Why Sensitive Santa?
Wondering why parents search for and choose a Sensitive Santa event for their child? Do you enjoy looking back at yearly family photos of your children sitting on Santa’s lap? It may surprise you to learn that for many children, having their photo taken with Santa Claus is a challenge. But finding a Sensitive Santa can help!
The excitement of meeting Santa Claus can be overwhelming for children. For some parents that may sound very familiar. Unfortunately, many parents simply cannot bring their child to visit a regular meet Santa Claus event because their child simply cannot cope with the noise, lights, crowds, waiting in line, and even smells. Moreover, it is devastating for families to miss out on creating such a common, cherished Christmas memory.
Be a sensory-friendly supporter. Include all children at Christmastime. Encourage your local mall, community event organizers, even your office Christmas Party to offer a sensory-friendly Santa Claus event. Furthermore, with a little help from the strategies we share, sensory-friendly Santa Claus events are easy to do.
You can understand more about why this is important for many children, read our blog post on autism, anxiety, and sensory overload.
And parents, know that when Sensitive Santa isn’t available, there are still lots of strategies to make that yearly Santa Claus photo more enjoyable for all.
Find out more below.
In this article you will learn these 3 things about Sensitive Santa:
- How to offer a Sensitive Santa event.
- Where to promote your Sensitive Santa event so parents can find it.
- What to do to help your child visit Santa (Sensitive or not).
Before you learn how to offer a sensory-friendly Santa Claus event, you may be wondering why you would offer it.
Did you know that about 1/3 of the population is more likely to experience sensory sensitivity?
That means they are more sensitive to noise, light, scents, and so on. Moreover, 33% of people, including children have an invisible challenge like anxiety, autism, concision, learning disability, or something else that makes them experience sensory overload in daily life.
Offering sensory-friendly Santa Claus visits makes sense.
If 1/3 children you expect to visit are likely to struggle with the sensory-rich experience of extra noise, lights, scents, along with overall busyness, crowds, and general hustle and bustle, then making the experience more enjoyable is more than just being kind. Help create magical memories and capture special moments for all children and families at Christmas.
How to offer a Sensitive Santa event.
We created a FREE downloadable handbook to help businesses, malls, organizations, workplaces, community centers, and churches with a How-To Guide: Sensitive Santa.
Here is a sneak peek of some of the tips we’ve included:
- Have staff complete training like Free AODA Online Training. This is the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act Training. It is only one hour long and can really help staff prepare.
- Schedule appointment times to visit Santa. Block off at least 10 minutes per child.
- If you are a shopping mall or retailer, set your Santa Claus event during sensory-friendly shopping hours.
- We’ve also created, “A Visiting Santa Claus Story.” you can share with parents to help their children understand what happens when you visit with Santa.
- Above all, we share more easy tips to help you make Santa Claus visits a success.
Where to promote your Sensitive Santa event so people can find it.
We’ve made it easy for you to let people know that you are offering Sensitive Santa.
- Did you know we have the Sensory Friendly Finder on this website? People around the world who have sensory sensitivity check our Sensory Friendly Finder to find the events that offer a sensory-friendly experience. Add your Sensitive Santa event so people looking for sensory-friendly events can find it.
- If you find your Sensitive Santa event already listed (anyone can submit, caring parents often do so to let other parents know about local events) then claim your listing.
- Be sure to follow the strategies in the FREE, downloadable How-To Guide: Sensitive Santa.
- And, if you like or follow our Sensory Friendly Facebook page too, we will be posting shareable Sensitive Santa content there as well.
What to do to help your child visit Santa (Sensitive or not).
Here are 12 Tips to help make visiting Santa Claus a success.
- Look for Sensitive Santa Events in our Sensory Friendly Finder. Sensory-friendly Santa Claus events are often more manageable for children because they are low key.
- If you don’t see a local sensory-friendly Santa Claus Event listed, but know that one is happening, please add a listing (free!!!) to help other families.
- Share the How-To Guide: Sensitive Santa. Send it to your local mall, church, community center, and workplace and ask them to make their event sensory-friendly.
- As part of the FREE resources we’ve created for you, we also wrote, “A Visiting Santa Claus Story. It is a simple story, written in a style to explain to your child what to expect when they visit Santa Claus. Use it to help prepare your child for visiting Santa Claus. We made 3 versions, an eBook format, a video format, and a video format with an audio recording of it being read aloud too. So your child can read it. You can read it to your child. You can watch it on video or listen to me read it too.
- Look at photos taken from past visits to Santa Claus. Reminisce. Talk about what happened and what it was like. It will help remind your child of what to expect.
- Maybe your local mall doesn’t offer Sensitive Santa, but they offer sensory-friendly or autism-friendly shopping hours? Visit during those times instead.
- Plan to visit Santa Claus when the location or event is the least crowded. So maybe when it first opens/starts.
- Similarly, Choose to visit Santa Claus at the least busy, smallest location or event you can find. A local church? Community center? Look around for maybe less popular events.
- Organize your own sensory-friendly Santa Claus event for your neighborhood. Santa visits far and wide!
- Help your child practice and get comfortable visiting Santa Claus. For instance, role play at home. And, introduce your child to the idea of acting out a Santa Claus visit with their toys. You can use download the, A Visiting Santa Claus Story” to help your child role-play.
- Change your expectations. This one is so hard! Maybe your child won’t sit on Santa’s lap for a photo. You can get some great, candid photos of Santa passing a candy cane to your child. Or your child waving at Santa and Santa waving back. Maybe Santa can read to your child and she/he/they sit(s) on the floor.
- Bring along noise-canceling earmuffs for your child to wear to reduce noise sensitivity. Here is an example of great earmuffs for children. We want you to know that as an Amazon Associate we may earn from qualifying purchases.
Furthermore, we love these additional tips for sensory-friendly Santa Claus events from Flappiness Is…
And we want to highlight these 3 Parenting Tips for Staying Sane and Gentle During the Holidays. Alison Smith is a mom and parenting coach who helps parents with spirited children. You can also listen to her on Mom Talk Radio in a featured interview discussing Toddlers and Tantrums.
Like or follow our Sensory Friendly Facebook page or join our private Sensory Friendly Facebook group where we will be sharing ideas, strategies, and tips to help manage sensory overload over the Christmas season.
Finally, please do let us know what you think! Fill out the contact form with suggestions to help other families enjoy Santa and we will share them too.
Christel Seeberger has been an occupational therapist for more than 25 years, helping people of all ages who experience sensory sensitivity and sensory overload. Christel understands how sensitivity and overload feel, she has hearing loss and wears hearing aids. Christel founded Sensory Friendly Solutions in 2016 to bring together people around the world looking for sensory-friendly living and the individuals, businesses and organizations who create sensory friendly experiences.