14 Clever Hacks to Make Sure Your Kid Still Believes in Santa This Year

If your kids are approaching that age when they start disbelieving in Santa, you've got your work cut out for you this Christmas season. Sure, you might think your youngster isn't discerning enough just yet, but don't underestimate her curiosity and keen ability to put together the most minuscule of clues to discover that Mom and Dad have been hiding something.

To stay more than a few steps ahead of your precocious kids, here are more than a dozen parent-tested tips to keep the magic of Santa Claus alive and well . . . at least for another year.


1. Wrap Santa's packages in special wrapping paper . . . and then destroy the evidence

Don't even dare use the same green holly wrapping paper on gifts from Santa as you do on gifts from yourself. It's best to buy a roll of paper reserved for Santa alone, or use brown kraft paper cinched with twine for a more authentic feel (because why would Santa use store-bought trimmings?!). This might seem wasteful, but donate whatever unused wrapping paper you have left. Nosy kids might discover the remnants of the roll in the back of a closet months from now, and you'll have some unexpected explaining to do.

2. Use different handwriting for Santa’s presents

It's a rookie mistake to sign, "Love, Mom and Dad" in the same handwriting as "From Santa." Try using your less dominant hand for Santa's signature, or if it's too hard to fake, enlist the help of someone else, or perhaps Santa can have sweet printed tags on his presents! Also, don't forget to switch up the pen you use!

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3. Be as excited to see Santa as they are

When you are walking down the street and there's a bell-ringing Santa on the corner, your kids might notice if you just stroll on by without a single squeal of excitement. It'd be like a teen girl just moseying on past one of the guys from One Direction. So anytime you are in the presence of Santa, make like he's your celebrity crush and be just as giddy as your kids are to see him.

4. Assume they're always listening

You might think you have a moment alone to talk to Grandma on the phone about what gifts the kids still have unfulfilled on their lists, but they could very well be listening. Reserve any "real talk" for when you are out of the house. Otherwise, keep conversations in check.

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5. Go the extra mile with assembly-required toys

Older kids might begin to suspect why Santa would bother making a toy in his workshop only to disassemble it and box it up (easier to fit in his satchel, you could say). If you have it in you, present a fully assembled Barbie’s Dream House or a ready-to-ride bicycle under the tree, with tags and packaging out of sight. This does require some advanced planning — whatever you do, don't wait to crack open Barbie's 40-page instruction manual until Christmas Eve night — but the effect is well worth it.

6. Pay attention to seemingly unimportant details

Let's say that, every year, Santa includes a healthy red apple among each kids' stocking stuffers. You better make sure you aren't pulling those straight from the fridge the night before. A child on the verge of discovering the truth may have preemptively counted how many apples are in the pile before bed, and a quick count Christmas morning could confirm suspicions.

Flickr user Mark Baylor

7. Get an Elf on the Shelf to do the heavy lifting

Some families take their Elf on the Shelf commitment to the next level, but even employing this pliable doll to do the bare minimum — popping up around the house each day to keep a watchful eye on your kids — is enough to help keep them in the spirit . . . and on their best behavior.

8. Hide gifts as if your life depended on it

If you think shoving shopping bags under your bed is good enough, be prepared to come clean about Kris Kringle. The older the kids get, the more likely they are to uncover your hiding spot in the attic, in the storage room, in the garage . . . wherever. If you can, leave a stockpile of presents at a friend’s house (one who doesn’t have curious kids, either) to pick up the night before.


9. Spare little expense on the costume

If you're venturing out with the family to visit a mall Santa, do a bit of recon to make sure he looks legit. It's worth a longer line (we promise) if the Santa your kids will be whispering their wishes to has a real white beard vs. a fake one and a real belly full of jelly vs. an overstuffed pillow.

10. Track Santa’s flight path online

For 60 years, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Santa Tracker has helped families track how far Kris Kringle is from their home, and it's the perfect tool — now an interactive cell phone app — to keep the excitement alive.


11. Give them a gift they'll never think came from you

If your kids want some obnoxious video game that you've long been denying them, consider going against your better judgment and letting Santa sneak it in their stocking. Plus, if you play up your frustration with Saint Nick, they'll be convinced he's calling the shots.

12. Leave Santa's footprints

After the kids have gone to bed on Christmas Eve, grab some big boots and either flour, baby powder, or carpet deodorizer (perfect multitasking!) and stomp a path of footprints. Each year, the path can take sillier turns. Maybe he beelines from the chimney to the milk and cookies, perhaps he takes a pit stop in the bathroom, or maybe he sneaks a peek in the fridge. Just be sure this is the very last thing on your to-do list, so you don't muddle the shoe prints.


13. Eat the snacks

This is undoubtedly the best sacrifice parents make in the name of Santa. Encourage your kids to leave some milk and cookies (might as well be your favorite recipe) for Saint Nick and some carrots for the reindeer on Christmas Eve. After they've gone to bed — and perhaps as a reward after getting the house all set for the next day — take a few big bites out of the cookies, drink several swigs of milk, and nibble on the carrot. They'll marvel at whatever evidence remains. Feel free to leave a thank-you note from Santa behind – just be sure the handwriting matches up with what's on the presents.

14. Assume they are light sleepers

Even the soundest of snoozers has a hard time sleeping on Christmas Eve — there’s too much anticipation to get a solid night's rest! As handy as it is to warn them that Santa only visits homes with sleeping children, it still means you have to use ninja-like quietness and precision once bedtime has passed. As much as you can do in advance, the better — you don't want to spend half the night feverishly wrapping gifts, stopping every few scissor swipes to listen for rustling children.