Ready or not, Santa Claus is coming to town! For kids who may not have gotten the chance to deliver their letters in person this year, let them call Santa for a big thrill. We've rounded up several ways to call Santa, get Santa to call your kids (or text them), and more Christmas fun, like tracking Santa on the big night.
Want to really blow their minds? There are apps that let you share a photo of Santa handing out presents in your very own living room. Christmastime is already among the most magical seasons for children, but these fun tools take it to the next level. Read on for our favorite ways to check in with Santa before Christmas. Our special gift for you: These special Santa calls and experiences are (mostly) FREE!
For 2020, the elves have taken it a step further with virtual visits with Santa Claus, where kids can interact with the big guy from the safety of home.
Hey Santa, call me maybe? Photo courtesy of Portable North Pole
Call Santa Claus Options
While this Santa call isn't personalized, it allows parents to pick from a few options that make it better than the average prerecorded call. Choose between a call from Santa or the "Elf on the Shelf," and then select one of four possible messages. This call comes within seconds of clicking submit on the website, so make sure the kids are at home when you do it. This call is strictly one-sided, meaning kids just listen and don't actually get to talk to the caller. You can opt for a premium package, though, which allows you to schedule the call in advance and save the message as a computer file. The first call is FREE; additional calls require an upgrade to premium, which starts at $1.99 for two calls. Pro-tip: Save the number (858-225-7702) in your phone with a picture of the big guy to really up the believability factor!
Call Santa directly with this Christmas hotline that delivers a holiday message to kids. After dialing, the hotline connects the caller to a special recording from Santa, including a full, "Ho, ho, ho!" The jolly Santa talks about how he's preparing for Christmas, reminds your child to listen to their parents (thanks Santa, we owe you one!), and lets the caller leave a message with their Christmas list. Santa will even send parents a text to listen to the message their child left, and share it with family members. There's also a Papa Noel hotline, if you prefer to hear from Santa in Spanish (eight other languages are available, too). The call is free, though standard calling and messaging charges may apply.
Available on iTunes and Google Play
I used my 3-year-old as a test case for this video call from Santa. The service creates well-made video messages where Santa and his elves check in with kids from the North Pole. Type in your child's name, birth date, and age, then upload a photo, which appears in the video to make it look like your child is calling Santa. The app even offers various pronunciations of your child's name to get it just right, though it didn't actually recognize my daughter's full name, Pollyanna. I had to shorten it to Polly to get it to work. I was able to create a free video on the website, though the app offers plenty of premium options. Be warned, the video "call" does open with an ad. In-app purchases also allow you to record your child's reaction as they watch the video, as well as create personalized phone calls, and more. There are two sides to this app—one for the children to interact with and see their personalized videos, as well as play a couple of games, and talk to an elf who repeats whatever you say; and a passcode-protected parents corner where you can "help" Santa craft the perfect video or call. Though the apps are FREE, the premium options add up quickly.
Santa must have gifted himself a smartphone last year and he's not afraid to use it. Visit this website to input your phone number, plus family information, including kids' names, for personalized text messages from the man himself leading up to the big day. He promises to share everything from jokes to recipes as he helps you count down the season. You'll receive messages about once every five days from December 1 to the final week before the holiday when they'll arrive daily. Described as a digital advent calendar, this is definitely a low-effort way to keep in touch with the man of the season.
Santa also uses Android, of course, and Google Home and Google Assistant users can call Santa from their devices to chat or get an update on life at the North Pole. Say, "Hey Google, call Santa", and you'll be able to help the jolly man in red compose a new Christmas song. Santa asks kids a series of questions in the interactive Santa call and then ultimately, composes a song for them. There's no option to give your wish list, FYI. Google fans can also ask "what's new at the North Pole", and listeners will be rewarded with a newscast from chief North Pole correspondent, Dimplesticks the Elf. You can also have Google Assistant track Santa, tell holiday jokes and stories, and kids can enjoy more seasonal fun (like over two dozen new games and activities).
