How to write a real letter to Santa

Oct. 16, 2020

Writing a letter to Santa is a very important yearly chore for kids who celebrate Christmas. If your little one, or a child you care for, is planning on taking pen — or crayon — to paper to write a letter to Old St. Nick, here are a few guidelines to help them through the process. But more importantly, here's how this project can provide some teachable moments. 

Sharon Silver, author and founder of Proactive Parenting Solutions, and Pete Fontana, customer relations coordinator for the United States Postal Service,  offer practical, meaningful tips for guiding children through this process.

1. Start early

Start talking about writing a letter to Santa shortly after Thanksgiving. That way you have time to enjoy every step of the way. Plus, teaching kids to not procrastinate until Christmas Eve supports good organizational skills. And Santa (ahem) needs time to get the items on the list.

2. Draft a wish list 

Before the child creates the actual letter, encourage them to first write down a list of everything they think they want. This might take a few days to think about — it's the most important part after all.

3. Teach boundaries

Of course, most children are hoping to find tons of cool toys under the tree this year, but if the rough draft of their wish list is starting to get a little long, talk about narrowing it down. When writing Santa, have the child hone in on one or two special items that are really important.

Getting fewer toys can actually help children to slow down, taking time to explore and enjoy their new gift fully and appreciate it completely. Learning to ask for less can help them acquire boundaries.

4. Explain how to write a letter

When a child is ready to start the letter, talk about what goes into a typical letter. Explain the greeting, body and signature sections — and what goes in the each. Discuss how can you write politely. Should you tell Santa about your year? Should you ask about Mrs. Claus and the reindeer? How should you say thank you? (Add more or less details depending on the child's age). This prep will come in handy as they start writing letters for real.

5. Support compassion

Writing letters to Santa can include a request for someone else — a good friend, a sibling or a less-fortunate child. The viral letter to Santa written by then-8-year old Ryan Suffern of North Carolina on behalf of his bullied twin sister moved us all to tears and swept the nation with feelings of hope and a renewed sense of what the holidays are about. Share this story with the child and ask them who they would like Santa to help this season.

“Empathy is a very new muscle for small children and must be directed by the parent," Silver says. "This provides a great opportunity to establish a value system. The holiday is only about getting stuff if parents allow that. Teaching children that empathy is at the root of love and faith can be folded into a wonderful tradition that includes writing letters to Santa.”

6. Get crafty

Turn a regular wish list into a fun craft for kids. Traditional letters and envelopes written in crayon and glitter are the ones Fontana cherishes the most, but you can go crazy with the crafting supplies. Add holiday-themed designs, draw designs along the edges, etc. Make sure there is plenty of construction paper and envelopes for do-overs on hand and let kids have fun with it.

7. Fill out the envelope

Now stuff that letter into an envelope and show the child how to address it to: Santa Claus, North Pole. (Want to get a letter back from the North Pole? Follow these instructions on the USPS website.)

Many kids probably knows that Santa lives at the North Pole, but where is that exactly? Use this as an opportunity to talk about geography. Pull out a map of the world and point to that area. Talk about what it must be like there.

Then drop the letter in the mailbox and start baking cookies to leave for Santa!

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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