Sunday, November 27, 2005

Santa's Cyber Home

If you have a little one in the house, chances are very good that your toddler's attention has been captured by Santa Claus by now. It's hard to miss the hype: Santa has been arriving in every mall and shopping center around the country, as well as a number of train stations, grocery stores, and fire departments. The man has an incredibly busy social calendar, doesn't he??

However, somehow in all of the fuss and hubbub, he magically finds time to maintain a very well designed and well-run website, as well. Next time your little one is a bit cranky and bored, and needs a diversion, visit Santa's home on the internet at claus.com (you will need to put the http and the www in front, just like most addresses). This website is a fantastic display of non-commercial fun that your young child will find magical and mysterious. The site is loaded with coloring activities, games for an array of ages, recipes to try together, and more. Your child can play with the reindeer, go to Elf School, and will want to play for hours.

But I think the best part of the entire site is the Nice-O-Meter. This nifty gadget allows all comers to check on their current status on Santa's Naughty or Nice List. What I wouldn't have given for that kind of inside knowledge when I was a kid! Just enter the child's first name, and computer magically snaps back with a balanced note praising good behavior and recommending areas of improvement.

The funny part is that the Nice-O-Meter is frighteningly accurate. My girls were absolutely giddy when Santa's notes told the youngest to clean her room (it WAS a huge mess at the time) and gently reprimanded the middle daughter for leaving her dirty socks in the living room (there were at least five balled up socks on the floor at that time). The eldest was reminded to brush her teeth a bit more regularly (and we had had that discussion not a day before). One was complimented on helping her teacher in the classroom and her eyes lit up. "You mean that Santa was WATCHING when Mrs. S asked me to pass out those papers??"

These annual notes from the Big Man were a wonderful help with coaxing excited children to behave in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The girls were continually amazed at their accuracy and specific suggestions. Frankly, I was a bit amazed, as well. It really did seem like Santa was spitting out personalized suggestions to each of my children, though I knew darn well that the notes were, in reality, general enough that nearly any child would see himself or herself. The magic is contagious.

The girls remained amazed for many years until the eldest, at a healthy skeptical eleven years old and long past the age of belief, decided to put the dog's name into the Nice-O-Meter. You can imagine the guffaws that arose when Santa's notes praised the black lab for picking up his toys and admonished him to brush his teeth more regularly. He was also supposed to eat his vegetables without flinging peas around the dining table.

All in all, it was grand fun, and I highly recommend the web site. The experience of reading Santa's naughty and nice notes alone is worth while, and your children are likely to have fun with it for years to come.

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