joy! making magic

Help Santa's little fans get the most out of the season with this North Pole–approved guide to making Christmas extra-special.


The Welcome Committee

The big bearded guy is coming to town, and we've got ways for your kids to get busy before his arrival.

  • Write a note wishing him a Merry Christmas. Make sure the kids tell him they've been good (they have, right?!). He may write back, but he's rushing from house to house, so his writing may be sloppy (almost as if a righty had used his left hand!).
  • Let your kid shake glitter into the envelope. Unlike Mommy, the jolly old elf will love seeing a sparkly surprise, and in the morning your kids might notice some spilled on the floor. And hey, with all the ribbons and paper strewn over the carpet, what's a little glitter?
  • Let them toss a few carrots on your front stoop. Actually, reindeer will eat whatever's in your veggie drawer right now, so it's okay if you don't have carrots. Try a cucumber, celery stalk, even some wilted kale—yup, reindeer love superfoods! (Avoid bread and other carbs, as many reindeer are gluten-free these days.) Look for the chewed-up vegetable nibs on the lawn in the morning.
  • Break out the crayons and have your kid draw his best Santa portrait. One thing the big guy adores is … the big guy. He'll love to look at himself through your kid's eyes, but he'll probably leave the portrait behind so Mom and Dad can keep it and see the artistry grow year after year. Don't forget to have your child sign and date it!
  • Send them to bed! Santa can't do his job until visions of sugar plums are dancing in everyone's head, so do Father Christmas and all his helpers a favor and get everyone to bed as early as possible on December 24. Nighty-night!

How Does Santa Do It?

Kids are an inquisitive bunch and Santa is particularly perplexing. How to answer the tough questions*

How can he get all over the world in just one night?

The short answer: Google Maps and stardust propulsion. The long answer: Santa has more than 24 hours due to the earth's tilt and all the time zones—when New Yorkers are setting out the cookies, children in Australia have already opened all their packages.

We don't have a chimney. How will he get in?

He'll walk right through the front door! It's that simple. Sometimes families with a chimney make a fire and Santa has to use the front door then, too, because—well, ouch. (He's also been known to skip the chimney if he's eaten too many cookies.) Here's an idea: Leave him a key! See our directions above for how to make an extra-special one.

How does he really know if kids have been bad or good?

Santa has eyes everywhere. Elves—the one on your shelf and the ones at the North Pole—are always watching, but mommies and daddies, teachers, babysitters, and bus drivers are all part of Team Santa too. They report to the man in red on a daily basis, which means, just to be safe, you should probably be on your best behavior everywhere you go, all the time, no matter what.

If my elf doesn't move every night, does that mean he didn't report to Santa Claus?

Your elf does not have to be there in person to tell the boss you called your sister a not-nice name. Elves can communicate with headquarters over special elf waves. Sometimes there's a blizzard in the North Pole or air traffic that keeps him grounded, and sometimes he's just too darn tired to move a little elf muscle. Here's the thing about elves on shelves: Some just have more time on their hands than others.

Why does Santa have the same wrapping paper as my mom?

Every once in a while, Santa reaches into his sack to pull out a present and discovers it's not wrapped. This means that some elf didn't do his job and will probably be demoted to cleaning the reindeer pen on December 26, but in the meantime, the big guy keeps his cool and goes into your mom's wrapping-paper stash to borrow just a little to wrap the gift. Team Santa, FTW!

How come he doesn't get a stomachache from eating all the cookies and milk?

Um, have you seen the guy's belly?

St. Nick, by the Book

We love these new books about the man in red. Read them leading up to the big night.

An older sister always thinks she knows best. This rings true in Christmas for Greta and Gracie, by Yasmeen Ismail, until a surprise on Christmas Eve renders the chatty big sister speechless. Ages 3 to 7, $16

The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold, by Maureen Fergus, is a role-reversing tale about the jolly man at the North Pole denying the existence of children—after all, he doesn't have any proof. Ages 4 to 8, $17

Ever wonder what adventures await at the North Pole? Well, the cat's out of the bag in Stowaway in a Sleigh, by C. Roger Mader. Slipper, the curious cat, climbs into Santa's sack for an unforgettable journey. Ages 4 to 7, $18

In The Lost Gift, by Kallie George, Santa loses a present and a band of woodland creatures embarks on a journey to deliver it in time for Baby's first Christmas. Ages 4 to 8, $18
—Shannon M. Bauer

3 Things to Tell Your Kids Before Visiting the Mall Santa

He is not the real Santa.
Here's the scoop: Santa Santa is still at the North Pole making his list and checking it twice. He couldn't possibly sit outside Anthropologie all day smiling and ho-ho-ho-ing. So who is that jolly old guy whose lap you sit on every December? One of Santa's many helper Santas, that's who. You should still take your visit seriously, though, because the helper Santa reports back.
It's okay to be nervous about meeting him.
The beard, the belly, the long line—it can all be overwhelming. Before you hit the mall, check out Facebook photos of your friends' kids meeting Santa, or dig up yours from previous years to reacquaint yourselves with the routine. And don't go straight to the back of the line—walk by Santa first to take a peek. Try to catch his eye so you can smile and wave and build excitement for your turn.
Don't forget to ask nicely.
Good manners should be a year-round goal, but it's especially important during the holiday season. Urge your kid to introduce herself to Santa, tell the big man how much she loved what he brought last year, ask about Mrs. Claus—and of course, share her politely worded wish list.