhelming. Seek out additional training for staff about different disabilities. Encourage staff to offer alternatives to sitting on Santa’s lap. Create a comfortable and enjoyable experience for the child.

These are some of the tips to help you host a Sensitive Santa event this year. Download the full guide for all the help you need.

How-to-Guide: Sensitive Santa

How-To Guide: Sensitive Santa cover

Create a visiting Santa Claus event that helps all children enjoy Santa is easy with this guide.  Make Santa, “Sensitive” and sensory-friendly and you ensure smiles and joy all-around. 

  • Easy things for Santa to do that helps children when visiting.
  • Simple ideas for the location to do before the event.
  • Steps to take during the event.

Finally, are you interested in creating other sensory-friendly events at your location or for your community? Read these blogs:

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