How do you pick the perfect Christmas Grottos for your baby and toddler (and what are some key things to consider?
Christmas Grottos are a good old-fashioned tradition that helps get millions of families to get back in touch with that lovely festive spirit. It’s a lot of fun. But, these days, there’s a ton of pressure to make it absolutely perfect.
(And. more often than not, that pressure is something we put on ourselves!) How do you figure out the ideal Christmas Grotto for you? And what are some of the things you should be considering, especially if you have a little one?
We asked the parents of Team Happity to give their top advice and put together this handy guide. Enjoy!
Price Isn’t Everything
“Don’t assume more expensive means better!” said Lisa T, Head of Customer Support at Team Happity. “There are some fabulous grottos out there which are charity or community based that provide a lovely experience for a fraction of the price. Church fairs and school fetes also have sweet ones and so there is no need to go crazy and spend loads of money. The result for the child is the same either way!”
Your child’s level of happiness isn’t going to be based on how much money you’re spending. If you want to save money and go to a community-based Christmas Grotto, do it! Your child will enjoy it just the same.
Pre-Book your Christmas Grotto (If Possible)
Alex, Customer Happiness Angel on the Team, gave the top advice to pre-book your Christmas Grottos wherever possible. “If not get there for opening to avoid queuing for a while,” she said. “We didn’t book and went in the afternoon once and spent a silly amount of time in the queue to get in!”
When you’ve got a little one in tow, likelihood is they won’t have the patience to wait and wait and wait to meet the big man in red.
If you do find yourself in this situation though, be sure to bring something to keep them occupied while they’re in the line! A book, toy, or a game to help them pass the time. Or, try to time it around a point when they would normally have a nap. Let them sleep in their buggy in the queue, and then when you’re getting close to the front, that’s when it’s time to wake them up.
Figure Out If Your Little Ones Are Old Enough For The Christmas Grottos
While the excitement to celebrate your little one’s first Christmas is SO real (and we get the hype!) Lisa T’s advice is to check whether you think they’re old enough yet to enjoy it. “Chances are that kids under three will cry at the prospect of being thrust in front of a strange bearded man (sorry Santa!) and not want to go near him. So families should manage their expectations about getting that perfect photo!”
Lisa K, Happity’s Head of Marketing agreed. “I don’t think babies and little toddlers get much out of grottos. Neither of mine will go anywhere near Santa yet.”
It’s probably a good idea to keep expectations low for very little ones. And expect a few tears while you’re at it. At least then if it doesn’t happen then you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Follow Your Child’s Lead
“Don’t put too much pressure on the whole experience,” added Sally, Happity’s Product Manager. “Especially if you have younger babies and toddlers. I think parents feel they have to do something amazing, build up to it being completely magical and then your little one isn’t in the right mood or the whole experience is too overwhelming and Santa makes them cry. Think about who the experience is really meant to be for and plan accordingly.”
Lisa T had a similar story to tell about her son. “We took Jack to see Father Christmas for his first Christmas. But the key is to take the child’s lead. If they don’t want to get close up to the main man and just want to say ‘hello’ from a distance then that is fine. At five year’s old Jack is happy to stand nearby and chat from there. We don’t do cuddles but Father Christmas always gets a high-five and a chat.”
Don’t Assume Christmas Grottos Are Just For Little Kids
We have so much eagerness to take the little one’s to meet Santa, that we sometimes forget that meeting Old Saint Nick is good old-fashioned family fun! Sara, co-founder of Happity, expressed how fondly she feels about Christmas Grotto’s as a familiar favourite.
“It’s given us, as adults, the opportunity to experience the magic of Christmas all over again,” she says. “Which is something I’ll treasure. That said, I think no matter which one you go to, it is something children will remember so all of them are special in that sense. At the very grown up age of 11 this year, my daughter actually asked if we’d be going to Chessington, because we’ve done it 3 times previously, and for her that feels like a Christmas tradition.”
Don’t Do Too Many Visits To Old Saint Nick
“Don’t go to too many!” advises Lisa T. “It might be the case that grandparents want to take them as well as the trip that you want to do but going to lots of different ones just confuses them and they can’t understand why they have to have the same conversation twice or three times.”
It’s good advice. All the family wants to join in on the magic, but with repetition it might lose its spark. Confirm with other relatives as to how you want to do it, and remember to keep the kids in mind first and foremost.
Check Out Christmas Markets, Farms, Local Garden Centres And Libraries
There was a few members of the team who started suggesting good environments to find your perfect Christmas Grotto. And usually these areas offer extra activities that are ideal for toddlers.
Lisa T suggested checking out your local Christmas markets. “Lots of Christmas markets have Grottos in them. And they can be free! So that is worth checking out. Farms also seem to have Special events and grottos too, so it can be part of a day out. An example here (Kentlife.org).”
“Our local library did cute storytelling sessions,” added Lisa K. “Santa came and read a story, all the kids got a book at the end and it was completely free. Also, last year Lucy loved going to the garden centre to pick out a few baubles for the tree, which is a much cheaper and calmer day out in my opinion!”
“Check your local garden centres!” Alex tuned in. “All of the grotto’s we have been to with Willow have been at a local garden centre which have been really reasonable priced.”
Follow A Light Trail As An Alternative For Little Ones
“We really enjoyed a light trail last year,” added Kate, Team Happity’s Admin Assassin. “And have booked to do one again this year. I think these are great for younger ones as they have no idea what is going on with Santa but get a lot out of these types of events. Hugh wasn’t sure about Santa last year (he was 14 months) but loved the lights.”
Keep in mind that your kids actually won’t understand the concept of Santa when they’re really little. But it doesn’t mean they won’t get any excitement out of Christmas-related activities. Like Kate suggests, a light trail might make for a perfect alternative!
Try Out Christmas Themed Classes To Feel The Spirit
“Check out Christmas themed classes,” suggested Sally. “A lot of them have a special class where Santa makes an appearance, which can be good as children are used to the environment already. Play groups, stay and plays and church groups are often most likely to have a visit planned.”
It’s great advice. And a lot of your familiar favourites, even if Santa doesn’t show, will be the perfect pick for your baby or toddler. You’ll already know ahead of time that you’re child will have a fun day doing something they love.
Head over to Happity to find a class today!
Get A Family Member To Dress Up
“Get a family member to dress up and do it for you,” suggests Lisa T. “Lots of people have Father Christmas outfits that they are willing to share.”
We think this is a brilliant suggestion. And it also helps to resolve the issue of all family members wanting to be involved with the tradition. Ask a grandparent, uncle, or family friend to dress up and get the festivities going at home.
In Summary: Do What Works For You
Lisa T puts it best in her final bit of advice:
“Whatever works in your budget, schedule and Christmas plans is what’s best. Reduce expectations, pressure and give your wallet a break at this really expensive time!”
You want your child’s first Christmas to be fun, and we know how much it will mean to you. But there’s really no point in spending past your budget and putting so much pressure on yourselves (and on your children!) The fact that you’ll be doing any celebration at all, and doing it as a family, will be special enough.
Want to get out and about, have fun with your baby or toddler, and meet other parents?
Search Happity to find everything that’s happening for the under-5’s in your local area – from music and singing classes, to messy play, arts and crafts, baby massage, gymnastics and more. Simply enter your postcode and child’s age to search, and then book your spot in a few taps. Enjoy dedicated fun time with your little one, watch their skills develop, and make friends at the same time. Mums, dads, grandparents and carers will all find something to love!