What Children Know

How we learn about fantasy and reality

Imagining the Impossible at Christmas Time

It’s the question that often raises the most angst in expecting parents. No, it’s not what to name the baby, or how to decorate the room, or whether to let the child sleep in the parents’ bed. It’s the hesitantly raised question that many consider years before they are even expecting children, “And what about the Santa thing?" Read More

didn't miss it

I never believed in Santa Claus. Reason? When my mother was a little girl, and she found out the truth, she "felt like her best friend had died." She vowed never to put her own children through that awful experience.

I never regretted not believing in Santa, and I had a very rich and vivid fantasy life as a child. I loved reading books, and I'm still easily able to fully immerse myself in imagined worlds.

It seems very strange to equate telling children the truth about Santa with stunting their imaginations.

I don't remember when I

I don't remember when I stopped believing in Santa. My parents never admitted he wasn't real, I just knew it and so did they. I'm an adult now and they still give me (and I give them) a present or two from Santa every year.

How kids "test" Santa

Is there more to say about the inventive ways some kids test for Santa's reality? A friend of mine's daughter just sent a letter to Santa with a coded message she wants Santa to leave a response to on the cookie plate. Is this really a test for Santa or of the parents? Is it really a test of Santa maybe ths year but will be a test of the parents next year? is it a test for the parents all along for some kids? If the parents come up with an inventive way to handle a Santa-challenge in order to prolong the child's fantasy, how does the child view that, particularly if the child really knows already that there is no Santa? He or she is really testing their parent's powers of imagination, right? If they handle it cleverly does that show the child a "good" sort of sophisticated maintenance of fantasy-- do they appreciate the effort even if they know its just their parents being creative, essentially? Would love to read a list about the inventive ways kids test for Sana and the inventive responses of parents.

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Jacqueline Woolley, Ph. D., is a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Children’s Research Lab at the University of Texas at Austin.

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