As a practicing Montessori and RIE parent, I have read the “Santa Claus” debate online hundreds of times. It’s been a topic asked in many Montessori and RIE groups throughout the year, and the short answer is: from a Montessori and/or RIE perspective, it seems that the answer is NO, there is no need to introduce Santa Claus to your child, mainly because part of respecting your child is telling him/her the truth about everything, plus, especially for children in the first plane of development, introducing fictional characters is not advised because a child is just learning about reality (which means, your child cannot distinguish what is fantasy and what is real). In essence, this is actually why it’s so easy for children to believe in Santa Claus, only to find out later on that they’ve been lied to.

However, our particular situation is quite tricky.

See, in my husband’s side of the family, they have a yearly tradition that’s been in existence for generations – and it includes Santa Claus.

Every December 24, somewhere between 09:00 or 10:00 PM, all the children are gathered in one area, and together, they wait for the arrival of Dear Santa (who was actually my husband for many years) and his helpers.

This is just something we cannot escape. We cannot just tell him Santa Claus is a non-existent character during Christmas time when he will definitely see him every December 24, or hear songs about him, or see him whether in representations of all kinds (images), or in actual when we do some Christmas shopping.

So to be honest, I feel like I have to make some adjustments this time, even if it’s not completely Montessori/RIE-friendly.

Watching a pretty Christmas display at Le Bon Marche during our recent trip in Paris. I was honestly so impressed that their displays had ramps for children to watch and get a closer look that I let P enjoy it, too, even if their display included a fictional character that is Santa Claus!

My husband and I talked about this a couple of times, and the bottomline is, both of us did not feel like we were lied to. Both of us did not really make a big fuss that our parents made us believe in Santa Claus. Both of us think Santa was part of our childhood’s Christmas magic. Personally, I laughed so hard when I finally understood why there’s a song that goes “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus”. But still, our question is whether or not to carry this tradition for P.

Thankfully, our son is only 14 months old this Christmas, so we still have time to really think about this. But, so far, here are ideas we plan on adopting:

  • We will not hide Santa Claus from our son (in the sense that if others want to talk to him about it, we won’t stop them), but we will not make a big deal out of him. There won’t be any “You have to be nice so you’ll get a gift from Santa.” lines at all. No punishments, no rewards – most especially for toys. EDIT: Writing here again now that our son is 2. He does know Santa — we cannot escape his presence — in the malls, in Christmas decorations, etc. So he knows Santa is a character we see during Christmastime. That’s all he knows, but I do have to say that he is naturally drawn to this image of Santa. Maybe that in itself is the magic!
  • Also, there won’t be any kind of forcing to have a photo taken with Santa Claus. If he tells us he wants one, sure, but if we happen to see Santa while shopping in a mall or something, and he shows any fear or discomfort, we’ll make sure to respect his feelings and get him out of there quickly. I read about a mom who shared how she got to have a decent family photo with Santa – she told her daughter beforehand about what would happen, and that her daughter was not obliged to sit on Santa’s lap (and could sit beside Mommy instead). True enough, by preparing her child and showing respect for her feelings, they were able to get a family photo sans crying and fear (compared to the year before when she just literally put her on Santa’s lap).
  • We won’t have gifts from Santa. Thankfully, in my husband’s family’s tradition, when Santa hands out the gifts, he tells the child where the presents come from (“This is from your Aunt ____. She asked me to give it to you.”). So, we don’t have to give gifts specifically from Santa.
  • He does not have to write Santa for his Christmas list. We can just discuss it as a family.
  • When he’s a little bit older and he actually starts asking about Santa Claus, we will just tell him the story of how St. Nicholas became Santa! From this story, we can explain that people all over the world just want to celebrate the good things St. Nicholas has done, which is why we see Santa everywhere.
  • We can still enjoy Santa’s magic – by being Santa ourselves! When P already understands why people like being Santa during Christmastime – we can work together and be a Santa for somebody else!

So, that’s the plan. As long as he’s not really asking about it, we won’t make a big deal out of Santa. We will just welcome him as part of our family’s tradition every year, but will make sure P won’t make it a goal to be good and nice for toys he could possibly receive from Santa.

This is what we feel will work best for our family. However, I cannot deny it – the magic of Santa was a huge part of my childhood, and it is for many children of today, too. I have no plans of being a Grinch and stealing that magic from people. Whether or not you want your child to ride with the idea of Santa is really up to you, and I totally respect that. Should you decide to go full on with Santa, here are some ways to break them to your child when it’s already time. Personally, I think these ways are beautiful.

(You can see other sample letters HERE)


Personally, I cried after watching this video. It’s so easy to forget the meaning of Christmas when everything gets to busy and packed in December, but with a little collaboration like this, you can turn your regular December into a meaningful one.

Now, it’s your turn. I hope you can share what works for your family, or how you plan to deal with this with your child/children! I would love to hear more about your approach! Merry Christmas, dear friends and readers. May the spirit of Christmas live within us all year long!

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