If you thought Santa was everywhere when you were a kid, wait until you find out how well connected he is today. If you have an Amazon Echo or Alexa device at home, the kids can call Santa themselves with three words: Alexa, call Santa. If you say this before enabling the "Call Santa" Alexa skills in the app or on Amazon, kids will hear a recording that says "Santa is busy" and then encourages kids to sing carols. If you enable the Call Santa skill, you'll get a direct recording from Santa, wishing the kids Merry Christmas and offering to sing a duet with Alexa. Alexa has more holiday skills, such as playing Christmas music, sharing holiday trivia, stories, and jokes. You can also ask if you're "naughty or nice," but watch out for the answer! Not all kids will like it. (My favorite is asking Alexa if Die Hard is a Christmas movie. Alexa has opinions!)
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Follow Santa's sleigh with the Google Santa Tracker, plus enjoy holiday-themed kid games.
Tracking Santa 2020
Also available on iTunes and Google Play
After you call Santa to place your wish list, it's time to watch him work! Growing up in Colorado, the fact that Santa's every move was tracked via NORAD, less than 100 miles from our living room, was common knowledge, but as we watched the local news for updates or read about Santa's adventures in the paper on Christmas morning, I never knew the charming story behind NORAD's entree into the Santa tracking business. I guess I thought it was classified! All these years later, NORAD's best people are still hard at work tracking Santa's every move, only now they've brought their technology to the masses via the web and smartphone apps. Log on before December 24 and you'll see a Christmas countdown, plus be able to explore the North Pole with some interactive games, or watch videos about Santa and NORAD. Come Christmas Eve, the military's top Santa trackers man the command center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and transmit live updates on Santa's every move via the digital platforms. FREE
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Also available on Google Play
Google's Santa Tracker app doubles as an advent-calendar-type game by revealing new holiday activities throughout the month leading up to Christmas Eve, and that's when the fun really gets started as Google's brightest minds stay up all night following Rudolph's light as it guides Santa across the night sky. Previously-released activities include an elf maker, a map quiz (that stumped me with Northern Europe on Level 4!), a present drop, a translator that allows you to hear "Santa Claus," "ho, ho, ho," "season's greetings," and "Happy New Year" translated into 25 different languages, including Elvish, and much more. FREE
Cherish photographic proof that Santa visited. Photo courtesy of Capture the Magic
Catch Santa with a Photo App!
Catch Santa in my House
Available on iTunes and Google Play
Once the presents are unwrapped and the paper is bunched up and thrown away, blow your kids minds by letting them think you caught Santa in your living room with the help of this app, which lets you upload a photo of your Christmas tree, presents piled high around it, and import a Santa into the scene. From a Santa busy at work barreling through his bag for the perfect present, to one of him looking surprised, or another shushing you to keep his secret, this app (out of many like it) offers more "free" Santa's to add to your creation than its competition, though a small fee unlocks even more. Beware of all the annoying pop-up ads that come with this and other free apps.
Available on iTunes, and Google Play
Another photo editing tool to show kids Santa was really here! Just like Catch Santa, use this service to essentially Photoshop Santa into your lives. Merge a photo of your tree laden with gifts with one of their Santa poses (unloading the bag of gifts, standing, smiling, you get the idea), and then share with kids on Christmas Day. There are loads of Santa poses from which to choose, as well as a black Santa. The price varies. While you can get text stickers for free, prices for Santa start at $1.99; a premium upgrade is $4.99 and includes 57 Santas. If you create your photo online, prices start at $1.99. By the way, come back to the app for Easter or when that first tooth is lost. There are Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy options, too!
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More North Pole Fun for Kids on Christmas Eve
If you're anything like me, you're probably reminding the kids incessantly that "Santa's helpers are watching," this time of the year. Turn the tables a bit, and let your kids spy on those helpers—at least the furry, antlered variety with this live Reindeer Cam. Become a supporter for $5 and add your kid's name to the "Nice List" that scrolls above the barnyard feed (or maybe you can perpetuate that you-better-shape-up storyline by not doing so). You'll also unlock access to some premium video content by doing so. FREE
Unless otherwise noted, all images from the apps.
An earlier version of this article first published in December 2014, but it has since been updated.