Where to catch Santa this holiday season – and what to know before you go

Dressing your kids in their best holiday garb, placing them on Santa’s lap and snapping a photo sounds easy enough, but we know that’s not always the case. Before you open the ribbon drawer and start digging around for the one pair of tights without a hole in it, we have some tips for smoother sit-down on the big guy’s lap.

Confessions of a shopping mall Santa

From the 900 Shops Santa archives:

“Once I had a 15- and a 16-year-old kid, and we were
talking. And it was kinda strange because these older kids they sat
down on my lap, and they said this is their mother’s Christmas
present. It was sweet.”

“I had one little girl, sweet little thing, 3 years old,
and she’s looking at me and I’m looking at her. I ask her if
there’s anything else she wants to say. And she says, ‘Yes Santa.’
Then she turns around and says, ‘Daddy, I’ve got poopy

“This one boy said he wanted me to bring his neighbor some
toys because he never gets anything, and then he asked for things
for his parents. And then he says, ‘Santa can I please have 99 cars
and trucks?’ I asked him why not 100? And he said to me, ‘Oh no,
Santa. That would be selfish.'”

Before meeting Santa

Toting along your little ones down to Michigan Avenue and standing in what seems to be an endless line can be hard on your kids, so make sure they take a nap, eat a snack and use the bathroom before heading out. Imagine being the one parent whose child isn’t whining to go to the bathroom.

Seeing Santa up-close and personal, especially for the first time, can be a little daunting. “I can’t tell you how many times kids have cried on Santa’s lap,” says Sarah Burrows, the marketing director in charge of setting up the Santa meet-and-greet every year at the 900 Shops.

Minimize meltdowns by prepping your kids and letting them know what to expect before the visit, and make sure you are properly armed with emergency food and bribes.

And of course, have that list ready.

In line

Remember those bribes? In the event of a brewing tantrum, now would be the time to use these. Snacks, treats, stickers-pull out all the stops and use what works best on your child. Stopping a deteriorating situation in its tracks will prevent stress on your part and a puffy-eyed, runny-nosed picture. We’re positive your fellow parents in line will thank you, too.

On Santa’s lap

You’ve already trekked the Oregon Trail to get to this point. Now all you would like is to document your kid experiencing some holiday cheer and be on your merry way home ASAP. This is where parents make the most costly mistake of all: forcing your kid onto Santa’s lap.

If your child is apprehensive, let him or her get a little more comfortable. Let them wait to the side and see siblings or other children approach Santa first. “Forcing the little ones is not a good idea,” says Christopher Spears, a Santa by trade for more than 36 years. “Just let them take their time.”

The second most common mistake Spears sees parents make is threatening their kids. Telling your kids to smile for the camera or they can forget about presents is not the way to go. “Make it a nice event, a positive thing,” Spears says. Remember, the goal is a fun and memorable trip for your kids, not a stress-filled photo shoot.

Finally, if all else fails…

Go with the moment. Whether your toddler’s steadily wailing or your 6-month-old is fast asleep, capture it. It may not be the picture you expected, but we’re sure it will be hilarious, precious and memorable in its own way.

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